Monday, December 31, 2007

Anime — 2007 in review

A little premature perhaps, since there are some titles that finish airing this quarter that haven't been completely subbed, or have been, but I've not watched yet (Sky Girls, Moyashimon, Blue Drop, but all of which seem aimed at the "Unexpectedly good" category), or carry over into Q1 next year (Ghost Hound); but this year is the first I've been deep enough into the scene for a round-up to be better than superficial. So, from the top…

The best: Dennou Coil, Mononoke, and Seirei no Moribito — each very different from the others, so no possible ranking

Unexpectedly good: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Rocket Girls, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight

Sequels that didn't quite live up to their predecessors: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS

In the category of "also watched" Claymore, the Marimite OVA series (more of the usual) and, leaking over from last year, Le Chevalier d'Eon. I would add Moonlight Mile, but nobody picked up the second season because it had been licensed for the US (unlike the complete subbing done for Gurren Lagann, Seirei no Moribito or Chevalier in similar circumstances).

Now the lemons, the series I dropped. Apart from the mess made of Bokurano, I also tried a few episodes and gave up on a number of titles:

  • El Cazador de la Bruja, after 3 or 4 episodes, another girls and guns from the creators of Noir, that just didn't seem to have the charm (or musical hook) of the first.
  • Saint October, for lack of subs after 3 episodes, but I might have given up this somewhat weak magical girl series anyway
  • Les Miserables, for lack of subs after 6 episodes, though it was shaping up to be rather slow paced
  • Lucky Star of which I watched 4 episodes, though I may come back to this harmless piece of fluff, it was just the anime equivalent of candy floss
  • Kaiji from the same mangaka as Akagi, but following a character completely opposite in temperament. Akagi grabbed me in the first few minutes; this was just boring. Watched 4, called it suspended, watched another recently, still no better.
  • Shugo Chara! a magical girl series for girls, didn't really grab after one episode

Non-starters: Hidamari Sketch, Potemayo and Sketchbook full color's, for which I couldn't manage a full episode (Kawaii! JeNny also fits here, but that would only ever have been for the lulz).

Worst of the year (of titles I watched) : Baccano! which gained raves about awesome and loveable characters, who turn out to be respectively psychopaths and morons, no-one likeable or sympathetic. I watched two and a bit episodes and stopped, because it was shaping up to just being a downright nasty splatterfest. It left a very nasty taste in my mouth.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Manga — Narutaru (Shadow Star)

At last, I have been able to read it all in English, rather than just look at the pretty(?) pictures, since the last third was never translated, and the last half could no longer be had for love nor money. Admittedly vol. 12 is still only there in the form of separate script and raw, but that's one of the perks of having leapt at the chance of proofing the scripts for volumes 10-12 — the edited version probably won't be released until the end of January.

So we find that the anime had subtle spoilers for parts of the manga that hadn't yet been translated, and exactly what is going on in the bleak concluding volumes, in a way that existing synopses had failed to achieve.

At times a bit shaky, darting off in directions that never quite come to anything except to in passing reveal a fragment of what is going on; but in the last three, previously untranslated, volumes, picking up momentum to the final resolution.

The End of Narutaru.

Anime — Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (ひぐらしのく頃に解)

Sequel/(re)solution/revelation series to the original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (ひぐらしのく頃に).

While the original was all about things falling apart and “WTF is going on??”, this explains what has been going on through all the previous reboots, and spins it out over a recap episode and three arcs spread over 23 episodes. This does give it pacing problems : the second arc is somewhat repetitious in the episodes of “Save Satoko.” protest, and the third and last stretches the back-story over an episode too many.

I stalled for a very long time over episode 16, the third of the final arc, which had a lot of covering the ground of things we had already inferred happening from the back-story revealed in previous arcs, but then marathoned the last half of that episode and the rest today. It did take a bit of getting started, but by the time it got to be obvious that we were past the “Oh, not that again!!” bit, it picked up momentum, and got to be more like what the series had been in the past (only with a happy end).


For the lulz -- in the style of the NaruTaru OP, with just the same level of spoilers…

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy holidays

Another working year over, though not quite the usual ritual, as this time Karen has come down with one of the bugs that's going around, and has been feeling quite wretched, while I try and stave similar off.

So it was by myself to the much reduced traditional banquet last night, and then today, I was spared the drive down to the in-laws in the pouring rain, did a bit of coding, and watched a lot of anime.

Including rewatching some Simoun. Knowing the outcomes for the characters makes it, if anything, even look even better crafted. Mamiina ;_;

Monday, December 24, 2007

Links for 24-Dec

Newly discovered design pattern : "Code Well" -- patterns, of course, being simply boilerplate coding to work around language inadequacies

IronLisp becomes IronScheme

Big in 2008 - Dynamic languages on top of high level languages are the coming thing

Size is the enemy -- and that's before observing that bugs/line has remained pretty constant even as languages become more expressive

Closures and memory -- a salutary reminder that garbage collection is no silver bullet

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Film — Heima

As a coda to their 2006 tour, sigur rós played a series of free concerts around Iceland. This is the film of that tour, from their playing enigmatically backlit behind gauze at venues designed for such events, through to acoustic sets in open country, via village halls and deserted factories, and what passes as village greens; in front of packed crowds, in places where they outnumber the permanent residents, to solitary splendour.

Interspersed with the songs are some words from the band, and plenty of atmospheric location film, showing quite how desolate and marginal a place Iceland is -- and some of the native musical traditions and innovations, like the chap who makes percussion instruments from slate scree and rhubarb stalks.

But under it all, it's a hundred minutes of sigur rós music video, which you will either like or not.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Kicking reason to the kerb!

As part of their not leaving well enough alone, the tosspots running the country have come up with the laughable idea of adding a Welsh element to the Union Flag.

And I am glad to see that in a Telegraph popularity poll, the idea has been well and truly subverted.

GATTAI JACK DA! -- I'd vote for that!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Anime — Dennou Coil

A sort of Miyazaki does Ghost in the Shell series, set in a not too distant future, with cyber ("dennou" in Japanese) technology that is slightly magical (in the Clarkean sense at least); and everyone who is with the program has a set of AR glasses painting their world. In the overlay are pets (like the dennou-pet dog at the far left), pests (unauthorized autonomous programs called "illegals" - top right - and the official "anti-virus" programs like Sacchi - bottom right) and programs that work a bit like magic spells.

Two girls, both called Yuuko, but "spelt" differently -- one could be read as "gentle girl", Yasako (centre); the other as "brave girl", or Isako (left) -- transfer to a new school, where their paths, and pasts, intertwine.

The series starts out rather like "Just William" in cyberspace, turns into "illegal of the week" ("Long Neck, ;_;"), before the plot that has been being set up in the background picks up into high gear for an intense finish. And although the big reveal isn't world-shattering, it is handled well (unlike other series -- Higurash Kai, I'm looking at you), and the series ends with a proper sense of closure.

There was a "Just kiss her, you idiot!" moment at the end, just before the credits rolled, that was then modified by the epilogue that ran in parallel with the credits, but without damaging the sense that the story had been tidied up nicely.

One of the very best series of the year, with only Mononoke and Seirei no Moribito as competition.

Film — The Golden Compass

I saw this on Wednesday, the opening night, early evening (which turned out to be in the middle of a long working day, but that's a story for another rime and place).

It was a competent adaptation of much of the best of the three books by far, though shorn of much of its depth and symbols (especially the Magisterium); and CGI is advanced enough today that the dæmons looked fluid and plausible. And the spiral power/helical motor propulsion units for the airships and carriages seemed like the sort of thing that really ought to be.

These days, it's the people who seem to be more fake, or at least the acting feels less than completely sincere. I wonder if I'm getting a touch of the too much anime "3D is pig disgusting!" effect; or just jaded by Hollywood mannerisms.

Not bad, but a bit shallow.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Film — Day Watch

I saw the first film in this sequence, Night Watch, at the première at the film festival a couple of years ago; and seeing that the sequel was on for the late show, decided to be a dirty stop-up (and wreck my normal pattern of hibernation at this time of year) and go to see it.

Again, mostly harmless -- it could have done without the mushy bits and the oh so precious teasing with body-swap lezzing about -- but with some of the most spectacular driving effects I've seen in years.

Having pulled a maguffin out of the air in the prologue, the resolution is not a surprise, but the journey there was quite fun.