When Fred asked me to rant while he's away, my first response was a large grin of the IRC variety. This was followed rapidly by maniacal laughter, and then by half a dozen potential topics racing through my head and being immediately discarded. There's no point in talking about the economy, or politics, or how variable the weather in southeastern Michigan has been of late. I can't talk about art or drawing - I'm certainly no artist. The dozen or so of you readers who actually know me and would be interested in hearing about my life have already heard it. As much as I like talking technical details of things, a technical post on some aspect of our setup here would leave many of you headscratching and wondering what language I was speaking. I mean, I could talk about why gpc_magic_quotes and register_globals being enabled in the PHP configuration of a NAS I bought from ThinkGeek has nightmarish implications for the Korean-built management software that comes with it, but that means nothing to most of you.
Well, not you, Sir Systems Administrator, but think of the rest of the readers.
So instead I'll start you off with a bit of what it's like to try to talk story directly with Fred. For whatever reason, you've decided that you want to nail Jello to a pole. Not just any pole, that would be too easy. This pole is in the middle of a parking lot in Phoenix, and it's a bright and sunny day in mid-July. So you start hammering, trying to ignore the bizarre squishing sounds. Inevitably, you hit your thumb. Once you finish demonstrating your prowess at profanity, you search the vicinity for your gelatinous escapee. You find it soon enough, half-evaporated and complete with a new coating of dust.
And your thumb still hurts.
Yes, it's kind of like that. No, I won't explain. Before anyone asks, I do indeed mean the Phoenix in Arizona. The one in the middle of a friggin desert. I don't really have anything against the place, but I come from the land of the ice and snow I'm from Michigan. It's just too hot for my blood.
I can hear you now. "Kal, when are you going to get to the point? Does this rant even have a point?" To which I respond "It does, I promise. Eventually." By which I mean "immediately."
Despite the manga-ness of Megatokyo, anime doesn't get a lot of play in the rants these days. It's past time I changed that.
Akikan had a promising start. It didn't take itself too seriously, and had at least one genuinely amusing character - Najimi. Unfortunately, this didn't last. It veered all too quickly into Serious Business with some kind of nonsensical tournament (aluminum cans versus steel cans - who cares?) and some extremely predictable "plot twists", as well as your standard gags. All of it got old fast. Najimi's still a good character, or was when I stopped caring, but she deserves a better show around her than Akikan. I watched four episodes, and decided enough was enough.
RideBack is somewhat better thus far. Admittedly, the name is just a bit odd, and the titular semi-motorcycle pseudo-mechas on which the show centers are odder still. A former star ballerina as a mecha pilot also strikes me (and many of the characters) as a bit strange, but they make it work. To their credit, the fact that a girl wearing in a dress and driving a motorcycles gives a show to all the guys nearby was only played for laughs twice that I can recall. The art is good, the characters interact in believable ways, and the evolving web of loyalties and politics is going to make things really interesting down the line. Armed conflict is brewing, and the mechas are going to be a big part of it. I'm still watching this one, although it's only been a few episodes. If nothing else, watching ballet applied to mecha piloting is unique and interesting, and has the potential for mech battles as fun as anything the first season of Code Geass did.
White Album started off with a exceptional first four episodes. A main character who, despite the harem cropping up around him, would rather stay with his girlfriend, a rising star of an idol. Needless to say, he's also a complete tool, but his best friend is somewhat saner. There's the sempai, who appears to be slowly self-destructing. There's a classmate, who manages to be inscrutable and bizarre while still fixating on him in ways that border on creepy. There's even a high school girl involved. By far the most interesting and most entertaining is Ogata Rina - an established idol and probably the best character in the show. She's certainly more fun than the rest of them. After a great scene centering on her in a coffee shop in episode two, I knew she was going to be the heart and soul of White Album.
Unfortunately, I was proven right - episode five takes a dive when it minimizes her presence while simultaneously setting a record for sheer awkwardness in a date setting. Episode six didn't help much, but episode seven may be the beginning of a recovery. That said, White Album is slated for thirteen episodes, so it had better get a move on if all this drama is going to go anywhere. If nothing else, at least the cheesecake is animated in loving detail.
I have a soft spot for a good space opera of roughly Jovian proportions, so I've been watching Tytania. If you like space opera involving both Byzantine politics and the shenanigans of clever rebels, then watch. If space opera's not your thing, go elsewhere. I find the political machinations of four barons vying for the favor of their lord fascinating, especially when they create an enemy that has the potential to bring down their dynasty in the process. The aforementioned clever rebel manages to be a combination of Ender Wiggin and a devil-may-care attitude. Akin to Mat Cauthon, if you've read Robert Jordan. Albiet with somewhat less womanizing and more revenge-seeking.
Clannad After Story is kind of a big deal right now, so I would be remiss if I didn't touch on it. The first season was fun. It had humor, it had characters I liked, it was broadly fun to watch. After Story... really lost a lot of that for me. I keep hearing about how good it gets, but really, I lost interest once Tomoyo and Kyou left the picture. Nagisa just leaves me cold. I realize she's the main girl of the game, and thus the focus of the anime. For me, Nagisa is somewhere between uninteresting and actively boring.
This may or may not be tied to why I wanted to strangle the bimbo Nana in the first few episodes of that show. Or related to why I liked Sheryl and found Ranka irritating in Macross Frontier. Or, for that matter, why I much prefer the Unlimited Blade Works scenario to the Fate scenario in Fate/stay Night.
I need to mention Toradora! There's just no way I can get away without doing so. It's the standout show this season. Of course, you don't need the likes of me to tell you to watch it. With two guys and three girls in a show where romance is in the air, you're going to run afoul of the pigeonhole principle - when you have more pigeons than holes, you're going to get pigeons sharing holes. Unlike most shows that do something like this, Toradora isn't marked by shallow or incredibly insensitive characters. The five main characters are all very distinct with clear motivations - at least at the beginning. Then things get complex, emotions run high and hot, and almost all the main characters have to take off the mask and face themselves in the mirror. After all, what you think you want and what you actually want often don't quite line up. It's a solid work, and easily one of the best high school romance shows in years.
Far and away, my current passion in anime is Kara no Kyoukai. It's a Type-MOON/UFOtable work and thus visually stunning, although there are some visual constants running around. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Kara no Kyoukai starts you off with a view of the lead couple. Well, sort of. What you actually see is Mikiya through Shiki's eyes. As cold as she is to him in this scene, their relationship is both dramatically deeper and very much more complicated than it seems.
The plot of the first episode kicks off when a girl mysteriously commits suicide by jumping from the top of a very large building. She's not the first girl to randomly jump off that particular roof, so something is up. Shiki goes looking. She knows she's found a clue when bloody footprints and a grisly corpse turn up. Things promptly get strange and supernatural, and Shiki stops to chill out.
The climax of the episode is undoubtedly the fight scene. If there was any doubt, here it is erased - Shiki is beautiful, elegant, and always stylish. She's also brutally effective, has steel well beyond just that in her hand, and the grave is no bar to her blade.
I said that Shiki and Mikiya have a rather complex relationship, and you'll just have to take my word for it that that's an understatement. I won't go into why, but it takes something unusual for the heartless assassin that is Shiki to be involved with someone as apparently banal as Mikiya. Suffice to say that their romance is anything but conventional.
Yes, I said romance. Under the blood and violence, Kara no Kyoukai is a love story. This may or may not be a big part of why I love it so dearly. That, and the fact that it's just that much fun. So if you're up for a dark, violent, and mature storyline, check out Kara no Kyoukai. Just remember - blood makes the grass grow.
Is anyone even reading this far down? I could go on. There are six more episodes of Kara no Kyoukai to talk about, and its connections to Tsukihime and Fate/stay Night to discuss... but I suppose I'll cut things short. 'til next time.