It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, for several reasons. One of these reasons is my preparation for a working holiday. In its (questionable) wisdom, my university has sent me to Cambridge for a month, to badger academics, raid libraries and generally gather enough material to write an impressive ‘Wot I Did In My Holidays’ piece when I return from the land of privilege. So far I can report that the land of privilege is efficient, friendly and just a little mad: there is, for example, a big white piano in my room. The room’s big enough that the piano isn’t inconvenient, or menacing, but it is there. Maybe I’ll attempt ‘Chopsticks’ once I finish writing this.
A more significant cause for my silence is the fact that for some time I didn’t watch any anime at all, because I was too busy playing Mount and Blade. This, the first computer game in a long time to keep me awake into the small hours, is a low-fantasy action title which involves riding around putting bandits, other nobles and anyone who looks at you funny to the sword. Weapon speed and direction have a lot of influence on the damage dealt by your attacks, creating a fighting system which is pleasantly intuitive though (thankfully) not too realistic, and great fun even when the relatively shallow Elite-but-not–in-spaaaace game that sits on top of it has worn a bit thin. Mount and Blade needs some morale mechanics, and perhaps more of a story to string together its addictive skirmishes for those of us with merely average imaginations, but then that’s what the (plethora of) mods are for.
But, for me, even the meatiest games wear thin after a while, and of course there were such gripping currently-airing anime as the new Mazinger Z and, erm, Sora Kake Girl and, double-erm, Hatsukoi Limited to retain my interest. I’m still pottering through Victory Gundam and Zambot 3, and I’ve just begun Saikano, which feels like an accidental, pre-emptive Serious Reply to Strike Witches.
Furthermore, subtitling work on Blue Comet SPT Layzner recently restarted, which is some compensation for the work on Dougram grinding to a halt (the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away). Layzner‘s a decent real robot story and I’ve heard rumours that the second half is a rather pointed depiction of Earth’s occupation by a foreign power, which ought to be interesting. The colonisation of Mars by 1996 must surely have been obviously an over-optimistic idea in 1985, which has made me think a little about Layzner‘s relationship with time: it could easily be labelled a nostalgia title, except that I’ve never seen it before and I wasn’t even alive when it first aired. And there’s a sense of recovery in the subtitling efforts for a show like this — you feel the presence of a shadowy body of as-yet-unseen (by most of us outside Japan) stuff waiting to be excavated.
Unusually, I’ve also been reading more manga: a chance visit to /m/, followed by some fact-checking here led me to Akumetsu. The story of one mildly deranged high school student’s revenge on those he deems responsible for the failing economy, Akumetsu probably isn’t very good (how would I know?) but reading it is, in the current climate, certainly cathartic. Most of the insignificant things like back-story or supporting characters found in other, more famous, yuppy-with-broken-dreams stories are cut away so that we just bounce from one drawn-out scene of violence and half-baked macroeconomics to another. As a result the best bits, like the sixty-eighth chapter’s money shot, have a spirit of gleeful, uncomplicated carnival. Comparing these moments to what I’ve glimpsed in Brack’s coverage of Violence Jack, I can see why David judged the Tabata/Yogo team behind Akumetsu suitable to adapt a Go Nagai property.
Returning to more traditional material, I’ve also gotten around to finishing Crossbone Gundam, which turned out to be remarkably cheerful, and kind to its cast to boot: in the course of the story an astonishingly large number of characters manage to not die. But then Crossbone‘s greatest strength may be its piratical mechanical designs, and it’d be hard to write a stony-faced story around those. While I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, if you’re looking for a compact, less depressing Gundam experience featuring the usual giant robots fighting while their pilots yell at each other about their ideals (and someone quietly says a few more things about Newtypes) then this would be a good choice.
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As for this blog, it seems that at present long thought-out posts aren’t possible — though of course my predictions have been wrong in the past. This would be disheartening if I thought I was working on some kind of project or programme, but since I don’t, it isn’t: blogging or not, the point is that I have fun. After spending time aiming to write at a relatively high altitude, I feel like lying down where all the ladders start for a bit, so posts here might get a bit shorter.