Tetsuo and Kaneda’s Excellent Adventure

Last weekend, I saw Akira for the first time in probably twenty years. It held up very well.

The film is essentially about Japan in the 1960s, complete with violent gangs, mass protests, and regular terrorist bombings. Despite that temporal specificity, it still feels timeless. This is impressive for a sci-fi film made in 1988, especially since a lot of cyberpunk from that era feels very dated. I think an American cyberpunk story from that time would probably be full of coded racial paranoia about the rise of Japan, or it would have embarrassing Orientalist stereotypes about honour or some shit. This movie, of course, avoids that.

Anyway, I’d forgotten that there are no heroes in Akira. Everyone is either an asshole, a fuckup, or both. The protagonists are violent bikers who gleefully engage in street duels that injure bystanders, while the climax involves a guy wanting revenge on his best friend. That best friend massacred hundreds of people and is about to kill an entire city, but as far as the participants are concerned their fight is about nothing more than their petty and personal grievances.

Plus the animation still looks incredible. A festering shithole has never looked this beautiful in cartoon form.

Overall, the movie was a worthwhile thing to revisit. I’m glad I saw it again.

Ships that sank

I don’t have a good track record in shipping, which in this context means the romantic pairing you favour in a given work of fiction. My tastes don’t seem to align with the majority, as this list of failed non-canonical ships should attest.

  • Zutara (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
  • Harry/Luna (Harry Potter)
  • Haruto/Rukino (Valvrave the Liberator)
  • Akihito/Mitsuki (Beyond the Boundary)

For comparison, Ships that Sailed:

  • Ranma/Akane (Ranma 1/2)
  • Edward/Winry (Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

I still think those failed ships were more narratively interesting than the ones that happened in canon. Ah well, such is life.

In the Darkness

I tried out a couple of episodes of Brynhildr in the Darkness. I thought the manga was okay so I hoped the anime adaptation would at least be on the same level. I can say that it is, but like most manga to anime adaptations, I prefer the version with the moving pictures. The creator also made Elfen Lied, if that means anything to you out there. 

Briefly, the show is about an ordinary boy who’s fallen in with teenage girls with psychic powers on the run from the sinister organization that created them. Also, one of the girls may be the boy’s childhood friend who he thought had died years ago but who seems not to remember him.

You could probably guess most of the story beats from that summary, and you would probably be mostly right. Still, the show is unexpectedly subdued for a series containing psychic duels and time travel and teenagers in love triangles. Well, perhaps it’s not unexpected, since the manga is also not very flashy, but there’s a certain type of anime one might expect from the summary. You know what I mean: repeated vows to protect one’s friends, liberal use of the word "nakama" (comrade or close companion), endless battles spaced out over several episodes, heterosexual romance enacted through stubborn denials of its existence, constant flashes of tits and ass, and a theme song written and sung by an idol singer who drops English words into the lyrics to make everything sound cooler. You know, the usual.

Brynhildr isn’t that type of show. Well, it’s mostly not that type of show. It’s ostensibly aimed at boys, making it a shounen (boy) anime. But for a shounen anime, it treats things rather a bit seriously.

This is not necessarily a good thing, because I think the subject matter deserves a little razzmatazz in the presentation. Fantastic things deserve fantastic display. Perhaps not all the time, but at least some of the time. The animation, though, can be workmanlike. It’s not terrible and it tells the story like it’s supposed to, but it’s just kind of there. There deserves to be at least one or two sequences where I can gape at the marvels I’m witnessing, but so far I haven’t seen one yet.

Other criticisms apply. The comic parts don’t elicit much reaction beyond a polite chuckle. The male protagonist doesn’t have much of a personality beyond having a stick up his ass. The show doesn’t say anything beyond what the plot is saying. And is it perhaps a law in Japan that healthy romantic relationships cannot be depicted in anime targeted at boys?

Perhaps I sound like I hate this show, but I really don’t. It’s not a classic of our age, but what is? I do like the song from the opening sequence well enough.

Still, like its animation, the show is just kind of there. Somehow, I feel like something exceptional is just slightly out of reach, like the show is trying to be something and kind of has an idea of what that something is but isn’t quite sure how to get there. I’ll keep watching, since I have a rather high tolerance for imperfection, but this show is not something I can unreservedly recommend.

The Time Machine

Last night, I played Braid until I was nauseous.

Literally nauseous. Pretty sure that was something I ate.

But yeah, Braid. It’s good. I’m not really into the platformer genre of video games anymore. It’s something I associate with my childhood, what with my better reflexes back in the day. But yesterday I didn’t take a shower and didn’t eat dinner until 11:30 at night, and by the time I went to bed I had a giant headache and had trouble convincing myself the room wasn’t spinning. I just couldn’t stop playing.

This is, of course, old news to those of you who didn’t wait for six years and a sale on PSN to try this game out. I commend you for giving the game’s creator his rightful due in a timely fashion. For me, I’ll just have to keep an eye out for that PS4 game that’s the guy’s making.

Next, I suppose I should try out this Portal game that everyone likes.

KISS discovers anime

Via Crunchyroll, it seems that Gene Simmons of the obscure indie band KISS has discovered anime. Specifically, he discovered LoveLive!, which seems to be about high school girls forming a pop group to save their school from dissolution. The particular screenshot which piqued Monsieur Simmons’ curiosity was from an episode where the characters dress up as a certain group of white-faced leather queens.

Gene Simmons tweeting a screencap of the characters of Love Live in KISS makeup asking,

Of the anime I have nothing to say, as I’ve never seen it and I’m getting moe* vibes from the summary. I do find it hilarious that when Simmons asked Twitter where a screenshot of the anime was from, one smartass gave him the name of a pornographic direct to video series about underage male crossdressers.

We now return to your regularly scheduled program.

*Moe: slang term for a subgenre of anime and manga. I would define it as the fetishization of female helplessness, which is exactly as off-putting as it sounds.

The immortal Liam Neeson

Currently I’m trying to construct a theory that all of Liam Neeson’s characters are the same person. It works like this: Rob Roy was from the Scottish highlands, just like Christopher Lambert. This makes him a literal highlander. 

Thus, like the Wandering Jew, Liam Neeson walks this cursed earth, sometimes fighting and winning, sometimes loving and being loved, but always living life to all of its extremes. Obviously his Rob Roy identity wasn’t his first one, since he fathered Orlando Bloom during the Crusades, but perhaps it’s one that accidentally reveals his true nature. And taking the name Ra’s al Ghul is a sly commentary on his adventures a millennium before. Sometimes he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Germany in the 1940s. A life like his can be pretty stressful, so other times he takes a few decades to chill out, like when he was raising an actual red-headed stepchild who he somehow wasn’t beating nightly.

The only problem with this theory, besides its stupidity, is that I couldn’t quite reconcile Qui-Gon Jinn. How did this Neeson Earthman join a society of mystic space knights from a completely different galaxy which existed untold millennia before Camelot was built? Then I realized that this immortal was merely longer-lived than I’d initially thought. Qui-Gon was simply the earliest known identity of our immortal.

Well, glad that I figured that out. Anyway, what did you do at work today?