Archive for the 'stellvia' Category

Tandem crew

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

One small similarity note about Stellvia and Vandread is that both offer a tandem crew arrangement. Moreover, both offer a lovebird crew.

My Vandread screenshot library is lacking.

I’ve read about female gunners flying Il-2 in WWII with objects of their affections. As far as I know, the practice was discouraged, but it’s difficult to find good accounts. Considering the mortality of Il-2 gunners (7 times that of pilots), if a pilot were to return the feelings, he would have to object to further assignments, with consequensies fanning from there. One pair mentioned above was buried together after their plane was downed with a hit from AAA, so at least there wasn’t any extra survivor angst.

Closer to now, I recall reading about a husband and wife flying AH-64. There were articles in glossy magazines like Newsweek, with journalistic vultures digging into possible issues.

Stellvia and Vandread do not make a big production of any possible conflict of interest. In both cases, flying separately provides ample of opportunity still. There’s also no intrinsic assimmetry such as on Il-2.

UPDATE: My Squadron-Signal publication on Il-2 says: “A number of Assault Aviation Regiments had female rear gunners, such as the 804th Assault Aviation Regiment which served on the Kalinin front in May of 1943.”

Wisdom of Ms. Leila

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

In ep.8, Leila-sensei says approximately this about Shipon: “When she looks forward, she only looks forward. When she looks back, she only looks back.” She means that Shipon has wild performance swings between outstanding and unacceptable according to her frame of mind at the time. When I heard it for the first time, I thought that she quoted a proverb, it was so melodic.

So, what did she really say? After listening to it about 10 times, this is what I heard:

R. JAMES:  前向きだね? まえむきだね?
LEILA B.:  前を向いたら、前ばかり。 まえをむいたら、まえばかり。
  後ろを向いたら、後ろばかり。 うしろをむいたら、うしろばかり。

It does not seem like a proverb after all.

Stellvia vs. Vandread, abridged

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

When Owen linked me, he chose the “Tandem Crew” entry.

On reflection, the entry made very little sense, because it wasn’t in its context. When I wrote it, the blog wasn’t listed yet and thus not read by anyone. The real pencil note which stated it read “Stellvia === Vandread”.

I did not mean that Stellvia was a remake of Vandread. Their stories are not very similar [^1]. But I meant to note that they a) both are examples of mecha-as-a-backdrop shows and b) made to the equivalent level of quality.

Steven Den Beste summed the mecha question thus:

I’ve now seen at least ten series which featured mechas and I was only really enthusiastic about one of them. Most of them I found to be a complete waste of time; several I didn’t even bother to finish watching. The problem is that the writers, and presumably the fans they’re writing for, are entranced by the idea of the mechas, and concentrate on the gee-whiz equipment instead of such basics as plot, characterization, and human warmth. That also applies to things like steampunk, or fascination with dirigibles. Generally, when the gizmos are viewed by the writers and artists as particularly nifty, everything else tends to get shortchanged. It’s theoretically possible that there could be a good series like this, and in fact I’ve seen a couple which I liked, but the odds are tremendously against any particular one being any good, and it’s a risk I choose not to take, since I do not have infinite time or infinite money.

When seen from this angle, Stellvia is an attempt to tell a character story with heroic action, which happens to have mecha in it somewhere. To illustrate, the Stellvia’s fanbase does not obsess with Keity’s combat loadout (unlike Gundam’s fans). Vandread takes the same route.

I saw Vandread basically because of Steven, after I’ve seen Stellvia. It wasn’t just the review, but the general advocacy too. And about halfway into the show I scribbed the “Stellvia === Vandread” note. They were leaving a similarly sized emotional imprint. Both let secondary characters flourish within reason. Both had protagonists which were a bit irritating (Hibiki with his pseudo-macho, Shipon with her tears). Both were drawn well and directed well. Both have a mid-series climax.

There was a number of dissimilarities, too, but they somehow compensated each other for the comparison. For example, the worst part of Vandread, long term [^2], is the bickering in the kitchen, sick bay, etc. The worst part of Stellvia, long term, was watching Shipon’s breakdowns. Vandread has a tight plot which explains everything, and Stellvia doesn’t, but you have to use Steven’s powers for retcon to uncover it. So for me, Stellvia makes more sense. Not that either of them was in any way realistic anyway.

So, there we have it. I gradually became enthralled with the “Stellvia === Vandread” meme and plug it unconsciously, and well past it “sell by” date, which is how the “Tandem Crews” came about.


^1: You still can find similarities if you are Joseph Campbell.

^2: Ending of Vandread was so phony that it left me livid, but that was an singular moment.

Lawson on Stellvia and Shingu

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Seen at Hop Step Jump:

After a long wait, I recently finished Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars, otherwise known as the Sato Tatsuo show that isn’t Nadesico or Stellvia.

Ouch.

Haven’t seen Shingu, I cannot parse Jeff’s compare-and-contrast. Since I avoid bandwagons, I only marked Shingu for future perusal when one was gathering steam nearby… But I guess I am only postponing the inevitable now.

Blog comments (on Stellvia)

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

The discussion of blog comments just won’t go away. I saw a curious comment at Jeff Lawson’s Stellvia vs. Shingu by Craig Steven Calhoun:

One reason that Stellvia has more teen angst than Shingu is that there are no parents at the academy. In particular, Shipon’s mother’s juvenile prank at her send-off had to have been extremely isolating to Shipon. Nayuta not only lives with her parents (or at least her father), but she has been trained for her destiny since day one; although she clearly falls for Hajime, she never loses her self-control long enough to get herself kissed. It also helps that the female lead in Shingu falls for a normal human, while Shipon falls for her series unknowable god.

Just put it aside, I am not quite sure what juvenile prank Craig refers to. The special message was anything but juvenile and served to help Shipon, IMHO.

Anyway, it’s an excellent comment and it illustrates well what a blog without comments stands to lose. But we always knew that. The issue here is that species of Craig are just too rare to justify the expense of maintaining comments.

Get a goddamn blog, Craig. I’d link.

Stellviablogging ahoy

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Due to certain circumstances (mostly Jeff’s C&C), I’ve been stelivablogging a lot receintly, more than the show deserved, in fact. Nonetheless, there’s more. Using the no-blogging breather I also marathoned the first 10 episodes, conveniently packaged on 3 discs. It was fun, but also I saw lots of errors and mistakes.

I’d like to contrast Stellvia with Azumanga on this. Azumanga’s animation is quite basic, albeit solid. In the same time, it’s meticulous in its quality throughout. It has virtually no sticking nails to rip the pants viewer sliding along (well, I know of two layout bugs which I found by myself without reading any FAQs).

In contrast, Stellvia has tons of geometry mistakes and layer cross-overs. It cheapens out in many places by omitting smaller drawings, such as uniform patches. One of the worst examples is smack in the middle of ep.1, when the captain of Fujiyama reaches to control something on his dashboard, and it’s not drawn at all – not a single button. Faces get distorted improperly a lot, too. When Rinna talks to her father in the stadium, his speach is noticeably out of sync with his mouth, because the animators did not bother to animate anything like a natural pattern of speech; his jaw simply moves up and down at regular intervals, so no voice artist would be able to salvage it. It’s all over the place. So, while the line and shade counts exceed that of Azumanga, I would be hard pressed to assign Stellvia a better score for animation.

So, I’m getting curious about Shingu now. Screenshots that I’ve seen so far were quite impressive, but it may be a special selection (like the lead picture for this entry).

Rethinking mecha

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

It is quite plain that a certain level of anti-mecha sentiment festers among the anime fans. In my recent memory, Impz wrote about it, and so did Steven den Beste. The core belief here is mecha series generally tend to suck because the shiny metal takes the focus away from the characters and the story.

I used to subscribe to this notion, but I am starting to wonder if it’s true at all.

Over the years I saw a number of series and movies with mecha in them, and taking stock it becomes clear that quite a number of them did not suck outright. Here is the cream of the crop:

  • Banner of the Stars: I’m going to go on a limb and consider the assault ship a degenerative mecha. It is crewed with 20, but we only ever see 5. The amount of gizmo obsession going around there can put Macross to shame (I am talking about the cutaway views of VF-1 here). Fans of the franchize discuss solemnly the imaginary properties of weapons and ships in the way Gundam fans do. So it really is a mecha series, but it provides excellent story and characters.
  • Dai-Guard: An underappreciated series with the goofiest-looking giant robot. Surprisingly deep characters and an interesting storyline, and there’s more going on than meets the eye at first. I think I watched it first at a convention when nothing else was available. What a serendipitous chance.
  • Stellvia/Vandread: Essentially twin series in my mind. Decent story and characters in both, although the mecha is not goofy like in Dai-Guard, just impossible and/or magical. Stellvia I watched because I liked the OP; SDB’s relentless advocacy made me watch Vandread.
  • Gurren-Lagann: This I dropped after the 3 episodes to ease my fansubbing duty because I knew it was going to be licensed. But it’s a very decent series with manic action. Bloggage was quite positive.
  • IDOLM@STER Xenoglossia: Dropped too, but it’s on my list to watch if I have money when it’s licensed in R1. Cutest animation; characters somewhat shallow, IMHO; plot is driven by a conspiracy and girlmecha.
  • Macross, or whatever the right name is. I place it undeservingly low on the list, I know. More about it below…
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: Parts are good, parts are bad. Referrential, breaks the 4th wall, uses patterns too much, has filler, and the harem lead sucks. But it still has a certain amount of goodness. I haven’t seen the ending yet.

To be sure, quite a number sucked as well. I didn’t like NGE much (although perhaps I didn’t watch it right), GiTS:SAC was a silly derivative, Sakura Wars the Movie was ruined by the whitewashing of the prewar Japan, Dual was not too bad as far as mindless fluff goes, but failed to resolve the harem, Escaflowne the Movie was goth, Voltron‘s mechanical tigers were ludicros, Macron 1 was just old rank-and-file series, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs ditto, and the less is said about Zoids, the better (except that admitting to watching that should be as embarrassing as to watching Yu-Gi-Oh).

In the end, the final suck ratio is not that bad. Harems produce about the same divide, too, for instance. It may be some kind of Sturgeon law in action. Why single out mecha for punishment then? There’s no rational reason.

But if done right, mecha provides interesting possibilities. My personal favourites would be the ace and power multiplier. They were provided by air forces, especially during the WWII, in the real life, so they are realistic. Anyone with a martial arts experience knows how a stick multiplies power of an adept user, but is dangerous for an inept one. More sophisticated weapons tend to magnify this effect. This is how Galland’s Experten, Bong, Pokryshkin, and Sakai came about. These people were fascinating. All mecha needs to do is take this a bit further (but it has to stop before the progression reaches the absurd if director is any good).

Now that my worldview is adjusted, I’m going to give mecha a fair consideration. In simple words, gotta see me some of dat. But what?

Gundam is obvious. I always avoided it because the franchize was too extensive, with a truly bewildering array of series. But after reading about it on the Net, it appears that there’s not all that much that stands out. I saw some of the W in the U.S. broadcast and the story seemed overstretched. The 0083 looked like having good comedic moments (I wanna hear the following classic in the original Japanese: “Yes, sir!” — “Don’t call me “sir”, you idiot! I’m your enemy!”), but it was too little. Brickmuppet linked an article about 0080 at ANN, which seemed interesting but not quite there. So, after careful consideration, I’m going to look at 08th MS Team for starters and then we’ll see.

I’d love to see Macross too. I saw bits and pieces here and here, and it looked intriguing. But I still cannot figure out what the definitive version is. Also, it’s long in all incarnations.

Finally, I am going to watch the new NGE movie. Maybe Asuka is not such a bad bitch in it anymore. One can only hope.

These three items should do mecha justice that it was denied, and I’m going to keep an open mind in the future (Kaminaaaaaaaaa).

UPDATE: Nick Istre writes:

Just to throw out one hypothesis, it might be a reaction to the sometimes rabid fanbase of mecha? I know a few people who are hardcore mecha fans. Heck, a few of them form the core of “Mechacon” that’s held here in Louisiana.

Could be.

Reader Michael Gardner asks what is GiTS:SAC a derivative of. Of the original movie, of course, which was quite good. Coincidently, the movie didn’t have any mecha (unless we consider a tank a mecha). It certanly didn’t have a mechanical insect with an outhouse stuck to its butt.

UPDATE: Oh, snap. Netflix lists 08th MS Team as “3-disc series”, starting with v.2 (ep.4). It’s not just “availability unknown”, but seems like v.1 never existed. Now what? RACS seems to have v.1 on sale for $12.98… I wish I knew it last week when the previous order went in (I gave up on hunting RahXephon and just ordered a thinpack). Still, ordering a standalone v.1 seems retarded, so I suppose the best course of action would be to netflix v.2, check if it’s any good, then get a thinpack. Hey, the out-of-order thing is all the rage these days since it worked for Haruhi.

UPDATE: Owen insists that I watched Code Geass. In my judgement, it is too fresh to rub with the likes of 08th MS Team, so I added it to the common queue. It is #40 now. I might see it in about 18 months from now if nothing bumps it.

UPDATE 2007/09/10: Fledge makes a post about upcoming live-action Robotech (which is an ugly child of Macross, or perhaps vice versa). I am not holding my breath, because of two words: Wing Commander. Hollywood is capable of trampling any great franchize into dirt.

UPDATE 2007/10/14: Watched 08th MS Team. I torrented the gaps in Netflix’s coverage.

Shingu second pass

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Back when I encountered Shingu, I expressed a hope for better connection with it on the second pass. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out. I only see more animation errors (e.g. Hajime closes the door on the borrowed camera). One plot move became more dubious with the second take: when Moriyama carried out Harumi’s body out of the closed-off space, he should’ve not had the ability to do so. On the upside, the final explanation made more sense this time around. So, it was a wash. Enjoyable? Yes. Favourite? Hmm…

One good thing about Shingu is its consistent quality throughout. In Stellvia I do not rewatch anything between the end of the Great Mission and the beginning of the Genesis Mission. In Shingu, it’s all the same level and can be rewatched in sequence.

Konfetto

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Buying this key prop of Stellvia gave me a weaboo thrill. Strange, never thought myself one.

My old teeth are unable to handle it. Another dream ruined.

UPDATE: Badger, Owen, and The Big N have Stellvia on their respective to-watch lists, and haven’t seen it yet. That’s a minor annoyance: I hate Ayaka so much, but I have nobody to discuss it with.

Also, they said it was called “konpeitou”. Why do they know it without seeing the anime?

UPDATE: Now everyone is telling me that I am supposed to suck konpeitou instead of gnawing it. It’s a sugar from hell, as hard as diamond. But in Stellvia, everyone was cracking it! Are you telling me the anime is a lie? My world is ending.

Also:

<Avatar|LS> I actually learned about Stellvia from konpeito, not konpeito from Stellvia ;p
<Avatar|LS> Pocky had a jar of it, I tucked in, asked him what it was… turned out he was busy translating Stellvia ;p

Heh. The “LS” in the nick seems to indicate that he’s busy timing and mastering Lucky Star. Work harder, Andy! Work smarter! I need my Miyuki fix!

UPDATE: It turned out that they sell it in Nijiya in SF, and it looks like this:

It’s not anywhere as hard as its counterpart above. Odd.

Kamichu vs Aria

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I’ve been on a rewach spree recently — mostly lying in my bag and hugging the iPod Video, so the pre-encoded[1] old favourites constituted the bulk of my diet: Stellvia 25 26, Ai yori Aoshi 01 02, Kamichu 05 12 and so on. Stellvia is as exciting as ever[2], and Aoi is as lovely as ever. But I think I see Kamichu in a somewhat better light after seeing Aria. The betrayal of viewer’s expectations was probably unintentional, and skethy animation[3] is not bad when the screen is small (I have serious problems with the perpetual fogginess in Aria too). I’m pretty sure the lovers of Aria and Kamichu would appreciate the bulk of Windy Tales too.


Okusan, shopkeeper was right

Only a small request

Juvenile prank? Apple from the tree…

The bunny approves saving the humanity

What is in the guitar case?

We never even learned her name

[1] As an aside, Apple really sucks. Every normal player, even a contemporary of my ancient iPod Video, such as Cowon D2, plays normal .avi without transcoding. I would’ve never bought the blasted thing, but the mind rays of Steve Jobs made my family to get it as a present, and now I am stuck with it until it dies.

[2] The strange thing is, in theory it should not be so exciting, since, unlike its twin series Vandread, the opposing force is only a depersonalized natural phenomena, which is not malicous. Still, the triumph of the humanity is personal for everyone involved.

[3] Note that the movement was good. It’s just the lack of material (see the unfilled kerchiefs and dissolving lens frames). Also, for some irrational reason it peeves me how Ben-ten rises behind an obscuring figure. How much have they saved by resorting to such petty trick?