The 2nd Dimension

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My Youmacon experience

I know this is a little late in coming considering that Youmacon was over a week ago, but here you go anyway. I attended the convention all three days and all in all I had a blast. It was awesome being around people who were as passionante as me or more about anime and manga. Here's some of the highlights:


Came and went. There weren't many people there and I didn't really see much that I was interested in. After we got our registration taken care of, we went in to one of the video games rooms and played some of that dancing video game (what's it called?). I of course sucked at it, but my little nephew was busting a groove to everyone's amusement. That was about as good as it got on Friday though. I wanted to see the Kristine Sa concert (a blog commenter pointed me to her website some time ago so I was interested in seeing what she was like), but it had been pushed back from 8:00 to 9:30 and I was with my wife, brother, his fiance, and his son and among the rest of them they were not too keen on staying for an extra hour and a half with nothing to do. So we left.


This day was much better. I got some choice viewings in including Fullmetal Panic: Second Raid and a bunch of Bleach episodes.

But the real highlight of the day was seeing the panel discussion with two English voice actors from Fullmetal Alchemist Caitlin Glass (who plays Winry) and Vic Mignogna (who plays Ed). They were both incredibly cool to listen to. The really weird thing was that Vic reminded me so much of my brother! My wife (who's not an anime fan but went anyway just to share in my joy -- what a trooper!) noticed right off the bat, and I had in inkling at first, but after a while it was just uncanny.

Familial similarities aside though, they did have some interesting and informative things to say. For one, they revealed that Funimation was hoping to give the FMA movie a theatrical release before it goes to DVD. Cheers abounded for that. They also had a bunch of hilarious stories to tell, and all-in-all you could really tell that they were probably more in love with Fullmetal Alchemist than most other shows they work on. They even have their own fan site called Risembool Rangers.

After the panel, I quickly went to the dealer area to get the first volume of the FMA manga to bring to the Vic and Caitlin signing. I'm not sure why I didn't get the DVD, but that problem was rectified on Sunday (see below). So I stood in line, all the while hating myself for not having brought a camera. I got the book signed but unfortunately couldn't think of anything witty or charming to say at the time, so I probably just looked like another otaku geek to them (which I am, so I guess it's just as well).

From there I went on to see when Tsubasa Chronicles would play but didn't get a chance to watch it because the schedule for viewings was so off. Eventually we went home but I came back around midnight to watch the first 10 episodes of Bleach and didn't leave until around 3:30am. I went home tired but satisfied.


Sunday was way too short, but was the most fun out of all the days. I mainly wanted to go to watch the 11:00am showing of Fullmetal Fantasy. However, we got there just as the charity auction was finishing up. Vic ended up personally auctioning off a signed copy of the FMA Volume 1 DVD, which I snatched up for no other reason than I regretted not getting it the day before -- that and the money was going to Katrina relief.

After that he introduced the film: Fullmetal Fantasy. FF was a short (about 20 minutes?) film made by Vic which chronicled his fictional transformation from a FMA fan into Edward Elric himself and his subsequent run-ins with the various characters from the show (who were mostly played by their corresponding English voice actors). It was really well done and everyone in the room laughed uproariously as each character popped up on screen. I suppose it would mean nothing to the uninitiated, but for those who are loyal followers of the show it was a real pleasure. After the showing he opened the floor to questions. As it turns out, the film is not for sale or availability even on the internet. He only shows it at conventions. But he said that Funimation is working with Aniplex to include as an extra on a future FMA DVD.

He also mentioned another FMA fan film project that he's working on using Ed Elric and Roy Mustang action figures. Some of the ideas he described sounded hilarious. For instance, the opening will mirror the opening of Napolean Dynamite but instead of a GI Joe action figure he throws Roy Mustang out the bus window and drags it along behind. After the string breaks Roy gets up. Ed pulls along side in his shiny red convertible, Roy gets in, and their story begins. The film will eventually be available via the Risembool Rangers site. I'll make sure to let you know if I ever see it.

After the Q & A, I decided I wanted to go watch the Otaku Family Feud. This was a game where two teams of four would compete in a Family Feud style game with anime-themed questions. I was planning just to watch, but another group of three was looking for someone else to join up so they had enough players so I stepped up. Somehow we made it to the top two teams. And as an added bonus, Vic and Caitlin each played as a fifth player for one of the teams. (I just couldn't get away from them!) Caitlin was on our team, and sat right next to me! Sweet! We didn't end up winning and I felt I contributed pitifully little, but it was so much damn fun I didn't care.

That concluded our convention experience, but I left more excited about anime and manga than ever before, and I am definitely looking forward to going again next year.

Wings of Rean Trailer

This looks cool, and it is going to be released on the internet, though I'm not sure if it will be translated or not. From Anime Nation:

A 1:30 streaming trailer for the Wings of Rean anime series is now available from the show's official site. The series will be broadcast on the internet beginning December 16th.

Mamoru Oshii's next film

The director of movies such as Ghost in the Shell, Innocence, and Patlabor has announced his next project. From Anime Nation:

Production I.G. has formally announced development of director Mamoru Oshii's next anime film, a movie titled "Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters" ("Tachiguishi Retsuden"). The film will be a unique view of contemporary Japanese history told relative to the rise and fall of people who steal fast food. The film will be released in Japan next spring.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Viewing Journal: Avalon

Overall =
So I just saw Mamoru Oshii's Avalon the other day and I have to say that I think I have the same reaction to just about every one of his movies. When I first watch it, I don't like it. It's not until after I've had a chance to think about it for a while, and maybe watch the movie a couple more times, thatI actually realize that it's not all that bad after all.

I think the trouble is that when you watch the movie it seems like it's a lot more complex than it actually is. I mean, Ghost in the Shell, Innocence, Jin Roh... they all have pretty strait-forward plots. But because Oshii tends to spend a lot of time on single scenes and show a lot of detail in a character's daily life, you (or at least I) become convinced that there's more to it than there really is.

Avalon had that same complex-but-simple feel, especially at the end. When the movie finished, I was convinced that the ending was so baffling that I would never understand it. Then, while driving later that night, my wife (who had watched about 3/4 of the movie with me) said, "So did you understand the end of that movie?" My first response was "Not at all". But then as we talked it out, we started to connect all the pieces and within the span of maybe two minutes I suddenly realized that it wasn't all that complicated after all. You have to put two and two together, but ultimately it's not rocket science to understand.

I even had an general idea of the movie's theme... (spoiler warning)... That being essentialy that this world that we live in ("Class Real") is as good as it gets, so appreciate what you have. (end spoiler) Whether or not that's the intended theme, I don't know. But that's what I got out of it.

Other than the actual story itself, there were a couple of other things initially confused me when watching. The first is that the characters are all speaking Polish, not Japanese as I thought would be the case. It's kind of obvious once the characters start talking, but I didn't know this going into it. From watching the director interview, there were a lot of reasons why Oshii filmed in Poland, but the most amusing reason was that he likes "Polish actresses".

The other thing that didn't have so much to do with Oshii as with Miramax: When watching the movie in subtitles, I noticed that occasionally text would appear when there was no dialogue. Eventually I realized that Miramax had added extra narration in the english dub version to provide additional plot explanation. The subtitles followed the dub so even though there would be no dialogue in the original polish version, the subtitles would show up anyway. I have no idea why Miramax did that, especially since they had a second english sub option for "hearing impared". Plus, Neil Gaiman did the translation, and you'd think a guy that like would have enough respect for the director to avoid that kind of thing. Regardless, I tried to just ignore the extra subtitles, but it was still really annoying.

In the end I give the movie a ("Eh") rating. I did like that you had to put forth a little mental effort to fully understand the ending. It kind of gives you a sense of self-satisfaction to know that you solved the riddle, regardless of how simple that riddle may be. Still, I'm not yet sure if I really enjoyed the movie overall. I'll probably have to see a few more times to know for sure. But it's pretty much par for the course for Oshii films.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Honey and Clover?

Every so often I'll go to some random anime review blog and among the hodge podge of series I'll usually see an entry for something called Honey and Clover. I didn't think much of it the first few times since at first glance at the visuals the story seems to just be a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, which (save for Kare Kano) which I am usually not interested in. But after consistently seeing the title pop up time and time again I started to get a little curious. I've looked for places to download it but up to this point I've been having a pretty hard time.

Then just recently I saw a review at Anime News Network and suddenly I am super-interested in seeing it. It sounds like it may be the next Fruits Basket or Kare Kano in that it's mainly a shojo anime, but is mature enough to have cross-gender appeal. I haven't seen any mention of whether or not it has been licensed for US release, but I'll keep my eyes open for it.

For a more comprehensive episode-by-episode review of the series try this review on Memento.

Working through FFVII just for Advent Children

So I'm plodding my way through the Final Fantasy VII game from the beginning and my one and only reason for doing so is because I want to have the back story for the Advent Children DVD when it comes out at the end of November. That's an estimated 40 hours of my life flittered away on preparation for a movie which very well may end up sucking anyways. What the hell is wrong with me?

Yeah, I could have just read the script, but for some reason I started to think that I'd be missing out on certain visual referrences to the game that might crop up in the movie.

I guess there's a certain part of me that wants to complete this game that I started 6 or 7 years ago just to have a sense of closure, but I probably never would have gotten the initiative if the movie hadn't come out.

Turner Classic Movies to show Ghibli movies

The Turner Classic Movies cable channel is going to show 7 movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki and 2 directed by Isao Takahata throughout the month of January 2006. From Anime News Network:

Turner Classic Movies has posted their January schedule.

Every Thursday in January Turner Classic Movies will air 2 Ghibli movies (3 on January 19th) starting at 8pm. The movies will repeat a second time at the end of the second (or 3rd) movie.

Turner Classic Movies lists the English cast for each movie except for Only Yesterday, for which it has the Japanese cast listed.

Thursday, January 5
8:00 PM Spirited Away
10:15 PM Princess Mononoke
1:00 AM Spirited Away
3:15 AM Princess Mononoke

Thursday, January 12
8:00 PM Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
10:00 PM Castle in the Sky
12:15 AM Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
2:15 AM Castle in the Sky

Thursday, January 19
8:00 PM My Neighbor Totoro
9:30 PM Porco Rosso
11:15 PM Whisper of the Heart
1:15 AM My Neighbor Totoro
2:45 AM Porco Rosso
4:30 AM Whisper of the Heart

Thursday, January 26
8:00 PM Only Yesterday
10:15 PM Pom Poko
12:30 AM Only Yesterday
2:45 AM Pom Poko

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A leaner blog, but we still got emoticons!

Well, I've decided that I'm going to stop putting up pictures for every single thing I post. The original theory behind it was that since anime is a visual medium, I should make my site as visual as possible to attract random passers-by.

After a bit of consideration (and note that there was absolutely no market research involved) I've figured that the images might be causing more clutter than actual attraction. So I'm going to cut them out unless they fill some actual purpose or add some value to the blog entry.

Of course, another benifit of ditching the unnecessary visuals is that I won't have to spend most of my time Googling images to find that really cool one that just might convince my audience that the content of the blog is worth the effort to actually read. Regardless though, the free time will enable me to put more effort into actually posting and less on all the fluff.

I think I will keep the emoticons (used in my reviews) though. Those do have an actual purpose. It's true that I could go with a letter grading system (A,B,C,D,F) for my reviews, but I never really liked those kind of scales because anything that wasn't marked as "A" seemed to be crap to me (too bad I didn't have the same attitude while in school).

I could also go with the five star method and use astarisks as stars ("*****"), but that still seems kind of vague since 1.) you have to go through the trouble of actually counting the stars (yes, I'm that lazy) and 2.) you have to figure out what does a star actually mean in terms of how the reviewer felt about the movie.

With my emoticons the expresions are there and it's pretty clear what it's supposed to mean. At least I think so.