Lucky Star 03 (-1 Flamebait)

April 26, 2007 at 3:03 am (Anime)

I think some people like Lucky Star because their friends are boring. My random conversations with my friends are funnier than the ones in this anime.

The best part of this episode was that a.f.k translated ‘lolicon’ as ‘pedophile’.


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Quick Summary of Spring Season

April 24, 2007 at 1:33 am (Anime)

The number in parentheses is the number of episodes I’ve watched so far.

Bokurano (1)
CG mecha leave me totally flaccid, though I like the art outside of that. It’s hard to do a good drama with this many characters in the cast, though I understand they sort of start dying so that would help. With one ep down I can’t pass much judgment, but it seems like the type of show that would be more interesting to watch in a batch than weekly. I though this was going to be a story like Battle Royale which I dislike, but it seems to be different. Kids get thrown into situation suddenly where they have giant mecha they must use to save the world. Old story, new take. Actually, the first episode of this and the first ep of the Raideen remake shared an eerie number of similarities. I just…really don’t like big glossy cg mecha. They ruin it for me.

Claymore (1)
That’s a very big…sword she has. Seems incredibly generic in a way I don’t particularly care about. If you like dark dramatic fantasy about quiet bad-asses with huge…swords who fight dark evil demons while dealing with their own dark evil pasts, go for it I guess. Not my thing. Or rather, I’ve read this story too many times already for a generic approach to be worth my attention.

Hayate no Gotoku! (4)
“Combat Butler” indeed. This is the sort of anime I normally dislike: steeped in 4th-wallisms and references, but it manages to temper these into something that’s actually coherent, unlike, say, Pani Poni Dash. Also it has the same voice-actor and basic character archetype from two shows I found incredibly underwhelming (Zero no Tsukaima and Shakugan no Shana), but I like this iteration a little better. The gags are silly, but comedy is all about the execution, which Hayate seems to have a good handle on. So far this is easily the funniest show of the season. It almost makes up for…

Lucky Star (2)
Dammit. I was really expecting more from this. Given the huge expectations, I have to adjust my reaction a little toward the positive to account for the disappointment, but this is just not doing it for me. In addition to the weak weak comedy (except for Lucky Channel, which I do enjoy) the animation seems really lackluster compared to previous KyoAni work. Even Kanon had a more dynamic feeling. I suppose they were trying to imitate the feel of a 4koma, but that doesn’t usually work in animation! Everyone knows from watching Azumanga Daioh that it’s possible to successfully adapt a 4koma to anime, so that’s not a good excuse. I’m also not as enthused over the OP as some people seem to be. Even so, I’m giving it a few more episodes to grow on me because it’s a studio I respect somewhat, and also some comedies (School Rumble) take a little time (for me) to develop their running gags into something that is actually funny. In any case, it’s still better than Hidamari Sketch.

I hope you liked the character designs, personalities, and basic set-up (girls with robots) from Mai HiME because they’re back…again, here. I did, so it’s cool. Xenoglossia doesn’t suck, but so far it is not hugely original. Given the history this creation team has though, it might be worth keeping an eye on for potential enhanced craziness later. So far I like it anyway, but it’s in a genre I enjoy, much like…

Lovely Complex (1)
One episode again not enough to pass judgment, but my standard of excellence for non-harem romantic comedy like this is fairly low. Though I hope it doesn’t get dull in the later episodes like a lot of these shows do. That’s the trouble with a romance plot in a full-length anime: figuring out how to pace it so that all the dramatic tension isn’t in the first six or last six episodes. Looks good so far. Regarding the Osaka accents…I don’t speak Japanese, but I watch all my anime subbed, and I’m really unused to the accents. It’s not a detractor, it just sounds really weird, because it’s different from what I’m used to hearing.

Romeo x Juliet (2)
Any debate about Shakespeare adaptations aside, this is a fun romance-adventure with so-far-good animation. Very dynamic action and nice cinematics typical of Gonzo. Definite watch.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (3)
I can’t tell where this is going, but at the least it’s a fun reiteration of Gainax-style over-the-top mecha action. Lots of indulgence to genre conventions here, which isn’t really a negative. It’s fun so far, but if it degenerates into monster-of-the-week I’ll drop it. I never know what to expect from GAINAX except for physically improbable boobies.

Nagasarete Airantou (3)
I’m not entirely sure why I’ve watched three episodes of this. Basically if you took pure essence of harem anime and penned a show with it, this is what you would get. If that sounds good to you, enjoy. I don’t think I need any more.

Nanoha StrikerS (3)
Mostly this just makes me want to watch A’s again. If you pretend the first chapter doesn’t exist (I know I do), then A’s is like the successful original, and StrikerS feels like the half-assed sequel that just plays to the fans desires for all the “cool” stuff from the successful original. It’s another sort of fan-service in my eyes. You can be like: shot of character from previous show -> fans of that character cheer wildly, even though nothing is really happening. This doesn’t make something bad, it’s just a pattern I see a lot. I remember liking the chara designs more in A’s. Perhaps I am subconsciously a lolicon. The first episode, at least, delivered on what I wanted most of all though: shoujo doing ridiculous beam-attack hissatsu. SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT. I think spending too much time talking to JP has caused something to rub off on me that makes this sort of thing INCREDIBLY EXCITING.

Moonlight Mile (2)
Looks like a good serious-toned sf show in the vein of PlaneteS (though probably nowhere near as good). This is another kind of thing I’d rather watch all at once than weekly, so I’m waiting on it for now. Definitely worth checking out if you like that kind of show though.

Darker than Black (2)
Having trouble finding good encodes here. So far looks like by-the-numbers urban action sf. Very well-executed (with Yoko Kanno score!), but un-original. Reminds me of Big O crossed with Black Cat.

So far I’d say the highlights everyone should check out are Hayate and Romeo x Juliet. My predictions (which I’m not necessarily very happy with) are that Lovely Complex will go downhill into repetitive, Xenoglossia will go uphill into awesome, Lucky Star will get marginally better every episode but still only end up at kinda-okay, StrikerS will get stupid but not necessarily bad, and I have no goddam idea what will happen with TTGL.

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The Art of Adaptation Revisted: Why Romeo x Juliet = Flying Horses

April 12, 2007 at 3:15 pm (Analysis, Anime)

I wrote an entry on adaptations and loyalty to source material a while ago, but I wanted to revisit some issues after watching the first episode of Gonzo’s Romeo x Juliet.

I’ll refer you to my life-time arch nemesis jpmeyer, because this is a blog and thus obviously I need to make incestuous rants about why I disagree with other bloggers. He attacks Romeo x Juliet for ignoring its source material. So this is about half a critique of that, and half musings on adapting anime from sources other than manga.

“Willy” doesn’t like me talking about him behind his back

First of all, though I’m aware there are a shit load of translations of Shakespeare, including some Kurosawa adaptations (I so fell asleep during Throne of Blood), I think there is a big loss when Shakespeare gets translated. This gets into a huge topic of debate: What’s so great about Shakespeare? One thing that comes up is that he’s an incredible linguist. All of his plays are written in iambic pentameter, making them as much poetry (in the classic sense at least) as prose. Also they’re full of puns and neologisms. We already miss the neologisms, because this was 400 years ago and now a lot of them are just accepted English words. This is stuff it is simply impossible to translate. The best you can do is, if you’re really awesome at the destination language, use a native poetic form that at least imitates the feel of iambic pentameter, and try to make up your own wordplay. But, ya know, good luck with that; I don’t see it happening. The language in Shakespeare is tough for most modern English-speaking people; I know I need annotations to follow all of it, at least. So naturally people have tried to rewrite it with modernized language. Many of these attempts have just flopped and been forgotten, because so much is lost in both feel and cleverness when the language goes away.


So aside from the language, what does Shakespeare bring to the table? Well, I like his comedies a lot more than his tragedies or histories (which have nostalgia I don’t care about, because it’s 400-year-old nostalgia), but the man certainly was a skilled dramatist. Shakespearian tragedies are so played up in their drama-level it’s, well, sometimes comedic. The entire story to Romeo and Juliet (which is actually adapted closely from another guy’s poem, which is adapted from something else, all of which traces its core waaaay back to when it was first written to the page by Ovid as “Pyramus and Thisbe”) is so played up it’s nuts. The play is full of huge monologues, and extended death scenes, and ANGER and LOVE and PASSION and JUSTICE. It’s the same in Hamlet and Julius Caesar, where the characters are in these epic unrealistic situations of drama that have almost come to define them. The plots are totally contrived. The characters are usually victims of their own dramatic flaws turned up to infinity. It’s totally contrived and ridiculous and really kinda fun if you can get into it. This kind of drama. It can translate, certainly. Obviously, I just described like a million different anime. But I also get this feel from the first episode of Romeo x Juliet. It’s all saving the innocent, and deposed royalty and hiding, and tragic romance! Exactly the kind of thing you get in a typical Shakesperean tragedy. Given that — and also the number of cameos from his other plays — it may be more appropriate to view this as a pastiche of Shakespeare’s tragedies than as an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, but, well, you have to call it something.

Maybe if I can get rose petals to blow past my face, the girl will instantly fall in love with me

The fact that we can joke about how if [book/play/movie] were anime, then one character would be a magical girl, and the other would be a nekketsu mecha pilot and they’d use their combination winged-starlight-moon-assault move to save the world is telling. While in the literal sense, anime is a format and not a genre, that sentiment belies the truth. The huge majority body of anime has a very unique approach to genre(s) that’s identifiable by just these kinds of conventions that we would joke about. I think it’s kind of amazing that in addition to its own culture, Japan has its own fantasy culture, that’s distinct (though certainly there is cross-pollination) from the Western World’s. Manga shares a lot of this culture, so a manga->anime or game->anime adaptation is not very puzzling. Modern light novels like Haruhi I think also are bred out of this same culture. But what about something like Shakespeare? Or any novel divorced from the Japanese manga/anime/game fantasy subculture? How can you take a work like this and adapt it into anime? Obviously you don’t have to use this subculture, but that’s sort of like ignoring your audience. If you’re hardcore like Satoshi Kon maybe you can just do your own thing and be successful, but for a serialized TV anime you have got to consider your audience and how you will bring them to the table. I am really fascinated by how Romeo x Juliet and Gankutsuo manage this. They seem to really have hit on the thematic synergy from these classic Big Dramas with the thematic tendencies of anime. As I was saying earlier, they’re both full of big capital-letter feelings. Then on the other end there’s something like Powerpuff Girls, which you wouldn’t think would *need* an anime adaptation, since it’s already a cartoon show about magical girls (sorta), except PPG wasn’t tied to this subculture, so it still underwent some story translation to work inside the genre framework of conventional anime. I want to see more adaptations from different sources, because the entire process and how this cultural translation happens interest me.

Gankutsuo is sci-fi, so it has space vampires and mecha. Romeo x Juliet is fantasy so it has flying horses and masked vigilantes.

More stuff. In the original Romeo and Juliet, the two main characters aren’t typically highly sought-after roles by actors, because the characters are not very interesting. They’re pretty much just stupid kids. The most sought after male and female roles are usually Mercutio and Nurse (Juliet’s nurse; I would have laughed if she had been here dressed like a hospital nurse), if I remember correctly from talking about this in high school a decade or so ago. In Romeo x Juliet they’ve done something a little weird with this issue of having idiot main characters. They, uh, made Juliet into a masked crusader for justice. In the original, Mercutio convinces Romeo to go to a Capulet dance party with him to try and cheer him out of his funk, while Juliet is dealing with her father trying to arrange a marriage for her. The anime does an interesting role reversal, where Juliet is the errant child sneaking into the ball (I love how they dude in the carriage didn’t recognize her; I never understood how people could actually fail to be recognized behind those masquerade masks) and Romeo’s father is trying to set him up with some girl. Gonzo’s Juliet is channeling Princess Knight, I guess. The gender role-play in anime has always been a pet topic I like.

Given all of the above, I think it’s very unlikely Gonzo’s adaptation will maintain the tragic ending from the original story. Hopefully we can replay the entire brouhaha over the end of Mai HiME, but where in HiME the happily-ever-after end fit into where the story had been going thematically, in this case I think it will just be a consequence of the cultural adaptation I was talking about before. A form like a Shakespearian tragedy simple does not exist in anime, which would make the tragic ending very jarring to most viewers. So I don’t think they will do it, since it would be out of genre.

As a side-note, people similarly complain about Disney sterilizing the works they adapted into movies, but I think Walt was mostly just taking inspiration from them and making movies he thought would appeal to his audience and sensibilities. Aladdin was originally a somewhat blasé folk tale, but I thought Disney’s version was a lot more fun.

I’m also hoping, though this is probably not gonna happen, that they will do more with using Shakespeare’s presence as a character, and all the cameos and pastiche to play around in an interesting way. Self-referential story-telling can lead to interesting (or just stupid) places.

Alright, well long-story-short, I’m pretty excited about this show. It’s not as ridiculously awesome as Gankutsuo, but, particularly if the production values stay at the levels in the first episode, it will at the very least be a fun fantasy-romance-adventure. With flying horses.

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