Thursday, April 30, 2009

Business as Usual

So, the anime season plods along much as it did before. K-ON is still awesome, 07-Ghost is still terrible, and the other shows seem to be progressing more or less as we had all expected. I am happy to announce that Eden of the East finally seems to be going somewhere interesting(finally being only 3 episodes, but I was getting worried <_<;;), but, aside from that, it looks to be a good season with no real surprises. I can handle that, I suppose.

In other news, I beat Mass Effect recently(I know, years behind...shut up), which I have decided is the shittiest really good game ever. I find myself hoping that BioWare put in loads of shitty things just to remind people how good the rest of the game is. Every time I flip the fucking Mako over and have to reload my file, or get stuck walking around in some area and reload, I imagine a programmer huddled before his vast monitor, grinning at the frustration he is providing by doing is job poorly. By contrast, aside from awful glitches, texture popping that is fairly justified by Microsoft's not including the ability to install to HDD before the newest updates, grade-school AI, and anything involving the Mako, Mass Effect is a pretty damned good game.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Anime 2009

Well, the spring season is under way now, so I thought I'd make a post of my impressions of the shows so far. I'm happy to say this season is definitely a lot more promising than the last, with several shows that definitely look like they're worth the long haul. Really not too many complete throwaways, either.
So, without further ado, let us begin...

K-ON is the sort of show that offers a lot of different things for a lot of different people. It has the cuteness and character designs to please the moe-obsessed, but it maintains enough depth and simple charm to appeal beyond that sort of base appeal, as well. It's humor is similar to other 4komas, except that this one has a lot more structure, and seems to contain something of a continuous plotline, which hopefully will push it beyond the sort of fluff entertainment value that most 4komas hold. Just as with Lucky Star, one can appreciate the low-key nature of much of the show. It's about people in their elements, not fighting space battles or dealing with hyper-dramatic love affairs of various kinds. It's just a club full of girls trying to play music. Admittedly music has not been a major focus so far, but after two episodes it would appear that it certainly could become a more major focus. We'll have to wait and see about that, but so far the lovingly detailed animation and charming characters are more than enough to warrant watching this show, especially if you've ever been a fan of other 4koma series, like Lucky Star or Azumanga Daioh.

Basquash is sort of an odd show, because it began with perhaps the lamest idea for a show ever (mechs playing basketball), and then in the first episode showed how awesome that actually could be. The first episode was most one giant, high-octane, well-animated chase scene, full of style and character. It's already shown itself to be willing to whore out its female characters for fanservice, but if you can get past that lame aspect of it--or if that's your thing--then there would appear to be a decent show behind it. Unfortunately, though, the second episode was pretty weak. Without the energy of the first episode the show sort of falls apart amid its weak premise and, at least so far, flat characters (I guess all the depth went into the breasts of Miyuki, who has proportions that would make the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann team proud). If you're a fan of high-octane shows about young boys who pilot mechs and are totally awesome at it half the time and suck at it the rest of the time, this might be the show for you. For anyone else, the jury is still out, but you could certainly do worse.

Saki is a show about a girl who hates mahjong but has the ability to manipulate her score in a very specific way. It features animation from GONZO that would have been so-so ten years ago, but these days it just comes off as kind of pathetic. It also features female characters, who make up almost the entire cast, whose uniform skirts are so short you can see half of their ass even without cheesy up angle perspectives. If you can get past all of that, then you find a remarkably cheesy sports-type anime. Here's the thing: if you really, really like mahjong, maybe this show would do it for you, but even after researching mahjong and learning more or less what the hell is going on when they're playing it, there just isn't anything interesting about the show. The characters are dull and poorly realized, and mahjong does not make for a very good anime activity, no matter how many dramatic lightning bolts you throw in, in true nineties anime fashion. Worst of all, it doesn't even feel like the creators of the show give a shit about mahjong. There's no heart in any of it, even when it's just the girls sitting around playing mahjong. It utilizes all sorts of asinine cliches to try and make it seem dramatic, but it just comes off as a desperate attempt to milk an anime out of another Japanese pastime. At this point, my advice to everyone is to avoid this one like the plague.

Valkyria Chronicles
Okay, I'm just going to be frank about this one: I don't know why the hell they decided to make a TV anime out of this game. It's not that it doesn't work, it's just that the game is structured so much like an anime already. Certainly I can understand that not everyone has access to a PS3, but that never seemed to bother them before. Anyway, that isn't to say the anime is bad--it's actually quite good--but for anyone who has played the game, the show will simply leave you underwhelmed. From the animation to the characters to the drama, the game does everything better than the show so far. The anime feels clumsy by comparison. However, if you haven't gotten the chance to play this gem of a PS3 game, and don't think you will, the anime, which still looks and sounds good, with plenty of charming characters and--assuming they don't totally butcher the game--a good plot, is definitely worth checking out. I can't really suggest it to anyone who has actually played the game, though, since I feel like your time would be better spent just playing through the game again <_<;;. style="font-weight: bold;">

Phantom -Requiem for the Phantom-
For some reason, a lot of people seem to think this is the big show to watch this season, or at least one of the top ones. Let me just say that I have no idea why. Don't get me wrong, the show hasn't been bad so far, and I liked Noir well enough--which is 60% the same show, so far--but so far this show hasn't shown me any reason to get excited for it. It has a fair amount to offer, a good soundtrack, good animation, good atmosphere, but so far it's just been creepy organizations speaking creepily and Ein being creepy and Zwei becoming creepy. The first episode set everything up well enough, and the second episode showed exactly how boring training sequences are. Certainly this training was more interesting because of the psychological impact it had on presumably main character Zwei, but it was still a lot of re-used animation and humdrum stuff, broken up by one of anime's most idiotic time-honored traditions: the mysterious all-knowing figures speaking dramatically in poorly-veiled foreshadowing and description. At this point, I'd suggest giving the show a shot, at least until we can see if it goes the way of Noir, which was good enough, or Madlax, which was pretty much intolerable.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

And now, for something completely different.

I have had this blog for about two years now, and have so few posts to show for it it's dreadfully pathetic, really. There are a great number of reasons for this, from general laziness to being busy during certain periods to constantly re-writing reviews I didn't like enough. Ultimately, though, I think I decided somewhere along the line that the sort of formal, review-oriented site I originally was looking for really just isn't my thing right now. Part of it is my growing doubt about my ability to continue writing things at a level acceptable to me in the future, but mostly just the thought of putting immense amounts of work into a 1000 or so word review more or less only for myself just doesn't appeal to me anymore. In the beginning I imagined a somewhat grand notion of showing the world--or at least the internet--the sort of reviews I desperately wish were more prevalent in journalism. This is not to say I am confident at all in the quality of my work--quite the opposite, in fact--but that I tried my best to create a review that both argued a point without resorting too much to simple derision or praise for its own sake and that could be entertaining at the same time. Along with it was the idea that each anime series, no matter how long, was, or at least should be, on its own a single, cohesive unit, and should be treated as such. While I understand at some level the current focus on single DVD reviews, I find them to be disagreeable on a number of levels.

Despite all this, though, I really do enjoy writing about the things I love, and sharing my passion, in whatever form it takes, with my friends, or really, anyone who cares to listen. So, I finally decided to just do what I should have done in the first place: use this as a place to voice my opinions and thoughts on the things that drive me, particularly video games and anime. I'm sure the desire to write a more formal review will strike me again, but clearly using my blog only to do those is not working.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An update for those not in the loop

I don't think this blog has ever had much readership outside of primarily a circle of my personal friends, but if you aren't among them and you've ever checked this site, I apologize for not updating recently. Things have been hectic and I have a lot on my plate, in one way or another.

Surprisingly, each review I write takes up a considerable amount of time, and it's difficult to find much time to crank out any decent ones--at least by my standards--these days, between work, personal responsibilities, and continued attempts to learn Japanese.

To give you an idea of the time involved in a review for me, here's how I normally do it:

First, I watch the series at least twice. Often things are different the second time we see them, after we have acclimated ourselves somewhat to the creators' styles, or whatever. Or I just miss things the first time through. Either way, I think it's remarkably unfair to write a review of something I haven't seen at least twice. Occasionally the second run-through will only be a skim over, just a review of various scenes and whatnot, but generally I try to go through it completely twice. This is why you will probably never see me write a full review for any of the long-running serial shonen series. I caught up on most of them once, and I hated most every minute of it, so I am not putting myself through that again <_<.

Then I make a version of the review that is as closely tied to my own personal opinion as possible. What did I personally think of the show? What aspects was I arbitrarily biased against? Were there aspects I gave too much credit for some reason? During the nest few steps I try and remove as much of this as I can, or at least distance myself from it somewhat. Objectivity is an ultimately impossible goal, but it doesn't do anyone else that much good just to tell people my base personal feelings on a show, now does it?

Next it is time to actually write the review, after which I try to make sure it doesn't totally suck before posting it anywhere. I generally fail in this pursuit, but I try hard, and that's gotta be worth something.

I've always considered the idea of doing more informal reviews and/or short responses to individual episodes and series, like many very popular blogs, but I never really got evaluating anime on an episode to episode basis. It's a complete work, why not just treat it as such?