Anime


It’s out for viewing at Veoh, and subbed. Here’s the link to the video.

I haven’t watched it yet; got a lagging Internet connection at the moment and it’ll take some time. Once I have, rest assured I’ll go analytic and spoilerific. 🙂

Meanwhile – enjoy watching this!!! If you’ve been waiting as eagerly as I have to see this, and the third and last instalment in the Shinkai’s latest work, definitely go to Veoh.com and check them out.

Thank to Seow-chan for letting me know!

*flips back to Veoh tab*

Thoughts on the DVD of Makoto Shinkai’s first real production. (****)
Hoshi no Koe

“Luke Skywal – ah! Ie, Noboru-kun wa daisuki…” …heh, come on, you thought the same thing…

Makoto Shinkai‘s status as a heavyweight in the Japanese animation industry is only disputable in that ‘heavyweight‘ is a severely ill-chosen word for Shinkai. You’d need to have watched some of his work to understand – in terribly insufficient words, Shinkai’s productions are highly-tempered, finely-tuned, reflective, retrospective, introspective; a confection of delicate (and sometimes surreal) beauty with a central, solid core of some true observation on life. His latest work, Byousoku 5 Centimeter, was essentially a treatise on distance, love, and longing – while Byousoku focuses on spatial distance, Hoshi no Koe focuses on a more abstract form of distance: time. His characters in Hoshi are removed from each other by miles, yes, thousands and thousands of miles, but their situation is compounded by their being unable to communicate in any form other than by cell-phone messages, and those messages, like delayed carrier pigeons facing the approach of winter in the olden days, take increasing amounts of time to reach each other. By the film’s last quarter, this length of time, as Noboru reflects, pretty much means ‘forever’.
Being only 25 minutes long, Hoshi no Koe doesn’t actually have a whole lot of emotional journeying to take us on. An air of the bittersweet introduces, surrounds, and concludes the film; in between, we get more comfortably (uncomfortably? disturbingly? I rather think that we all enjoy getting depressed in this movie though) acquainted with melancholy and longing. And yet, at the end, there’s also hope – Mikako’s meeting with her own self, imagination or projection, is reassuring, and probably a little cathartic. Besides, if you watch with a careful eye for Noboru’s newspaper clippings and the sign he glances at towards the end of the film, Shinkai seems in favour of reunion. Perhaps a little surprising, considering that Shinkai chose to go the realist’s way in Byousoku 5 Centimeter, and perhaps not, because one gets the feeling Shinkai is really a sentimental fellow at heart. All the same, I don’t think the conclusion is the most important part of Shinkai’s work so much as the characters’ persistence in love and remembrance, and yet in acceptance, is significant. It looks like Shinkai’s aim is in portraying the conflict between moving on and ‘staying here’. Like good short stories and manga, he leaves the problem open and doesn’t attempt to solve it for us. That would be pre-emptive. We would be indignant.

Tracers!

Graphics-wise, Hoshi no Koe was Shinkai’s garden in new spring. He’d already established a kind of balance between CGI and pen-and-paper that was significantly his own: take, for example, the outset scenes of Mikako entering her school’s staircase up to the classroom. The flitting between sketchy lines and fully-shaded animation was intriguing – perhaps it reflects Mikako’s brief journey into a place from her past, into the unreal. While it isn’t quite the same effect, I’m reminded of Byousoku‘s transitions between shots of unnervingly realistic environment detail, like the moving floors of the train carriages, against the two-dimensional faces of the characters. And all of this is combined with an ethereal beauty throughout: curtained snow, single sakura petals, crested roads, ruffled leaves, the looming, wondrous backdrop of Jupiter, the sleek, smoothed edges of the Tarsians. Note that while Byousoku dwelled heavily on the daily and the ordinary, Hoshi takes advantage of the surreal space setting to inject a sense of wonder, of alien-ness (the what am I doing here? pressure), of the unbelievable and the impossible and vast loneliness.

The DVD I borrowed from my (most accommodating) local library also had a bunch of special features that made it worth putting a 25-minute film on DVD – a ‘director’s cut’ (more…)

…Saiunkoku Monogatari is/was scored by Ryou Kunihiko, not surprisingly the same composer for the Twelve Kingdoms.

Ryuuki and Shuurei

I didn’t think they’d be that cautious. Sure, Kunihiko knows his er hu from his pi pa, but I couldn’t help being a bit disappointed that they’d stuck to the winning formula…a new composer would have been interesting. Especially since I personally think Kunihiko did a better job with the Twelve Kingdoms OST; for that more serious anime, he scored a more serious and impressive soundtrack, more authentic, more ambient, more passionate and more soaring (check out the Full Version of the main theme Juuni Genmukyoku; or the sub-theme Junikokugenei). For Saiunkoku Monogatari OST, which you can get here by direct download, Kunihiko translated the shoujo and comedic aspect of the anime into his music – there is this tendency toward tender tinkles, sweet melodies, nostalgic and wistful piano themes, like Ryuuki, Nukumori (which actually is a really good piano theme, one of my favourites on the OST).

Less classical Chinese instrumentation, despite the anime revolving around the miko, or the er hu, quite a bit. Theme of Shuurei, Saiunkoku Monogatari main theme Full Version, and Ame no Kyuutei, Teien are about the only trad-Chinese tracks worth listening to. The piano themes work well though; I had Ryuuki, Nukumori and Oka no Ue, Ichirin no Yuri on repeat a while back. The latter is sweetfully wistful, the former is sadly wistful. Think Ryuuki staring out his study window into the snow-laden barren plum trees, and you get what I mean by ‘wistful’. Hmm…Actually, come to think of it, Ryuuki’s pretty face, the fact that I like Seki Tomokazu, and Kunihiko’s score were about the only things that kept me from condemning Ryuuki as just another spoilt rich kid stealing the limelight.

Saiunkoku Monogatari characters

Other tracks I liked were Gensou, for its wondering, questing mood, Kibou because it somehow reminded me of Yasunori Mitsuda (perhaps the Chrono Cross soundtrack) and Saiunkoku Monogatari Main Theme Piano Version, because uh, it was the main theme, and it was in piano, and it’s nice? Tsuchita Usuba Ashi Ethnic Version was the only version I really liked, mainly because of the transition to the rapid, violin-like, and something-European running notes at 1:40.

The OP theme, Hajimari no Kaze (A New Breeze) was a fantastic choice, though don’t thank Kunihiko, thank Hirahara Ayaka. It’s rare you get an opening theme that manages to be both a good pop tune, and a soaring, good introductory piece of music. I prefer the TV version over the actual, full version though. The TV version begins with sole, unaccompanied vocals, but the full version has some background instrumentals which I thought were, well, distracting. The TV version is what you’ll get on this soundtrack. I liked the anime’s ED theme, Sachi Tainaka’s Saikou no Kataomoi (The Greatest Unrequited Love), even better than Hajimari no Kaze, but unfortunately that’s not available on this OST. Instead, we get Hanasaki Kyouni, sung by Kuwashima Houko (Shuurei), a fairly pretty, if static, song.

So the conclusion: get Saiunkoku Monogatari OST 1 only if you liked Saiunkoku Monogatari the anime…I hear tell OST 2 is nicer, but I have to wait until my torrent list gets cleared, or until the OST does show up in a nearby store as they say they do. *rolls eyes*

Oh and while you’re on that OST list linked above, check out Yoko Kanno’s Wolf’s Rain and Cowboy Bebop OSTs.

…manga, anime, OSTs, dramas, doujinshi…sate all those desires!

Another quick linkdropper. This time for The Evil Empire, a primarily manga download site that hosts even the more obscure manga, along with other items of value: a good trove of ebooks, lots of anime and drama episodes, nice stash of OSTs and doujinshi and artbooks. Most are in great condition, i.e. good scans/subs quality, but a few of the download links may either not work, or be inconvenient (multipart files that need reassembling). The really fantastic thing is that if you’re looking for licensed or old lost things, you might well find them here.

Often there’ll be a little review or comments that allow you get a little knowledge about the download items, but on the whole, The Evil Empire works best for those who know what they want, and just go there to search the hallways of the Dark Castle, aka download section.

All you need to get unlimited downloads is to post in the forums 10 times, and that can be done within half an hour, less if you’re not really reading the posts and just adding thoughts :p though please do participate more actively. It’s always fun to debate whether Kikyo should die or not. *cackle*

I got my Saiunkoku Monogatari OST from there. Now I’m searching up other Sumomo Yumeka material, and getting their ebooks…George R. R. Martin’s books for one, because the library’s always out of his books. His books are just that good. Anyway, get going to the empire, and have fun! 🙂

…just a quick linkdropper.

Anime News Network’s collection of fairly well-considered and well-presented previews of some anime titles out this Spring. Or Autumn, depending on where you are. Which has already begun.

Looks like Romeo x Juliet is getting good previews/reviews everywhere I look. Inori ~ You Raise Me Up, the theme song for the series, is now up for download on Gendou‘s Anime Music site. Again, should be on the first page at time of post. I’m sure you’ve heard it if you’ve been keeping tabs on Romeo x Juliet and have been to the official website; it’s You Raise Me Up in Japanese! Yay! *clap clap* Seriously though, it is a pretty good rendition of Groban’s classic. TV size for now, of course.

…”Why can’t siblings love each other?” – Nanoka

Nanoka from Koi Kaze

This is admittedly taboo material, but good taboo material – because it attempts to present the consequences of trying to live by those taboos, and questions why it is a taboo at all. What’s taboo here? Why, incest.

I was researching the Westermarck effect, and its counterpart phenomenon, Genetic Sexual Attraction when I discovered this manga (and anime, which was made after the manga); and after a bit of looking up in the trustworthy ol’ Anime News Network, the manga looked pretty good ratings-wise and art-wise so I went ahead and downloaded it, chapter by chapter, from Mangadownload.com. It’s 5 volumes in all, but very well paced, so that there’re hardly any parts I wished elaborated more and none that I thought were elaborated too long on. But onto a synopsis of the story, first.

恋風, literally love’s zephyr, a Japanese term for being bound by one’s love for another. …taken from Wikipedia.

Drawn by Yoshida Motoi (family name Yoshida), the story circles around a 27 year old, emotionally and sexually frustrated and detached man, Saeki Koshiro, and the sister he was separated from years ago, Kohinata Nanoka, who at 15 years of age comes to live with Koshiro and their father. The reason for their separation is their parents’ own divorce years ago, leaving Nanoka with their mother and Koshiro with their father. Nanoka seems a fairly typical teenage girl, a little more quiet than most perhaps, a little sadder, but not less obstinate. Koshiro on the other hand, is introduced to us as rather gruff, unsure how to handle emotion, especially love and hurt – Wikipedia’s description of him as a ‘bear of a man’ verging on ‘unintentional boorishness’ hits the mark completely. He is also fairly quiet, more out of a lack of necessity to speak than any real shyness.

At the manga’s opening, Nanoka has come to live with Koshiro and their father Saeki Zenzo (more…)

...or Guardian of the Sacred Spirit – thoughts on the raw.
Only the RAW version of episode 1 is out, though there is an English trailer, which like as not you probably already saw on Youtube or elsewhere similar. Because it’s raw, I’ll ask you to forgive any errors you might see in the synopsis. Now, the first episode of any series is usually the most important – you can usually tell where the series is going with the first episode, and whether you really want to follow the series or not. In Seirei no Moribito‘s first episode here, it seems clear that the storyline is ‘heroine on quest to protect something’, which turns out to be a young princeling with unearthly powers, and it is also clear that the setting is traditional, in an age of emperors and dynasties and warfare. They’ve used fairly new seiyuu’s, with Chagumu’s seiyuu really being barely a teenager himself – pretty unusual, considering they have a wealth of seiyuu’s all already skilled in mimicking children’s voices. It’ll be interesting to see how this child voice actor proves himself.

Seirei no Moribito

The episode begins with Balsa, our heroine, coming in alone and travel hardened to a city (more…)

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