Anime & Manga Discussion Thread

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Re: Anime & Manga Discussion Thread

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Apr 02, 2016 12:05 am

I ordered volumes 1-4 of Emma by Mori Kaoru, as suggested by Bush Leagues and Ayame. I was sceptical at first of it being a fetishistic pastiche on the Victorian period-romance, but after the recommendations here and reading a bit into the concept and backstory, I thought a manga written by someone who is both (like me) an Anglophile and a lover of Central Asia and Persia, would be incredibly interesting to read.

~~~

Rewatching another GAiNAX classic, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990-1991).

I'd seriously forgotten just how much I love this series. It's kind of the Ur-Vernesque adventure anime, a classic in its own right; perhaps it's the same kind of nostalgia that makes me love GunBuster so much.

It should be a story familiar to anyone even loosely familiar with the Verne-inspired canon: a young, bright, optimistic and kindhearted budding young inventor, scientist and orphan named Jean-Luc L'Artique is in Paris for the World Fair of 1889. He is attempting to help his uncle win the Fair's aviation competition, when he meets an athletic, dark-skinned girl named Nadia (and her pet lion King) who is fleeing from a gang of jewel thieves led by Señorita Grandis Granva. Jean uses his wits, pluck and inventiveness to get her out of a sticky situation, and thereafter agrees, as one fellow orphan to another, to help her find her lost homeland. This quest, after several false starts, leads them to join up with Captain Nemo and his crew of the Nautilus, in their battle against the sinister organisation Neo Atlantis. Nadia's only clue to her identity is the Blue Water, a jewel that she inherited from parents she cannot remember (and the same jewel that Señorita Grandis keeps trying to steal!), which also connects her fate to Captain Nemo, the Nautilus, his enemies, and the mystery of the lost continent of Atlantis.

I should say that this series isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Though it retains a childlike sense of wonder and adventure throughout, thus still showing the fingerprints of Hayao Miyazaki (who had worked on the concept throughout the 1970's before going on to do his own work, and passing the project to the likewise-talented Hideaki Anno), it also has a markedly schizophrenic feel. It can literally go, within the space of minutes, from wacky slapstick antics (usually involving Grandis and her henchmen Samson and Hanson), to swashbuckling high adventure and action, to philosophical-psychological musings on human nature, violence, war and peace, and the relationships between grownups and children. This tendency lends a remarkable breadth to the show's universe, of course, but it can be a bit jarring at times. Hideaki Anno is already showing some of his postmodernist dissatisfaction with his medium in this. The cold, aloof, goal-oriented, seemingly strict and unfeeling father figure (see Coach Ohta in Gunbuster, and Gendo Ikari in Eva) is present in Captain Nemo. And Nadia - not exactly the most likeable of characters at the best of times - can angst with the best of them. There are episodes (particularly episode 35) which reach Eva-like levels of existential / Freudian psychological crisis on Nadia's part.

All the same, the cast features characters with depth and personality - and even the Grandis Gang are saved from becoming a premonition of Team Rocket. Grandis and Samson in particular have compelling backstories, and Hanson bonds strongly with Jean over their shared interest in science, technology and discovery. It's also fun to see the mentor-pupil rapport between Grandis and Nadia, and Hanson (and Samson) and Jean, when it comes to life lessons and learning to grow up. Samson's brotherly

and, as we learn in the epilogue, more-than-brotherly


affection for Marie is also given plenty of opportunity to shine, with both funny and genuinely heartwarming moments.

And then there are the Island arc, the Africa arc and the execrable musical clip show episode, which even Hideaki Anno himself hated (with the exception of the Red Noah episodes at the end of the Island arc).

Nadia goes from being distrustful, stubborn and slightly withdrawn - typical teenage girl - to being a completely-sanctimonious, unfeeling and selfish brat practically overnight. She becomes an ethical-vegetarian crusader with no sense of self-awareness, blows Jean and even Marie off at every turn, and blows up at Jean for things that are legit NOT HIS FAULT. The pace of the show grinds to a halt, the themes become repetitive, childish and (to be blunt) boring. And the Africa arc shows Nadia getting (in a manner completely out-of-character) infatuated with a random African tribesman at the drop of a hat even as her relationship with Jean has been deepening.


Honestly, I've said this before and I'll say it again. The best way to view these episodes is that they all take place in Jean's head, and are the result of the bad shrooms trip Jean goes on in episode 25. Jean totally loses his sense of time and proportion in episodes 26-29, becomes lucid enough to function in episodes 30 and 31, and then relapses into a really bad trip in episodes 32 and 33 before going on a full-blown psychedelic musical freakout in episode 34, while all the time Nadia, Marie and the Grandis gang are trying to keep him from hurting himself. That's the best possible explanation for the Island episodes that I can come up with.

In all seriousness, though, the show seriously picks up from episode 35 on, and the showdown in Earth orbit between Nemo's Nautilus crew and Gargoyle at the end is nothing short of epic, and that's not a word I use lightly. Speaking of Gargoyle, by the way, even his character was three-dimensional enough that he was a love-to-hate-him villain - he has real motivations, he is utterly ruthless in his pursuit of power, and he recapitulates a lot of the show's themes of the dark side of scientific progress.

And his being revealed as belonging to the human race he hated all along, and turning into a pillar of salt after trying to touch the Blue Waters, was, as Nemo made clear, a turn of poetic justice. Also draws together the whole 'divine judgement' motif they were going for.


Topically, the show covers a surprising amount of ground. I was quite surprised on re-viewing it how it touched upon the topics of the upsides and downsides of the Industrial Revolution and technological progress, European colonialism (ironically using Neo Atlantis and its covert war against the European powers to explore the imperialist mentality), militarism, scientific positivism and the crises of modernity more generally. Again, this is probably reflective of the attitudes exhibited in Hayao Miyazaki's other work, but it's still interesting to see these things explored in another way.

I'm glad I got to watch it again; for all its inconsistencies and flaws (particularly in pacing and characterisation), it is a brilliant work!
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Re: Anime & Manga Discussion Thread

Unread postby Ayame » Tue Apr 05, 2016 5:03 pm

I recently watched Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Trigun.

Currently watching Berserk, Magic Knight Rayearth, and some other shows.
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Re: Anime & Manga Discussion Thread

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Apr 06, 2016 5:59 am

Ayame wrote:I recently watched Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Trigun.

Currently watching Berserk, Magic Knight Rayearth, and some other shows.


I loved Trigun; it hit just the right mix of comedy and action, and managed to provide a fairly thoughtful (but not pretentious) commentary on war, peace and human nature, as an added bonus. And I thought what little I watched of Fullmetal Alchemist was... alright, with an interesting concept but less-than-compelling characters. As I think I've said before, though, I thought DeathNote sucked. Pretentious poseurish masturbatory ersatz-grimdark piece of fanboy excrement.

Haven't seen Berserk or Magic Knight Rayearth yet. Berserk looks like it could be kind of cool; not so sure about Magic Knight. I've never really gotten into (or even really understood that much) the 'magical girl' subgenre.

~~~

Rewatching another GAiNAX series, Kareshi Kanojo no Jijō (His and Her Circumstances) (1998), at the moment. The last of the great 'classic' works by Hideaki Anno.

Overachieving model student Miyazawa Yukino enters high school at Hokuei in Kanagawa Prefecture with the ambition of being universally admired for achieving the top rank in her class. However, she is confronted with another incoming freshman, overachieving model student Arima Sōichirō. Immediately she views him as her archrival and begins plotting his downfall. However, her model-student behaviour is only a social ruse; in fact, she spends hours and hours both studying manically and attempting to achieve the appearance of perfection, though at home she tends to be lazy and unkempt. As skilful an actress as she is, she keeps a friendly front around Sōichirō, who starts to develop a crush on her. When Sōichirō comes to her house to give her a classical Brahms disc she'd expressed an interested in, she greets him at the door in her track suit and glasses with a flying kick.

Sōichirō uses his newfound knowledge of Yukino's 'true nature' to not-quite-blackmail her into spending time with him, during which time Yukino begins to reciprocate his crush. They become friends, and later a couple; in doing so they help each other grow out of the masks they'd put on to the world. During this time, they are faced with a number of setbacks to their relationship - scheduling conflicts, jealous classmates, falling grades, disciplinary action from their teachers - but they weather them all and grow even closer because of them.

This show seems to have three settings.

a.) Slapstick animated sitcom - anytime Yukino is in the same screen with her sisters Tsukino and Kano and her parents, basically, or most of the times she's with her friends (Tsubaki, Aya, Rika, Maho and especially Tsubasa). Wacky hyperactive super-deformed antics and character-driven humour with some genuinely hilarious moments..

b.) Standard high-school shōjo romance - Yukino and Sōichirō, mostly.

But also Tsubasa and Kazuma. And the love-hate slap-slap-kiss between Tsubaki and Takefumi.


Mostly this part is handled pretty tastefully, but there's still a lot of the expected schlock: long, slow shots of meaningful glances and gestures and blushing cheeks and blowing sakura petals and onscreen Japanese cursive writing standing in for inner monologues. For the most part this is pretty sweet-and-innocent, and I like the character growth that Yukino and Sōichirō both go through - it makes sense, it progresses well and it provides some meat and stakes to the story such that you really want them to end up happy together in the end. Sometimes Sōichirō can get a little creepy, though; he has major trust issues and can come off as a bit stalkerish and controlling at certain points. Speaking of which:

c.) A Freudian mess of self-loathing, complexes and teen angst - come on, this was co-written by the same man who made Eva; you really think you could get a show out of him where his inner demons didn't make it front-and-centre at least once? But mostly Sōichirō here, coming as he does from a broken home and being loathed by most of his wealthy relatives for it. However, other characters (Tsubasa; Kazuma; Takefumi; Maho; even Kano at times) each get their chance to display their fair share of psychological baggage over the course of 26 episodes.

So we have a split-personality-disordered wacky screwball happy-go-lucky coming-of-age high-school comedy-romance with a strangely gloomy streak. And make no mistake: like with Nadia and even GunBuster, this show can turn on a dime from light to dark and back quicker than you can say 'Oedipus complex'. Which makes a strange viewing experience, but the end result is actually fairly enjoyable for what it is.

And believe me, it's fun to watch Yukino and Sōichirō grow and mature as people, outside of their relationship to each other, even though events proceed pretty quickly in what was meant to be the first season of a three-season show. You pick up on the beat of and get invested in the fairly expansive cast of supporting characters and their interrelationships fairly quickly, which is a testament to the superior quality of the writing.

That said, the quality of the show drops pretty heavily around episode 19. The entirety of which was done - I kid you not - with cut-and-paste xerox copies, rough pencil sketches and puppetry with still sketch figures glued onto popsicle sticks and waved in front of the camera. That's all the more frustrating because during the previous episode,

Sōichirō took Yukino back to his house and had sex with her, during one of the most bizarrely-symbolic spacebreak sequences I've seen in quite a while


which you would think would have much more serious consequences than it did. And the last few episodes are dedicated to a stage production written by Aya for the school's culture-fest, which I don't think we ever actually get to see.

Also, the super-deformed stuff is cute and charming at first, but by the end it gets a bit old. Also, much of the humour is referential or self-referential, and can literally consist of big blinking neon signs pointing to a character and writing on the screen what they're thinking or what their personality would make them do in such a situation. This is undoubtedly effective in the original Japanese, but the subtitles often struggle to catch up with the written text, and there are 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' points where the text just goes right over your head unless you back it up and play it frame-by-frame.

Still, a very high-quality show, if you can deal with its frequent mood swings, goofball humour and occasional dark twists.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
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Re: Anime & Manga Discussion Thread

Unread postby Bush Leagues » Mon Jul 18, 2016 10:06 am

I recently re-watched then re-read Azumanga Daioh.

I first read the manga as a high school student, where I fell in love with it and found it completely hilarious. The story, such as it is, is based around 6 high school girls, and a few supporting characters. Sakaki, Yomi, Osaka, Tomo, Kagura, and Chiyo-chan are the main group, with Kaorin, Miss Yukari, and Miss Kurosawa, their English and Gym teachers providing the main supporting characters. Kagura doesn't come in until later, and could be considered a supporting character, but I consider her important enough later on, personally.

The manga is very slice of life, to the point of being organized in 4-panel frames, like a comic in the newspaper would be. There's really no overarching plot, outside of the girls going through high school and preparing for university once they graduate. The anime isn't too different, and will cover a few different mini-stories, although in a more connected fashion.

The art isn't quite the best, but the humor is good, and there's nothing really offensive here. It's a fun, easy-going read.

I must say that after watching the anime and then re-reading the manga again, I think I prefer the anime. If only for a particular episode that features Ms. Kurosawa in a way that never occurred in the manga, which has since become my favorite episode. The anime has superior art than the manga, I think, and certainly doesn't mind taking it's time on some occasions. Like the manga, the anime is fun and easy going. It was very enjoyable to watch.

Aside from that, I've also read through another Manga, Liar Game.

The story follows Kanzaki Nao, a young girl going to college (I believe) who gets roped into something sinister. One day, she receives a mysterious package at home. Inside is 100 million yen (about 1 million USD) and a letter saying that she is now participating in the Liar Game, and that she has given her consent by opening the package (complete BS, but whatever, gotta get the plot going). She and her opponent have both been given 100 million yen, and they are tasked with attempting to steal whatever they can from their opponent within 30 days. At the end of 30 days, the company will return to collect the original 100 million yen loaned out to the players - if they managed to steal any from their opponent, they may keep the excess. If they lack the full 100 million, the company will get their money back - by any means necessary.

After her opponent dupes her and steals all the money very quickly, she turns to an ex-con who has been released just recently for help. Shinichi Akiyama was convicted on Fraud charges, but not after single-handedly dismantling a company that had conducted many shady dealings from the inside. He agrees to hear out Kanzaki's plight, and then decides to try helping her out. Together, the two face the Liar Game, with all it brings with it.

Interestingly, this manga was adapted into a live-action TV show for Japanese audiences. I've found most of the episodes on Youtube after just a cursory search, but have only watched the first one. It was decent, although quite a bit different from how TV shows are done here. The cultural differences made watching it a little wonky as a result.

This manga reminds me of Yu-Gi-Oh season 0 a bit - with Kanzaki playing the role of Yugi and Shinichi playing the role of Yami. The various different games come up, and Shinichi, being the "game master" has to figure out how to win in difficult circumstances. Meanwhile Kanzaki continuously plays the hero, and doesn't want to harm others if it can be helped at all. I was a bit ambivalent on it at first, but decided to push through and see if I liked it, and I am glad I did. Kanzaki was much more likable to me than anyone else, which is fine since she's the main character, and I found myself constantly rooting for her. The various serious opposition that comes up and challenges the protagonists are legitimate, and interesting, if a touch shallow.

I want to mention the ending, since it was abrupt and kind of unexpected. Nothing really built up to it, so it kind of came out of the blue, and only really gets explored for a chapter or two in a manga that lasted over 200. Despite that, it had some interesting things to say, and was a bit thought-provoking. But it was so out of the blue and unexpected - not to mention not deeply examined, unlike so much else in the series - that I think some of the effect was lost.

Overall, I did enjoy it, and would recommend it to others who would like this kind of manga where the characters have to fight their way through a game.
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Re: Anime & Manga Discussion Thread

Unread postby Ayame » Sun Jul 24, 2016 4:26 am

So, I decided to re-watch Slayers. (Again)
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