Archive for November, 2008

Naka-dashi rebirth

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Naka-dashi (㊥出し) started as fetish site, mostly bondage. It was so feisty that I did not dare to link to it, and the banners they ran would never be seen at Sankaku outside of 3 layers of warnings. But a couple of months ago they suddenly mellowed out. It turned out that my observations were not just my delusions. Yesterday, Bj0rn, the site proprietor, mentioned at #animeblogger that he entered some media deals that required him to tone it down. And today, the site was rebranded as NK-DS. See, the weird character “中-in-a-circle” with “出し” in the old brand were too suggestive of penetration and ejaculation… It’s the weirdest PR story I’ve heard in a while. Also, one of the oddest characters in Japanese fonts. I wonder what it was originally for… Surely it was not introduced into the national standards specifically to mean “porn”. Although, with Japanese you never know!

UPDATE: By e-mail from J.Greely:

The complete set of enclosed kanji in Unicode (3280-32B0) is short and looks like basic concepts used in commerce. The Mac IME lists only a few of them as present in the JIS character set, and classifies them as abbreviations: ㊤ ㊥ ㊦ ㊧ ㊨. Most of the time when you see circled kanji, though, they’re display fonts or synthesized characters; I haven’t found anything that uses the actual symbols.

The Japanese term to search for, by the way, is 囲み文字. You’ll find lots of how-to pages on how to make them in Word, Excel, and OpenOffice. :-)

Lelangir on Studiotolatry

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

When I read Lelangir’s article on studiotolatry, I cannot help thinking that he conceived it in reply to the series that the gentleman with a realy convoluted handle ran at Yukan (with a significant success; I thought it was decent overview). The seed item on the matter was posted by Daniel back in April, so why now, right?

IMHO, the reductionism such as declaring studio meaningless is counterproductive. To deny that a corporate culture exists — because it is merely imagined by its member individuals — is akin to denying that race exists (which is what the founder of Solara Genomics was very fond of doing). Of course there’s no “race gene”, but only a collection of geographically determined types. And if all GONZO anime look alike, it’s only… what?

I can see how the function of director may be difficult to operationalize. But it’s nothing unusual. I think the key here is the unifying artistic vision that the director carries in his head (I’m going to refrain from comparisons with Wernher von Braun). Director, well, directs his subordinates to implement his vision. The character designers are told what to design, key animators are told how to express the design, etc. etc. I suggest watching interviews with directors, which are often included on DVDs (Yutaka Izubuchi of RahXephon had an especially informative one).

UPDATE: Lelangir e-mailed me:

Hmm, I didn’t know that the director actually “directed” char. design. I thought, or was under the impression, that he worked what he got. Interesting. Would you say, then, that directors have favorites, favorite aesthetics (like char.design) that kind of “suit” his directorness?

I watched a few interviews that left me under impression that directors do direct the early designs. I replied with some lame example of it, but then I remembered about a better one. Some time ago, there was an informative article at Sunrise’s website. Here’s some of what it said about the director’s involvement into various stages of production:

“Scripting”

For each episode, meetings are held with the director and producers to polish up the script. This needs to happen 3 or 4 times before a final draft is reached.

“Storyboarding”

Now that the storyboards are finished, production meetings and art meetings need to happen.

The person who brings the whole series together is the director, but there is also another person who plays a director-like role for each episode, and this person is called a “production supervisor.” Meetings in which the production supervisor is assigned tasks by the director to set the course for the work are called production meetings. The production supervisor is basically responsible for checking the layouts and key art, deciding the overall course of the artwork, and checking the final images as they come in.

“Art Production”

Once the layout is finished, it’s checked first by the production supervisor and then by the art director, and after it’s been given the okay then it’s time to start work on the key art. [The implicit assumption is, if director or art director do not like what they see, a redo follows — Author]

Once the storyboards are complete and production and art meetings [with the director — Author] have concluded, it’s time at last to start creating artwork.

Hopefuly, this adds enough specific details.

Index 01

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Not bad. Futuristic setting with cleaning robots which also perform security functions… Could be worse.

The animation is pretty and the “SD” mode is not very SD, but only a little D. I like that.

The exposition was sort of heavy-handed in the first episode already. It’s hard to imagine it getting any worse thereafter, as episodic bloggers suggest.

Nova on Hyakko

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I saw it in the ep.02:

Ep.02 is about Hyakko antagonizing Tatsuki and not receiving any comeuppance (while they hop school clubs). I guess creators extracted wrong lessons from Tomo/Yomi and Konata/Kagami.

Then, I dropped the show. Nova carried it further, but the result is exactly the same:

Where Hyakko fails is the execution of certain character interaction. Remember Kana-Chiaki-pairing in Minami-ke and how some people were annoyed how Chiaki was being a flat-out bitch to her sister? Thought Tomo sometimes went a bit too far with Yomi? Well, Hyakko gives us impulsive, selfish Torako and pairs her up with a reserved and cool ojou-sama Tatsuki, which ends up in the former annoying the shit out of the latter. There’s nothing wrong with this on an ideal level, but what Hyakko fails at is staying within the limits of good taste. Oftentimes Torako’s actions are just plain uncalled for and mean, which doesn’t really amuse me – especially when the show lets Torako to get away with it.

You don’t say.

Still, Nova ends his essay with this:

All this being said however, I still think Hyakko is worth watching.

Is it really necessary to sugar-coat the pill? No matter how you cut it, Hyakko is the biggest disappointment of the Autumn 2008 season. Sure, it’s not the worst anime on the air, and therefore it may be worth watching… if nothing better is available. Like Toradora, for instance.

Sunred fails

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I’m ready to love the formula, but Sunred does not deliver. The Ruffians in Jubei-chan were more entertaining to watch.

Obviously I was wrong to expect something as great as Oh Edo Rocket.

By the way, why half-length episodes? It’s the same size as Dokuro-chan.

Sekirei Sound Stage

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Speaking of seyuu, I came to appreciate Marina Inoue (BTW, “Marina” has a kanji spelling: 麻里奈), because I’m listening to Sekirei Sound Stage 01. The SSS is a so-called “Drama CD”. It reminds me of radio adaptations of my youth: seyuu play out the dialogue, instead of everything being read by a narrator, as in an audiobook. Naturally, the voicework takes on a bigger significance without visuals, and Marina Inoue makes a good account of herself as Squirtle… er, Tsukiumi. Her other role was Yoko in Gurren Lagann.

Curiously, even J.P.Meyer asked if listening to SSS makes sense, since Sekirei is presumably about big breasts. The “even” part comes from this idea being simple enough to pop into minds of juvenile friends of Lolikit[sune]. I expected more from J.P. and, I admit, my first temptation was to ask him to stop thinking with his penis. But then I remembered how much effort SDB spent on evangelizing Divergence Eve. Sekirei is even a tougher case: the creators of anime clearly wanted the fanservice to shine… and then the DVDs came out uncensored. The story is also not very large in its scope, so it’s a little wonder J.P.’s thought process ran in the obvious track.

The story in SSS is different in details from the anime. For example, the whole initial capture arc is bypassed, but then we’re treated to additional scenes: Kuu and Uzume working in the yard, or the cliche of Minato evesdropping on his “wives” (Kuu calls them “あれのつまたち”) when they discuss him.

One thing I rue now is how Japanese are serious about their limited releases. Aside from SSS, Sekirei also had a “normal” Drama CD (which is bit confusing, since I think SSS is a typical Drama CD), but it’s sold out.

Netflix mapping innaugurated

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

The idea was floated at Ani-nouto more than a year ago, but now I had an opportunity to try it out.

The DVD of DearS that I watched had a strange glitch: dd-ing the image gave an I/O error 770 KB in. The disc was badly scratched, so I buffed it (even bought a new kit). It looks much better now, but the error remained. But then, I noticed that libcss fails to crack a couple of keys… which may be relevant. The content is watcheable with mplayer.

Ani-toire

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

This is what the restroom of our master bathroom looks like:

And it wasn’t my idea: my better half requested the implementation. The pictures are centerfolds from the now deceased Newtype USA, to which Ana-sempai used to subscribe.

Seyuu gif at Naka-dashi

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Of course it’s animated. I wonder why Rie Kugimiya (it’s her, right?) is wearing a secondary microphone…

DearS failure

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

It’s a familiar story: I watched [3 episodes of] DearS because someone said that it was “like Sekirei”, but as usual the two are nothing alike (even less alike than EVA and RahXephon). The ugly animation in DearS reminded me of Pretear very much, and the story (or at least the setup) seems similar to Shuffle of all things.

Since two people used the same pun, I checked out what Totali had to say. It was rather brief: “Ok, so this has been my favorite love comedy forever. Maybe I have a strange obsession with master/slave relationships, but I’ll go super fanboy mode for Ren and her love of melon-pan. Oh, and NOT a chobits rip off kthxbye!!”. So, he likes Ren and that’s all we know. Well, I like her too, but not like like. For me, she cannot counterbalance the ugliness and stupidity of the rest of the show — the task that Feena almost managed (I only dropped Yoakena after 7 episodes).

In his notably amusing entry on the topic, J.Greely wrote: “Clichés aside, are they [DearS & Girls Bravo] any good? Both are generally well-drawn and well-acted, with a good mix of humor and fan-service.” I just don’t understand what people see in it. I think I understand that about Aria, but not here.

So, how is Sekirei better? Its animation is often crude, especially around the faces in 3/4 profile, but it is sharp and uses a better color key. The story I cannot compare in full, but at least after the 3 episodes I wanted to know what was ahead for the gang of Sekirei (and I wanted to meet Squirtle). For DearS, not so much. It’s just not interesting. I expected something like Chobits, something more engaging, and it never happened.

UPDATE ON ORIGINS: I think I remember now. Although Steven said it, it was only an idea, so he’s blameless. What really deceived me was a mention by Karl that DearS was about “working incredibly hard in order to become someone’s bitch”. But there was no hardship! No accomplishment! Well, maybe they appear later, but there was not even a hint.