Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fall Stream: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works: Episode 10

Another battle episode as Shirou and Rin find out who the master of Caster is, it turns out to be the stoical and imposing Souichirou Kuzuki. Kuzuki ends up mopping up both Rin and Shiroy while also takeing out Saber with a one hand choke slam. This is even more impressive because Kuzuki is no mage he simply has enhanced defensive abilities. This battle shows that simply relying on surprise and brute force alone will accomplish nothing if stargey is not used, while Shirou gains a new skill beang able to make replcias of Archer's duel daggers and being able to stop the battle. This also ends up being a episode that has still more casting doubts on Shirou's ideals and Rin softens a little thanks in part partially to her stubborn pride as much as slow dawning affection for the hotblooded hero. Meanwhile Shinji is drunk on revenge fantasies and now enlisted Gilgamesh who thinks modern society is useless and "soft and wants to slaughter those he sees as decedent, it's chilling and the episode ends with an sense of ominous foreboding.

Sailor Moon Crystal Stream: Episode 12

The animation for this episode is spotty, Queen Beryl at one point goes so off model she looks like a big mouth billy bass, the first part is flat almost nothing happens except an interminable amount of time and despite an attempt to give Beryl a sympathetic back story she's so underdeveloped as a character that it's hard to feel that sorry for her. While Usagi is mostly, a useless emotional wreck and while that can be understandable it's pretty bad when the most outstanding part is Shizuka Ito's performance as Venus and much of the early episode is speechifying that drags the action down to a crawl. While Queen Metalia's charcter design still makes her look like a cast off from Ghosts and Goblins and it's hard to take this glowing pink ball of energy with the "awesome face" meme for a face serious as the embodiment of evil. While a good part of the series is the four heavenly generals getting their memories back and at least canonizing Venus/Kunzite (which I approve). While also giving them actual titles and descriptions. Still Usagi is not much of a leader mostly content to cry and give the "I know you're in there somewhere" cliche speech to Endymion, while everything gets progressively worse, its frustrating to see all that resolve Usagi had reduced to her crying and being conflicted I get that she's only fourteen and doesn't want to hurt the man she loves but this just stretches credulity. The other Sailor Scouts at least get this but it's frustrating while also showing the problems of a series being overly "Faithful" to the source material, in the old PGSM anime it at least would develop the characters as is with this Crystal is too faithful to allow any deviations from the text of the Manga making all the characterization seem flat and underdeveloped. It's also the problem with the release schedule of episodes as well. I think the series as is now is fundamentally broken because of poor execution from a writing standpoint.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fall Stream: TerraFormars: Episode 12

Awkward character movement animation and a vertigo inducing opening fight between Shokichi and a Terraformar that does showcase Shokichi's impressive agility while also finally giving his back story and that of his childhood friend Aki which is good and thankfully fills in those that didn't watch the OVAs. While the teamwork between Alex and Marcos against a horde of Terraformars has to go down as one of the more impressive improvised strategies in the series. While also the mystery of the Terraformars abilities and grasp of the Mosaic Procedure seems to be the result of the betrayal by one of the nations that sent the various crews to Mars for now unknown reasons. Not as character driven as the last handful of episodes but Michelle's back and next episode could be a blood bath with our stoical bespectacled blonde on deck. While the missile attack in this episode comes out of nowhere and the fear is palpable and seeing one member of the crew break down to only be incinerated when she panics is shocking. Budget saving animation aside the story moves along quite well and thankfully avoids the major sin of the series in over exposition the powers of the crew it's still done with Marcos but only as brief screen flash. While Alex scores points for going out defiant when it looks like he's going to be killed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fall Stream: Parasyte The Maxim: Episode 11

Less action and more character development as Shinichi and Murano grow closer and Kana wrestles with her feelings. While the parasytes seem to be planing for actions in one of the more brutal fights in which one takes down an entire clan of Yakuza. In a scene that is bloody dismemberment and information gathering in equal measure. The parts that deal with Shinichi's conflicting emotions and questions of his own humanity make for the better parts of the episode while Kana and Murano talking it out is a part that gives there feelings more layers other than simple "protagonist get's luck in love because."

Confidential Confessions Volumes 1-3 Review

Confidential Confessions, from the first volume which is a sometimes expressionistic look into what would drive someone to commit suicide and how one would go on living after a failed attempt. To volume two which chronicles the sexual harassment of a girl's tennis team who have to fight not only the lecherous advances of their tennis coach. But also the dismissive attitude of the School Administrators, while volume three chronicles the slow decline of a high school girl into drug addiction and the eventual hell of withdrawal makes it a series that wants to approach tough subjects and succeeds with aplomb. Each volume is essentially a “problem story”, dealing with some social ill in Japanese society, while sometimes heavy handed (Kyoko's (the protagonist) friends in volume three feel as if they are simply there as a chorus to reiterate how dangerous drugs are and edge her toward getting help). This series is never patronizing or glib in it's solutions, volume one doesn’t even attempt an answer beyond something to the effect of “sometimes you have to be comfortable with the answers you do know abut life and know that sometimes it doesn’t get easy.” Characters are not complex but none of them feel like an archetype or as if Momochi-Sensei is talking down to her audience or that a quick fix makes everything better. Of the three volumes, volume one The Door dealing with Manatsu's social isolation, disintegrating home life, self mutilation, and a suicide pact she makes with a mentally disturbed and bullied classmate she nicknames Asparagus. Is the bleakest of the three giving no real answers and instead capturing the emotions of a depressed person or why someone would contemplate suicide, with out ever sounding like an after school special or as if it will all be magically fixed once Manatsu gets older. Parts of it are so close to my own personal experiences with depression, the awkward years of High School, and the sometimes grim specter of what seems like the easy answer of suicide that it was alternatively cathartic and painful to read . The Door the strongest story in the series so far, (I still have volumes 4, 5, and 6 to read and the sequel series Bonds to read) as it sets the mood for the whole series of stories in succeeding volumes yet neither of the subsequent volumes reach the heights of the bleak naturalistic writing and moody cerebral art which have a grandeur and candor that's hard to find in “School Days” series that far too often paint an overly rose tinted view of High School. While volume two get's down right Feminist in it's decrying of sexual harassment and is a much needed cold shower were the actions of the gym teacher would be looked upon as a form of affection, humor, or made into some kind of fetish by some Mangaka. Suzuki delivers such a poignant and impassioned speech against the sexual harassment of Mr. Todo (the gym teacher) in particular and misogyny in general, that I clapped and cheered the first time I read it, while never blaming all men even having a sympathetic male love interest and a Father who is willing to bring the full force of the law down on behalf of his daughter making for a balanced portrayal of gender relations. While Momochi-Sensei never makes Todo's advances seemingly attractive or Fan Service in the slightest instead showing how pathetic and abusive his actions are and how wrong the School staff are to ignore it. While volume three dealing with Kyoko's descent into LSD and Methamphetamine addiction is the strongest from an art stand point, volume one has strong layout and use of screentone for Manatsu's disintegrating mental state, large parts of it feel sparse and utilized or overly cramped. While Dizziness (Volume Three), does have some overly melodramatic aspects such as the Yakuza extorting Kyoko's father or the rapist tutor, but as a study of why someone would be drawn to using stimulants (in this case it's to stay up and study all night). While also showing that Kyoko's parents while flawed are also able to be reflective and self-critical. Particularly poignant is a scene latter in volume three where Kyoko having a flash back to a time she is almost raped in a Karaoke Box along with acid flashbacks and detoxing from Methamphetamine, ends up stabbing her Father in the hand while attempting to keep herself awake by stabbing herself with a pencil. This leads to the first time her Dad shows any kind of real concern for her as prior to this he's been nothing but an overbearing perfectionist, who is causing his entire family to walk on eggshells because they can't live up to his expectations. The framing of the scene from the close up of his hand to his daughter and back to his face captures so much emotion that almost no words need to be said. Showing both a Father's love for his daughter and realization of how much he is to blame for her current state. In conclusion this series does what good fiction should do make you feel for a character, elicit an emotion, and also think in a greater way abut society and how to foment social change or even if only a greater degree of introspection and empathy for those who struggle with issues other than your own. These were effecting works that made me have to think hard about were I had come from and were I still have to go as a person and anything that makes you think is good fiction in my book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stray Dog of Anime by Brian Ruh: Review

Critical analysis of important Directors and artists in Anime and Manga, yet alone scholarly or intellectually serious treatment of them and there work in English is hard to come by. Especially if it is someone as dense and cerebral as Mamaoru Oshii, Brian Ruh has thankfully done yeoman’s work with this the second edition of his analysis of select films (both live action and Anime) from Oshii's oeuvre. The works you would expct to get covered get analyzed (Ghost In The Shell, Jin-Roh, and Angel's Egg), yet Ruh also covers Oshii's forays into live action film in his chapters on Avalon and Assault Girls. Giving food for thought to a aspect of Oshii's work that is under recognized. Interpretations of the works are not “special,” there is no hint of Ruh trying to show the reader how clever he is by coming up with outlandish interpretations of the films however Ruh's analysis of Ghost In The Shell has one major flaw in referencing Bernard Batto's interpretation of The Fall. That shows an appalling ignorance of biblical theology in service of an interpretation, I don't mind symbolic use of scripture in film or art as it's part of the literary canon of world culture. Yet Ruh's use of Batto's botched interpretation doesn’t help with the analysis of Ghost In The Shell and sadly feels like a shallow digression, while Ruh's interpretations of Patlabor and Jin-Roh, are very much weighed in the school of thought that wants to see Anime as some sort of representation of the national psyche of Japan. Thankfully this never falls into a direct one to one comparison and Ruh instead posits it as Oshii's thoughts on Japan, thous avoiding the straitjacketing of an entire medium, by a almost nihilistic interpretation of cultural relativism. Other flaws are simply, that the films discussed are a visual medium and the translation of a visual medium to text makes scenes less impact or even hard to comprehend as prose does not convey symbolism that was intended to be seen. These slight criticisms aside Stray Dog Of Anime is an masterful work of film analysis and tying the overall themes and overarching narratives of Oshii's works as a whole, together, while also giving the contexts of the works genesis as well giving background that is invaluable when trying to approach the works of someone so hard to interpret and chameleon-like as Oshii. While not easy to read thankfully this is never a dry read and the author’s love for the subject come through this also never makes it into a aesthetic hagiography either, instead it's a thoughtful and even handed look at a Director, who has never been easy to figure out and always done things his own way.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fall Stream: Rage of Bahumut: Genesis: Episode 9

This episode encapsulates what this show is capable of when it's good what could have been a mere "chop suey" of fantasy and mythology tropes, has actual emotional weight and I care about what happens to Amira and Favaro while Joan of Arc looks to be slowly pushed to the brink of madness and war seems all but certain between the gods and demons. Action is solid while in some parts the series feels too bright, while details are the strong point for this series from character design. While the question of the worth of one life and man versus fate are well worn tropes in this it's that the characters have all been established and are less than archetypes not particularly deep or nuanced but they feel as if people that exist in it's own world. You couldn't even tell this was a vehicle for a card game by now it's simply a solid fantasy work. That is a minor miracle in itself