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Women and Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum

Quickly! Late, I know. Part of this is going to require knowledge of kawaisa, and I have a post on that already, just skip two thirds down. For those uninitiated with the series, I’ve limited the spoilers to about the first half of the series. Also, what the hell are you doing reading this? Watch it. Now.

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Mawaru Penguindrum, a 26 episode series, created by Kunihito Ikuhara is anime trying to make a modern myth about fate. There’s avoiding fate, finding fate, creating fate, losing to fate, and most of all, changing fate. A by-product of this fate fixation is that Penguindrum comments on the most common type of social determinism, gender roles.  Ikuhara, however, does so in a very Japanese way, reflecting the ways men and women are expected to act in his society and the overriding aesthetic. While the series is not mainly concerned with gender roles, Ikuhara remains a man who is definitely concerned about it. As a result, a lot the metaphors and a analogies for fate, work similarly for convention. Mawaru Penguindrum really argues for a more family centric society, where the roles are determined by necessity, not birth. So we see a flexible family structure, opposed by obsession and, as is often the case in anime, the bad guy is overcome by love.

For those who have yet to watch the show, Mawaru Penguindrum stars an idealised orphan family of the two brothers and their younger sister. In the midst of their happiness (which is so cute and sugary that witnessing it could incite diabetes), Himari gets some horrific disease which cannot be cured. Her brothers, Kanba and Shoma, attempt to live out her last days as best as they can manage. After a penguin-themed adventure, she dies, then comes back to life, possessed by a spirit demanding that the brothers acquire the penguindrum to save her.

This summary is nonsensical in the way that someone not familiar with anime would still say, “that sounds like Japan,” and that is very much the point. Cuteness and absurdity are a key part of Japanese pop culture, and Ikuhara uses that to inform the viewer of his perception of Japan. Kawaisa masks the severity of rape, cults, and mass murder, all of which are discussed in Penguindrum. Ikuhara doesn’t mean to say that cuteness is bad. He’s regularly embraced it in past work. Not to mention that the series is better for its high fructose-based reality distortion, as the story feels more like a fable, where the moral stakes are higher than physical ones. In Penguindrum, kawaisa is simply the lens through which fate and –for better or for worse– women are seen.

Read the rest of this entry

Fan Expo 2009 – Saturday AKA Marvel Day

Ever heard of Comic Con? If you’re reading this you should have, and these days everyone’s trying to get a little bit of the comic convention pie, meaning that as being one of the cultural centres of Canada, Toronto played host to one of the biggest conventions of its kind – in Canada. Which means that this weekend, the dreary painful weekend that occurs soon before school starts, is(was) Fan Expo. Now, as a little warning or point of reference, I attended for an hour or so on the Friday and for most of the Saturday, and to be honest that was all I needed. Also, I punched Joe Quesada. Mentally. Read the rest of this entry

FANFIC TIME: Anything More – Part 4

I write Fanfic. Who knew right? Here’s chapter 4 of a BLEACH story I like to call Anything More. For Coherance sake, I’ll post the rest later.

Chapter 4: Midnight Waltz

“Miss Inoue,” Aizen said, pouring a liquid reminiscent of Earl Grey into a china cup. “Have some tea.” Orihime kept her eyes fixed on the drink as it travelled from the teapot to the cup. She didn’t want to see whatever expression lay on his face.

When the tea hit the rim, he immediately stopped, wiping his hands together before moving to the other end of the table. Orihime heard the chair move out and in, allowing Aizen to sit down. When he settled down, he made a small coughing noise to signal her attention. She didn’t look up, instead choosing to watch her swirling drink.

Aizen made another cough, louder this time. Orihime gave him a quick glance, hoping that would be enough to satisfy. She instantly felt that she had made a mistake. Aizen had that look, the one where no matter what you did or how you did it, it was wrong. And he could do it better than you. The man looked at her expectantly, leaning his head onto the back of his hands. Orihime’s fingers started to tremble. It isn’t supposed to happen this way. Read the rest of this entry

Eureka Seven Madness – It’s almost a Review. I think.

Legend: normal text – On topic |  [normal text] – Not on topic

[You know what I love? 3 am. Three AM is this magical time of the day that you can do anything and talk to anyone without fear of being reproached and told that your writing is messy, confusing or written in the wrong language, because if they do you can always respond I did it at 3am, jerk-wad and suddenly it all makes sense. They will be keen to admit that this is not your best work or the reason that you beat little Jimmy with a hammer was not because you’re a psychopath. It’s because you’re a psychopath who works at 3am. And really if you’re not going to go on a murderous rampage afterwards, why bother starting anything past 1am. It’s just too much effort without the insanity.]

Wait. This was supposed to be about Eureka Seven wasn’t it? Read the rest of this entry

G.A.M uPDATE 5

Okay, so here’s another one of these nightmares. I’ve been screamed at for a month to put this up to the point where I no longer even remember what it is about. So based solely on memory here’s what it is apparently about:

  • Bleach movie in Canada October 20
  • Appleseed Anime series on permanent hold
  • Production IG to make computer animated film with Fuji TV
  • Hellsing ends, Hirano is coming up with something new for next year
  • Something about Evangellion
  • Manga/Anime Releases for the month
  • Funimation Juice?

Reviews: There will be more later in the week. This one was already getting too long.

So for the approximately four people who listen to these podcasts, I apologize for the extreme delay, but I have school and I don’t want to spend valuable sleeping time on the INTER-WEBZ. Also it will probably get down to twice a month at most.

G.A.M. Netcast 00

G.A.M.cast  – Gaming, Anime, Manga Cast/ Netcast/ Podcast/ Town Diner

A close friend of mine who lives in his basement, and rents movie every week because he is too poor to buy them, has decided to start his own Japanese Otaku podcast.In my divine wisdom I told him to paste it on my blog since too many people seem to be reading this and I need a way to get rid of them.

It’s not all that great considering his condenser mic isn’t arriving for another week, but it’d be nice to give this guy a chance. He’s at least trying, unlike you. Along side him are his two other chums who are too insignificant to mention further.

A Healthy Third of D’Eon

Today I went to my local DVD store/anime retailer/Pizza Place/Heaven and bought Le Chevalier D’Eon, Livre 1 and 2. A friend of mine reccomended it to me a while back, and seeing that I wasn’t broke at the time I bought it. I was apprehensive at first to even look at the title considering it was in French, which I hate. After watching it now I discovered that I really like the anime, and that I’m now broke.  I only watched the first eight episodes but they left me with quite an impression.

The general story is that in 1742 D’Eon, a member of the French secret police under King Louis XV, finds that his sister had been mercilessly killed and her body had been placed in a coffin in the Seine River. He soon discovers that for some reason her body has been filled with mercury, stopping it from rotting. He then takes it upon himself to find the people responsible and kill them. Of course the plot runs a lot deeper than that. The story does delve into far-fetched as it deals with using the bible Psalms to cast magic, but at no point does it seem too unrealistic. It’s just subtle enough that it’s almost immediately acceptable (unlike some other fiction where the magic feels like a game of Civilization played on God Mode).

As it is still beginning there has been nothing in terms of insane plot twists, only constant tension and intrigue. Every episode I watched was interesting in its own merit, and certainly kept me wondering what comes next. Livre 2 also ends on a good note, leaving you with enough suspense to want more but content enough to pause until you get your hands on the next one.

Even the Ceiling is accurate!

Even the Ceiling is accurate!

While the plot is definitely a highlight of the story, the thing that I enjoyed the most was the level of detail put into its production. Historically the setting is entirely correct. I did some research myself thinking that they probably made something up put it together added some European flair and called it France and I was shocked to find that this was not the case. The buildings, names, phrases, cities etc. are all decidedly French. The characters are not entirely accurate, but this is to be expected considering it is historical fiction. For example King Louis and his wife are relatively accurate in terms of characterization and appearance; on the other hand D’Eon is not even close to his historical counterpart bearing in mind that historically D’Eon was a cross-dressing spy.

Often in the show they quote the bible, seeing as it is 18th century France, where the King only lived because God said so. I even took out my dust covered bible to see if the lines they quote are actually in the bible. Amazingly enough, I actually found them in the Psalms.

In terms of the dub quality, I liked it much more than the Japanese Version. It’s not an all-star cast but it gets the job done in a way that couldn’t be achieved in Japanese. Really, I think that it has more to do that when they do slip in French words and phrases it sounds a lot smoother (and more understandable) in English. The similarities between English and French lend a hand in creating much more fluid dialogue, though I am pretty proud of how well the Japanese managed.

One last thing that caught my eye was the DVDs themselves. There are brief historical notes for those of you who don’t know what Wikipedia is (of course I didn’t find the Historical Notes until after several hours on Wikipedia). On top of that there are commentaries from the translators, the male voice actors, and the female voice actors.

Taken with a grain of salt, this is only the first few episodes. There are still sixteen more that I haven’t seen. For all I know there could be a horrible fatal flaw that comes along in the next episode. However from what I’ve seen I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Look at its almighty glow

Look at its almighty glow

Lain’s Serial Experiments on my Brain

Alright so in April I went to Anime North. You know that anime convention, in Canada. Anyways while there I saw a great deal on the series Serial Experiments Lain. So I forked over 40 dollars and got the entire set. When I look back on that moment, I don’t know whether I should be thinking of it fondly or with cold resentment.

Let get this out of the way first, Serial Experiments Lain is awesome. That’s pretty much the best I can come up with. There aren’t many words that can effectively describe this series. It’s the strangest anime I have ever seen; however ttha strangeness is in good effect. It makes the plot insightful and constantly makes you second guess the truth. After the years of anime I have endured I have never seen an anime like this.

As I said there aren’t many words that describe the series. The most common word being mindf@*k. One of the main ideas of the series is that everything we know comes from our memories, which plays a big part in the show itself. Without giving away the plot, basically you could just as easily assume that the entire show was a hallucination and that everything that is said or done is a fabrication created by the titular character Lain. So the ending along with everything else that happens in the program is entirely up to your interpretation.

The show, depending on who you are, can be frightening and perhaps painful.  The show definitely left me with that psycho-horror chill on my spine, along with a sudden desire to smash my head against something hard. This shouldn’t deter you from watching. In fact it should encourage you. Rarely is there a show that can scare you the way a horror movie could without using violence or really anything all that scary. The concepts found in Serial Experiments Lain are horror enough.

Lain's thinking

However this anime isn’t going to be great for everyone. There isn’t much action, along with minimal dialogue. If you’re a adrenaline junkie thriving for a lot of action this isn’t the place to be looking. Also if you’re going to not like this series, don’t do it based on the artwork. That’s the least of your concerns. I personally enjoyed it, but only because I had the patience to finish it all.

The general idea, is to give it a chance. I must admit the first few episodes aren’t all especially appealing but  hang on to at least the third episode. At that point it’s easy to get hooked. Also the music is well done and the little dialogue there is, is done convincingly. It runs it the same vain as Ergo Proxy, so if you like that this should be welcoming. Then again if you hated that show, stay far away from this one. In the end I didn’t exactly describe Serial Experiments Lain, but there weren’t many words to use anyways.

Hmm…Code Geass R2

To start I’d better say that I’m a big fan of Code Geass. I watched it since it’s inception, and even got a few friends hooked to the series. I loved it for the fact that it was a good plot, intriguing characters and wasn’t Gundam. Actually that last one played a big factor in my appreciation of the series. So you can imagine my glee when I found out there was going to be second season.

Now, Code Geass R2 has arrived and already run through 11 episodes, so I’m here to do my part. Code Geass R2 is a great series that fits into my unhealthy appetite for anime. It has the hard mech-on-mech action required for a show of it calibre as well as containing all the intrigue of a mid-season episode of Death Note.  Now I’ve definitely heard people talking about how it is a glorious mess, and while upholding my opinion I must agree. It seems that the writers have been abducted by the almighty Mithras and been replaced with a series of bureaucratic Japanese Dan Browns. There’s fan service up the arse and the plot twists have changed from ‘HOLY S@”!T THAT JUST HAPPENED!’ to ‘Oh, really? I definitely wasn’t expecting that.’

Huh, They brought Orange-kun back

However I still stand by the series and hold it in the highest regard as the others have yet to see the genius. The season is still enjoyable because it’s so bad. The writing is hilarious, not the dialogue per-se (although that needs improvements) but general plot of the season. By episode 11, it seems the mechs have been bouncing back and forth between to the point where the Britannians hold the Guren captive, the Chinese have the Super Guren, and the Order of Black Knights is left with a the Mirage, a Gawain copy with the convenient ability of Deus Ex Machina. It’s here that I start wondering when the inbreeding is going to begin or if it already has begun and that leads to entirely new problem.

I can see the doushinji now

Also the fan service, it’s fan service. I’m a fan and occasionally I like to be serviced. While I must admit that there has been more fan service in these eleven episodes than the entire first season, the key here is to accept the season for what it is. It’s not going to be the award winning, adrenaline pumping action and intrigue that the first season was. Code Geass R2 is a new beast all its own, if not a neglected, and well endowed beast.

Anyways I still uphold the three season rule. If the first season was awesome, the second will suck and by the third season they will have found all their mistakes and purify it into pure greatness. While this usually only applies American programs, I’m hoping that Code Geass will last long enough. Also, Sunrise still has the rest of the season to turn this bloated ship around. Hey, for all we know this was all part of the plan, and starting with the twelfth episode it’ll be kick ass. Err…seeing as that episode looks to be mostly filler, somehow I doubt that. One can dream I suppose.

New One Piece Dub with Extra Fullmetal Flavouring

Okay so the new One piece dub came and the world was astonished that it wasn’t garbage and was actually remarkably good. Anyways I haven’t been able to see it until recently due to my imensely busy schedule and perhaps the fact that I had completely forgotten about it. Regardless, I saw the dub and like the others I thought it wasn’t half bad. It added a new taste to the series, changing the voices so that coincided more with the characters. It also made it more bearable than listen to nails on a chalkboard.  All in all I liked it; however what I did find truly astonishing was the opening theme songs.

They were in English. I braced myself for a Funimation version of the infamous pirate rap but instead found myself facing the harmonious voice of Edward Elric singing about life at the open seas. While I certainly have heard English translations of Japanese theme songs, the best part was that it was pretty good. So much so that I am listening to it as I write this.  Then again I found the Pizza Pizza ads catchy so what do I know. Still,  it was a shocking discovery on my part.

Now I wish Vic Mignogna had added a musical portion to Fullmetal Alchemist just to mix things up. Al and Winry could be back up singers while Ed fights with Roy Mustang for control of the microphone. Then it could transform into the Phantom of the Opera with Ed as the titular Phantom. Actually no. Just no.

For those who have yet to hear it here’s the first one. Do yourself a favour and skip the first 25 seconds.