I’m a huge fan of mystery stories, which meant that I was overjoyed that there was not one but two murder-mystery series this season in the form of Chaos;Head and Mouryou no Hako. The likes of CSI and NCIS are good fun with their Hollywood sheen (the cool music, the SHADES OF JUSTICE and so on) but I particularly enjoy stuff like the Marlowe novels from Raymond Chandler. In addition to the deductive processes the devil is in the details: things like the rendering of Marlowe’s world, and to a certain degree CSI‘s environs of Las Vegas, Miami and New York for example, make all the difference.
An important rule of classic detective fiction: the more beautiful she is, the more dangerous she will be
Since the murder-mystery genre is steeped in tropes and clichÃ©s, any new contender has to bring something new to the table, whether it’s an unusual setting, a film noir-inspired aesthetic or high-tech and psychological twists. The problem is of course that going after a serial killer is a stock premise: it’s dependable enough but can sink or swim depending on the execution (sic) of the story. The point where Mouryou no Hako and Chaos;Head part company is the way in which this tried-and-tested premise/plot device is handled; although my appreciation of the specifics are less-clear cut, I’m loving the former but on the verge of dropping the latter.
And so I finally get to the end of my Autumn 2008 to-watch list. I must admit that I’m following a lot more new shows than I was during the summer (as in, three times as more), which is a bit daunting to be honest. On the plus side I have two whole weeks off work to keep up with things and many of the currently airing series are only twelve or thirteen eps long anyway.
To balance out the feminine frilly skirts and black lace trimmings of my last preview post, the final batch have a badass gar slant. So here they are: Casshern Sins, Michiko to Hatchin and One Outs. And to my Stateside readers, this week of Epic Election Win has earned you guys an enormous shout of congratulations. Nice Vote indeed.
You have Ghostlightning partly to blame for this. His insightful side-by-side analysis of Frontier‘s Ranka and CotS‘s Lafiel was a bit of an exercise in comparing apples and oranges in some ways but it reminded me of how much I enjoyed the first adaptation of Hiroyuki Morioka’s series of science fiction novels. I’m actually starting on the English language versions, if nothing else to remind me how it avoided becoming a forgettable Legend of the Galactic Heroes clone through its characterisation and world-building. Oh yeah, I lay into an â€˜expert opinionâ€™ after the jump too.
My appreciation of CotS is twofold: it creates an entire universe as background for its story, but crucially remembers to fill the stage with memorable faces that bring this story to life. Coming back to one of my old DVD favourites after all this time means that I have a good couple of years worth of anime viewing behind me too, including other space operas of varying lengths and vintage; and of course I was able to concentrate on the little details that I may have missed in trying to follow the plot the first time around. The “When will the Banner of the Stars R2 DVDs come out?” feeling came back with a vengeance too, I might add.
I originally planned to write a post on this after I fully understood the story but after not one but three visits to Inio Asano’s tangled web of genius, I still can’t say with certainty that I can fully grasp what the manga is actually trying to say. It gives a mixture of feelings – the most immediate one of course being my sensation of mental deficiency at being unable to make all of the numerous connections – but fortunately I’m still able to recommend it with only a partial understanding under my belt. This is a challenging, striking and fascinating piece of work that stands up there with the best of the headscratchers, and it looks stunning too.
One comparison that frequently crops up is with that of the feature film Donnie Darko, which is somewhat similar to Nijigahara Holograph on a number of levels, one being its obtuse nature. I didn’t really get Donnie Darko at first either from a thematic standpoint until certain explanations were e-mailed to me (which are also found in the DVD extras) but I admired its storytelling and its ability to reveal more details with subsequent revisits; the frustration was tempered by a gradual drip-feed of “Ah, I see!” moments as the pieces of the jigsaw began to fall into place. Nijigahara Holograph works in a similar way, except the explanations aren’t included in some sort of omake feature; the reader is very much on his or her own, and in my case ends up feeling simultaneously awed and a little stupid. If I were to wait until I got all the pieces in place, this post may never get written.
My autumn viewing schedule is finally beginning to take shape now I’ve had the chance to watch the first two episodes for some of the last of the shows that interested me. I don’t think of these three as the least worthy by any means but circumstances have pushed my initial reviews further along, with only three more after these to go; it also happens that the most gothic anime shows of the season are collected in one post. So then, enjoy the dark atmospherics (and irrelevant EGL pics included just because they look stylish), perfect for the run-up to Halloween: Mouryou no Hako, Kuroshitsuji and Kurozuka.
Even though I suspect the series could never look as pretty and moody as this, it still makes me want to watch Rozen Maiden. This post isn’t about RM at all, by the way.
The point when I finally watched this was the result of two things: firstly, my love for its spiritual younger sibling Aria (my follow-up post for which is still unwritten; I might just wait until I’ve imported that DVD box set) and secondly Eve no Jikan reminded me of the wonders of a slice-of-life sci-fi setting populated by cute androids serving ceffeinated beverages. If that’s the future of our planet, count me in.
Sit back and chill~
I really do think that Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is the spiritual sibling of Aria; not that I think one has deliberately and shamelessly stolen ideas from the other or anything (to prevent any argument, the YKK manga was first published around 1995 while Aqua came out in 2001 or so). I do believe though that if you loved Aria I’m sure you’d get something out of YKK too: the picturesque setting, subtle messages about the humdrum and trivial and a sense of wonderment of the world around you (plus a sweet and subtle but undeniable shoujo-ai aspect) are hallmarks of both.
I wouldn’t wish illness on anyone but several days off work has allowed me to recharge my batteries a bit (despite living off canned soup and green tea for four days straight) and has done wonders for tackling my backlog. My two-episode rule still stands, which is a bit of a limitation: the subbers pull out all the stops to get the opening eps out but take more time over the second ones because most people make their minds up after the first week.
I’ve been off-colour lately but Hidamari Sketch always makes things brighter
Since animu is infinitely more interesting than hearing about my immune and digestive systems going into temporary EPIC FAIL I give you ef-a Tale of Melodies, Tytania and Chaos;Head.
The second Macross Plus OST album was a bit more of a mixed bag than the first, with fewer standout tracks and more oddities. Not so with the second LP-length outing for Frontier though: this disc is every bit as good as its predecessor, and possibly of even higher quality if I make allowances for the songs growing on me in the fullness of time. The running order seems to place vocal tracks and instrumentals alternately, which prevents it getting repetitive and gives an emotional break or â€˜resetâ€™ between the lyrical flagship-type songs and the instrumental BGM ones.
The proceedings kick off as before in dramatic style with an orchestral instrumental track, this time with Prologue F; it’s less than two minutes long but sets the mood wonderfully. The Jpop side of Frontier makes itself felt immediately afterwards with Northern Cross, which launches itself into a fuzzy, strident electric guitar, a fast-paced beat with May’n's vocals picking up the pace. It’s a heady blend of (synthesised?) orchestral strings, frantic drums and six-string riffery; as a (re)introduction to the vocal aspect of the score, it’s a sound choice.
I know I’m so late to the First Impressions party that I’m stuck at the back of the queue for the bar, but I try to draw my conclusions after watching more than one episode. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go on one outing alone; after all, you don’t commit yourself after the first date, do you? The thing is, opening episodes aren’t always representative of the story as a whole so I’m doing a bit more reading around and previewing before getting my watchlist updated proper. First up is Clannad: after story, Shikabane Hime: Aka and Yozakura Quartet.
After reading Russell’s favourable review over on UK-A and Anna’s equally glowing appraisal at 2 Screenshot Limit I decided to hang up my shoujo reservations again and check out the first instalment of Translucent.
Firstly, I don’t think it matters a damn if the genre appeals to you or not. The story and its characters have a really appealing warmth and bittersweet quirkiness, regardless of gender or age of the target readership; this is a story about ordinary people, ordinary lives but with a fantastical twist that serves as both an interesting plot device and a metaphor for some of life’s common issues.
As is so often the case, I think there’s a lot of overlap between well-written shoujo and seinen, a comfortable but blurry middle ground that this particular title falls in. It could be a shoujo title I guess but I think it appeals as much, if not more to, the seinen demographic because the topics covered take on slightly different, but nonetheless insightful, relevance when viewed from differing points of view that vary according to age and life experience.
The story focuses on Chizuka Shiroyama, an ordinary teenager with aspirations for a career in theatre but suffers from a mysterious condition whose only symptom is that of rendering her partially invisible. In all other respects she is completely normal and in perfect health but the periodic transparency makes an already quiet and shy individual even more insecure and introverted. Successive chapters explore the day-to-day life of Chizuko, her family and friends, and other people who share the strange â€˜Translucent Syndromeâ€™.