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What I'm Watching: Hakuouki

For an anime adaptation of a romance game, Hakuouki really has very little romance in it. This is not really surprising since the visual novel it's based on, for all that it is a romance game, is much, much more about Japanese history and samurai politics and philosophy than it is about romance. There's romance in it - although my first pass through, I somehow managed to avoid all of it - but it's really not at all the point.

The point instead is mostly this: a handful of farmers' sons and other rejects and misfits collected around a dirt-poor dojo devote themselves to becoming warriors, forming themselves into a fighting force with the intention of earning recognition and attaining their culture's samurai ideal, and to hell with anyone who says they can't. They claw themselves up from the bottom, get within spitting distance of their goal...

...only for the times to change. The cultural goalposts get moved on them; the skills and the way of life they devoted everything to become obsolete, and the goal they sought to achieve is suddenly meaningless. The government they served loses its power and collapses, throwing them under the proverbial bus of a war that can't be won.

So, you know, what do you do?

'I am not going to battle to win. With the Tokugawa government about to collapse, it would be a disgrace if no one is willing to go down with it. That is why I must go. I will fight the best battle of my life to die for the country.' -- the actual historical Hijikata Toshizo, to Dr. Matsumoto Ryoujun, according to WikipediaCollapse )

All of this Bakumatsu period stuff may inspire me to finally get around to watching Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto. We'll see!

Thought of the Day

If you're going to use a work of fiction to deconstruct and criticize the conventions of a genre - especially if you set up a fake-out by presenting it initially as a standard example of the genre and then doing a "gotcha" reveal fifteen minutes in and proceeding from there - it's kind of a requirement to actually deconstruct those conventions and not just have the characters complain about them while unironically acting out those exact same conventions.

I mean, if it's done well I'm a great fan of having the story I'm reading turn out to not be the story I thought I was reading. And I frequently love it when characters turn out to not be the people you thought they were, especially when it gives me the opportunity to revisit the whole thing from an entirely new perspective once the reveal occurs. But not when the reveal takes the form of "The story you set out to read is shallow and fake. Were you getting to like those characters? Guess what! They're all actually nothing like that. See, this guy's name isn't even Pierre, it's Josh!" Without actually being any less predictable or shallow than the original genre.



A quick observation regarding the Thor movie, with pictures:

Read more...Collapse )

May. 4th, 2012

Went to the midnight showing of The Avengers. I got maybe four hours of sleep as a result and I feel kind of hung over, but I enjoyed the movie a lot. It was a lot of fun and I think they did a really good job of giving all the principal characters a chance to shine in things that they respectively do best.

I'm a bit disappointed in how much Black Widow's characterization revolved around Hawkeye, but I appreciate that they never made the relationship overtly romantic, and I did like some of the things she got to do during the film. I also thought Mark Ruffalo did surprisingly well as Bruce Banner - who knew?

Very, very quotable movie. Lots of snark from everyone, as can only be expected when Joss Whedon's involved.

Cut for one brief but high-impact spoiler.Collapse )


This show gets its own post, because it's an anime about jazz music, directed by Shinichiro "Cowboy Bebop" Watanabe and with music by Yoko "everything good about anime music" Kanno. It is not another Cowboy Bebop by any means, but - judging by the first two episodes, at least - it's shaping up to be a really, really good show.

Now that I have set your expectations appropriately high...Collapse )

Anime Roundup

Accel World: Nerdy teenager finds solace from the real world in futuristic VR cyberspace. Then a mysterious girl gives him the ability to access an "accelerated world" via a program that "speeds up his brainwaves" until it's as though time stands still. Remains to be seen if this is going to stay interesting or degenerate into a shounen tournament series, but Haruyuki's VR pig avatar is adorable.

Another: New student transfers to a high school which appears to be haunted: his classmates are strangely secretive, and there's a mysterious girl in his class who only he seems to be aware of. Then people start dying. Gruesomely. Might be worth a look if you like horror and ghost stories; it does pretty well at creating a creepy atmosphere and I find the nature of the haunting interesting. We're a good few episodes into it and taking bets as to who's going to die next.

Bodacious Space Pirates: A teenage schoolgirl discovers that her father was a famous space pirate, and since he's recently died she's the only one who can inherit his Letter of Marque and take over as captain of his ship, the Bentenmaru. Adventures in space piracy ensue - thus far, the "piracy" the Bentenmaru engages in appears to be more along the lines of creating a live onboard show for fancy space cruises, but the show implies there's some serious business on the rise as well.

Hiiro no Kakera: Teenage girl is summoned by her grandmother back to a small town where she learns that she has a mystical heritage and it's time for her to learn to step up and keep the world protected, with the help of a bunch of quirky bishonen. Based on a visual novel. Very pretty, but the prettyboys are a little goofier than I like in my sparkly shoujo anime. I might watch a few more episodes and see if I warm up to it, though.

Jormungand: The adventures of an arms dealer and a child soldier who hates weapons and arms dealers because his family got killed. We were not able to find a single solitary likeable character in the first episode, which mostly consisted of the arms dealer shooting up a bunch of people for trying to hold up her weapons shipment in Customs.

Ozuma: By Leiji "Captain Harlock" Matsumoto. Post-apocalyptic desert world! Ships that submerge under the sand! Pirates! A mysterious girl! Ladies with fabulous eyelashes! Sand whales! Worth a look, especially as it's only like six episodes long.

Sankarea: Boy with a zombie fetish tries to bring his dead cat back to life and meets an upper-class girl with enough issues of her own that she's willing to volunteer to test his zombie formula. Not sure where this is going, not sure I'm interested in finding out.

Shirokuma Cafe: AKA Polar Bear Cafe. Slice-of-life comedy about a lazy panda and a cafe run by a polar bear. Although Polar Bear serves coffee and Panda is forced to get a job (as "part-time panda" at a local zoo) by his mother's ongoing threat of sucking him up with her vaccuum cleaner, all of the animals are drawn with surprising realism, which just makes it that much cuter. Only seen one episode so far, but it's really kind of charming.

Tasogare Otome X Amnesia: AKA Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. Another haunted high school story, but this one's not horror; the ghost is president of a paranormal investigation club (her body is buried under the club room) and, with the help of a student who's able to see and interact with her, appears to be trying to find out the circumstances of her death. The premise is kind of interesting, but the execution leaves something to be desired; the first ten minutes of the first episode are shown from the point of view of someone who can't see the ghost, and then replayed shot-for-shot with the ghost's presence included, in a way that was clearly going for a "once more with clarity" kind of thing but was mostly just unnecessary.

tsuritama: Boy who struggles with social anxiety and panic attacks moves to an island town, where a kooky boy who claims to be an alien invites himself into the first boy's home, takes him fishing, and derails a couple of his panic attacks by shooting him in the face with a squirt gun which seems to have mind-control properties. There's no way for me to convey in a summary how cute this is, but it's very cute, and full of bright, bright colors.

Upotte!: Just when I think I've gotten a handle of the Japanese tendency for weirdness, they pull something new. For instance, this show. I wasn't thrown by the idea of a slice-of-life comedy show about a school for moe anthropomorphic guns - I'm not sure why someone would think of this as an idea for a show, but whatever, it's Japan. But then the first episode uses the premise primarily as a vehicle for metaphors about sex, and I just don't know what to make of that at all.

Zetman: From what I can tell from the first episode: highly inethical corporation created experimental monsters and used them as pit-fighters to entertain the rich elite, until the "players" revolted, killed a lot of people, and escaped. The one scientist not quite as inethical as the others rescued a child from the project before the company could exterminate their remaining specimens, and ran off with him to live as a hobo and try to raise him as a human despite his superpowers, an effort complicated by the fact that the corporation is still looking for him and the "players" are still out there as well. Or, to sum up still further: homeless teenage superhero? The animation is really pretty and the characters seem interesting - I plan to watch more.

And then there's Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope), which deserves its own post.

Many, Many Mass Effect 3 Spoilers and TL;DR


Now that I've calmed down some, let me discuss Mass Effect 3.

Stuff I did not like:Collapse )

The EndingCollapse )

Now, with the negativity out of the way, Things I liked:Collapse )

As I gain some distance from the ending, I think, overall, it has not ruined the experience for me, and I'll be able to do another play through, perhaps through the trilogy as a whole. I'm just going to... turn the console off after the last talk with Anderson, and imagine my own ending from there.
I finished a complete replay of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 yesterday, in preparation for ME3 coming out tomorrow. TL;DR about plot structure ensues.Collapse )

In the meantime, I've started playing Final Fantasy XIII-2, which is extremely pretty but seriously, wtf is going on? I have no idea. I like Noel, though. I choose to believe he's somehow a descendant of Squall - he looks a lot like him with no scar and slightly longer hair, and he's got that wing pattern on the back of his shirt, and it's not like Final Fantasy fandom hasn't embraced any number of theories on less evidence than that.

(Don't you dare try to fix Noel and Serah up into a romance, game.)


Joie de Combat

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