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Archive for the ‘Anime’ Category

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, “Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody”

Posted by Doug on May 28, 2009

Almost three years after the end of the original season’s run, they’ve finally gotten around to making and releasing a second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.  I’m not complaining.  As much as I like the series, I think that getting oversaturated with it would kill the charm.  That being said…

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Time travel.  It’s a staple of science fiction, and can be done rather well (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) or really…not so well (examples of this aren’t worth mentioning, so I won’t).  Since it has been established that one of the characters in Haruhi is a time-traveler (Mikuru) and another considered such acts trivial (Yuki), it was only a matter of…uh…it was inevitable that the long-suffering Kyon would be sent back three years to help the cute junior-high version of Haruhi commit one of the misdemeanors Taniguchi, Kunikida, and Kyon had mentioned back in the very first episode.

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Only one thing was missing in this first episode: Tsuruya.  Then again, she’s really just a secondary character, so it would have been surprising to see her.  From what I hear, in later story arcs, she plays a much larger role…

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More and more, I’m of the opinion that the individual who really controls the universe and can destroy and re-create it subconsciously is not Haruhi, but Kyon.  This hypothesis isn’t original to me, but it makes sense, especially when events in the later light novels are taken into account.  Haruhi didn’t just choose Kyon, Kyon wanted Haruhi to exist—and through a convoluted sequence of events, caused her to exist—so she could choose him.

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A Slice of Life with a Little Guitar on the Side

Posted by Doug on May 7, 2009

K-ON is another series in the same vein as Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star: take a group of high school girls who are friends and lead more-or-less happy-go-lucky lives, and distill the charm from their day-to-day adventures.  K-ON adds the appeal of a pop band, and, based on the first four episodes (that I’ve finally gotten around to watching), is going to be a light and enjoyable watch.

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The main characters seem so familiar…there’s the airheaded Yui Hirasawa playing guitar, easygoing Tsumugi Kotobuki on keyboard, serious(ly moe) Mio Akiyama playing bass, and hyperactive Ritsu Tainaka on the drums…yep, a well-rounded quartet.  The pics are from the end credits, by the way—they wear much more pedestrian attire in the series (so far).

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The other three I’m rather ambivalent about, but Mio is so damn moe it isn’t funny.  I like her character design both appearance-wise (especially the eyes.  There’s actually a term for the style used to draw her eyes: tsuriume) and personality-wise (I got a weak spot for tsundere girls, guilty as charged).

Basically, the story is that Ritsu wanted to start a “Light Music Club” (read: “band”) and conned her childhood friend Mio into it.  They nab Tsumugi, who was going to join the Choir Club otherwise, and desperate for a fourth member to keep the budding club from being disbanded by the school faculty, they get Yui…who has very little focus and only a modicum of talent.  Ritsu and Yui spend most of their time getting distracted or distracting Mio, Tsumugi just goes with the flow, and poor Mio tries to be very, very serious about the band, but her deredere side and moe-ness work against her.  Four episodes in, and I think the four girls have played their instruments together all of once.

All told, I doubt this series will be worthy of being listed among the greats, but if the first four episodes are any indication, it should be enjoyable enough that I don’t regret spending my time watching it.

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To-Do List

Posted by Doug on April 21, 2009

Or: A Not Particularly Long Post Dedicated to Briefly Mentioning the Things I Really Ought to Post About Instead, But Just Lack the Motivation to Do So At Present Time.  This post is going to be almost entirely blah blah blah, so if that’s going to bother you, you might want to relive some of the glory slightly less sucky days of Taedium Edax Rerum, like those Japanese girls singing that really cheery yet incomprehensible song or something.

Serious blah blah blah follows.  You have been warned.

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Final Thoughts: Rideback

Posted by Doug on April 4, 2009

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An anime that started off promising, but ended most unsatisfactorily…I was afraid Rideback would turn out like this.

I liked this series, I really did.  It had all the trappings of a fine anime series,  and, uncommon for the medium, it was an utterly serious work.  Not since Witch Hunter Robin have I seen an anime series as serious as this one (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is close, but there was all that comic relief the Tachikoma provided).  So I was expecting (or maybe hoping for) something epic, and unfortunately, I was disappointed.

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The eleventh episode, ‘Sometimes It’s Cloudy After the Rain,’ seemed ploddingly slow; the final episode ‘Turn Towards the Stage Spotlight,’ seemed horribly rushed.  The big showdown between the GGP and the BMA…wasn’t.  Journalists (Yoda) and politicians (what was that guy’s name again?) won the battle and defeated Romanov, not Rin & Company.  Romanov’s aide steps onto the stage just to kill Romanov, with no prelude or explanation. And did I just somehow miss the part where they explain what Kiefer’s beef with Romanov was about?  I remember something about Kiefer paying Romanov back for what happened in Arizona, but other than that, I don’t remember them detailing what went on back whenever.

A short montage at the end quickly shows that everything is now Good: Rin’s brother is out of jail and back at home; the Bad GGP is out and the Good GGP is in, and reconciled with the Japanese government; and Rin goes back to college.  It was wrapped up too quickly and not at all neatly.

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So basically, my final appraisal of Rideback is as follows: Rideback had appealing character and mecha design, nice animation, decent music, good voice acting, interesting premise, intriguing political slant, and lousy execution.  Rideback could have been great, but it simply wasn’t, and it’s a pity.

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Rideback, “Master of War”

Posted by Doug on March 19, 2009

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I knew that the anti-GGP rally was going to end badly, but I did not expect it to turn out like this… While Rin and Tamayo are sneaking around, trying not to get arrested, Suzuri, Hishida and Kawai join the protest, with Suzuri showing off both her budding interest in ridebacks and her Rin Ogata fangirlishness by dressing up in Rin’s riding suit (or one just like it) and riding Balon (one of the rideback club’s other models)…which leads her to be mistaken for the “Mysterious Rideback Girl”…by the GGP…who chase Suzuri down…

And kill her.

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This was not the fate I was expecting at all for Suzuri.  I was rather ambivalent about her character up until now, because with the buildup of her learning to ride and her desire to be just like Rin, I was expecting Suzuri’s talent to come into play during the Final Showdown at a critical moment during the final episode, where she show us she’s been practicing by doing something like taking out a White Ride when Rin was caught in a jam…but it seems Rin will have to save herself now.

I say Rin has been passive for far too long.  It’s time for the return of the Mysterious Rideback Girl, time for the Chosen One to start believing in herself…or at the very least, start believing in her friends, who believed in her…

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Rideback, “Sunny Spot in the Garden”

Posted by Doug on March 13, 2009

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After the GGP got their asses handed to them by the BMA last episode, Romanov gets his knickers in a twist and decides to quell the rebellion by being a complete jerk to everybody: he declares martial law and outlaws ridebacks.  Naturally this prompts some civil-rights protests—another problem Romanov now will have to  resolve.  Pro tip: if you’re trying to solve a problem, make sure your solution won’t cause more problems.  Now, seeing how assuming he’s the big bad, he might want the public to protest; maybe the riots will play into his hands somehow.

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After Rin has spent some time trapped in the middle of all this plotting and scheming between the GGP and the BMA, she makes a reasonable decision and swears to never ride ridebacks again…but come on, we know she’s going to dramatically swing her cute little bod in slow-motion right back into the saddle the moment her friends are in danger…which will be next episode (the Rideback Club members who aren’t on the lam decide to join an anti-GGP rally, and we know that’s going to turn out well).

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Rideback, “Get Ride! The Chosen One”

Posted by Doug on March 10, 2009

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Why does every anime end up reminding me of Neon Genesis Evangelion?  In this episode of Rideback, we learn that Kiefer believes that Fuego (a motorcycle/mecha) chose Rin to drive/ride it because she could synchronize with it on a quite-obviously-extraordinary level.  The moment Kiefer said that, I instantly thought, “Oh, crap—Rin’s mother Yuki’s soul is in Fuego!  This is going to end with a hug from a creepy albino girl and pop! Everybody turns into Tang!”

But setting that aside, it comes as no surprise that Morpheus Kiefer, Gendo Romanov, and Cyrano Okakura were all in the same unit back during The War.  Naturally, Kiefer’s BMA and Romanov’s GGP are at odds, and both seem bent on dragging Okakura and Rin into the middle of everything: Okakura because apparently he’s a badass, and Rin because apparently she is the One.  I was halfway expecting Kiefer to be portrayed a little more sympathetically (the enemy of the GGP which is my enemy is my ally), but instead he just came across as really creepy.

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There really isn’t much to say that I haven’t already said about Rideback… It’s probably too much to ask for Rin to start taking more of an active role in the events that are taking place around her, so I’m just hoping that next episode, Okakura sits Rin down and starts explaining to her the history between him and Kiefer and Romanov and what exactly Fuego is. Either that or a beach episode.  Show off some swimsuits, break a watermelon with a baseball bat, splash water at each other like kindergardeners…nah, I don’t see that happening.  The vibe of this series just isn’t right for that sort of truly gratuitous fanservice; indeed, if they were to have such an episode, it would seriously lower my opinion of Rideback.

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Rideback, “Crime and Punishment”

Posted by Doug on March 7, 2009

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Rin’s little brother Kenji has gotten himself into a world of trouble this time, and he’s even managed to drag his well-intentioned big sis further into the mess, not by heroically fighting for his friends, but by his hooliganery. I fear for the kid—not because I feel he should go unpunished (quite the opposite. He’s a delinquent and needs some time in juvy), but because there is a bad tendency for redemption to come at a steep price in fiction, and really, vandalizing a few cars and violating most of the traffic code shouldn’t result in some sort of karmic death penalty. My guess is that Kenji is going to be taken away by the GGP and brainwashed into being one of their stormtroopers driving one of the GGP’s new WhiteRides…which will put him into direct opposition with his sister, who looks like she’s about to start settling into her new job as the BMA’s messiah.

Or not.  I really don’t see Rin just going along with whatever this Kiefer guy says.

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And in other news, it appears that Okakura is starting to show his badass nature with the classic punch-out-the-two-guys-in-the-car-that-are-following-him routine. Well, technically he shot one of them, but some variant of that scene has been done over nine thousand times before.

All told, I am really liking this series: Ogata Rin is an interesting character, not butch, but not a hopeless moe-moe blob, either. The ridebacks, while ridiculous (come on, that’s right up there with sky-skateboarding mecha, mecha with extensionn cords for power, and steam-powered mecha. In order to get sillier, you’d need a coal-powered mecha with an android elementary school catgirl stoker dual-wielding shovels made of titanium and love*), are pretty cool (I prefer lithe, agile mecha over big, monstrous ones). There are villainous villains (at about 16:25, Romanov does the Gendo Ikari pose), and heroic heroes and heroines (Rin for the latter, more likely than not Okakura for the former). It has all the elements of a great anime…

…Now here’s to hoping they don’t fsck it up like some other series that are best left unnamed.

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*And you know, I’m surprised nobody has done this yet. Have I just discovered my next big project after the Mecha Monogatari?

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Rideback, “Lightning Speed Ride”

Posted by Doug on March 3, 2009

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After spending the last episode thinking that the true identity of the long-black-haired “Mysterious Rideback Girl” was the short-blonde-haired Kataoka Tamayo, our intrepid reporter Yoda finally gets a clue…which is subsequently confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt for her when Rin goes toe-to-toe with the GGP’s new White Rides, a rideback anti-terrorist military police unit, and kicks their asses.

You see, Rin’s younger brother Keiji has gotten himself in with the wrong crowd, a group of hoodlums with an as-of-yet unnamed financial backer, and while they were cruising around town in stolen ridebacks, minding their own business of wrecking other people’s cars, the GGP decided to step in and deal with them.  Keiji was about to get turned into a greasy spot when Rin jumped in to save the day…again…but there’s no way she’s escaping this time.  It looks like Rin and Keiji are going to get to spend some time in the Iron Bars Hotel.

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Romanov clearly recognized the white-haired rideback guy that helped Rin in episode 4, and they aren’t friends.  “When I find him, I’ll need to kill him again,” Romanov says; not only is Romanov a Bad Guy, but he is a terribly inefficient one (killing somebody once is usually enough).

So the question becomes: is White-Haired Dude a Good Guy?  Usually, in anime, white-haired characters are tricksters, traitors, or villains (or a combination thereof.  There are, of course, exceptions, which I will not detail here).  But Romanov seems to be the Main Villain, and in these sorts of situations in anime, the enemy of my enemy is my friend (and White-Haired Dude did help Rin out…).  For some reason, I doubt that both groups will be equally villainous, so my slightly educated guess is that White-Haired Dude is going to be Rin’s ally.

I was originally attracted to Rideback based on a single promotional image, that of Rin seated atop Fuego that I came across on one of the official websites.  I doubt it will earn a place in my book as one of the greatest anime ever (there is some stiff competition there), but so far it is a solid title with an intriguing political angle that is usually glossed over in anime…and I’m hoping they will keep it up for the rest of the series (six more episodes, or so I’ve heard).

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Rideback, “The Mysterious Rideback Girl”

Posted by Doug on February 26, 2009

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Well, Rin did not manage her heroics without attracting more than a little attention—it seems some video of her got filmed (or CCDed.  This is near-future Japan, after all).  In any case, freelance journalist Yoda Megumi has come to the conclusion, based on the pictures of a girl with long black hair on a rideback from the terrorist incident, that the “mysterious rideback girl” is Kataoka Tamayo…who has short blonde hair.  Of course, the fact that Tamayo is related to a politician and a cop makes for such a wonderful story, so one could easily forgive her for flat-out ignoring that glaringly obvious point.  I mean, really: the disparity of the hair color is never even brought up, nor does she think any different when she goes to the Rideback Club and meets a girl in the Rideback Club with long black hair who is wearing the exact same dress as the mysterious rideback girl.

So…yeah.

[Edit: see note below]

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That aside, it was pretty obvious from the beginning that Cyrano de Bergerac Okakura was more than some random club advisor.  I knew he was something extraordinary back in the first episode where he was trying to fix Fuego during Rin’s near-disasterous first ride, and he was not at all distracted by his clear view of Rin’s pantsu.  In anime, this by itself it enough to mark a man as one of a rare breed.

But now Rin’s actions have earned the attention of the various political factions, not only for herself, but for Tamayo and Okakura, too.

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Note: In the next episode Yoda finally gets a clue (thanks to her lackey, Sato), and begins associating Rin with the Mysterious Rideback Girl, even remembering that she met her at the University when she visited the Rideback Club. Still, it is ridiculous that Yoda never mentioned the difference in hair color/style in this episode.

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