larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Yotsuba runs)
I do not generally pay as much attention to vidding as I do other fannish activities* -- possibly for the same reasons I don't actually watch very much in the way of television or movies. But I did find it fun to pick through the master list of this year's Festivids (sometimes described as the Yuletide of vidding -- focusing specifically on fandoms rarely vidded). Some I found particularly interesting:

Winter’s Bone to "White Chalk" by hollywoodgrrl -– The focus here is mostly on the relationship between the siblings, with a song that is pitched almost perfectly to the movie's tone.

Spirited Away to "Kids" by Shati -– Catches moments where the song's lyrics apply startlingly well (the line "take only what you need from it" is only the start).

Pride and Prejudice (1995) to "Superfly" by blithesea -- Because in his own mind at least, Mr. Collins is superfly.

Lego Star Wars to "9 to 5" by eruthros -- The workday life of a Lego stormtrooper a la Dolly Parton.

Pacific Rim to "Moves Like Jagger" by Di, who calls this "Moves Like Jaeger" -- Focus on the moments when jaegers and pilots move like they're dancing. (Honorable mention among Pacific Rim vids to "King and Lionheart" by vi0lace, which I thought did the best job of focusing on Mako Mori -- but which does not have the sublimeness of mecha disco time.)

And for the pure silliness: Monty Python and the Holy Grail to "Drive My Car" by sabinetzi -– Coconut horses during the chorus -- 'nuff said.

I didn't watch everything, just what caught my eye. Your mileage may vary. Recs posted by weight not volume.

* Short shameful confession: I keep thinking that one of these years I'll learn some minimal vidding skills, just so I can do an Aria vid to Iron & Wine's "Passing Afternoon" focusing on Akari/Neo Venezia -- which is, after all, the real OTP of the series. But so many things, so little time.

---L.

Subject quote from "Uncharted," Sara Bareilles.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (completed)
Our arthouse cinema's Studio Ghibli fest means I finally got to see Only Yesterday (original title Omohide poroporo, "memories trickling"). This is one of the two Ghibli movies that haven't been distributed in the US even though Disney has the rights -- probably because of the discussions of menstruation sparked by an elementary school health class.

Briefly: Taeko is a 27-year-old single Tokyoite in 1982 who is take a two-week vacation working on a relative's farm (her brother-in-law's sister's), which brings up memories of fifth grade and a frustrated summer trip to the countyside. As the movie progresses, the memories start to literally intrude on her present life, with her younger self and classmates appearing around her as part of flashback transitions. (Once, girl!Taeko peeks around a adult!Taeko's train berth, sees the audience, gasps, and hides again.) Eventually the reason for why that age in particular becomes clear, as her adult self is, like her early adolescent self, also on the threshold of a life change that she's not at first conscious of.

Ghibli is known for its lush landscapes, but this? -- this has the best backgrounds I've seen in a Ghibli movie. A gorgeous and fluidly animated work of cinema. Part of this is driven by the director's soapboxing on the importance of Japanese agriculture, organic farming, and the purity of rural life -- which gets, um, a little heavy-handed. That part is, actually, the movie's main flaw. (Significantly, the entire adult!Taeko story was added by the director/scriptwriter -- the original manga was just a memoir of childhood.)

Otherwise, it is a very good movie. Adult!Taeko is believably wise in some ways and still fumbling in others, girl!Taeko is indeed in early adolescence, and Toshio is adorkable and almost deserves her. And the climax, especially the moment when girl!Taeko shyly shakes her older self's arm, physically interacting for the first time, is moving. As is the final image of girl!Taeko looking after adult!Taeko, having been left behind because the memories are no longer needed.

It deserves to be better known.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Iceland)
Our local arthouse theater is doing another Studio Ghibli festival -- this time focusing the non-Miyazaki movies. Last night, we saw Whisper of the Heart, my favorite Ghibli movie not directed by a Miyazaki (tho' Hayao wrote, storyboarded, and produced it). It has a lot of good things to tell young creative artists, especially writers. I love love love that the novel Shizuku writes is, based on the snippets we see, a hot mess. One that, now that she's finished it and so knows she can finish a novel, she can sit back and revise. And, yanno, go back to studying for exams. Also, somehow being a stalker with a library card manages to be more charming than ye typical teenage stalker with a crush.

What particularly struck me this time through was the translation of "Country Roads" that Shizuku does for her friend in the school choir. Her first version is more-or-less literal (to order of a few miscontruals), and also stilted and even more trite than the original, as she herself recognizes. For her revision, she aims for lyrics that match the spirit and the general situation of the original, and gets something that's much better. (This is even obvious in subtitles.)

No lessons for older creative artists to learn here, nope ...

(Eventually, I'll have something more coherent to say about Only Yesterday, which I finally saw, beyond "ohmygawdsthesceneryporn." But not quite yet.)

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Yotsuba runs)
An interesting analysis of the visual rhetoric of the opening of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Good discussion in comments, too. (via)

A useful comic explaining the transgender experience with a simple analogy. (via)

An awesomesauce alt.country cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice." (via)

---L.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
Uta Koi episode 5 was another double-barreled one -- the poem Kisen recited also being from Hyakunin Isshu, #8. Though of course the bulk (call it 5 part a) was Komachi's story.

Which takes place in the early spring of 860, in the aftermath of episode 1a -- over a decade after episode 4, with Narihira going on 35. That Narihira traveled to Mikawa Province (modern Aichi Prefecture) is attested in attested in KKS #411-412 -- the irises were a visual reference to that first poem. The date of Yasuhide's appointment as secretary of Mikawa, attested from Komachi's response is to his invitation in KKS #938 (the one he rightly had so much trouble interpreting), is unknown but 860 is consistent with his known career. Combining the two trips is good plotting. Taking along Komachi, of all people, is just whack. I love talespinning like that.

Other references: The Fuji poem Komachi goes "otaku" over is another HI poem, #4. Narihira's moon-viewing comments plays off another famous KKS poem of his. I didn't catch the poem Komachi recites at the start, and haven't rewatched yet.

Confession time: I guessed wrong about Komachi's poem )
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
Uta Koi episode 5 was another double-barreled one -- the poem Kisen recited also being from Hyakunin Isshu, #8. Though of course the bulk (call it 5 part a) was Komachi's story.

Which takes place in the early spring of 860, in the aftermath of episode 1a -- over a decade after episode 4, with Narihira going on 35. That Narihira traveled to Mikawa Province (modern Aichi Prefecture) is attested in attested in KKS #411-412 -- the irises were a visual reference to that first poem. The date of Yasuhide's appointment as secretary of Mikawa, attested from Komachi's response is to his invitation in KKS #938 (the one he rightly had so much trouble interpreting), is unknown but 860 is consistent with his known career. Combining the two trips is good plotting. Taking along Komachi, of all people, is just whack. I love talespinning like that.

Other references: The Fuji poem Komachi goes "otaku" over is another HI poem, #4. Narihira's moon-viewing comments plays off another famous KKS poem of his. I didn't catch the poem Komachi recites at the start, and haven't rewatched yet.

Confession time: I guessed wrong about Komachi's poem )
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (chibi)
It probably won't surprise anyone to learn I've enjoyed the heck out of the first 4 episodes of Uta Koi,* being a currently broadcasting anime adaptation of a manga of "super-liberal" interpretations of poems from One Hundred People, One Poem Each -- that is, linked short stories each depicting how particular poems might have come to be written. Despite the lovely visual stylizations, with bright colors, clothing with ostentatiously non-moving patterns, and rainfall marked by ripples across the screen, the best part so far just may be the depiction of Ki no Tsurayuki as a complete dork. "Those were not compliments. Those were insults."

It took me more time than I like to admit to work out the chronology of stories** -- the creators are sticking fairly close to known official history. Spoilery details gaze pensively at the late-autumn rains from behind a cut )

I'm impressed by the choice of stories for the first two episodes: Narihira's lesson to Yôzei about how poetry can be used to tell the truth slant is key to the whole enterprise, the elaboration of a sort of secret history for the poems, and they wanted to clue the audience into this as quickly as possible -- which could be done only once Narihira was established as an exemplar. (See also Tales of Ise.) Also, who Munesada/Henjô's poem was written about is kinda brilliant, in a couple different directions. I want to see where they're taking that thread, you betcha.

For course, part of the fun for me is catching the occasional unmarked reference to other poems of the era, outside Teika's One Hundred People -- mostly from the Kokinshu and Man'yoshu, but I suspect I'm missing others. (Note that the poem of Empress Jito that Yoshiko recites in ep.3 is also from OHP.) I'm pretty sure the stories stand on their own without this background, though. The references to some of the darker political overtones are more important, and they explain those.


* Link is to Crunchyroll, which works in the US -- I have no idea whether they'll stream outisde the country, tho'.

** Aside from Narihira's age getting misstated, it's is not as confusing as I initially thought. Tho' drawing all the principals as if in their early 20s, even when they're in their teens or 50s or 70s, is a bit distracting.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (chibi)
It probably won't surprise anyone to learn I've enjoyed the heck out of the first 4 episodes of Uta Koi,* being a currently broadcasting anime adaptation of a manga of "super-liberal" interpretations of poems from One Hundred People, One Poem Each -- that is, linked short stories each depicting how particular poems might have come to be written. Despite the lovely visual stylizations, with bright colors, clothing with ostentatiously non-moving patterns, and rainfall marked by ripples across the screen, the best part so far just may be the depiction of Ki no Tsurayuki as a complete dork. "Those were not compliments. Those were insults."

It took me more time than I like to admit to work out the chronology of stories** -- the creators are sticking fairly close to known official history. Spoilery details gaze pensively at the late-autumn rains from behind a cut )

I'm impressed by the choice of stories for the first two episodes: Narihira's lesson to Yôzei about how poetry can be used to tell the truth slant is key to the whole enterprise, the elaboration of a sort of secret history for the poems, and they wanted to clue the audience into this as quickly as possible -- which could be done only once Narihira was established as an exemplar. (See also Tales of Ise.) Also, who Munesada/Henjô's poem was written about is kinda brilliant, in a couple different directions. I want to see where they're taking that thread, you betcha.

For course, part of the fun for me is catching the occasional unmarked reference to other poems of the era, outside Teika's One Hundred People -- mostly from the Kokinshu and Man'yoshu, but I suspect I'm missing others. (Note that the poem of Empress Jito that Yoshiko recites in ep.3 is also from OHP.) I'm pretty sure the stories stand on their own without this background, though. The references to some of the darker political overtones are more important, and they explain those.


* Link is to Crunchyroll, which works in the US -- I have no idea whether they'll stream outisde the country, tho'.

** Aside from Narihira's age getting misstated, it's is not as confusing as I initially thought. Tho' drawing all the principals as if in their early 20s, even when they're in their teens or 50s or 70s, is a bit distracting.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (mesquite)
That time of year thou mayst around me behold ...

Er, sorry 'bout that -- between bouts of Ramayana I've been snorking Elizabethan sonnet cycles, which is affecting my diction. Frankly, it's that time of year where I've little of my own self: the monsoon storms* have arrived -- our first t-storm was Wednesday night, at dark-o'clock when no one was awake enough to appreciate it. The sky is hazed and blotched with clouds, the evaporative cooler barely works** in this humidity -- and it's breaking 100F before 9am. In short, this bear is of very little brain.

So in lieu of anything thoughtful, some links what's made me thinks:

From Manga and Philosophy, ed. Josef Steiff and Adam Barkman (365 Books, Day 177) :
The essay about why Westerners keep reading manga characters as looking white summarizes the entire situation in the most concise terms I've ever heard it stated: to Western comics readers, white is an unmarked state, so they expect markers if the characters are Japanese; to Japanese readers, Japanese is an unmarked state, so they expect markers if the characters are anything else. It behooves the Western reader to be aware of this -- that 'they look white to me' argument basically means 'I expect Japanese people to look different from the usual'.
This. Expecting otherness = problem. Othering = problem.

From this post:
Talent + money + time + willingness to work + courage + luck must be sufficient. Abundance of one can make up for lack of others.
I have the feeling this proposition is not universally extensible, but I'm not sure what parts are off-kilter. (via)

Publishers and the internet: a changing role?. Yes, it's Cory Doctorow, but it's one of the more sane bits of commentary on the changes e-publishing is bringing about that I've read. Or maybe I say that only because what he says agrees with my assumption that the changes aren't killing the "big six" but are resulting in another (set of) distribution channel(s) alongside them. That is always possible. (via)

I'm sure I had another, but I seem to have lost it in the sofa cushions ...


* Correct name: the moisture is, in fact, the tail northeastern end of the tropical weather shift that brings the monsoon to India, the early summer rainy season to Japan, and thunderstorms up the Mexican Cordillera. Global weather patterns: they link together.

** ETA: And this morning, wasn't working at -- short in the power supply. I've jury-rigged a repair ...

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (mesquite)
That time of year thou mayst around me behold ...

Er, sorry 'bout that -- between bouts of Ramayana I've been snorking Elizabethan sonnet cycles, which is affecting my diction. Frankly, it's that time of year where I've little of my own self: the monsoon storms* have arrived -- our first t-storm was Wednesday night, at dark-o'clock when no one was awake enough to appreciate it. The sky is hazed and blotched with clouds, the evaporative cooler barely works** in this humidity -- and it's breaking 100F before 9am. In short, this bear is of very little brain.

So in lieu of anything thoughtful, some links what's made me thinks:

From Manga and Philosophy, ed. Josef Steiff and Adam Barkman (365 Books, Day 177) :
The essay about why Westerners keep reading manga characters as looking white summarizes the entire situation in the most concise terms I've ever heard it stated: to Western comics readers, white is an unmarked state, so they expect markers if the characters are Japanese; to Japanese readers, Japanese is an unmarked state, so they expect markers if the characters are anything else. It behooves the Western reader to be aware of this -- that 'they look white to me' argument basically means 'I expect Japanese people to look different from the usual'.
This. Expecting otherness = problem. Othering = problem.

From this post:
Talent + money + time + willingness to work + courage + luck must be sufficient. Abundance of one can make up for lack of others.
I have the feeling this proposition is not universally extensible, but I'm not sure what parts are off-kilter. (via)

Publishers and the internet: a changing role?. Yes, it's Cory Doctorow, but it's one of the more sane bits of commentary on the changes e-publishing is bringing about that I've read. Or maybe I say that only because what he says agrees with my assumption that the changes aren't killing the "big six" but are resulting in another (set of) distribution channel(s) alongside them. That is always possible. (via)

I'm sure I had another, but I seem to have lost it in the sofa cushions ...


* Correct name: the moisture is, in fact, the tail northeastern end of the tropical weather shift that brings the monsoon to India, the early summer rainy season to Japan, and thunderstorms up the Mexican Cordillera. Global weather patterns: they link together.

** ETA: And this morning, wasn't working at -- short in the power supply. I've jury-rigged a repair ...

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (vanished away)
There is a scene about three-quarters of the way though Spirited Away in which a girl rides a train for three minutes. Nothing happens, but you don't care, because it is beautiful and astonishing and quiet and the emotional climax of the story.

The girl, Chihiro, is traveling with a mouse that used to be a baby, a mosquito-bird-thing that used to be a sorceress's familiar, and a masked spirit that used to be a monster. She herself used to be a ten-year-old brat, and she is taking a one-way trip* on the Soul Train to return a signature seal that was stolen from a witch by her friend, a dragon. Everything Chihiro has gone through and grown through aims toward this scene. That she is even ON the train shows how much she has matured. The rest of the movie is just wrapping things up. Which, yes, involves the plot climaxes of redeeming the dragon and then her parents from bondage, tests of her identity and ability. But her journey is capped by this journey. And it's perfectly animated, directed, and scored.

There's one moment that nearly breaks my heart: departing a station, we look back at a shadow of a girl on the platform watching the train pull away -- waiting for some spirit who didn't get off. Two seconds, nothing dwelled upon. A single moment, and then it's gone, as this is not her tale. Stories, intersecting, departing.

And then there's the music. I've gotten so conditioned, that initial low piano line with its simple progression of slow broken chords, sometimes backed by strings -- just hearing that makes my hair stand up. And then that descant that starts at the shadow-girl's station ... *shiver*

The scene in question (Greek dub, because you don't need to know what little is being said, really).

Live concert performance of the music, with composer Joe Hisaishi on the piano:




* We are told it used to travel both ways. So many implications in that one line.


---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (vanished away)
There is a scene about three-quarters of the way though Spirited Away in which a girl rides a train for three minutes. Nothing happens, but you don't care, because it is beautiful and astonishing and quiet and the emotional climax of the story.

The girl, Chihiro, is traveling with a mouse that used to be a baby, a mosquito-bird-thing that used to be a sorceress's familiar, and a masked spirit that used to be a monster. She herself used to be a ten-year-old brat, and she is taking a one-way trip* on the Soul Train to return a signature seal that was stolen from a witch by her friend, a dragon. Everything Chihiro has gone through and grown through aims toward this scene. That she is even ON the train shows how much she has matured. The rest of the movie is just wrapping things up. Which, yes, involves the plot climaxes of redeeming the dragon and then her parents from bondage, tests of her identity and ability. But her journey is capped by this journey. And it's perfectly animated, directed, and scored.

There's one moment that nearly breaks my heart: departing a station, we look back at a shadow of a girl on the platform watching the train pull away -- waiting for some spirit who didn't get off. Two seconds, nothing dwelled upon. A single moment, and then it's gone, as this is not her tale. Stories, intersecting, departing.

And then there's the music. I've gotten so conditioned, that initial low piano line with its simple progression of slow broken chords, sometimes backed by strings -- just hearing that makes my hair stand up. And then that descant that starts at the shadow-girl's station ... *shiver*

The scene in question (Greek dub, because you don't need to know what little is being said, really).

Live concert performance of the music, with composer Joe Hisaishi on the piano:




* We are told it used to travel both ways. So many implications in that one line.


---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Japanese)
I recently came across the Japanese idiom/proverb korogaru ishi ni koke musazu -- "a rolling stone does not grow moss." This is used with a meaning opposite that in English: patience is a virtue, perseverance pays off, stop rolling around and stay put and you'll eventually grow moss -- moss being pretty and a sign of age and stability. Rather than, keep moving or you'll get old. An admonition, not excuse.

It's not the words that matter as much as how they're used.

Which statement can be sliced in a different direction. As someone who knew Japanese poetry only through translation, I had a preference for poetry from earlier parts of the period covered by the Hyakunin Isshu -- the Man'yoshu and Kokinshu eras, up to around 900 AD. However, working through the final poems of the anthology, from the late 12th/early 13th century, I find it very difficult to come up with translations that feel even adequate, let alone good. It's not so much the allusions to other poems all over the place, which can be handled by footnotes just like they would in an English work, as the frequent shifts of tone and phrasing and referents. It's making me step back and take another look at what I wasn't liking when I was reading them in English.

For my main language practice, I've returned to poking my way through Ooki na Mori no Chiisa na Ie, better known in English as Little House in the Big Woods. It continues to stretch my reading comprehension, and given the leisurely plotting it's not like I'm missing a zippy story by plodding through a half-hour to a page. One difficulty I have (aside from boning up on a vocabulary associated with frontier life) continues to be consistently recognizing comparatives, and when I do see them, identifying what is the more/better and what the less/worse. And between Mary and Laura, there's a lot to compare. The presence of yori helps, but as you know Bob, not all constructions use it. Also, I need to sit down and memorize counters already. Dammit.

After/alongside that, I have a handful of shoujo manga (including a Chiho Saito short story collection about various performing arts) and a children's book about a stray dog that's pitched even younger than Little House, judging by the type size and even less kanji. None of which I have English versions of -- look, Ma, no parachute!

One day, someone's going to write a story about a contemporary Japanese schoolgirl who gets reincarnated as a tyrannosaur named Ralph, and it will be AWESOME. (Rather than the other way around, which sucked.)
Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.
Roger Ebert on My Neighbor Totoro.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Japanese)
I recently came across the Japanese idiom/proverb korogaru ishi ni koke musazu -- "a rolling stone does not grow moss." This is used with a meaning opposite that in English: patience is a virtue, perseverance pays off, stop rolling around and stay put and you'll eventually grow moss -- moss being pretty and a sign of age and stability. Rather than, keep moving or you'll get old. An admonition, not excuse.

It's not the words that matter as much as how they're used.

Which statement can be sliced in a different direction. As someone who knew Japanese poetry only through translation, I had a preference for poetry from earlier parts of the period covered by the Hyakunin Isshu -- the Man'yoshu and Kokinshu eras, up to around 900 AD. However, working through the final poems of the anthology, from the late 12th/early 13th century, I find it very difficult to come up with translations that feel even adequate, let alone good. It's not so much the allusions to other poems all over the place, which can be handled by footnotes just like they would in an English work, as the frequent shifts of tone and phrasing and referents. It's making me step back and take another look at what I wasn't liking when I was reading them in English.

For my main language practice, I've returned to poking my way through Ooki na Mori no Chiisa na Ie, better known in English as Little House in the Big Woods. It continues to stretch my reading comprehension, and given the leisurely plotting it's not like I'm missing a zippy story by plodding through a half-hour to a page. One difficulty I have (aside from boning up on a vocabulary associated with frontier life) continues to be consistently recognizing comparatives, and when I do see them, identifying what is the more/better and what the less/worse. And between Mary and Laura, there's a lot to compare. The presence of yori helps, but as you know Bob, not all constructions use it. Also, I need to sit down and memorize counters already. Dammit.

After/alongside that, I have a handful of shoujo manga (including a Chiho Saito short story collection about various performing arts) and a children's book about a stray dog that's pitched even younger than Little House, judging by the type size and even less kanji. None of which I have English versions of -- look, Ma, no parachute!

One day, someone's going to write a story about a contemporary Japanese schoolgirl who gets reincarnated as a tyrannosaur named Ralph, and it will be AWESOME. (Rather than the other way around, which sucked.)
Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.
Roger Ebert on My Neighbor Totoro.

---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
An anonymous poem translated by John Brough in Poems from the Sanskrit:
My lord, since you have banished Poverty
From this fair land, I feel it is my duty
To lay an information that the outlaw
Has taken refuge in my humble home.
Ah, the lot of poets everywhere. One hopes he got something for his wit, and not banishment himself.

Remember all my blither about the Cross Game anime? It's been licensed by Viz, and currently being streamed from their website (and Hulu). The first volume of the English manga comes out October. Let's see if a slice-of-life romance with sports mixed in can sell in the Anglosphere.

The Penguin Book of Restoration Verse ed. by Howard Love - Now that was an interesting revelation. I've long admired Dryden, and had read Rochester as well as those Cavalier Holdovers, Waller and Sedley, but otherwise not much from the period, at least that stuck in memory. More fool me.

The Restoration generations were not much good at passions aside from scorn (the bulk of the love poetry is pretty shabby, aside from the smut) -- but they did wonders for creating a conversational tone in poetry, which is a lot harder than you might think. They then used this for descriptions of daily life full of vigor ("full of the thing," as Byron put it), for smooth narratives that carry the story along whatever mood can keep it flowing, and for satires that fit more disdain into a single couplet than most Elizabethans managed in an entire poem. Oh, and smut. I need to track down unexpurgated collections of Rochester and Durfey (or D'Urfey).

The heirs of the Restoration, Pope and his lot, took their achievements and formalized them, in more ways than one. If all you know is Pope and Johnson's sort of closed couplets, you need to back up a few years.

Angel Voice (Tenshi no Uta) by Kumi Makimura - Yes, the story is a fairly standard shoujo music industry romance, complete with love polygon centered on the heroine. But it's got two interesting things going for it: first, that the initial relationship tangles are not shown on stage but are backstory that's slowly dripped into the present, and second, that the concert art, particularly when Mayu is singing, is gorgeous. The best display of music's emotion through silent art I've seen since Nodame Cantabile, and more beautiful than that. (unlicensed, scanlations available through volume 4)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - I liked this a lot when I was, what, twelve or so. Now I'm more dubious of the didactic allegory that wears the appealing drapery of logic-chopping whimsy very lightly. It's rather telling that I remembered nothing that happened after leaving Digitopolis, and that's where the message starts to determine the events. The parts between Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, inclusive, where Milo wanders around hardly getting anywhere on the quest are still quite fun, and recommended for the right sort of precocious child of a certain age.

Future Boy Conan, ep.1-15 - When we saw a snippet playing in a Japanese restaurant, my reaction was "low-budget anime TV series from the late-70s directed by someone heavily influenced by Hayao Miyazaki." I wasn't too far off, all things considered: it's actually a low-budget anime TV series from the mid-70s directed by Hayao Miyazaki -- as in, it was his last TV show before graduating to feature movies. Adapted (I gather with some padding to fill out 26 episodes) from The Incredible Tide by Alexander Key, but really, what it looks and feels most like is a first draft of Laputa/Castle in the Sky, with especially Lana and Conan as early versions of Sheeta and Pazu, along with other character analogues. As for the show itself, it is, um, clearly low-budget and while the corners are cut with cleverness, it's still rather languidly paced for an adventure yarn. Possibly the most interesting aspect is seeing what Miyazaki does with a boy-centric story instead of his later stories of strong female protagonists -- though Lana can also rescue herself, as needed. Also, the toy ship? So. Darn. Cute. Especially in episode 8. (unlicensed, fansubs complete)

Twin Spica v.1 by Kou Yaginuma - The backstory: 14 years before, when Our Heroine was an infant, Japan's space program was set back by a failed manned rocket launch that crashed in a populated area. Asumi's mother died, she survived, her father, an engineer who worked on the rocket, quits the program, and the ghost of one of the astronauts became her informal mentor to her dream of becoming a "spaceship driver" (as she put it in first grade). And now, today, she is applying for the first class of Japan's new high school for future astronauts. So, a school story with science-fiction elements plus a ghost. In a by-the-numbers series, this would give us, well, a school story like any other. This, though, has a serious indie comix vibe to it, which makes sense as it's a lead title for Vertical's new manga line -- with a sort of melancholy atmosphere that's especially surprising once one realizes that it originally ran in a magazine that features bikini babes on the cover. There's a lot of Past hanging over Asumi's head, and over her friends. And a lot of future to create. Recommended.

Ôoko: The Inner Chambers v.1 by Fumi Yoshinaga - Oh my. Yes. This. Go. Read. Now.

Found handwritten on a bookmark at the start of chapter 14 of a used copy of Romance of the Three Kingdoms:
Desire spawns madness
Madnes collapses into disaster
Mankind never learns
The misspelling is telling, no?

---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
An anonymous poem translated by John Brough in Poems from the Sanskrit:
My lord, since you have banished Poverty
From this fair land, I feel it is my duty
To lay an information that the outlaw
Has taken refuge in my humble home.
Ah, the lot of poets everywhere. One hopes he got something for his wit, and not banishment himself.

Remember all my blither about the Cross Game anime? It's been licensed by Viz, and currently being streamed from their website (and Hulu). The first volume of the English manga comes out October. Let's see if a slice-of-life romance with sports mixed in can sell in the Anglosphere.

The Penguin Book of Restoration Verse ed. by Howard Love - Now that was an interesting revelation. I've long admired Dryden, and had read Rochester as well as those Cavalier Holdovers, Waller and Sedley, but otherwise not much from the period, at least that stuck in memory. More fool me.

The Restoration generations were not much good at passions aside from scorn (the bulk of the love poetry is pretty shabby, aside from the smut) -- but they did wonders for creating a conversational tone in poetry, which is a lot harder than you might think. They then used this for descriptions of daily life full of vigor ("full of the thing," as Byron put it), for smooth narratives that carry the story along whatever mood can keep it flowing, and for satires that fit more disdain into a single couplet than most Elizabethans managed in an entire poem. Oh, and smut. I need to track down unexpurgated collections of Rochester and Durfey (or D'Urfey).

The heirs of the Restoration, Pope and his lot, took their achievements and formalized them, in more ways than one. If all you know is Pope and Johnson's sort of closed couplets, you need to back up a few years.

Angel Voice (Tenshi no Uta) by Kumi Makimura - Yes, the story is a fairly standard shoujo music industry romance, complete with love polygon centered on the heroine. But it's got two interesting things going for it: first, that the initial relationship tangles are not shown on stage but are backstory that's slowly dripped into the present, and second, that the concert art, particularly when Mayu is singing, is gorgeous. The best display of music's emotion through silent art I've seen since Nodame Cantabile, and more beautiful than that. (unlicensed, scanlations available through volume 4)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - I liked this a lot when I was, what, twelve or so. Now I'm more dubious of the didactic allegory that wears the appealing drapery of logic-chopping whimsy very lightly. It's rather telling that I remembered nothing that happened after leaving Digitopolis, and that's where the message starts to determine the events. The parts between Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, inclusive, where Milo wanders around hardly getting anywhere on the quest are still quite fun, and recommended for the right sort of precocious child of a certain age.

Future Boy Conan, ep.1-15 - When we saw a snippet playing in a Japanese restaurant, my reaction was "low-budget anime TV series from the late-70s directed by someone heavily influenced by Hayao Miyazaki." I wasn't too far off, all things considered: it's actually a low-budget anime TV series from the mid-70s directed by Hayao Miyazaki -- as in, it was his last TV show before graduating to feature movies. Adapted (I gather with some padding to fill out 26 episodes) from The Incredible Tide by Alexander Key, but really, what it looks and feels most like is a first draft of Laputa/Castle in the Sky, with especially Lana and Conan as early versions of Sheeta and Pazu, along with other character analogues. As for the show itself, it is, um, clearly low-budget and while the corners are cut with cleverness, it's still rather languidly paced for an adventure yarn. Possibly the most interesting aspect is seeing what Miyazaki does with a boy-centric story instead of his later stories of strong female protagonists -- though Lana can also rescue herself, as needed. Also, the toy ship? So. Darn. Cute. Especially in episode 8. (unlicensed, fansubs complete)

Twin Spica v.1 by Kou Yaginuma - The backstory: 14 years before, when Our Heroine was an infant, Japan's space program was set back by a failed manned rocket launch that crashed in a populated area. Asumi's mother died, she survived, her father, an engineer who worked on the rocket, quits the program, and the ghost of one of the astronauts became her informal mentor to her dream of becoming a "spaceship driver" (as she put it in first grade). And now, today, she is applying for the first class of Japan's new high school for future astronauts. So, a school story with science-fiction elements plus a ghost. In a by-the-numbers series, this would give us, well, a school story like any other. This, though, has a serious indie comix vibe to it, which makes sense as it's a lead title for Vertical's new manga line -- with a sort of melancholy atmosphere that's especially surprising once one realizes that it originally ran in a magazine that features bikini babes on the cover. There's a lot of Past hanging over Asumi's head, and over her friends. And a lot of future to create. Recommended.

Ôoko: The Inner Chambers v.1 by Fumi Yoshinaga - Oh my. Yes. This. Go. Read. Now.

Found handwritten on a bookmark at the start of chapter 14 of a used copy of Romance of the Three Kingdoms:
Desire spawns madness
Madnes collapses into disaster
Mankind never learns
The misspelling is telling, no?

---L.
larryhammer: text: "space/time OTP: because their love is everything" (space/time otp)
Recursions and inversions that a time loop can reverse. Along various axes.

Sometimes, the levels of recursion are obvious: Bakuman is about the struggles of a pair of teenagers, a writer and illustrator, to become manga creators for Shonen Jump, the magazine that publishes Bakuman. The loop creates is short-lived -- to be replaced by interest in the struggle to become manga creators for Shonen Jump. The series is at its best with the nitty and gritty details of how the manga business works at the pressure cooker of the industry's largest magazine. Much of the rest is kinda meh, actually -- especially the boys' relationships with their girlfriends, which was almost the sole carrier of civilian drama until the recent hospital arc, which was as stupid as a bag of clown shoes. But the boys' creative lives as they learn the ropes, that's where it fascinates. Licensed edition coming soon from Viz, scans current.

For a better recursion, there's Omae ga Sekai o Kowaishitei nara ("If You Wanna Break Out of This World"). When an old vampire turns a teenage girl who turns out to be the reincarnation of the vampire who turned him, the power games make for interesting feedback loops. The story adds thematic texture with other reincarnation loops, and other short-circuits. Yes, in some ways it's just another vampire story, with very Western vampires, but I love that sketchy art style. Two volumes, unlicensed, scans complete.

Recursing in another direction, there's the time loops of The Girl Who Lept Through Time -- multiple and overlapping, most which ultimately get canceled out in one way or another. I'm not entirely sure it landed the conclusion, as the plot logic seems to have been overridden by emotional logic, but otherwise the plotting is tight -- as needed in a time travel story. The animators made good use of their feature film budget, too, without getting too flashy about it. (Though, am I the only one to get Azumanga Daioh flashbacks from some of the character designs?) Licensed DVD released and readily available.

So why do some recursions work better than others? Meta itself isn't necessarily the best sort, or Bakuman would work better, though when done well meta can be most excellent. Thoughts?

---L.
larryhammer: text: "space/time OTP: because their love is everything" (space/time otp)
Recursions and inversions that a time loop can reverse. Along various axes.

Sometimes, the levels of recursion are obvious: Bakuman is about the struggles of a pair of teenagers, a writer and illustrator, to become manga creators for Shonen Jump, the magazine that publishes Bakuman. The loop creates is short-lived -- to be replaced by interest in the struggle to become manga creators for Shonen Jump. The series is at its best with the nitty and gritty details of how the manga business works at the pressure cooker of the industry's largest magazine. Much of the rest is kinda meh, actually -- especially the boys' relationships with their girlfriends, which was almost the sole carrier of civilian drama until the recent hospital arc, which was as stupid as a bag of clown shoes. But the boys' creative lives as they learn the ropes, that's where it fascinates. Licensed edition coming soon from Viz, scans current.

For a better recursion, there's Omae ga Sekai o Kowaishitei nara ("If You Wanna Break Out of This World"). When an old vampire turns a teenage girl who turns out to be the reincarnation of the vampire who turned him, the power games make for interesting feedback loops. The story adds thematic texture with other reincarnation loops, and other short-circuits. Yes, in some ways it's just another vampire story, with very Western vampires, but I love that sketchy art style. Two volumes, unlicensed, scans complete.

Recursing in another direction, there's the time loops of The Girl Who Lept Through Time -- multiple and overlapping, most which ultimately get canceled out in one way or another. I'm not entirely sure it landed the conclusion, as the plot logic seems to have been overridden by emotional logic, but otherwise the plotting is tight -- as needed in a time travel story. The animators made good use of their feature film budget, too, without getting too flashy about it. (Though, am I the only one to get Azumanga Daioh flashbacks from some of the character designs?) Licensed DVD released and readily available.

So why do some recursions work better than others? Meta itself isn't necessarily the best sort, or Bakuman would work better, though when done well meta can be most excellent. Thoughts?

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (anime)
Since everyone and their grasshopper seems to do television posts, I suppose I should as well. This being the only current show I'm keeping up with.

Anime adaptation of the award-winning manga by one of the modern masters of the form, Mitsuru Adachi. His metier is the sports manga, and this is his third great baseball series (the others being Touch and H2) -- but that ... understates so much. He writes not so much sports stories, as stories in which sports are one medium for the expression of character arcs. A closer approximation to the genre would be "understated romantic comedy with sports". And that includes this series, which like most of his works is unlicensed boo.

The anime has been remarkably faithful to the manga, not only in the sense of sometimes storyboarding directly off the page, but in maintaining the characters as well as story's spirit. The pacing, especially, is pitch perfect -- not so slow that younger viewers will get bored but slow enough to develop exactly why we care about these characters so much. What changes they've made, aside from trimming Adachi's good-natured fanservice,* have been are mostly in two areas:

1. At the start of the of series, events were restructured to put the climax of volume 1 at the end of episode 1 -- which meant moving some scenes later, after the timeskip, to be presented as flashbacks. This on top of Adachi's common use of flashbacks as part of characterization. As a result, after a wowser of an episode closer, the next couple episodes are a bit wobbly as stories-in-themselves. Things shake out by episode 4, though, so stick with it.

2. Aoba, one of the two protagonists, is even better served by the anime. Specifically, the anime-original characters and the so-far two-and-a-half episodes of original story all serve the purpose of focusing attention on why, given girls' baseball is a growing thing in Japan, she joins a boys' team even though she can't play in tournament games. This question is somewhat glossed over in the manga. The anime hasn't answered the question yet -- indeed, it's only recently, now that Aoba has been excluded for the first time, become a conscious question for her -- and if the producers are any good the answer won't come until the series climax. But the result is already a more complex characterization of what was already Adachi's best female character yet.

(Added bonus: getting to hear how Aoba drawls "Kitamura-semmmpai" at Kou is delicious. Cranky obsequiousness FTW.)

The series, both anime and manga, are ongoing. At the current pace, the anime will catch up with the manga somewhere around episode 52, at the end of volume 18.** And that happens to coincide with my sense of about how much is needed to wrap up all storylines in flight -- the manga is currently in the middle of what should be*** the penultimate game. The final game, of course, will be Wakaba's dream: Kou, Akaishi, and Aoba in Koshien, seen in the anime's opening scene, and we don't even need to watch the game played out -- I eagerly await learning how its starting somehow resolves the four relationships between the five central characters and their attitudes towards Wakaba.

Anyone else following this? or just us grasshoppers?


* Not only skipping his frequent cheesecake scene-setting panels (bikinis, cheerleaders, sports bras, et cet.) but also removing the panty-shots from the handful of plot-relevant scenes that had them. The show airs 10am Sunday, prime children's market -- current episodes have been running a drawing contest complete with catchy theme song, with winners mostly 5-9 years old. No loss, really.

** Episode 25 adapts a couple chapters from the middle of volume 9. The latest chapter is from mid-what-will-be-volume 16, so another 25 weeks of manga serialization, including breaks, gives us almost exactly enough chapters to fill volume 18.

*** Unless, of course, Wakaba's dream isn't of the team's first game in Koshien. Adachi does like to play ironies upon reader expectations.


---L.

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