A few brief words on my first forays into the Marvel Cinematic Universe…

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier The_Avengers_poster
Have a guess: which did I like more?

I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took for me to see these films. In fact, the only reason I ended up seeing them is because some friends and I made plans to see The Winter Soldier when it came out earlier this year. So I found myself with a mini-Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon on my hands. Having never been the biggest fan of Ironman – sacrilegious, I know – the only other two I managed to get through before our movie date were the first Captain America film, and The Avengers. And boy, did I ever regret the two years I’d missed!

I’m sure that millions of words have already been written about these films, so let me just stick with what really stood out for me, having seen these three in a short space of time: for me, the ensemble effort wins hands down. Whilst the Captain America films were well made, and arguably do better at creating a believable internal conflict for the title character than Man of Steel did for Superman (at least in my book), I still didn’t really find myself invested in Steve Rogers. He’s just not as compelling for me as other characters that have carried entire films, such as Batman (NB: the NolanBale incarnation), or even Wolverine. It’s not just the Captain, though – Ironman, too, is a character I don’t really like watching in his own film. Even though Robert Downey Jr is perfect as him, I find Tony Stark way too misogynistic and annoying to watch. (Well, it probably doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow…) However, throw them all into a pot and magic just unfolds. I loved the snarky interactions between Capt and Stark in The Avengers. Having a few other people around to break Hank McCoy’s melancholy also made him more palatable to me, and having the Black Widow and Hawkeye in the mix was icing on the cake.

But what really made The Avengers was that Joss Whedon was behind that recipe. Although I could certainly anticipate some of the jokes, such as The Beast punching Thor out of the room, or treating Loki like the god he’s…well…not, they still had me rolling on the floor. And I still grin uncontrollably at the post-credits scene, which I do know was filmed after the film actually opened in the States! In sum, whilst I did enjoy The Winter Soldier, and might be convinced to watch the second and third Ironman movies if my brother happens to have them on DVD, what I’m really looking forward to is next year’s Avengers instalment, The Age of Ultron. Due down under on April 24: bring it on, I say!

Looper: sometimes, it’s just better to suspend disbelief

looper-poster-quad1

Sometime far in the future, in a world where telekinesis has manifested itself amongst the population through a genetic mutation, technology has progressed to the point where all people are tracked, which makes it difficult for them to disappear. With the invention of time travel, the mob of that time solves this conundrum sending its targets backwards into the past. There, hooded and bound, they are killed by young hired guns whose reward is the silver strapped to their backs. These young men are known as loopers, for their own older selves are eventually sent back to be killed, for a final golden payday before they are free to live out the rest of their lives as they wish.

Joe is one such young man, though also one who dreams of a more cultured and meaningful life for himself after retirement. But then comes the day when his future returns to haunt his present life…

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Guilty Crown: ‘Political realities in my anime? Never!’

There is a certain rule on a forum I frequent that puzzles me a little, particularly now that I’ve spent just over a year tasting from the pot of Japanese politics. It’s that political discussions are actively discouraged because they are likely to descend into pointless debates and cycles of flaming. However, anyone with even a broad understanding of what’s been going on in Japan over the last half a century – the controversy over Article 9 and Japan’s place in the world; Japan’s push to be a permanent member of the Security Council; the minefield of apology politics; the depressing social effects of two decades of stagnation etc etc – would recognize that political themes run through a fair number of series. Gundam, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Code Geass, C, No.6, UN-GO – to name just a few of those I’ve seen. And that’s not counting the series where it’s ‘merely’ part of the background, but nevertheless grants those who are aware of it a deeper understanding on what’s going on in a particular show.

GHQ…doesn’t that remind you of anything…?

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Baccano! and the unfortunate paradox of innovative storytelling

I had planned to write about Chihayafuru for the next two weeks…but the last few chapters of the manga (specifically, 90-92) have thrown a spanner in those works…

Well, that’s one of the reasons I’m tackling Baccano! first – the other being that it’s been on my backlog for way too long. Baccano! had slipped under my radar until I watched the adaptation of creator Narita Ryougo’s other notable series, Durarara!!, whereupon almost everyone who’d seen the former lamented that the latter had not quite lived up to the high standards it had set. And now, more than two years later, I’ve finally sat down to find out why.

"You must throw it away, the illusion that a story must have a beginning and an end."

But where to begin? That is a brilliant question. And one that cannot be answered. As Gustave Saint Germain intones in the final episode

Stories have no beginning, nor do they have an end. All they have are people connecting with each other, working with each other, affecting each other, and the expansion of those connections throughout the world. Stories must never have an end.

Similarly, there is no main protagonist. Or perhaps, you could say that everyone is potentially the main protagonist, for the perspective of any story changes depending on the the position one views it from.

But let’s give it a shot anyway.

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Macross Plus: Macross for adults

Eden. A quiet planet where nature still dominates. A place where wayward pilots are sent to cool their heads by being restricted to fighter development. And the planet that will host the next performance of Sharon Apple, the virtual galactic superstar. These events bring a trio of childhood friends back together, forcing them to remember a buried past. At the same time, various authorities are making both public and secret preparations for the 30th anniversary of the end of Space War I…

I was going to use the title shot, but I like this one better...^^

In the entire Macross universe – as seen from the real world, anyway – Macross Plus seems to be the most universally acclaimed. There are few complaints about a lack of character development, of immature and obnoxious main characters, of fanservice, nor of bittersweet/unresolved endings. Fans express love for its music, plot and, most prominently in my own experience, its dogfights. It’s taken me far too long to fill this gap in my Macross education, but all I can say is that I’m going to have to join the ranks of those singing its praises – though admittedly, I may not be as positive as many others.

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「C」: Dream as though you will live forever, live as though you will die today

The noitaminA timeslot and its Fuji TV producer got a tonne of flak last year for some of the shows that showed up in the timeslot. Fractale is one. 「C」 – or, to use it’s subtitle as well, 「C」: the money of soul and possibility control – is another. I don’t really remember all the different things they lambasted 「C」 for, but some of the criticisms that stand out were that the female character designs were generally too ‘moe’, and the one-on-one bouts were a little too reminiscent of shounen fighting anime like Dragonball and Bleach.

Personally, I wonder if this preoccupation with how 「C」 represented a further step away from the noitaminA they wanted to see blinded these viewers from looking for value in the show itself. Frankly speaking, 「C」 is arguably the only anime – perhaps even the only TV show – of 2011 that has presented questions so relevant to life in the countries of the developed world.

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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!

Translation: misc Macross F stuff その5

Disclaimer:
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 ^^

Director Interview – Kawamori Shouji

pp.120-123 of the “Official Complete Book”

SnT_Kawamori_interview_01
Kawamori showing his cast his lego valkyrie model…

Notes:

For simplicity’s sake, after the first reference, I am calling the films False Diva and Wings. ——karice

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Translation: misc Macross F stuff その4

Disclaimer:
These translations are entirely my own work. There is a bit of extrapolation, but well, that’s the nature of Japanese, unfortunately – at least until someone asks Kawamori himself. Feel free to quote, link etc if you wish, but please don’t claim it as your own.

From Animedia, May 2011 issue, “After tea, it’s time to solve to mysteries…”

Please note that the block quotes represent comments made by Kawamori. Although these comments were originally ‘leaked’ and translated back in May, because of that Shaloom fiasco, I chose not to post them here until the article had been verified by myself and two other members of AS. Many, many thanks are due to the LJ acquaintance who kindly scanned it for me.

The young mistress: Pray tell me, what happened to Alto?! Is Sheryl ok? What happened to the triangle between Alto, Sheryl and Ranka?!
The butler: Please calm down. After you’ve had your tea, how about we resolve all of these questions? … Let’s start with the question about the triangle. Alto’s line was “I just want to tell you that I …” You weren’t able to hear the rest of that sentence, is that right? What do you think he said?
The young mistress: Well…um, “I just want to tell you that I…Ai-kun is cute ♥”
The butler: Amazing, my lady. Your character and taste come out clearly in those words. Here’s what director Kawamori said.

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Translation: misc Macross F stuff その3

Disclaimer:
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.

Voice Actor Interview, Endo Aya x Nakamura Yuuichi x Nakajima Megumi

Sayonara no Tsubasa “Official Complete Book”, p.54-57

Notes:

There is some extrapolation in a few places. Hopefully, it’s generally accurate otherwise – but if anyone spots any mistakes, please let me know!

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