Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First Impressions: Double J

At long last, the first available series of summer 2011!

Plot Synopsis:
In a school where after school activities are mandatory among all students, Hajime and her friend Sayo come across a new club that they have never seen before. The club is called "The Cultural Activity Preservation Club." The two enter the room to find all kinds of analog jobs and activities, such as handcrafting mats and toothpicks. This is a unique cultural manga mixed with comedy so as not to bore you, this is Double J!

Before viewing: It's based on a manga by Eiji Nonoka, who wrote Cromartie High School, a gag manga satirizing those ridiculous "delinquent high school series". Judging by this, and the artwork, it seems like it'll be a gag series poking fun at moe archetypes.

After viewing: Well, that was...short. The entire episode was only four minutes long, including the ending theme. And yet, despite the fact that it was only four minutes long, I was still just waiting for it to end. It was extremely boring. Not a single moment was funny, or even cute. Just four minutes of girls blandly talking about toothpicks. The only time I kinda chuckled was when the club president was introduced, and that's only because the way he was drawn was so out of place that it took me by surprise.

The character designs are bland, typical moe fare. The only interesting thing about the art is that the backgrounds aren't animated. They appear to just be photographs. There doesn't seem to be a point to it; it's just randomly there, so I'm chalking it up to extreme laziness.

In conclusion, not a single thing about this episode was memorable or entertaining. The only people I can think of to recommend this to at this point are people who like toothpicks. A lot. Otherwise, don't bother. There are much better short gag series out there than this one.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Types of Fans

I've considered myself an anime fan for seven years now. I watched anime before that point, but I didn't know what it was. After you've been a member of a fandom for a long time, you begin to notice patterns inside those fandoms. These types of fans exist in nearly every fandom, although sometimes they mean different things in different ones. Whether you're a fan of anime, science fiction novels, films, musical, et al, you've probably seen at least one example of these fans.
  1.  The Mainstream Fan- They often have a more mild interest in the fandom, and they are interested in the most mainstream examples. They're usually not the type to spend money on it, and won't go out of their way to find examples. They are fans when it's convenient.
  2. The Die-hard Fan- Usually reaches this point when a mainstream fan sees an example from a fandom that really gets underneath their skin and speaks to them, and they become obsessed with that fandom. At this point, every example from that fandom is better than everything else, and they often have not yet distinguished between the good and the bad ones. They are the iconic examples of the fandom, because they often take it very seriously and may consider any attacks on the medium/genre personal. As a result, they are often the most vocal fans.
  3. The Classics Fan- At this point, the fan has had enough of seeing crappy examples of the medium/genre, and becomes a bit jaded. They begin to search out examples that are highly acclaimed and widely regarded by the fandom as being the best of the best.
  4. The Up-to-Date Fan- This fan knows all the latest happening in the fandom, and has seen or intends to see all the newest stuff that's been released. If the newest releases are easy to come by, they're often a die-hard fan. If its harder, or comes from a different country, they're usually a more experienced fan.
  5. The Historical Fan- At this point, the fan becomes curious about the beginnings of that medium/genre and begins to search out some of the oldest examples they can find. These fans have typically been fans for a very long time, and have a very genuine and sincere love of that medium/genre
  6. The Obscure Fan- At this point, the fan has become very jaded about the state of the fandom, and may even be sick of it. At this point, they search out the strangest, most obscure and most experimental examples of that fandom, and often take pride in their unusual taste. They may distance themselves from the other members of the fandom, finding their taste too unrefined, and are a little embarrassed of those fans.
I'm pretty sure these types of fans are everywhere, in all forms of fandoms, and are pretty recognizable. Some people are several different types combined, and not every fan goes through all the stages, or go through those stages in the order above. Can you recognize the type of fan you are?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Lots of spoilers ahead.

Ano Hana is the story of a group of friends, who drifted apart after their group was struck by tragedy; the death of one of their closest friends, Menma. One day, several years after her death, Jintan, the "leader" of the group, has dropped out of school and become a recluse, and is suddenly able to see Menma. At first he believes she's a hallucination, but comes to believe that she is real, and that she won't leave until her wish is granted, a wish that she herself cannot remember.

This was the best anime I saw from Spring 2011. From the very first episode, I almost constantly cried. I cried because it was painful, because it was tragic, because it moved every fiber of my being. I laughed through my tears, and smiled despite the pain. Every emotion that was felt by the characters, I felt it too. Every tear matched my own.

Despite the fact that it constantly breaks your heart, it is also a feel good series. Yes, it's a story of tragedy, of a little girls death, and the constant guilt over it, but it goes beyond that, moving us through every stage of grief, until at last, we can move on past the pain and smile once again.

Every one of the characters feels responsible for the death of Menma, and they all deal with it in different ways. All of them put up big walls between themselves and others, all becoming very distant from the world. Jintan becomes a shut in, Anaru relies on others to shape how she dresses, expresses herself and spends her time, maybe in order to ignore the massive guilt she feels. Yukiatsu and Tsuruko immerse themselves in studying, and Yukiatsu begins cross-dressing as a way to feel closer to Menma. Possibly the one most affected by Menma's death was Poppo, because he actually saw her die and was unable to help her. He puts on a brave face and travels the world, trying to escape from the sight of her drowning in the river, but he keeps finding himself pulled back to the place he last saw her.

However, Jintan seeing Menma again sparks a revival of the group, even though they don't exactly believe him until near the end of the series. They begin hanging out again, using their old nicknames and realize that they hadn't actually changed as much as they thought, but come to realize that their fixation on Menma isn't healthy, and that they need to move on.

At its heart, this is the point of the series. Menma's mother most clearly exemplifies this, having become so fixated on her dead daughter that she practically ignores her own son. After seeing her is when they most clearly realize how dangerous it is to fixate on the dead, and begin working hard to grant Menma's wish so that she can pass on. Menma realizes that her presence is causing problems as well, and gets extremely upset when they go to see her mother, because all she wants is her mother to move on with her life.

The last episode is one of the most moving moments in anime I have ever seen. From when everyone admits the real reason that they wanted Menma to pass on, and everyone sobs like little kids, to right before Menma moves on and everyone gets one last chance to see her and talk directly to her again, the entire episode moves you completely, and fills you with peace, at finally seeing them make peace with their guilt and move on from their grief.

Yes, it does get contrived at times. It's crazy to think that someone would be in love with the same person from childhood to their teen years. The love triangle at the center of the group gets to be pretty ridiculous, but that's the point. From the death of a loved one, to rejection from the one you love, you need to learn how to move past that. You can't live trapped in a single moment of your life; you have to move forward and have new experiences, love new people and break new hearts. Because that's what makes you alive.

This is an anime I want everyone to see. For every person who's trapped in a cycle of guilt and shame, who feels their life had stopped at a single moment, this series reminds us that life continues on past death, and that we need to accept it. And one day, it won't hurt so much anymore, and will be nothing more than memories, bittersweet memories. And that's okay.

Summer Previews:

American Cartoons
Why is it so hard to find a list of American cartoons that's premiering this summer? Is there just not anything new this season? Here's what I can find: I may update this once I find out more.

Rated A for Awesome (June 20th 2011)
Plot (Synopsis from Kidscreen): Each 11-minute episode of Rated A For Awesome follows Les Awesome and his stepsister Thera, their friends Noam and Lars and cameraman monkey, Mr Twitchy.  The team works together to liven up all things boring and mundane

Thoughts: With a plotline pulled directly from Phineas and Ferb and awful CGI, this one is looking to be a stinker. Here's hoping for a pleasant surprise.

Thundercats (July 29th, 2011)
Plot (Synopsis from Cartoon Network):
After Thundera is attacked by the lizard people, Lion-O leads the ThunderCats on a quest for the Book of Omens, the one artifact that could guide them to victory. But he'll have to face villains like the ancient evil sorceror Mumm-Ra and the dangerous lizard general Slithe. Luckily, he has the Sword of Omens and its amazing powers at his disposal.

Thoughts:  I only vaguely remember the original Thundercats series, so I don't have too much to compare this new series to. But I am pretty pumped about this series! The animation looks great, and I haven't seen any medieval fantasy series in a long time, so it'll be a welcome change from the typical comedy series that dominate cartoons these days.

American Feature Films

Cars 2 (June 24th, 2011)
Plot (Synopsis from IMDb) Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race. But the road to the championship becomes rocky as Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.

Thoughts: Ehhh... I never felt like Cars needed a sequel. It was a decent movie on its own, so a sequel coming just feels like a cash in project, especially when they could be working on original movies rather than sequels. But, if I had been older when Toy Story 2 came out, I might have said the same thing. So we'll see how it turns out. But, really Pixar? Spies in a movie about race cars? What's next, Finding Nemo 2, where Nemo gets superpowers? 

Winnie the Pooh (July 15th, 2011)
Plot Synopsis(from Wikipedia): The film is based on the stories "In Which Eeyore Loses His Tail and Pooh Finds One" from Winnie-the-Pooh and "In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings" and "In Which Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition to the North Pole" (which had also been done in Piglet's Big Movie) from The House at Pooh Corner.

Thoughts: It looks like it'll be very classic Pooh, with traditional animation, musical numbers, interactions with the narrator and literal words of the book, and whimsical adventures. The fact that it's traditional animation and coming out the same day as the last Harry Potter movie probably spells trouble for how many people will see it, but perhaps its familiar faces will help negate those two factors.

The Smurfs (July 29th, 2011)
Plot Synopsis from IMDb:
When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours -- in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

Thoughts:  Ugh, make it go away please! I am so sick of these live action remakes of cartoons! Haven't they figured out yet that it does not work? Superheroes is one thing, but cartoon characters like the Smurfs? It looks awful, and I'm not even a fan of the original Smurfs.

Summer 2011 Anime
Since plot synopsis is up at the link, I'll just talk about my thoughts on each series and film.
  • Inumarudashi (June 10th)-Another series that has gone completely unnoticed by fansubbers, but this one makes sense. Shows that primarily revolve around making a five year old boy learn to wear pants in public tend to go unnoticed, especially if they are drawn in an unusual style or made in Flash.
  • Appleseed XIII (June 13th)-A retelling of a Shirow Masamune series? Surprisingly, this series seems to have gone completely unnoticed by fansubbers, which is weird for a series by the creator of Ghost in the Shell. You would think they would be all over it. I expect it to be obtuse and pretentious, but I haven't seen the other Appleseed movies or the manga, so I don't have much to compare it to. The animation looks very pretty though.
  • Double J (June 28th)- The fact that it's based on a Nonoka Eiji manga is promising, but the plot summary and art are too generic to hold much interest. Hopefully the writing will make up for it.
  • BLADE(July 1st)-The final series in a line of Marvel anime, this one looks rather promising. I don't know anything about the Blade comics though, so I can't compare it to anything, but Blade looks pretty frickin rad here.
  • Ro-Kyo-Bu!(July 1st)-Extremely generic looking. I've got nothing else to say about it.
  • Uta no Prince-sama-Maji Love 1000%(July 2nd)- Extremely dumb title. I find that adaptations of dating games don't tend to go so well, so not looking for much here. Looks pretty generic.
  • Kami-sama no Memo-chou (July 2nd)- I'm a sucker for mystery series, so I'm interested, but how exactly does a NEET solve mysteries? Doesn't that go against the definition of a NEET?
  • Sacred Seven (July 3rd)- What is this series about? We are given literally nothing about this series! But it's original! Huzzah!
  • Nuraihyon no Mago Sennen Makyou(July 3rd)-Second season to a series I know nothing about.
  • Natsume Yuujin-Chou San(July 4th)-I need to see the first and second seasons. Apparently this series is amazing.
    • Yuru Yuri (July 4th)- Sounds like a K-ON! clone. Hopefully it'll try to be a little original, but I'm not holding my breath. Apparently it was published in a yuri magazine, so there may be some romance here.
    • Ikoku Meiro no Croisee (July 4th) -A series taking place in 19th century Paris? Sounds interesting! Expecting lovely scenery and costumes in this one, plus some great culture clash moments.
    • Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel (July 5th)-Why is angel in the title twice? What's the point? New original magical girl series, with cute costumes that aren't slutty! Could this magical girl series actually be aimed at little girls? 
    • Kamisama Dolls(July 5th)- The artwork doesn't go with the plot summary very well, but I'm still hoping for a supernatural thriller from this one. Might be interesting.
    • Morita-san wa Mukuchi(July 5th)-Can't say much about it from the plot summary. High school 4-koma manga is pretty popular at the moment, but I feel that 4-koma is hard to adapt into a television series well. We'll see how it goes.
    • Nyanpire the animation (July 6th)-What an...odd way to reintroduce a company that hasn't been around in two years. Gonzo is a pretty good company, but Nyanpire isn't the kind of fare they usually release. Seems cute enough, but likely won't get licensed or fansubbed.
    • Usagi Drop (July 7th)- Based on a josei? Check. Older than usual cast of characters? Check. A noitanimA series? Hell yes. Definitely looking forward to this one.
    • No. 6 (July 7th)-It's pretty unusual to base an anime on a novel, so that itself peaks my interest. And its another noitanimA series, so definitely interested. Come to think of it, haven't seen much sci fi this season either.
    • THE IDOLM@STER(July 7th)- What a unusual premise for a video game. Maybe it'll translate over to anime well, maybe not. Looks like a setup for a harem series.
    • BLOOD-C(July 7th)- Haven't seen CLAMP around lately, so it's welcome to see their lovely character designs again. Looks like vampires are popular this season.
    • Mayo Chiki!(July 7th)- I have a weird obsession with gender bender anime, so I'll be interested in this, no matter how generic it turns out.
    • Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! (July 8th)- I freaking love this series! Excited about the next season!
    • Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi(July 9th)- Sounds like a generic fantasy series. Not much of an opinion on this one.
    • Nekogami Yaoyorozu(July 9th)-More catgirls and Japanese mythology. Maybe I'll learn some new things about mythology anyways.
    • R-15(July 9th)-Porn skills? Did I seriously just read that phrase? Obviously a sex comedy, although the promo art is confusing. Looks more like an R-rated magical girls show. Might be hilarious if done right.
    • Manyuu Hikenchou(July 11th)- the URL for this series is Japanese for Isn't that charming? Don't think this series is aspiring to be much.
    • Dantalian no Shoka(July 15th) Aww GAINAX. Even you guys can't come out with an original series? Still, it looks pretty interesting, if only because it centers around a library. Yes, that is all it takes to spark my interest.
    • Mawaru Penguindrum (July 15th)- What the hell is this about? We are literally given nothing about this series, except that it's from the director of Utena, which everyone is excited about. At least it's an original series.
     Anime Feature Films
    •  Sengoku Basara film (June 6th)
    • Towa no Quon (June 18th-November 2011)-The story of a boy named Quon who wakes up with superpowers. Apparently they're releasing a new film every month, which is a rather interesting way to release a series. Even though the first one's come out already, there doesn't seem to be much information about it.
    • Sora no Otoshimono film(June 25th)
    • New Fullmetal Alchemist film(July 2nd)
    • Kokuriko-Zaka Kara(July 16th) Studio Ghibli hasn't released a slice of life movie in a really long time. Definitely interested.
    • 2 new Pokemon films(July 17th)
    • New Naruto Shippuuden film(July 30th)
    • Alice in the Country of Hearts film(July 30th)
    • Mahou Sensei Negima film (August 27th) (So that's what happened to Shaft!)
    • Hayate no Gotoku film (August 27th)

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    First Impressions: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

    Plot Synopsis:The story revolves around a highschool boy named Niwa Makoto. He lives with his aunt’s family since his parents are away on business. It is there where he meets his mysterious cousin of the same age Touwa Erio — who happens to tie a futon mattress around her upper body and is a self-proclaimed alien. Her staple food is pizza. Erio had been missing for half a year and was found floating in the sea. She doesn't remember anything about what happened during that period of time, but she began to think that it was the act of an alien and wanders the neighbourhood wrapped in the futon.
    (Source: AniDB)

    Before viewing: Shaft is hit or miss with me. Some of their shows are among the funniest series I've ever seen (Zetsubo Sensei, Arakawa); some of them are among the most wretched (He is my Master, Mahoromatic). I rarely end up in the middle on their series, because they always stand out and do things in outrageous ways. It's kinda their schtick. I am expecting the same for this series, even if the plot summary is generic and bland, and seems to set up a pseudo-incest generic romantic comedy.

    After viewing: Oh god, that opening. What the hell is up with all of these helium sucking singers? Is that supposed to be cute? When will anime escape their clutches?

    This anime could go one of two ways. It could either end up being a sci fi series about aliens, or it could be a slice of life series about a girl who believes that she is an alien. Personally, I am hoping for the latter, as that would be much more interesting to me, and Shaft has shown before that you can create a very surreal series without one hint of science fiction or magical elements, so it's not new territory for them.

    The main character, Niwa Makoto, is a fairly typical no nonsense, practical kind of main character, not uncommon for a genre like this. However, it is obvious that he's not meant to be the star of the show. It's his cousin, Erio, a very pretty girl who believes she's an alien. She is obviously meant to be adorable, but honestly, she's really a pitiful character. She walks around wrapped in a futon, and her mother literally ignores her. When Makoto asks about her, she only tells him to pretend she's not there. It's really sad, and I get the feeling that there's a dark story lurking underneath the surface of a somewhat odd slice of life series. It is possibly the calmest series I've ever seen Shaft work on, and I hope that mood continues, but I do hope that there's an interesting story behind Erio's actions. In other words, I'm interested in seeing the rest.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    What the Future Holds

    As I'm still in the early beginnings of this blog, I'm still working out what exactly it is I want to do with the blog. And with the first anime of the summer season already started, it seems like a good time to reevaluate what the purpose behind this blog is. Yes, it's a blog about animation and all things related to it, but animation is just a broad topic, that's there's an infinite number of things I could talk about, and infinite ways I could go about it. Should I focus on new releases, analyzing the new material coming out in graphic novel, cartoon, manga, anime, comic etc format, or should I take a look at cultural icons and analyze what made them famous? Should I track down and review obscure series, movies and comics? Episode by episode/volume by volume reviews, or review an entire series in one single review? Should I talk about the latest news in animation? Can I just randomly rant incoherently about trends in fandom that annoy the piss out of me, or should things be on an impersonal and professional level?

    There are some things I definitely want to do. This anime season I plan to try out and blog every new series. I'll do an episode by episode review for about three episodes, and a general analysis when the season is over. I want to do this not just for anime, but for all the animated series I can get access to (As much as I'd love to see Indian or German cartoons, people just don't license or put up fansubs of those shows, and I only speak English) I also really want to look at all the cartoon shorts of a particular character, such as Felix or Oswald, and write about the rise and fall of those characters. That would of course require lots of research to do correctly, to properly look at the cultural significance of specific characters, and how and why they fell in or out of popularity.

    I would hate for this blog to be completely overrun by anime, because anime blogs are frankly a dime a dozen. It is much easier for me to stay up to date on anime news however, because I have two different websites I constantly frequent that feed me a constant supply of the latest anime news, and nothing like that for cartoon, graphic novel, or webcomic news, so it's much tougher for me to search out the latest releases. It's also difficult for me to review recent games, because I don't personally have any of the current consoles, although there are PC games I could definitely analyze and review. I will try my best to stay up to date and relevant, while honoring and analyzing the classics and maybe even introducing some buried gems.

    Friday, June 17, 2011


    I'm going to go on a little rant here. I am so sick of people ranting about or making fun of cosplay. Lately, its been pretty common for people on the Internet to rail on and on about how awful anime is, or how fucked up Japan is, both of which are horrible generalizations. One thing they talk about a lot is cosplay, as an example of how "sad" or "pathetic" otaku are.Here's some of the things they say that frustrate me:
    • "Cosplay is just overpriced costumes." 
    Well, no shit. Nobody's ever said it was anything but that. That is literally what cosplay is, dressing up in costumes. The word itself is a combination of costume and play.

    Firstly, costumes in general are pretty pricey. They're pricey because they're specialized, and because people aren't going to wear them that often. In general, the less often you're likely to wear something, the more expensive it is. That's just the way it goes.
    Secondly, so what? What do you have against costumes? Costumes are fun; that's why they sell Halloween costumes for adults even though they don't go trick-or-treating. People like to dress up and be something they're not for a little while. Most people don't get this chance but once a year, but conventions give people a chance to do it a little more often.
    •  They put up a picture of a fat person or a man cosplaying as a female character and make fun of it
    This pisses me off so much. In case you don't know, people do not wear costumes or ANY type of clothing in hopes that you will masturbate to their image. They wear those costumes because they fucking like that character, or they like the outfit they wear, not to sexually please you. Sorry to cockblock you.

    It doesn't matter if the cosplay doesn't look good on them, because that was never the point. It's a nice bonus if the costume is realistic, and extremely accurate, or if the actor happens to look a lot like the character, but that's not the point. The point is to have fun. Cosplayers work really fucking hard on their cosplay, spending lots on time and money on them. Many of them are homemade. Quit making fun of it.


    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    The Looney Tunes Show

    I had been ranting and raving about the new Looney Tunes show for a long time now. As a lifelong fan of Looney Tunes ( my grandpa burned us a video tape of ten hours of classic cartoons, before people knew that was illegal) I found the show insulting and demeaning to the characters I knew and loved.

    However, after seriously sitting down and watching it with a friend (who wasn't the Looney Tunes fanatic I was) I found myself coming to an unexpected conclusion. The show actually works. Sort of.

    Its a decent yet typical sitcom series. A scenario gets set up. Bugs and Daffy get mad at each other while mildly wacky hijinks ensue, fight, then make up. Occasionally, another character with a mild quirk will come in and Bugs and Daffy will help them with their problem, like helping Gossamer, that red hair monster, make friends at school. The plot lines could easily come out of an show like Full House, or Saved by the Bell. It also will randomly go into short out of place segments, such as the Merrie Melody segments, which can be so bad, its painful. The Grilled Cheese song is on my list of worst moments in animation, and not going away anytime soon. There are short CG Wil E. Coyote segments, which are mostly just boring, unfunny, and lame, like the segment where Wil E Coyote and the Roadrunner have a ninja duel.

    The problem everyone has with the show, and rightly so, is that the characters don't make any sense. None of the characters act like how they did in the original shorts. Bugs and Daffy are roommates, and best friends. Elmer Fudd is a popular newscaster. Foghorn Leghorn is filthy stinking rich. Porky Pig was THE HIGH SCHOOL JOCK!!!! Its like the characters are given occupations randomly pulled out of a hat. As one reviewer put it, it's like they've been put in a witness protection program. Maybe they finally pissed off someone they can't handle. It seems as though the creators thought the characters were popular due to their image, vocal tics or catchphrases, but that absolutely not true. They were fun because they were sick twisted individuals constantly trying to kill each other. Turning them into sitcom characters with mild personalities takes away what made them fun. Admittingly, modern censorship laws probably had a lot to do with this shift in personalities, since you can't exactly get away with Elmer Fudd's iconic gun anymore.

    As a cartoon, it's also important to point out that the animation is very lackluster. For all the "progress" we've made in animation, one would think that the newer animation would be more technically advanced than the original shorts, but in this case, the animation is superior by far in the 1940s-60s. The animation in the original is more fluid and energetic, while the animation in this series is uninspired and static. It's just never very visually interesting, and the lack of hilarious reaction shots or break downs the original was known for is disappointing. The static nature of the animation likely comes from the fact that there are never any action sequences. It is not impossible to have tension and energy in a slice of life series. A good example of this is My Ordinary Life, a slice of life anime that began March 2011. Although the series exists in an utterly absurd world, it ignores the bizarre and cranks up the stakes for scenes such as dropping food on the ground or forgetting your homework to 150 percent, as if the world would spontaneously combust if the characters are unsuccessful. This is funnier, and fits perfectly into the Looney Tunes style of humor, so its disappointing that they can't find a way to at least give the same energy as the original, when its apparent that you can do it without constant violence. 

    If one can ignore their nerd rage and take off their nostalgia lens for one moment, you can see that it's actually not that bad. The real problem is that these characters are honestly original characters. If the names and character designs are changed, absolutely nobody would know they were supposed to be a Looney Tunes character. And to be honest, as original characters, they're actually good. Bugs and Daffy's outrageously homoerotic relationship is really touching and amazingly funny. I love the part in the first episode where they have a fight and Daffy ends up spending the night in the car. That moment literally defines their relationship. It doesn't make sense for Daffy and Bugs, but it makes sense for these two characters. Despite the fact that Daffy is still kind of a selfish dick, Bugs obviously cares, and even dotes on Daffy, letting him live with him for five years while he works and pays the bills. The dynamic is like that of an extremely closeted career man, and the also somewhat less closeted annoying homeless guy he lets live with him and no one knows why. Its a very interesting and unique relationship. Even the utterly stupid plot twist in the high school reunion episode would make so much more sense with original characters. In the episode, Daffy says he was the popular kid in high school, and bullied Porky Pig,when in reality it was the other way around. While its extremely typical of Daffy to do something like that, I couldn't see it with Porky. But as an original character, he becomes a former jock who grows up into a pitiful and pathetic loser, and it suddenly all makes sense.

    Not only that, but some of the rewritten personalities are actually better than the original ones. I first realized this when Lola's character was introduced. Lola was not introduced into the Looney Tunes until Space Jam, and I abhored her. She was a Mary Sue fanfic character, who didn't fit into the universe of Looney Tunes at all. She had no place there. In this series however, she is freaking hilarious. Everytime she comes up on screen, I start cracking up. She's messed up beyond reason; needy, bipolar, a mass of exaggerated stereotypes, and so annoying she brings misery to everyone who comes in contact with her. In other words, it was the first time she felt a Looney Tunes character.

    It's a real shame that they chose to attach these original characters to the image of some of the most beloved icons in animation history. This show would get a lot less flak if Looney Tunes wasn't attached to it. It wouldn't be the next break hit of the century, or go down in animation history. It probably won't even be remembered ten or so years from now. But it would probably be a mild-mannered original sitcom, with such an interesting character dynamic that it makes up for the lack-luster plot lines, bland art, and even the wretched Merrie Melodies. Its a decent series, if you can condition yourself to ignore that its supposed to be Looney Tunes, so it's worth a shot, maybe even a closer look

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Weird Taste in Anime

    Sometimes you never know what kind of series you'll get into. So far this season I've seen Deadman Wonderland, [C], and Astarotte's Toy. I went into Astarotte's Toy with as low expectations as possible, and watched five episodes in one sitting. I was looking forward to Deadman Wonderland, but ended up slogging through it.

    Astarotte's Toy is an anime I would be embarrassed to admit to liking. I literally went into it thinking, "Why the hell am I watching this? I'm just going to watch one episode, complain about how stupid it is, and then drop it and move on to something else. The central premise is so creepy that I can't give a plot summary without sounding like a pedophile. It's basically about a ten year succubus starting a harem. Creepy right?

    Surprisingly not as bad as I'd thought. It mostly acts like a family drama, and the male lead plays the role of a surrogate father to Astarotte, which can be creepy or adorable, depending on how you look at it. It feels a lot like Hayate the Combat Butler, if that series had taken itself seriously. The little girl makes it clear that she's got a crush on Naoya, but Naoya seems more interested in his one night love affair who he happens to meet in this fantasy world. For the most part, it barely pays much attention to its central and uncomfortable premise.

    In this way, Deadman Wonderland is the exact opposite. Both series start off with a ridiculous and somewhat shocking premise, but while Astarotte's Toy choses to ignore its own premise, Deadman Wonderland relishes it. Deadman Wonderland starts off with an entire classroom of students getting massacred sans one, our main hero, Ganta. He gets the blame for it and is sentenced to death at the worst idea for an amusement park ever, Deadman Wonderland, where all the workers are criminals. Why anyone would want to go to an amusement park where inmates work at is beyond me, but it is a sick, sick place, full of Gladiatorial battles and races, where people die. A lot. It becomes so gruesomely stupid, and appears to be switching to a battle a week format. It's really a shame the plot is so confused and inane, because its extremely well animated and the music is freaking awesome, but the characters aren't likeable and the story is too ridiculous to take seriously. It's just a bunch of excuses to see people get chopped up.

    In the meantime, I'm getting through [C] pretty quickly.It's a pretty good sign if the end of the episode takes you by surprise, because it seems to run at a pretty quick pace. I'm not even sure why I like this series. Its about a boy who becomes a member of the Financial District, a place where people battle using economics terms to make or lose money. The plot is like Yu-gi-oh with economics randomly thrown in, and its a a weird combination. Somehow it seems to work, and I like uncommon themes, which economics definitely qualifies as. The animation is also quite lovely, and it balances out CGI and 2D animation pretty well, and the two different styles actually mesh together surprisingly well. The characters themselves however, aren't very memorable, although the character designs for the Pokemon  Assets are very inspired.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Shimura Takako

    By far, my favorite manga creator is Shimura Takako. By no means is her work for everyone, and most anime fans won't like her writing, but dammit is she an amazing writer!

    Shimura Takako is most famous for writing Aoi Hana, a lesbian schoolgirl romance, and Hourou Musuko,which addresses transgender and transsexual issues. She does something that is extremely rare in manga; she writes about LGBT topics in a way that is mature and realistic.

    Although genderbending, crossdressing and homosexuality are things that show up in manga a lot, even mainstream manga, it is rarely handled in a mature fashion. Yaoi rarely goes beyond gay porn and into actual issues of sexuality, as the characters exist in a fantasy realm of rainbows and puppies where everyone is attracted to males, but not gay (It's not uncommon for a character to say, "I'm not gay! I just like so-and-so!") and very little of it is written for actual gay men. Also, the people in the relationships in yaoi alway fall into certain roles, as if the writers of yaoi can't imagine a relationship that doesn't follow a stereotypical straight relationship, and rarely reaches outside of those compartments they place their characters in.  Yuri seems to attract actual lesbian readers more often than yaoi does for gay men, but it often tends to be just as formulaic as yaoi.. Alternate sexualities show up more often in anime, particularly when geared towards younger readers, than they do in American media, but they aren't very accurate or even very positive portrayals.

    The works of Shimura Takako are the exception. Never pornographic, yet not shying away from the issues of sex, particularly in young people, her manga rarely feels like manga, and more like a well-written young adult LGBT novel. Her artwork is very traditional and watercolored, and very beautiful. However, most people that are into anime won't like this series. Her pacing is extremely slow, and her works can be confusing, because they often have really big casts and sometimes the side characters are hard to remember ( I had this problem more with Aoi Hana than with Hourou Musuko. The side characters in Aoi Hana aren't as interesting in my opinion and kind of blend together). She also deals with subjects rarely addressed, which can make some people uncomfortable. I gravitate towards the series that are often unknown or forgotten, and the works of Shimura Takako need much more love, for tackling the issues that most people shy away from.


    I am a huge fan of all things animated and drawn. When I was four years old, I discovered Calvin and Hobbes and fell in love with it, even though I couldn't even read yet. ( I had high standards even as a kid ;) )To this very day, Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite comic strip of all time. This possibly started my love of cartoons. I was one of those kids who always liked the animated shows more than the live action ones ( I still find live action kids shows to be pretty bland and uninteresting). Getting into anime and manga in middle school only fueled my love for animation, and for a few years, I didn't watch any shows that weren't animated. Nowadays, I watch things with a little more variety, but I still watch a lot of cartoons.

    One area that I've never been familiar with is comic books, but this has very little to do with the medium and a lot more to do with the fact that I just have never been into superheroes. I probably won't talk about comic books a whole lot.