Animazing

Okay, it’s been kind of quiet on the anime front lately. Let me just give a quick roundup of what I’m watching which is worthy of remark:

Durarara x2

I’m only a couple of episodes behind. It’s basically more of what we got in season 1, which is great because I liked season 1. “More of what you liked” is a pretty damn good thing for a show’s second season. It could just as well have been a decline in quality, after all (see: Sleepy Hollow). I’m still missing the first opening, though this new one is starting to grow on me.

Log Horizon

There was a Ghostbusters reference in the most recent episode. Earlier on in the present season, there was a character modelled after Leonardo, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Is the writer of the light novels a connoisseur of American cartoon shows from the eighties? I do know there was some influence from West to East – The Big O and its noir aesthetic owes a very great debt to Batman: The Animated Series, after all – but I always appreciate a nod to non-Japanese cartoons.

I’m also watching Saekano, of course, but I think it deserves deeper analysis than a quick paragraph. I may end up referring to Baudrillard and the hyper-real, so watch out for that.

The end of the world and what happens after

Archive of Our Own recently discussed something that I’ve never given much thought: what happens to our online presence after we die.

Okay, say you get run over by a bus. Hard luck, but death is that greatest of levellers which brings low the mighty and the weak. But there’s that Facebook account, the Gmail address, the blog, that thing of yours on Tumblr, the YouTube Let’s Play videos you’ve uploaded, and all the rest of the digital works that you leave behind as an online reminder that the world once contained you. What happens to all of that when you’re gone?

Nothing consistent, that’s what. Different sites have different policies, and it is likely that they won’t match exactly what you would want to be done after your death.

Well and good. This is the 21st century, after all, so why not write a social media will? Your executor will need to do all sorts of things that you’ve instructed them, after all, so why not include a few lines about your Facebook account on your will?

But there’s the rather sensitive sticking point of fanfiction. Maybe your executor isn’t someone you want reading your embarrassing works, which you were only comfortable sharing with anonymous people online instead of the aunt who knew you when you were in diapers. Even if you’re not leery of having the person responsible for selling your possessions handle your Transformers fics, they won’t necessarily be a fan of the same things you were and won’t understand exactly what to do with your stuff.

Enter the fannish next of kin. They’ll understand which fics you wanted deleted and which fics you were okay with leaving for future generations to peruse (and maybe laugh at). It’s a nice idea, and it’s one I’m glad Archive of Our Own came up with.

For myself, as someone who’s studied history I say preserve my fics until the heat death of the universe. I admit that they aren’t great literature, but there’s something to be learned even from the most unassuming of writings – linguistic quirks, the zeitgeist of a specific era, how ideas are propagated, and many more things I am unable to imagine.

Enjoy my fics, future people. I poured my heart and soul into them, once upon a time.

On meeting the 100% perfect girl

I started watching Saekano, which is about high school kids trying to make a video game. The show is rather metafictional in its presentation; the comments that the characters make about the game they’re working on usually apply to the anime they’re in as well. It’s not Grant Morrison so the fourth wall is never broken but the show is clever enough in that regard.

It’s also a harem anime, with the first episode full of fanservice and girls competing for the attention of the male protagonist. Still, the only relationship I’m actually interested in is the sole human relationship in the anime, which is the one between the protagonist and his muse.

See, our protagonist meets a girl on the road one spring day in a moment straight out of a romance. The girl could easily have been a blank and perfect catalyst for male actualization but she quickly destroys our hero’s expectations the first time they talk. I’m intrigued by where this thing is going so I’ll stick with it some more. This could very very easily turn to crap but I hope the show is self-aware enough to realize that the criticisms it makes of clichés can also be applied to itself.

Would you like to play a game?

Well, I finally finished Mass Effect 3. After all this time, I’m done.

I liked the Citadel DLC. It’s really big and it’s nice that the stakes are much lower. I also liked the combat simulator, it’s a lot more fun than the Pinnacle station from the first game. Plus I got to play with Zaeed again, who I sorely missed in the regular game. It was nice to see him, Javik, Wrex, and Grunt all hanging out shooting up empty beer bottles. I thought at first they were playing “cuckoo”, which was said to be a game played by bored Russian officers from the tsarist era – basically you turn off off the lights, hide behind furniture, then shoot at anyone who shouts “cuckoo”.

And let me just say that Kai Leng’s stupid ponytail and black trench coat annoyed the hell out of me. All he needs are sunglasses to complete the Matrix douchebag look. He’s like a prepubescent child’s vision of “awesome badass”. I enjoyed shooting him in the face with my sniper rifle.

As for the infamous ending, it wasn’t as bad as the online hyperbole made it out to be, but I still found it disappointing. First, this is a video game – where is my final boss? Yeah, I killed like a dozen Banshees and Brutes while defending the missile battery but that didn’t feel like a climactic battle. There was Saren in the first game and the Human Reaper in the second, but all we got was Space Boy in this one.

Speaking of which, none of the choices he gave seemed representative of what my Shepard tried to accomplish. The Destroy ending would have been the best choice for my character, except that it kills all synthetics and there’s no way my Shep would kill EDI and her geth allies.

Anyway, I discovered there’s a fourth ending. Just like Global Thermonuclear War, you can also choose not to play, or rather, you can circle “none of the above” and shoot Space Boy in the head. He’s unaffected but he says that the cycle will play out like normal and galactic civilization ends up destroyed. In the epilogue we see the warning Liara recorded for the next cycle, then we see some future alien telling her kid tales of “The Shepard” and how they owe their lives to this person. The end. I wanted a good-ish ending, so I reloaded and went with Synthesis because what the hell, let’s just end this.

Whatever ending you choose, the setting will be irrevocably changed, which is really too bad because I like this space opera galaxy of theirs. Why did we need to be fighting genocidal robot space squids, anyway? We could have had a spy game in the style of Alpha Protocol about the secret war between the STG and the Shadow Broker or a Seven Samurai one about recruiting mercenaries to defend an outpost against Batarian slavers or one of any number of scenarios. I know there’s a Mass Effect 4 coming but I don’t know how that’s even supposed to work.

Danger Zone

I’ve been sick with either a cold or a flu, so yesterday I stayed in bed and watched Point Break. It’s really a perfect Saturday afternoon movie. I’d never seen it before, but it had been on my list for a while and the other movies I had on hand seemed too deep to watch while fever-tripping (Atonement, The Sound of My Voice, and Never Let Me Go).

I’d forgotten how shitty the early 90s looked. The clothes and the boxy cars gave me a feeling of constriction and heat stroke, like I was wearing too-tight clothes in a noisy office with no air conditioning. And it’s got that L.A. River again from Terminator 2, probably one of the crappiest rivers in the world.

I do wonder how the surfing scenes were shot. It would have been hilarious if the director had used the same trick as Elvis in Blue Hawaii, but the actors and their doubles were actually out there on the waves. And kudos to all for the sky diving scenes. They make no sense and are barely justifiable in plot terms, but they do tie in thematically to the whole “freedom” thing the surfers are into. I must mention that my only exposure to surfer talk is from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so it was kind of weird hearing people say “radical” with no trace of irony.

I also have to give props for how the action unfolds. The movie zips along from scene to scene with nary a slow part. The biggest negative to the movie is, once again, Keanu Reeves’ acting. I forget every time how wooden he is and am reminded whenever I see a new movie with him in it.

Overall, though, I found this movie diverting.

Woe, you sons of Israel

Terrible news, everyone! I’ve just come across rumours that a second season of The Devil is a Part-Timer will not be produced. Apparently publishers of light novel series, like the one this anime is based on, often fund the development of an anime solely to drum up interest in the original books. With their mission accomplished, they often do not bother producing more seasons. It’s cheaper to publish books than to make an entire anime, after all.

I’m hoping this is nothing but baseless speculation, but by spring it’ll be almost two years since the first season was broadcast. I’m starting to get antsy and may eventually cave and buy the books or the manga, playing right into the publisher’s hands. At least the story will continue somewhere, but I will still hope with all my heart that an animated adaptation is still coming sometime.

Happy Saturnalia

Wishing you all the best in your solstice orgies.

The end of an era

Well, Legend of Korra ended. The final finale for the fictional universe first depicted on Avatar: The Last Airbender has aired. What do I think about it?

I think it had a suitably awesome ending. No deus ex machina and an exciting use of the dubstep laser, so this is ahead of other Avatar finales.

I liked that Korra won not by beating up her enemy, but by being a better person. And let me get a hell yeah for our heroine not ending up with Mako (that was a close one) and walking off into the sunset hand in hand with her beloved.

Having said that, though, let’s not forget that another, more obscure and less noticed series ended as well. Yes, I’m talking about Argevollen.

You know, calling Argevollen‘s finale good or bad implies that it could have ended any other way. I honestly don’t see how else the show could have ended and remained true to itself and its deliberately low-key approach. I mean, looked at what happened: the relationship between the two leads remains platonic, there was no giant battle, the angry rival dies in his suit without ever crossing swords with the hero, and a suicidal man gets talked down from his ledge.

It’s as if they tried to make the opposite of a typical giant robot anime. I hadn’t realized how entrenched the clichés were in this subgenre until I saw this finale. I seriously doubt Argevollen will be a big earner for its studio, considering how different it is from Valvrave and whatnot. I predict that the Blu-ray and DVD collections will end up remaindered and become collectors’ items among a very small subset of anime fans. I liked Argevollen, but I have to ask, how in the hell did this show get made in the first place?

Anime: the year that was

Okay, this video of basically every anime TV series that came out in 2014 is quite impressive in its breadth and its aesthetic unity. Props go to its obsessive creator. I think I only recognized maybe 2% of the shows that were featured.

There and back again

Ever watch the movie Primer, about a couple of engineers inventing and exploiting a time machine in their garage? Ever wonder what it would be like to see that seemingly-realistic depiction of science at work in an anime setting?

Because Steins;Gate has you covered. I like this series, which is actually an adaptation of a visual novel game – in essence, a Choose Your Own Adventure story with added pictures. And guess what? The translated version is available for digital purchase straight from the comfort of your couch.

The game is $30, though, so it seems that the Japanese haven’t gotten the hang of this digital pricing thing yet. Were it $5 I would seriously be tempted to get it. But hey, maybe there’ll be a deal there someday.

My thanks go out to Hanako Games for alerting me to this opportunity. I’m afraid I’m not going to buy Long Live the Queen as many reviews say that it’s too short, but I’ll keep an eye out for other games from this studio.