In memory of 2011 appendix: the list

That is to say, the stuff I watched in 2011. It’s much shorter than my 2010 list…which is reflective of how my free time just disappeared due to the course I’ve been doing…one more semester to go!

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In memory of 2011 その12: サヨナラノツバサ

And my favourite of the year is…Macross Frontier: Sayonara no Tsubasa. Representing, of course, the entire Frontier experience.

It was obvious, wasn’t it? That it would come to this. Right from the end of last year, where Macross Frontier took the first spot on my first ’12 days of fandom’ review.

That said, it was only in 2011 that I really dove into Macross, particularly Macross Frontier. After seeing the first film at the cinema in January 2010, I really put it aside completely until October of that year (when the DVD/BD came out), to the extent that only one of the books, magazines and media that I brought home from Japan was about Macross – the Perfect Triangle guidebook for the first film. (A friend of mine in Japan has recently been finding out just how stupid that decision was – there has been a fair amount of eye-rolling and laying into me for that.) And then the Frontier Rewatch began, and I started to see the series and characters in different ways.

Perhaps it would help to take a look at my Macross ‘obsession’ over the last year:

  • Finishing of the Rewatch on AS
  • Making a detour to Ikebukuro to watch the 2nd film, and backtracking again a week later to visit the Sunshine 60 exibition
  • Translating comments, interviews and information to share with the non-literate
  • Watching SDFM, DYRL, Macross Plus and rewatching Macross Zero
  • Committing myself to clarifying the ‘canon’ issue
  • Rewatching both films several times once October 20th came by
  • Heavily editing the translation for the 2nd film because the first sub was…incredibly disappointing (I will also be editing the most recent one out, even though it’s much better)
  • Listening to the soundtrack over and over and over and over again

Hm…I think that’s about it. But it’s certainly a far greater involvement in the franchise and the fandom than I expected when I walked into that cinema on February 28.

And so, the story of two songstresses,
and also of a sword dancer, continues out of our reach…

Ultimately though, that one detour is what it comes down to. If I had to do the impossible and narrow it down to one moment that represents 2011 in anime for me, it would be the giddiness I felt when I walked out of the cinema, the feeling encapsulated by “OMG Kawamori-sensei, you didn’t just do that…”

But that’s precisely what he did. Give us the perfect way to end the Frontier story, that is. Though whether you feel that way or not may well depend, IMHO, on whether you ‘get’ what he has done. It’s taken me just over three years to make my way from weekly anticipation, through great disappointment, and ambivalence…all the way to possibly the greatest satisfaction I’ve ever felt for a series. Yes, it rivals Code Geass, Hagaren and Honey and Clover in my book. Technically, Macross Frontier is not perfect – is anything ever? – but basically, the feeling I had when I finished the Hagaren manga – that’s what I feel for Frontier now. Thank you, Kawamori Shouji, and お疲れ様でした!! I’ll definitely be looking forward to whatever you have in store for us this year!

p.s. That said, the one thing that Frontier did not achieve, at least in my book: better dogfights than the king of them all, Macross Zero… Even though he completely dissed the series that made my year, I have only one word for Itano Ichiro: AWESOME!

In memory of 2011 その11: of trolls, disagreements, and interesting discussions

In which I return, sort of, to the second big obsession that claimed my life.

"They have a cave troll."

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In memory of 2011 その10: 「UN-GO」と安吾、真理は何だろう?

UN-GO is, in my humble opinion, the most interesting anime series broadcast on TV this year. Despite there being many reputedly excellent shows that slipped me by, ending up on my backlog, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that none of them will be as philosophically challenging and interesting as UN-GO.

I’m not sure how many people realised, but the title of ‘UN-GO’, which you pronounce as if they are English words rather than Japanese (i.e. ‘un’ as in ‘unlike’ rather than the うん used as a casual ‘yes’ in Japan), is a direct reference to the author who wrote the stories upon which most of the cases were based. Apparently, the essays of Sakaguchi Ango are required reading for high schools in Japan, though I certainly don’t recall hearing about them when I was there. Possibly a result of my school being quite low on the academic scale – here‘s one such essay, and its damned difficult to comprehend!

But thank goodness for translators like Quarkboy, who found and gave us the relevant section of the above essay.

Pardon me. I am completely hopeless. Why? Because I am no teacher. I am a student. And yet I dare to lecture.

I am but a single ball of unease. I am just searching. Be it women, the truth, whatever. I leave it to your imagination. I am just, definitely, searching.

However, that thing known as truth does not exist. Namely, truth has always been that thing which is searched for. People search endlessly for the truth, but the truth will never exist. It is a thing whose existence comes from that it is being searched for, and whose existence therefore implies its none existence. If there comes a time when truth comes into existence in our mortal realm, when truth’s existence is here before us, then humans will have ceased being human. Humans will be nothing but pigs in the form of humans. The truth will be fed to humans, and the humans will eat it, no different than pigs.

I did away with traditional Japanese thinking, and denied the concept of the impermanence of things (mono no aware) and the thinking of the occult. However, what I say is not the truth, or anything close. It simply has some meaning of the era. I, defeated, for the sake of the defeated words, the lies are seen through, the arguments are won. Putting my denial aside, I once again hold true the impermanence of things. There is no need for something like a dialectic. What I am talking about is obvious. People die. Things break. Just like the Hojoki states, there is nothing which does not break.

I have been broken from the beginning. All I am doing is searching. “You. Why do you search?” Because I am not so grand as to not be searching. I am not so grand as to say “This is a pain” and sleep for eternity without eating.

I search. And, along the way, I create. I create things with all my might. But, these things will all surely break. But, for just me, with my effort, they just barely stay intact. But beyond that I can do nothing.

If that is to be judged by the corner that runs counter to the public order and morals of the world, then I have no intention of being judged by the public order and morals.

I must be judged only by myself. Probably, I am also no longer a judge of “humans”.

I will discuss this in greater detail when I actually ‘review’ the series after I’ve seen episode 0, but the whole idea that the ‘truth’ is something that people forever search for but never completely arrive at is very compelling. Or, to put it in a different way, different people will see different truths depending on how much or how little you know, and it may never to possible to know the entire truth. It’s something that has really been brought home to me this year by real-life events too, and I sincerely wish that showing this series to the relevant person would help them realise that. Unfortunately, that’s quite unlikely to happen.

But the bottom line is, more than politics, or Japanese national identity, or anything else I saw people comment about before the final episode, UN-GO really was about the nature of ‘truth’. And that is one of the main factors that has made it my favourite anime TV series of 2011.

In memory of 2011 その9: the big ones I missed

As would happen in a year where study and real life take precedence…

Scratch that…for it’s happened to me every year since I started learning Japanese. There’s only so much one can watch when most series also bring a pile of new items to the reading list!

So, here are the shows that I did not watch, but which, due to the “OMG! That development!” and “Great final episode!” posts on yaraon, not to mention the new subforums that graced AS and the crazy number of comments on RC, have made it onto my backlog.

Steins;Gate

Mawaru Penguindrum

Tiger & Bunny

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Whether I watch them to completion is another matter altogether, but at the moment, I intend to find the time to do so. As for the other two big ones – Hanasaku Iroha and Fate/Zero…I’m still debating about the latter, and definitely don’t intend to watch the former at all. It’s not that I think it’s something it’s not (i.e. something like Kanon/Air etc), but I’m just not interested.

In memory of 2011 その8: 佐藤くん、まだヘタレだけど、かっこいい...

Happy New Year! Which also brings us to the 8th post of this yearly review.

This past season has been a good one for comedies in my book, what with Kimi to Boku also giving me huge laughs week after week. But Working’!! is definitely where my loyalties lie at the moment, after an excellent final episode that more than rivals the former’s own strong offering this week.

The moment that stayed with me this season, however, is better described as being heartwarming:

Satou, smiling gently as he asks Yachiyo to talk about Kyoko as she always does...

He thus reassures her of his fondness for her normal self…

…earning a happy smile in return…although he also pays for it…

There’s no doubting it – Satou is still pretty much a wimp about this unrequited love of his, but just like Takanashi in episode 9 of the first season, he really shows his cool side here. Hence, it’s Satou’s turn to make my list for the year gone by. Just who will be on next year? ^^

In memory of 2011 その7: 六等星の夜

Now, the second song which racked up over a hundred repeats on my playlist (even though the last few months involved repeating the playlist from an entirely different franchise) was “Rokutousei no Yoru”, the ending theme of No.6.

It’s an interesting title to translate – I had a brief look at some of the translations a few months ago, and one translator (whom I just can’t find again…although some major translation sites also state this now) noted that a “rokutou” star is the dimmest star that can be seen by the naked eye, which comes from one way of classifying stars, apparent magnitude (m). Under very good conditions, there are approximately 9,500 stars that are meant to be visible to the naked eye…

(and ack…I keep coming back to Macross – that says something about Michel counting the stars in the first Frontier film, huh? Although, if the Frontier Fleet is nearer the center of the galaxy than we are, then perhaps there are more stars that they can see anyway…)

Back to the point, what I took it to mean is that a ‘night of sixth magnitude stars’ would be an incredibly dark night. That is to say, I’d go for a translation like

‘The Darkest Night’

In memory of 2011 その6: 翻訳に没頭した?

I first started translating back in 2008, after about a year of residence in Japan. Looking back now, some of the work I produced then was simply embarrassing…though admittedly, I’ve made some gaffes this year too…

Whaat? At least I admit it: learning Japanese will be a lifelong process for me, though hopefully one that I’ll be able to continue whilst picking up a few other languages.

But anyways, from all the Macross stuff I decided to bury myself in, to interviews by Fushimi Tsukasa and Asano Atsuko and the occasional tweet or blog post, not to mention the series I sort of got involved in translating (in the end, however, the people who asked me to translate disappeared, taking all their projects with them…), 2011 really presented to me a new horizon in terms of translation. Although I have a few things to finish in the new year, such as the Macross F commentaries that I was working on, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be that productive ever again. So, before I go, let me present the final project I worked on this year: A Day in Alcatraz.

Disclaimer:
as always, these translations are entirely my own work. Feel free to quote, link etc if you wish, but please don’t claim it as your own. Also, there may well be a few mistakes here and there…do let me know if you happen to spot something ^^

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In memory of 2011 その5: CLANNAD and Kyoani as the pinnacle of character animation

Having gone through what I consider to be my fair share of anime adapted from (eroge) Visual Novels – including Kanon and Air – I fully intended to avoid CLANNAD completely. It doesn’t help that these kinds of works are often filled with features less desirable to viewers like yours truly…

…such as fanservice and extremely exaggerated reactions…

However, cornered by a dearth of Yuukyan during the spring and summer seasons, I finally caved in. And listened to the episode commentaries whilst I was at it. For the most part, I found them pretty boring a lot of the time, but those for the few episodes of CLANNAD After Story where Ushio appears were actually really informative. I’d never before taken much of an interest in character animation, particularly that of mannerisms, facial expressions etc etc in Japanese anime. It just never seemed to compare to what Disney and Pixar et al achieved by animating the expressiveness of Tom Hanks and others like him…especially in the action series that I kept watching.

But one thing that caught my attention was a discussion about the most difficult expression to animate:

A look of realisation…this being when Tomoya realises that Ryou likes him…

At the time, I really thought it was pretty damn well done!

 

But I kind of forgot about that until I got to the latter half of CLANNAD After Story, where…

The mannerisms and expressions that they animated for Ushio are simply amazing…not to mention the snowflakes reflected in her eyes!

And now, I’ve got a new-found appreciation for excellent character animation. I just wish the CLANNAD commentators named all of the animators they talked about, so that I’d know exactly who to beg to join e.g. SHAFT or Satellite!

Just kidding.

But I really do have that new-found appreciation, and I really wish some of those animators had worked on certain other series!

In memory of 2011 その4: 黒猫万歳!!

Last year, she was just one of nine other memories that I just wanted to talk about somehow. This year, she’s got an entire post to herself, for it was in the extra episodes were released earlier this year that Kuroneko really shone through as a winning character. At least, in my books.

That smile! And that courage! What is there not to like?

At times quiet, at times temperamental, at times showing her great devotion to her friends. That’s what Kuroneko had been before Kirino left for the States. Her entrance into Kyousuke’s school gave the readers/viewers a glimpse at her awkwardness in society, and provided the trigger for upper- and under-classmen to get closer, which a certain group of fans gushed (or cheered) over. But it was Kuroneko’s sensitivity and great concern for Kirino and Kyousuke, something that really comes to the fore in the 8th volume of the novels, that has given her a place of her own on this list.

Come on Fushimi-sensei, give us a good, believable ending!