Saturday, September 24, 2005

Anime Pilgrimage DX live!

While it is still a work in progress, Anime Pilgrimage DX is now online at

Now, blogger shall sleep once more.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tide-Line Blue - episode 8

"Reunion - Reunite"

Crises of conscience make for great drama! Teen! Aoi! The ostrich! (no, seriously, the ostrich).
Tide-Line Blue really is working hard to regain my trust. The set up of this episode is highly conducive to rocking.

Directly taking off from the previous episode, Joze takes Aoi hostage. Keel wants to save Aoi, and the ostrich doesn't want Teen to be shot, and then some varieties of Hell break loose.

What this means is that the new team of Keel, Joze and Teen is formed. The difference is that, over eight episodes, Joze is still an "icy bitch", but Teen has developed into something more akin to a person.

I'm actually sensing something of a role-reversal here, with Teen uncertain of himself and Keel being more commanding. Teen is naturally uncertain because his time in the New UN has shown him that problems can be resolved using something other than violence.
Teen, of course, now knows things that Keel does not: the map, and news of their father. This sense of context gives him much more to live for than he ever had before. I have to wonder if the twins had not, before the events of the first episode, seen each other for seven years.

The scenes that Aoi spends lamenting that she has never been able to balance her roles as "mother" for Keel and the General Secretary of the New UN was effective indeed, as seeing a character lose her composure for good reason always works. For whatever reason, the ostrich has become an object of sympathy and this works well against all odds. This is probably just an excuse for Chen Reishi to come across and talk to Aoi.

The final scenes of the episode showed the supreme difference in the attitudes of Joze and Keel. Joze seems far too distrusting and fatalistic, and I desperately wanted Keel to be right. What this series has shown, and quite well, is that the moral option is not always the most effective - that which is repugnant might get the job done far better. This is depressing, but all too true.

I have been meaning to mention the ED for a long time now, and as it turns out this is the perfect episode do so. The song itself is an excellent piece that just smacks of "pretty boys". Like so many things I love, I love it for all of the wrong reasons.
The animation itself changes every couple of episodes and in this capacity acts as a preview. The lyrics for this episode accompany what looks like some very good Teen and Keel cooperation and drama. It also implies that they'll get out of this current mess, but I've no idea how they plan to do so.

The last point before the conclusion is this: despite the fact that Teen and Keel are twins, how could you confuse one for the other? Keel is dressed in purple Gravitation clothes, while Teen sees fit to get sorted out as a military man. It's easy to decide which one to shoot.

All in all, an episode of excellence. Emotion lends weight to proceedings and makes everything eminently more watchable. Yet Joze's still a bitch, and I don't think that will change anytime soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Angel Heart preview

Thanks to Garten, I procured the preview of Angel Heart, an anime that had me really upset one Friday night.. I had thought it was starting many months ago, but it's actually starting in October. The English internet fan reaction ... subdued ... to say the least, outright hostile to say the most. I really hope that someone will pick this up to sub it.

I was most surprised to see how closely the animation resembled that of City Hunter, considering both that it's fourteen years since the last City Hunter TV series and Hojo Tsukasa's aesthetic - at least his cover aesthetic - has vastly changed. Yet here we are again, with Kamiya Akira back in the saddle as Saeba Ryo. I can only hope that Genda Tessho has reprised his role as Umibozu, and that Ikura Kazue will be Kaori once more.
All of the important players from City Hunter still work in anime, so I can see no compelling reason for them not to converge here. Sure, Ikura may not have much of a role, but that's not the point.

At only 3mb, the trailer reveals very little, but it gave me a good deal of hope. Angel Heart is directed by Hirano Toshiki, who worked on quite a lot of iconic eighties anime, as well as teaming up with his wife for the superlative Vampire Princess Miyu. Hirano is a sensitive director when he wants to be, and Angel Heart is billed as a drama. From what I understand, Ryo is still something of a playboy, but more than ever that's a smoke screen and coping mechanism.

Please, friends of the internet: sub Angel Heart. I will thank you for it and shake you warmly by the hand.

Progress report: Batrock goes to the taffy pulling machine

At the moment, I'm working on making the new and improved Batrock fit all of the images well. I'm going to keep the "one splash image" pattern I've been doing. Because I have to reupload every article I have written since the initial move to Batrock, I will hopefully be able to do this for every article along the way to create marvellous uniformity.
I'm far from King Code, though, so not quite sure how well it will go or how long it will take. I hope to just take a big chunk of time on the weekend and get through it.

Due to the whole different appearance of Bell-chan, I've actually edited things out of the finished Batrock versions, as of Honey and Clover 21. So there'll be more exclusive content on the proper Batrock when it comes around. I know, it's exciting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Honey and Clover - episode twenty-one

"When I was younger, I used to ride my blue bicycle and wonder how far I could ride without turning back ..."

Essentially, Takemoto gets a job. On the same day, the company goes bankrupt and he loses it. While this straight up sucks, you also have to consider that Takemoto has been looking for work for more than a year now.
This is so disheartening that he goes riding, trying to figure himself out. Shuu makes it clear that a soul-searching journey is not something that should be interrupted, as contact does not allow the searcher to find himself.

This episode is excellent and, as Garten says, quite reminiscent of the first. For the first time since then we are given the opportunity to bask in the watercolour scenery of Honey & Clover. So emotive were so many of the shots that I almost gave up and went for the twincest that featured as a pendulum of this episode.

Takemoto has always done the most narration, due largely to his introspective nature. Now that he is alone, everything that he does is internalised, a journey alone both on the ground and in the mind. Getting in touch with his inner feelings always makes Honey & Clover more personal, and personality is what I love about this series.
Compounding this sort of emotion is the reaction that the rest of the group has to Takemoto's departure. You may remember that, when Morita left for a year, Hagu-chan was quite amicable to this decision. Hearing about Takemoto, who has proven much less resilient than Morita, Hagu was genuinely concerned for his welfare. While I'm looking for signs wherever I can find them, I really think that Hagu and Takemoto are destined to be. Whether they'll be destined to be within five episodes remains to be seen.

On an entirely different note about this episode, Nomiya leaves. Although Yamada probably doesn't realise it, she is affected by this news. Since he stopped being a total bastard, Nomiya is quite nice. Mayama lowered his guard and made this storyline much easier. I can even begin to see the two together, although all of these characters should start looking for love that can be requited.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Snow Queen - episode 3

"Fragments of the mirror"

At last, The Snow Queen shows its literary roots.

The Snow Queen's mirror shatters and a fragment finds its way into Kay's eye. Historically, the fragments of the mirror corrupt the world, making those that they touch see everything as ugly and evil. As a result, Kay becomes something of a bastard.

Lamentably, The Snow Queen anime gives no context for the mirror, despite featuring both a narrator and a snow queen who could explain it. This will be made clear to the audience in the fullness of time, I should hope.

The Snow Queen is a sufficiently interesting character, represented here for the first time in an extended capacity. My personal Hans Christian Andersen collection credits the character as "the wicked Snow Queen", so it is nice to see her portrayed as someone who is trying, despite her heart of ice, to do something right. The fact that she ends up doing it entirely wrong is immaterial.
It will be good to see just how the Snow Queen and Kay interact over the coming episodes.

The sometimes dodgy quality of the animation makes very little sense considering the cinematic techniques that Dezaki frequently and gleefully applies. Moving scenery, zooming, animated establishing shots and frequent use of metaphorical perspective make for an interesting program, almost experimental considering the 7:30 AM time slot that it boasts. If only they could be more seamlessly executed.

The preview for the next episode looks quit egood: the journey of Gerda, the very basis of The Snow Queen, is about to begin. Now, if only I could understand the talking statuary, I'd be set.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tide-Line Blue - episode 7

What did I say about Keel being in his element? Well, with a trip to Tibet for some hard gambling, we are given an example of exactly that. This episode is pretty good for most of the characters involved; even the frequently insufferable Joze gets some good comedy and drama in.

In this episode Keel and Joze arrive in Tibet, just as Aoi, Teen and the ostrich do. While Keel and Joze need to gamble for fuel for their mini-sub, Aoi has important issues to discuss with Chen Reishi, an intense woman who wears robes, and has premonitions in an other worldly voice.
It’s all pretty good.

The best scene of the episode, and perhaps the series, was Angie and Keel on the docks. Their reminiscences of Sunshine was a fairly moving scene, acted perfectly by Daisuke Sakaguchi who has simultaneous laughter and tears down pat. It was a great example of a character temporarily falling apart while trying to "stay true" to themself - in that Keel probably would not want people to see that he has been affected. People that he considers friends, that is: around Gould and Joze, he wears his heart on his sleeve.

The other unknown quantity is Joze, a character I really hate. I think I'm supposed to, so that's okay. For once we get to see an air of vulnerability about her, but any sympathy this generates is very quickly disposed of. Joze is genuinely off-kilter, and much more of a "villain" and harder person than Gould ever has been. It will be interesting to see her with Teen, but it would be hard for her to be any more unlikeable than she has already been depicted as. Sure, she might have a reason for being a total bitchmonster, but there is something definitely off about her.

The funny thing about Tide-Line Blue is that I inherently understand that threatening to use nuclear weapons against people is an immoral idea. Problem is, Gould makes it seem stylish.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Honey and Clover - episode twenty

I don’t normally include personal experiences in my reviews, but this episode of Honey and Clover almost made me fail a university test. Somehow, it was worth it.

It almost certainly was based on the strength of the impassioned Morita scenes alone. Nomiya has actually come around, and Mayama … oh, Mayama. Once more, Takemoto is a support character for Hagu, but this episode is packed as it is, so that’s okay.

Herein Nomiya realises that he has little chance with Yamada – he is older, so he can understand hopeless love better than she – and Mayama realises that he doesn’t really have that much against Nomiya, that the reason the two don’t get along is because each is very close to the other.
Meanwhile, Takemoto has been discussing the future with Hagu-chan, and her plans depress him. Morita decides to take action after Shuu has revealed his own history with university and it is realised that his attitude towards his niece is affected by that.

I really get the sense that Takemoto and Morita are brothers in a way, Morita being more unhinged and proactive, both of them caring deeply about the people around them but being too shy to really express this about themselves in a proper fashion. Since Morita came to understand that Takemoto cared about his departure, he seems to have gained courage. I really loved the scenes wherein Morita completely dropped his airy façade and became entirely serious and impassioned about what his friends are doing wrong.
He wasn’t even being judgemental; his actions were completely rational, and even admirable.

I can personally identify with Shuu, because he gives his reason for becoming a teacher in this episode. Shuu perfectly understands art theory, but he can not produce art to save himself. When he realised the joy that he got from helping Rika and Harada(?) understand concepts, he decided that he should become a teacher.
I was always good at theory myself, and this is not exactly depressing. Still, the expectations that Shuu places upon Hagu-chan are, without him even realising it. By the end of the episode, Hagu-chan is in a heartbreaking mess.
Don’t blame Shuu; blame the industry.

A wholly excellent episode, very little in the way of visual blarghs, although one does have to wonder why the screen had questions and thoughts written across it, ala Evangelion.
Still, never mind; doomed and ambiguous romances have never been this good.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tide-Line Blue - episode 6


Easily the best episode since the first, Tide-Line Blue six is actually revealing things, giving proper characterisation and some actual emotion.

In this episode the Ulysses takes on the forces of the New UN. Clearly we don’t want either side to die, as Satoyama of the New UN works for Aoi and for some reason we think that Gould is generally a good guy.
In other parts, Joze goes looking for Keel, who is actually behaving in a sensible fashion, and Aoi reveals some huge truths to Teen.

For the first time we are given the opportunity to feel something for Teen as Aoi tells him about what is going on in the satellite orbiting the Earth. Teen has always been the more serious of the two brothers, even as a child. The childhood events of episode two are actually remarkably close to all that happens in this episode, with everything showing itself to be highly relevant. For once I got the sense that this program isn’t wasting its time.

Now I understand that Teen has feelings, it’s easier to be around him. To be fair to both of the twins, they have been out of their elements since the second half of the first episode and should be forgiven for their digressions. Giving Keel a taste of the normal life, working with the villagers, was also worthwhile.

To the action side of the episode: this worked very well because it was charged with emotion for once, rather than being people the audience doesn’t know shooting at each other in the vain hope that someone will die.
Gould was passionate in his defence of the Ulysses, and Satoyama’s animation and delivery was spot on. Satoyama is not a character that we have seen much of before, but his dedication to his job was admirable, which made him much easier to empathise with.

“K2” was an episode full of excitement, revelations and despair. If the writers can keep this level up rather than writing the annoying scenes that they have been up until now, Tide-Line Blue will not have been a waste after all.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Honey and Clover - episode nineteen

"Time Begins to Move Again"

Booooo Nomiya. Down with everyone who is actively trying to make Yamada feel bad!

This episode is another angsty Yamada Mayama effort, but the Nomiya/Yamada/Mayama triangle is not a convincingly effective one. The problem is that Nomiya is a bastard, and Mayama is also a bastard – but one with feelings. At the end of the episode one might get the idea that Nomiya has some feelings.

On the other side of the fence, Takemoto is glad to have Morita back.

When Yamada is drunk, I don’t think that one should really take her actions to heart: Nomiya accuses her of using him, but this is probably just his unique way of making people feel bad. Mayama’s attitude towards Nomiya is actually rationally explained, which makes him seem a heck of a lot less selfish than previously: Mayama knows the flippant manner in which Nomiya disposes of women. While it is true that one could say Mayama is just thinking the worst, his “if only Nomiya could show a serious side” is perfectly justified.
Still, the balance isn't the same as Yamada/Mayama/Rika, and that throws the whole thing off.

I like Takemoto a heck of a lot more than the others at the moment, and his dinner with Morita "the housewife" was a good example. Morita almost never shows signs of seriousness, so it was nice to see his warmth. I think that Morita really can appreciate that Takemoto is a good friend, despite the fact that it seems that each time they do something for the other, they hurt themselves.
The one scene shared by Morita and Hagu showed that their relationship is on an artistic rivalry platform, but perhaps their adversarial nature is conducive to romance. I just don't know.

The other bad thing about this episode is that it, like the episode that introduced Nomiya, had some really off model shots. Yamada is always hit worst by that because she can look incredibly weird if drawn incorrectly. Extreme closeups that are out of shape are not good for setting moods.

The next episode seems to include a fight between Morita and Kaoru; that should be good. Better than Nomiya giving his "home truths" at any rate.