So I have an internet connection, of sorts, in my new home now. As suspected, acquiring it was, roughly speaking, as fun as nailing my own arm to a door, and not one of your nice clean, new doors, no, an old one with splinters and woodlice. Still, I’m back earlier than I expected, which is something.
Much of the time covered in this diary was taken up by the inevitable settling-in period before the beginning of the semester proper. (The mills of the academy may grind small, but they start grinding exceedingly slowly!) With little to do, I spent my time reading and watching anime – it was an idyllic, if slothful existence, marked by a sustained failure to watch any more Ideon.
(The images tend to relate to what’s below them, rather than what’s above, if they relate to anything at all.)
Moved in. Desk hasn’t arrived yet, which causes a domino effect: the chair becomes a desk, the futon becomes a chair and the floor becomes a repository for books-in-use.
The ninety-eighth episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes really stands out – another ‘Good night, sweet prince’ episode, and again very well-done. At least one twist there that I didn’t see coming.
Wrapped up the first thirteen episodes of Vandread. I’m surprised at how amiable this series is, a diverting combination of naval pursuit and a comedy of genders. Interestingly, I even like the fanservice: it’s amusingly innocent, almost prelapsarian (don’t think too hard about the theological implications of that, I’m sure they’re incorrect).
Began Heroic Age. The OP (see below) has a fitting amount of THUNDERING ECHO and ROARING CHOIR.
In other news, the copy of Pamela that I ordered arrived the day before I did. The Pamela persona is engaging and well-written, but I miss the variety of voices that I enjoyed in Clarissa. (Also, there aren’t any swordfights.) Pamela would make for a fun, rather wacky reverse harem comedy manga adaption (some violence would have to be done to the plot if one wanted a harem incertus, though).
Heroic Age forges ahead. It seems that humanity’s rulers are more dissipated Goldenbaums than a hyper-competent Lohengramms. Maybe it’s the Hirai Effect, but the soon-to-be-dictator vibes emanating from Dieaneira make me disinClyned to sympathise with her.
I’ve figured out why Pamela brings reverse harem to mind: it’s not a direct connection, it’s via Hot Gimmick. Pamela is like Hot Gimmick, the latter is reverse harem and my conscious mind skipped the intermediate step. Unfortunately Richardson seems to have added two hundred pages after the doki-doki bit.
To continue the literary comparisons (I’m limbering up), I just watched a wedding in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and as soon as Oberstein’s face appeared ‘Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York’ started playing in my head.
Vandread: The Second Stage continues to be surprisingly engaging. The seventh episode gently and respectfully pokes fun at its own harem elements through an audience present within the story (quite a contrast to s-CRY-ed‘s comparatively vicious swipes on harem, revolving around Kigetsuki), and even the lacklustre ninth episode has an amusing, if possibly unintentional, allusion to VOTOMS. Sometimes Vandread‘s trite, but then that’s a common fault.
Wrapped Vandread up. I would never have expected to type this when I started the show, but I have to acknowledge its kinship with Nadesico. It’s not nearly as good (very, very few anime are!) but there’s a definite resemblance. Oddly, I think Infinite Ryvius is somehow involved here too: all three use their central crew in some kind of thought-provoking way, though Ryvius uses a long dark night of the teenage soul where the other two use comedy. Nadesico and Vandread are definitely enjoyable when taken in the spirit of serio ludere while Ryvius is more about pointed angst – I might suggest serio solicitare, but I think worrying is by definition a serious business.
In other news, I just tore through The Castle of Otranto. I think the best bit in the book is actually Walpole going off on a tangent to flame Voltaire in the second edition’s preface. You know you have problems when the paratext outshines the feature presentation. I suppose, however, that like Gundam it’s something to be respected for its influence if nothing else.
Today I played Age of Wonders II all day. I still can’t decide between Phasers and Hasted fliers, though I suppose it’s rare to have the choice in practice.
It strikes me that the lazy mental dichotomy I usually make between ‘old tsundere‘ (initially frosty, later affectionate) and ‘new tsundere‘ (alternating between cold- and warm-hearted, possibly using some sophisticated charts) ignores the possibility of a combination, a character who alternates between moments of antagonism and moments of affection with affection’s frequency increasing over time. It’s not like I actually care about this, however – I’m just thinking about it because I’ve nothing better to do.
Today I travelled an exploratory four episodes into Kannazuki no Miko on the strength of Crusader’s (not unqualified) recommendation. It is rather confusing – what is the point of the story? – why are there robots? – who’s the show as a whole aimed at? – but (‘Go! Litotes!’) not unpleasant. Animation is clean and attractive, if a little lacking in movement.
Also finished Heroic Age. It didn’t do anything unexpected, but it was certainly competent. The sense of scale was a continual pleasure – in fact, I think Heroic Age is set on a canvas at least as wide as Gurren Lagann‘s though it only achieves this on a technicality. CG inoffensive, animation rather nice if recycled every now and then. Pure space opera, mixing supers and reals, but somehow lacking the clout to lift itself above the crowd.
Kannazuki no Miko‘s final episode is a bit verbose, but the second half of the eleventh episode is excellent. Chikane’s violent, erotic listing of Himeko’s attractions (really an armed, super-charged blazon) is worth the entrance price on its own. Ultimately, though, the show as a whole is only a half-success.
GaoGaiGar, meanwhile, elevates recycled animation footage to an art form, a pleasurable refrain rather than an imposition on the viewer. Or so I feel. The music just got (even) better, too.
Speaking of good music, the wavering, unsettling tune which accompanies the opening scenes of the thirty-seventh episode of Post-Bellum Gundam X is as good as anything you’ll hear in anime. Said series is fast approaching its famous cancellation-ending. The proof of the dome-shaped pudding will be in the eating, but it’s hard not to read the lovers’ anxious haste in this episode as a reflection of some kind of desire on the part of the staff to fit as much as they can in.
X‘s ending struck me as more of a repudiation than a finale. The ending in particular doesn’t really measure up to the best the franchise has to offer, but in many ways X as a whole rather distinguishes itself: it has a romance that actually works, an intriguing setup, a great musical score and the courage to have an episode which doesn’t feature the title Mobile Suit at all. Characters also didn’t die very often, which was somehow a bit disappointing. θάνατος ή θάνατος!
Began Uta Kata today. Is the cuteness quietly menacing because of what I’ve read beforehand, or is it in the aniime itself? There’s a surprising amount of incidental fanservice. Mind you, I’m pretty genre-blind – how many pantyshots would you expect when starting an average magical girl anime?
The first volume of Divergence Eve came through the letterbox today. (If you haven’t heard of this one, it’s one of those rare anime which both (a) has mecha and (b) received a thumbs-up from Steven Den Beste.) The blurb says ‘What more could you ask for than a bevy of beauties forced to put their lives on the line to answer the call of duty.’ Could I ask for a question mark?
DE itself is science fiction with a dash of horror. Just to alienate you as much as possible (and as hinted at by that phrase, ‘a bevy of beauties’), the many female characters are excessively well-endowed – sometimes overflowing from the merely offputting into the Eiken territory of the outright disgusting – and while the show itself is surprisingly low on absolute, overt, in-your-face fanservice (surprisingly so in the context of the bosoms), the ending sequence is much more interested in celebrating the heroine’s body than it is in augmenting the story. Imagine firing up your DVD copy of Alien only to find that Sigourney Weaver has been replaced by Lucy Pinder!
Finished Uta Kata. It is quite good – something of a fairy tale, and, like a lot of fairy tales, big on the seemingly-inexplicable cruelty. Unusually, it manages to treat as boring a subject as right and wrong without preaching. It also handles what in other anime would be lengthy, overdone subplots involving supporting characters with surprising deftness and brevity. I’m still a little surprised at the fanservice, although (to be scrupulously fair) since the story is set over the course of a summer school holiday in a coastal town, you might reasonably expect the characters to visit the beach a lot. The animation itself didn’t blow me away, but the magical girl did have twelve different costumes and twelve different (if somewhat truncated) transformation sequences, which suggests some effort on the animators’ part.
For the first time today I watched some anime on a television screen – indeed, this is the first time I’ve lived in a house with a television. It’s a weirdly bright and glaring experience, on a bigger screen than my laptop but also seen from considerably further away. Typically managing to continue doing it wrong, I made sure to watch anime which wasn’t really created for the small screen: Char’s Counterattack. I do like the cleaner, clearer subtitles.
Oh, and GaoGaiGar just got dangerously awesome. Dangerously.
The second and third volumes of Divergence Eve arrived today (the sequel, Misaki Chronicles, isn’t available here, so I’ll be watching the Moral Grey Area Edition). The blurb on the second volume cruelly mistreats a dash when a comma would have served much better, but the third blurb does include the piquant phrase ‘violate and annihilate’. We’re still, however, some way away from the good old days of ‘LOVE. WAR. GIANT ROBOTS.’ I suppose something of Nadesico‘s quality really forced the blurb-writer to rise to the occasion.
Despite its manifest flaws, DEeve has a certain something. The concept – that going somewhere else during faster-than-light travel invites things from somewhere else to come here too – is ideally suited to the pulpy sci-fi territory the story occupies, and the peripheral details, such as the zombie-piloted mecha, are well-done too.
The mecha, in case anyone’s interested, are something like Armoured Troopers in size, though they look more functional and are much less effective – something like the bastard child of a gorilla and a forklift truck. The use of CGI is a bit of a big shame, though.
To elaborate on GaoGaiGar‘s aforementioned awesome alteration, faces have become more detailed (Utsugi in particular has ascended to a higher level of Bridge Bunnyhood), battles more varied and the drama more, well, dramatic. I’m suddenly doubtful about the sound effects, though: when Stallion kissed Swan on the forehead as the thirty-first episode opened, it sounded more like he was slapping her in the face with a wet trout.
Days 11 and 12
Divergence Eve‘s steadfast refusal to be completely crap is simultaneously irritating (I like writing with disdain, so it’s sad to lose an opportunity) and gratifying (I’m enjoying it). I’m always up for a chronoclasmic rummage through history and backstory. It strikes me that this is really an extrapolation of the happy-reset, ‘retuning the world’ ending: in DEve, the hero decides to create a happier version of the world, and the process turns out to be very messy indeed.
Meanwhile, the latest Legend episodes have been an interesting, if somewhat belated, closer look at Oberstein. His blunt utilitarianism is simultaneously repulsive and fascinating. It’s also good to learn a little more about the Black Lancers: I think throughout the show they’ve been presented as the spaceborne equivalent of the Rosenritter, but until now we’ve only really seen Bittenfeld outside of battle.
* * *
. . . and that, more or less, is what happened.