The 2nd Dimension

Monday, March 26, 2007

Flashback Video: Macross Plus Dogfight / Concert

Oh my God I haven't seen this OAV (or movie) in such a long time. This was the first team up of Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer extraordinaire Yoko Kanno. Watching this scene just brings back a waft of nostalgia because it was one of the first anime I ever saw way back in the day. Such a classic.

This dogfight (which is subtitled) is near the end of the movie. It probably doesn't require too much explanation to enjoy because dogfights are cool regardless of the context. Especially when they involve transforming jet fighters. :D

This (English dubbed) clip is from the "Sharon Apple" concert scene. Sharon is an Artificial Intelligence pop music idol of the future. She's supposed to be the most advanced AI developed for the time, but unknown to most of her fans, Sharon's "emotional element" is faked by tapping into the emotions of a woman (the one lying on the table in the clip). That probably makes absolutely no sense to those who haven't seen the whole thing but at any rate the visuals are pretty cool so just watch it and enjoy. And for those who have seen it, let the wave of nostalgia wash over you. Ahhh....

Production IG / Shirow Project website opens

The powerhouse of anime meets the powerhouse of manga ... again. And they open a website. It's for their new "spiritual animation" project is called Shinrei Kari/GHOST HOUND. Too bad it has little info (in Japanese) and only one placeholder image, but who am I kidding... I'd trudge 20 miles in the sewers of New York during a diarrhea epidemic for any scrap of evidence relating to this project ... and I'd be thankful....

Well okay, no, I wouldn't do that after all. But I'm still happy to have the website.

[Source: AnimeNation]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Viewing Journal: Otaku no Video

OAV Overview
DVD Info
Trailer (warning: spoilers)

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


It's hard to believed it's taken me this long to watch this show. It's considered a classic in the world of anime because it defines what it means to be an otaku (i.e., fanatical anime fan). It is one of the earlier productions of Gainax who themselves started out as just a group of fans, so if anyone has the credentials to make this kind of show it's them. Now that I've finally seen it, I definitely have to agree that it deserves to be called a classic because it does such an effective job of showing the reality -- and un-reality of the otaku culture.

The show is made up of two episodes, each of which alternates between anime and live-action.

The anime tells the story of Kubo, a normal college student who gets caught up in the world of anime, toy modeling, and everything in between. It starts out with a chance meeting with an old high school buddy who introduces Kubo to the world of anime. At first Kubo is enthralled by a sense of nostalgia for shows from his childhood; but gradually the hobby takes up more and more of his time until his social life is all but eradicated. When even his girlfriend betrays him, Kubo decides that he must show the world the true power of the otaku by becoming the ultimate otaku, or OTAKING!

One of the things that fans will get a kick out of is all of the references that are scattered throughout the show. You have everything from Macross and Gundam to some Gainax originals like Nadia, Honneamise, and Daicon 4. In fact, most of the references are so iconic that the show could act as a test for your level of anime fandom -- the more names you can recognize the bigger otaku you are.

The anime is broken up by a series of live-action interviews in a mock documentary titled "A Portrait of an Otaku". The interviewees include different breeds of otaku. There's the anime collector who records every show but never watches the tapes, the former cosplayer who denies ever having worn a costume even when faced with photographic evidence, and even an American who moved to Japan because of his fascination with Japanese pop culture. The interviewees' faces and voices are masked to "protect" their identities (in reality the parts are played by actual Gainax staff members) because they tend to take part in all kinds of unsavory activities. There's a porn fan who is trying to develop glasses to defeat the mosaic censoring on a video, a computer gamer obsessed with hentei, and a "cell thief" who steals animation cells from production studios and sells them on the street (that's a new one to me). All in all, it's definitely not a display of the otaku's finest hour.

Now, I'm not the greatest analytical mind (not that that's ever stopped me before) but I think that the two contrasting mediums -- anime and live action -- are supposed to show two contrasting perspectives of otaku. The anime shows how otaku want to see themselves -- like achieving vindication over those who mock them, and ultimately living the fantasy that they surround themselves with. The "Portrait of an Otaku" part, on the other hand, shows how the rest of the world sees them -- mainly as socially detached and isolated loners who single-mindedly obsess over what should really just be a hobby. It's a distinction that becomes more and more apparent the further you get into the show, as the rift between the optimism of the anime and the reality of the interviews becomes wider.

I've see some reviews call this show called a "call to arms for all otaku", but I think those reviewers are missing the point because the show is actually mocking anime fans (self-mockery, but mockery nonetheless). So much so that while watching it I found myself unconsciously thinking, "wait, I'm not like that... am I?" And in truth that may be the real genius behind this show. Anything that can make someone take a look at and question themselves has to have something going for it. The only downside is that since it is making fun of its audience, the amount of empathy it builds for its characters is limited. Don't get me wrong, this show is endlessly entertaining, but it's more so on an academic level than a cathartic one.

Overall though, I think this is something that any anime fan could and probably should watch. Despite the satirical edge, it really is a fun show to watch and deserves its standing as an anime classic.

Viewing Journal: Trinity Blood (complete)

Series Overview
TV Broadcast Info
DVD Info

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


This show looks really cool. Just watch the trailer at the link above to see the cool visuals and action for yourself. Plus, the general concept sounds cool too. It's hard to resist a show when the visuals and concept seem so promising. But unfortunately for Trinity Blood, the end results fail to live up to its potential.

Now before I start ripping in to the show I have to say that if there's one part that does not disappoint, it's the visuals. The artwork is crisp and clean, and the character, settings, and mechanical designs are all beautiful. The action scenes for the most part are fluid and just impressive overall.

The story takes place centuries after a worldwide Armageddon that destroyed human civilization. In the aftermath there exists a wavering peace between two races: the humans and vampires. The humans are protected by the Catholic Church which has developed into a strong military power. The Vatican's special unit known as AX is charged with dealing with problems involving rogue vampires. The seemingly simple-minded Abel Nightroad is one such AX agent. But beneath his good-natured exterior lies the power of a Crusnik -- a vampire that feeds on the blood of other vampires. And when Abel calls that power to the surface, he transforms into a scythe wielding vampire slayer. Together with the other AX members he struggles to maintain a peace between the two races.

Obviously, this isn't the most original concept in the world. There have been multiple other that involve vampire, a militaristic Church, weak-willed characters with hidden powers, and post-apocalyptic settings. But it's the combination of all those elements and the addition of a few original twists, the gives the story so much promise.

The problem is that although the concepts are interesting, the show never capitalizes on its strong points. Story arcs are started and dropped with little or no connection between one another. As a result it doesn't seem like the plot is going anywhere. There are also a lot of cool characters in she show that are never fully developed. For instance the unemotional android Tres Iqus is an awesome character, but other than the fact that he's an android, we never learn much about him.

The other major problem is the distinct lack of tension in either the action or the drama, which is especially surprising considering that it's such a dark and action-oriented show. For example, in one scene a vampire called Ion is locked in a cell with the human Esther while Ion is trying to resist the the throes of blood lust. Despite the supposed uncontrollable instinct, he just sits there. I understand that he's resisting the temptation, but all he does is sit there constantly saying, "I can't resist it, I can't resist it, I'm going to do it..." for like 15 minutes. Obviously he can resist it or he would have ripped her throat out a good 10 minutes ago. Another example is Abel's Crusnik powers. First of all, regardless of the fact that he's only at "40%", there's little to no build up to Abel showing his powers. Secondly, even when we do see him at 80% and 100%, he doesn't seem any more powerful because he still gets defeated. If a character kicks but at 40% I expect he'd kick all the more butt at 100%, but he doesn't. So there's no pay-off.

The disappointment culminates in the end. All kinds of stuff happens, but nothing is ever explained. Why is Cain bad? What does he mean about merging with Abel? What is this Mars colonization project? I had no idea what was going on until I went to Wikipedia and found this useful page. I'm guessing that the author got his information from the original novels. Too bad those details weren't used in the anime because then it might have been a lot more worthwhile.

So in the end, the show fails to deliver. Maybe the original novels go more in depth, but if so just go directly to the source and skip the anime. The anime had so much potential, but too little follow through.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

John Woo's Appleseed 2 trailer

I'm excited to see this new Appleseed movie. Though I wasn't all that crazy about the first one, I'm interested in seeing what Johnny Woo does with this new one.

Well, the doves were a given...