Scattered Cels Podcast #5

This week, Ray introduces the show, and we talk about Ghibli research grants, the possible Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell (and who we’d cast in the different roles), and review Zero no Tsukaima and a first look at Megadere! There are also major changes coming for next week’s podcast, so keep in touch and keep listening, and leave your comments, questions, and flames in the comments section below.

Show Notes

  • OP: Last DInosaur by the Pillows (from FLCL)
  • ED: Crazy 4 U by Koda Kumi (from Gilgamesh)
  • Studio Ghibli to offer research grant for animation reseach, of 300,000 yen. You have to be under 35 to get it. (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-19/ghibli-museum-to-support-animation-research-project)
  • Studio Madhouse is doing an anime version of Highlander. It will be released direct to DVD, and the American edition will be put out by Manga Entertainment on June 5. (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-16/highlander-film-on-june-5)
  • Production IG is in talks to make a live-action Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell. (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-18/production-i.g-enters-negotiations-for-live-action-ghost-in-the-shell)

Nodame Cantabile 1

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Note: I have decided not to do plot summaries for the time being. They take me too long to do, and I have a lot of schoolwork to finish.

This show inspired so much narcissistic nostalgia in me, the review will probably be more about me than it. Oh well…

Like many other Asian-American youths, I was forced to take piano lessons as a child. I think I stuck with it a little longer than a lot of my peers, partly because I finally got the point where it stopped being a parent-enforced thing and became enjoyable. (It also helped that I started playing jazz in high school, not just the classical music staples everyone learns–some of which are featured in this anime.) I still even play once in a while, and consider myself fairly music-literate, and am thankful now for my musical education. So when I heard about an anime that would talk about classical music, hopefully in a knowledgeable way, my ears perked up. Would they get it right and maybe even inspire people to pick up an instrument, the way Yakitate Japan! got me to start breaking bread?
Continue reading Nodame Cantabile 1

Scattered Cels Podcast #4

And then there was a short one. This one is only 34 minutes, and it’s mostly a news rundown, mostly because we forgot to figure out what we wanted to review this week. :) We also give a few not-very-informed impressions of Nana and Megadere.

Show Notes

  • Viz licenses Death Note in unique way: will release downloadable, subbed episodes soon after it airs in Japan. (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-11/viz-licenses-death-note-anime-for-download)
  • Geneon licenses Rozen Maiden (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-12/geneon-licenses-rozen-maiden)
  • Japan Post Office releases Evangelion stamps
    (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-09/japan-post-evangelion-stamps)
  • North American TV release of Nana in the works
    (http://animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-01-09/nihon-tv-plans-to-air-nana-in-us)

D. Gray Man – a show shouldn’t be missed

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Men in Catholic/military style hoods holding up a banner not for joy, but a sense of gloom and darkness that is set in a roughly 18 or 19 century European world with the deep and grim voice of the commentator in the background. That’s how D-Gray Man begin.

The main character, Alan Walker is a young man with a strange hand – no, nothing like Midori no Hibi. It’s nothing like that show at all. Alan Walker is an exorcist – no, nothing like that priest in the classic horror film Exorcist with useless piece of wooden cross and a probably fake bible (correct me if you care to). This exorcist’s hand transforms into an ultimate weapon against AKUMA – yes that term means devil in Japanese language, but in this case it’s a weapon made by the Thousand Year Baron to tempt the humanity and to destroy the world. Alan’s hand is only one part of the Innocence – a material left by God with great powers.
Continue reading D. Gray Man – a show shouldn’t be missed

Scattered Cels Podcast #3

Episode 3: now with upgraded, sexier audio, courtesy of much better microphones! We ramble on this time about dubs vs. subs, Miyazaki’s rumored new project, the death of the inventor of instant ramen, and The Third–among many, many other things. This is our longest episode yet! (1 hour)

If you have any questions you’d like us to answer on the air, please leave them in the comments section below!

Warning: some Samuel L. Jackson-style swearing near the end of the podcast. Cover your ears, all those 17 and under. :)

Show Notes

  • Ray’s controversial post is here. (A)
  • This is novel Miyazaki supposedly is adapting. (B)
  • Here is an article about Ando Momofuku, the late inventor of instant ramen. (C)
  • OP–“Purupurupu Purin” from Welcome to the NHK!
  • ED–“Waltz,” by Suneohair (ED to Honey and Clover)

(A) http://anime.imagria.com/2006/12/dubbingyeah.html
(B) http://filmick.blogspot.com/2007/01/i-lost-my-little-boy.html
(C) http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070107a2.html

Review: Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora (Hantsuki)

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Also called “Looking Up at the Half-Moon”: a fine title that I should have used for one of my stories

This 6 episode drama OAV aspires to be, and should have been a quiet, believable short story about the struggles and joys of two hospital patients. The unsynthesized and unpretentious opening song (a wonderful song, by Nobuko) promises as much, and at its best, the show fulfilled that promise. But more often than not, it preferred soap opera histrionics and out-of-place humor to realistic character-driven action. I see a story that, in the hands of more skillful writers, could have become a genuinely affecting tale without being melodramatic–the way Honey and Clover was at its best. But the most I could feel in the final episode was “oh. It’s over. Wonderful.” And that, unfortunately, is pretty much a death blow for a show of this kind.
Continue reading Review: Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora (Hantsuki)

Black Lagoon 23-24 (END)

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Impressions (SPOILERS)

And so the most intelligent and exciting action anime to come along in a while closes its most extensive arc yet, with plenty of room for more seasons to come. (Though my hopes that Yukio, the schoolgirl Yakuza boss, might become a recurring character were, alas, not to be.) The reflective dialogue in this and the previous episodes lifts Black Lagoon into the ranks of the more intelligent action genre films like Michael Mann’s Heat or Collateral. This is also a show that isn’t afraid to develop characters very well, only to kill them off –arguably, Yukio is better sketched than mainstays Rock and Revy, though here we get to see a very, very vulnerable (for her) side of Revy. She’s back in character by the very last scene but we get the impression that when she says “If it were anyone but you, I’d have put two or three holes in you” it is as close to a love confession as she will ever come to.

Some of the broader issues Black Lagoon brings up are very interesting. Rock throughout the show, though more at the beginning, represents “civilian” values or perhaps more precisely the point of view of someone accustomed to comfort and unused to the brutally utilitarian underworld. The show, usually through the voices of Revy and Balalaika, works hard to undermine that viewpoint as being naive and arbitrary (though I wonder: Revy, ostensibly a nonbeliever, blurts out in episode 23 that the only thing that saved Rock’s skin was “God’s grace” and Balalaika’s surprising mercy). Eventually Rock adopts many of the values of the underworld, though never without completely losing any sense of compassion. It’s as if he has come to some sort of balance, of a sort, able to act decisively and coldly when necessary, but without becoming a war addict like Balalaika.

If one wants to push it a bit one can see a little of the realization that the pacifistic attitude among many modern Japanese is based less on principle and more on denial. I certainly agree, if the naive pacifism of many an anime is any indicator of general attitudes in Japan. Now I’m not sure the violent cynicism that passes for cool in this show–a very American attitude, I might add, and one which will make this show very easy to swallow for fans of films like Pulp Fiction and The Boondock Saints–is any better, but it certainly has a better claim on reality, I think. (The characters, Yakuza schoolgirl and Revy included, are also self-aware enough to admit that part of them longs for the flabby tranquility that Rock’s Japan stands for.) I also find it interesting that the prevailing attitude of most of the characters in the show is that they are beyond help, beyond any point where they can change their paths. This fatalistic attitude, laden with notions of “destiny,” is what seems more “Japanese” about it; Americans are more inclined to think that “it’s never too late to start again!” But everyone in this show already considers themselves as living in the twilight, as living dead. The Sartre quotations are oddly appropriate; the existentialist despair that pervades this show demands nothing less. There’s nothing left except to make one’s own meaning and go all the way, guns blazing.

More excellent analysis of this final episode is here.

So: Black Lagoon ends fittingly, with a gun shot, with the characters returning to their posts and ready for more adventures. May they go on many more than we otaku fanboys can see. Preferably with her:

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Continue reading Black Lagoon 23-24 (END)

Afro Samurai 1

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Impressions

The first episode of Afro Samurai, the Japanese-animated and Samuel L. Jackson-voiced Gonzo production, is now available for viewing for free on the Spike TV website. It’s a fairly safe bet that the project rides almost entirely on Jackson’s name recognition (Ron Perlman also has a voice too). But how does it stack up, as an anime? If this were any other anime with standard Japanese voice seiyuu, would this stand out?

The answer is, unfortunately, no. Jackson, for one thing, hardly has any lines in this episode, so those watching who are mainly hoping for him to redo his Pulp Fiction routine in animated form will have to rent The Boondocks instead. And while it’s hard to judge too much from just the first episode, the story feels cliched and unsurprising, a rehash of animes like Ninja Scroll and (you’ll see in the story summary) Jubei-chan and the Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch. (It should be noted that the screenplay was scripted by Japanese then translated into English, so it’s their cliches we’re working with. It’s actually based on a doujinshi by Takashi Okazaki.) We learn very little about the title character other than the facts that 1.) he watched his daddy die; 2.) he’s a BADASS MOTHER (shut yo mouth), but this time I’m talking WITH A SWORD (we can dig it).* In other words, exactly what he appears to be, so far. (And right off the bat, he gains an annoying Eddie Murphy-like sidekick, the Ron Perlman character.) There’s also a Fuu-like girl who works at a restaurant, but she only appears in one scene.

The animation quality is, as one expects from Gonzo, predictably high, with a overreliance on flapping clothes in the wind and a rather limited color palette. RZA’s music is actually decent, or at least fits the scenes.

On the whole, it’s not really anything beyond what one would expect from the title, Afro Samurai. Time will tell whether it will match the greatness of its most immediate competitor, Samurai Champloo, or past greats like Ninja Scroll and the Rurouni Kenshin OAV, but so far…yawn.

* Note: Jackson does not actually swear in the show, yet. I’m sure he will eventually…if they were willing to reshoot “Snakes on a Plane” to add profanity, they certainly can do it to an anime where people’s heads get sliced open.
Continue reading Afro Samurai 1