The 2nd Dimension

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Viewing Journal: Densha Otoko (live action TV)

Series Overview
(Not yet licensed in US)
Bittorrent Download

Overall= B+
Story = B
Video = B+
Audio = B+


I should probably start out by providing a summary of this show and the real-life story it is based on, but in all honesty, I really don't want to. The main reasons being that (1) I stink at writing show summaries and (2) it's just boring. So if you are not yet familiar with the story and history of this series I strongly suggest reading about it in Wikipedia. Despite the fact that I don't want to write about it, it really is pretty interesting.

So that all being said; on to the review...

Densha Otoko ("Train Man") is a very enjoyable and entertaining "feel good" drama. It's a story of a man overcoming his own personal limitations in order to find love, and I think that's something most anyone can get behind.

In addition to the "personal triumph" piece; the story includes other inspirational themes like the importance of honesty, accepting the flaws/quirks in others, maturity, and most of all the importance of support and friendship. That last piece -- social support -- is what really gives the show it's dramatic impact.

The main character -- Yamada, aka "Densha Otoko" -- is trying to land this babe -- Aoyama, aka "Hermes" -- but he is way too much of an introverted otaku geek to approach her. So he uses an internet chat community for single men (although oddly there are plenty of women and couples in this "single men's" chat thread) as a means of social support and through it he gains enough confidence and courage to talk to her. Yamada is basically a stammering buffoon (which I'll complain more about later) but the members of the chat board give him constant support and encouragement.

I really thought that the show did a great job of portraying the chat scenes. There were maybe 15 regular chat board members -- each with their own distinct personalities and eccentricities. Since no two characters were alike, you are almost guarenteed to find a favorite. I personally liked the guy in the Tigers jersey and also the guy who did the ASCII art. But -- even more than Yamada's quest for love -- the "feel good" part of the show really comes from the chat members wanting more than anything else to see "Densha" succeed. And many of them take Densha's quest as inspiration to conquer personal challenges in their own lives. When so many other shows focus on conflict as their central driving force, it was really refreshing to see one focus on encouragement like this.

Even though I really enjoyed watching most of these characters, the one character that I was not always especially impressed with was Yamada/Densha himself. The first thing that I had a hard time with was the extreme to which the actor went to portray Yamada's tense personality. I mean, at times the guy looked like his face was going to explode! It was downright painful to watch. The other thing that bothered me was that through most of the show Yamada seemed like such a wuss that it was hard to cheer for him. I mean, the guy collapses just from standing in the rain? Come on! And then there was his uncanny ability to turn any conversation into a self-depricating rant. At times I just wanted to say "Hey, Densha, it's not always about you, you know."(Though, the show is all about him, so I suppose it's just as well.)

Despite all that though, the show does do an overall good job of telling the story and being entertaining. One thing that that I found especially fun were all the pop-culture references. For instance, there were all kinds of anime-related toys scattered throughout Yamada's room; especially from Gundam, Sgt. Kerero, and Evangelion. Then there was the show's opening which was an animated homage to the Daicon IV video. There were also other non-anime references that US viewers can pick up on including Who Wants to be a Millionaire ("Final Answer!"), Pretty Woman, a Japanses version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart", and a pretty funny use of the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars.

All in all, despite a few frustrating moments along the way, the show was an effective empathetic drama. The end was satisfying since Yamada does finally grow and mature and each character gets a chance to have a final word with the very last chat session. I was really happy to see how it all turned out, and the last scene (in episode 11) left me with a smile on my face.

So in the end I would recommend this show; especially to anime fans but really probably anyone who is able to accept a little over-acting. Just stick with it and you'll see how "feel good" it really is.

And just because I have them handy, here are a few more fun facts for your enjoyment:

  • There was an extra episode called "Another Ending" that goes over what the different characters were doing in the background while the Densha story was going on. It ranged from interesting to downright creepy including one character doing an especially disturbing imitation of a sea turtle laying eggs. (Ugh. Don't ask.)
  • Although the TV series hasn't been license for US release, the movie version of the story will be released in the US in January 2007.
  • The parody anime that was shown in the show's opening animation and throughout the story itself, is being made into an OVA series which will be animated by GONZO.
  • A somewhat famous "archtypal otaku" named Toru Honda critisized the Densha Otoku story; saying that instead of trying to change, otoku should embrace their lifestyle because otoku life is in fact superior to regular life.
  • Here's an English translation of the original chat posts that the show is based on.
  • As an experiment, a show call Trivia Seed wanted to see how many otoku would actually rescue a girl in trouble like Densha Otoko did in the TV series. As it turned out an impressive 69 out of 100 did! You see it for yourself at the following Youtube links: Part 1, Part 2
  • Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that I really loved that ending theme.

Man, was this a really long review or is it just me?

Viewing Journal: Yukikaze (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B
Story = B
Video = A
Audio = B


This is going to be another sorry excuse for a review because it's been so long since I saw the first episodes of this show; and I have way to much backlog to watch to be able to go back and re-watch the whole thing over. (That and the fact that the Densha Otoko review just sucked the life out of me.)

Of course, the reason it's been so long is because it's been such a long stretch inbetween the release of each DVD. The first DVD was originally released way back in February of 2004; while the second didn't come out until December of last year; and the last one just came out this month.

Obviously GONZO really took its time producing this series, but to its credit all that hard work really seemed to pay off in the animation quality which is gorgeous. From the setting to the action scenes to the character designs, you can tell that the animators wanted to get this one perfect.

The story is pretty good, but it was kind of hard to understand just what the heck was going on. According the the director and voice actor interviews that were on the last DVD, the anime is based on a novel. And it was a challenge to condense the content of the novel into a five episode anime. But according to the director, it will probably take multiple views to really grasp all the intricacies that are imbedded within the show. I think that would be worth doing, if I had the time but ... maybe later.

One thing that I was especially disappointed in was the fact that the DVD didn't include the Mave-chan parody anime which was reportedly going to be on the last DVD. God knows I don't want to have to wait another couple of years to see that one come out. ;P

Friday, July 28, 2006

Kill Bill anime prequels planned?

From Anime News Network:
Quentin Tarantino says he wants to make two anime Kill Bill prequels: an origin film about Bill and his mentors, and an original tale with The Bride.

Paprika trailer and US release date

Oh baby! Check this out. It's the latest work from Satoshi Kon called Paprika. Remember Perfect Blue? Tokyo Godfathers? Paranoia Agent? No? Well watch this trailer anyway and be amazed by the crazy, weird, generally twisted coolness that the man is capable of.

And listen to (read) this! Paprika is going to be released in the US before its Japanese release. Why? I have no idea. But it'll be out on American DVD October 31. It's not going to be in theatres in Japan until some time next year.

Source: AnimeNation [1, 2]

UPDATE: As it turns out, according to the release date was a screw up. In reality there is no US DVD release date yet for this title other than a general 2007. Doh!

The movie will have a sneak preview at the Venice Film Festival which runs August 30-September 9.

Source: Anime News Network

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Afro Samurai trailer

I've been hearing about this anime called Afro Samurai for years. It originally started out as a manga, and then somehow Gonzo and Samuel L. Jackson got interested in turning it into an anime and live action movie.

The anime is finally coming to frutation this fall on Spike TV. Here's the trailer. The character designs look kind of cool. It seems almost like a more violent version of Samurai Champloo.

Source: AnimeNation

Monday, July 17, 2006

Toonami Jetstream live early

From Anime News Network:

Toonami Jetstream is now online, serving free full length episodes of Naruto, Hikaru no Go, and the North American premieres of MÄR and The Prince of Tennis. The service officially launches Monday.

Satoshi Kon's Paprika site opens

Twitch points out the new site for Satoshi Kon's (Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent) next project is online here.

Source: Ain't It Cool News

Death Note movie review

Bloody Disgusting has a relatively positive, spoiler-free review of the Death Note movie. The reviewer's conclusion:

Overall the film is a refreshing change from the usual Asian Horror out there today but it’s pace is quite slow and it’s action is minimal so it may seem a bit bland to those not fans of the Manga. However, it is definitely worth checking out. I, for one am waiting to see what they will be doing with the sequels so I can enjoy this first installment even more.
The review is coming off of a horror movie fan site, so I guess you have to factor that into it. I've seen other sites bash the movie, but it's mainly the acting/directing they're disappointed with instead of the story itself. And from the trailers I've seen, I can believe it. But if the storyline is as close to the original manga as this review seems to imply, then I'm still really looking forward to checking it out when it comes to the US.

New anime by Voices of a Distant Star director

Check out the high definition download. It's gorgeous.

From AnimeNation:
The official homepage for director Makoto Shinkai's next anime project, Byousoku 5 Centimeter, is now open. The new anime will be a love story illustrated as a trilogy of theatrical features. The site features a 45 second long Windows Media trailer available as a director approved high definition 24.3mb direct download, and for streaming online viewing in low, medium, and high resolution. The movie is scheduled for Japanese release next year.

The original Death Note?

Watashi to Tokyo has an interesting article comparing the recently concluded (in Japan anyways) Death Note manga to a 30-year old manga by Shigeru Mizuki:
The title is "Amazing Notebook." One guy found a notebook, he knew it was an amazing notebook that he could use to kill someone by writing his name. He and his mistress killed those who stand in thier's way, He killed his mistress too because she demanded that he kill more and more. However he regreted what he did. Then he wrote his name with his repentant tears to kill his past and to make things over. After that, he did not use the notebook anymore. However one day his wife found his notebook, and she thew it into the fire as garbage. Becaues of fire, his name was burned out and he died.

Sounds suspiscious to me, especially considering that no one really knows who Tsugumi Ohba -- the author of Death Note -- really is anyway. Not that Ohba is actually Mizuki, but maybe there's a relation..? Or am I reading way too much into this?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Viewing Journal: Gunbuster: Aim for the Top! (complete)

Series Overview
VHS Info

Overall= A-
Story = A
Video = A-
Audio = C+

[Note: Manga Entertainment released a subtitle-only VHS version of this series a while ago, but recently allowed their license to expire. The good news is that Bandai Visual has just anounced that they have picked up the license and should be releasing it in the US soon.]


I loved this show. I know that it's just a giant robot show about fighting aliens and there's a lot of fan service, but I frigging loved it.

This is one of Gainax's signiture series, and I can see why. It just appeals to everything otaku in me. And it's exactly the kind of sci-fi story that Gainax does so well: great characters, mysterious enemies, action on a massive scale, a healthy does of fan service, and lots of hard scientific details mixed in with the story's fictional brand of science (check out the "Science Lesson" extras to see what I mean).

The pacing of the show was great. It's amazing the amount of build up that can be generated among just 6 episodes. And then the ending was about as climactic as you can get while still being perfectly satisfying. The only confusing thing was the fact that the entire final episode was in black-and-white. I have no idea why they did this other than maybe buget issues. Ultimately though, that didn't detracted at all from my enjoyment of the show.

I just loved it. I admit it: I'm an otaku fanboy and I loved this show.

Thank you and good night.

Viewing Journal: Honey and Clover - season 1 (complete)

Series Overview
(Not yet licensed in US)
Bittorrent Download

Overall= B
Story = B-
Video = B
Audio = B+


To be perfectly honest, I really wasn't all that crazy about this show. In fact, I thought it was pretty boring. It was a character driven show -- which is not a bad thing -- but it was almost too character driven. It was just a bunch of romantic relationships -- which again is not necessarily not a bad thing -- but other than that there wasn't much else driving the show.

Sure the characters were fun to watch, but there didn't really seem to be a single set of characters or relationship to focus on. Sure there was Takemoto's journey of self-discovery, but even that didn't seem much like it was playing a huge part until near the end. All in all, I think it's that lack of a focus or some driving factor that did it in for me.

Now having said all that I have to take a step back and firmly state that regardless of the critisizm above, this is not a bad show. It was just not my kind of show.

The reason that I say it is not bad is actually specifically because of the things I just bashed (figure that one out if you can). I'm talking about the fact that this show was about real people and thus did not have any "magical" or "otherworldly" elements to it. Sure the characters had their own quirks and extremities that made them interesting but nothing that defied the laws of reality. (My personal favorite character had to be Morita, who was like the Kramer (of Seinfeld-fame) of the group. He was probably the one element that kept me interested in the show, and when he had a breif haitus near the show's half-way point, he was sorely missed.)

Even though the story and characters were realistic, that didn't stop the show from using the animation medium to its full potential. The characters emotions were shown by with visual abstractions and sight gags, and that's exactly the kind of thing that I think makes this kind of story rise above the rest.

It shows exactly what seperates animation from live action. Animation grants the ability to show emotions visually and if it is done right, this can be extremely effective. And since this was a strait drama, there were no "magical" visuals to destract from the dramatic visuals -- which is something I don't think I've seen done so effectively since His and Hers Circumstances.

That's also why I don't think the live action movie version of this series could possibly be nearly as good as the animated version. Because by its very nature the live action medium looses that ability to visually represent emotions. Instead you are relying purely on the the actor's abilities. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing in general (I seem to be saying that a lot in this review), it's just that it elicits a different reaction from the audience.

So, even though I didn't necessarily like the show myself and I probably won't bother watching the second season (which is airing now in Japan), I still would recommend watching it if for no other reason than to experience what anime is capable of.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Square Watermelon

I heard about these from my Japanese teacher but had never actually seen one before. The idea behind these square watermelons is that they fit on refridgerator shelves more easily. Although they are supposed taste just like a regular watermelon, their practicality is deminished by the fact that they are more expensive. So it's more like something you'd give as a gift as opposed to something to get with your weekly groceries.

Source: Danny Choo

Bloody Glasses

Just a cool pic.

Source: TFS Magnum

Hellsing OVA trailer and US release date

From AnimeNation [1, 2]:

The official Hellsing OVA homepage now hosts a new 1:15 Windows Media trailer for the second episode, which is scheduled for Japanese release on August 25th.

The first domestic DVD of "Hellsing Ultimate," the Hellsing OVA series, will see American release on December 5th.

Powerpuff Z trailer

The US cartoon that was inspired by anime has now become an actual anime. Watch the Powerpuff Girls Z trailer below.

Source: Egotistical Whining

Mainichi Daily News translates manga online

From AnimeNation:
A never-seen-before approach to manga made its debut on the Mainichi Daily News on Monday, July 3, 2006. Manglish takes some of Japan's hottest young manga talents -- showcased in the Mainichi's MangaTown site -- and places their creations on the MDN in their original Japanese format. But, by simply dragging a cursor over the top of the manga, it's also possible to read them in English. MangaTown is one of Japan's most successful online manga sites and attracts some of the nation's best up-and-coming artists. Manglish will be updated daily on weekdays, one page at a time.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society Info

From AnimeNation:
Bandai Visual has announced that the 105 minute long Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society movie will premier on the SKYPerfecTV! satellite television network on September 1st then go on sale on Japanese DVD on November 24th at a retail price of 10,290 yen.

The Solid State Society OVA features theatrical quality animation produced at a cost of 360 million yen (roughly 3.14 million dollars).
At this past weekend's Anime Expo, Bandai Entertainment announced its acquisition of distribution rights to the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Laughing Man and Individual Eleven compilation OVA movies and the upcoming Solid State Society OVA movie...

Death Note 13th Volume

The Death Note manga just recently ended its run in Japan, but it looks like there's going to be one final extra entry. (Think the total number of volumes -- 13 -- was planned?) From ComiPress:

Thought Death Note ended? Behold the 13th volume of Death Note, an official analysis manual - The last “piece” that will help readers discover all the mysteries of Death Note. ...


1. True Name Card -L-
A special card that tells you L’s real name. Features an original illustration by Takeshi Obata.

2. One Shot “Death Note”
A prototype one shot that was released in Shounen Jump prior to Death Note’s serialization. It also includes a 4 koma manga that isn’t included in the usual Jump Comics.

3. Death Note Reversible Cover
Front side contains Takeshi Obata ’s original art, back side contains Death Note!

4. Super long interview of Obata and Ohba
The truth of Death Note disclosed by the mangaka and the author! It also includes commentary on all the subtitles and other secret stories behind character settings.

5. People, Incidents, … Investigation on All of the Mysteries of the Story
Profiling of the main characters. Explaination of the Kira incidents according to the story’s timeline!

6. Other Data
A list of L’s sweets/snacks. Not related to the story, but important for Death Note!

Since Death Note is currently on volume 6 in the US, it may be a while before we see this final installment over here.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Viewing Journal: Planetes (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= A
Story = A
Video = B+
Audio = A


This was just an all out good series. The sci-fi setting was totally realistic. The characters were totally believable and likable and had complex personalities. The technological details added depth and substance. This is the kind of realistic anime that you show a non-anime fan to prove that, even if they may not be able to appreciate the medium, they have to admit that the stories can have real substance and even rise above the best of their live-action counterparts.

It can seem slow at the beginning, but every episode ends with a bang in my opinion. And though the plot just seems to be episodic character-driven drama at first, later episodes reveal that there the story is taking a real direction after all.

The ending is natural and satisfying. This is just an all-around great show. Watch it!

Viewing Journal: Hellsing (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= C+
Story = C
Video = B-
Audio = B-


I generally don't like vampire shows all that much -- whether they be live action or animated. I think it has something to do with the fact that most stories in that genre try to make the violence moody if not romantic, and that just doesn't work for me.

But Hellsing seemed like it would be different. And for the first half of the show, it was different. The violence was action-oriented and while the characters got excited by the violence, it was more like adrenaline-pumping euphoria as opposed some kind of moody romance. Plus, the characters were either just plain nuts (Alexandar), or they had the perpetual confident/cocky smile that made them seem so cool (Alucard).

But then a couple things ruined the show. First off, it got way too moody. Secondly, it dumped one of the best characters -- Alexandar -- for some stupid new villian named Incognito. And thirdly, it never even wrapped up the major driving plot. It just left it hanging.

I know there are plenty of fans of this show out there, and I would have been one of them if the second half kept pace with the first half. But in the end it disappointed.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Reading Journal: Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics

Book Info

Overall= A-


Whether your into anime or manga, read this book. If you are into manga it will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the history and progression of the medium from it's earliest roots in ancient Japan and how American comics were a major influence (you heard right, and it's all come full circle). Sure it's a little dated (he doesn't think manga will ever become popular in the US -- never imagining that American readers would be more than happy to conform to the right-to-left reading style), but most of the info in there is as relevant today as it ever was because it's historical fact.

If you are an anime fan read it because manga is where anime got its start. So if you are reading the history of manga, you really are reading the history of anime too.

Just read it. Trust me. '^_^

Reading Journal: Dreamland Japan

Book Info

Overall= A


This is not so much a re-writing of Manga! Manga! as it is an addendum. You won't find anything in repeated here that is already in Manga! Manga!. You can read it by itself if you want, but I think you'd need to read both books to really get the full experience and become fully informed.

There's even an entire section talking about the debate over Disney's Lion King ripping off Tezuka's Jungle Emperor Leo. How great is that?