Sunday, January 29, 2012

From the Beginning

The other day I was thinking about how it is that I came to be an anime addict.  It was actually something of a gradual process.  Just for the hell of it I decided to talk about it in this post.

It started with me browsing a video store, looking for something to watch.   This particular SunCoast Video had a big anime selection, and I spent some time browsing through there and wondering what all this was.  So I started watching anime based on the picture on the front of the VHS tape and the short blurb on the back.  My very first foray into it was Vampire Hunter D.  Really.  Even then I was something of a sucker for vampires.  And I was looking for something that wasn't a series, because, what if I didn't like it?  So Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City and Demon City Shinjuku were my first anime trials.  Kind of interesting that I started out with such dark anime, and that I stuck with anime watching. 

Shortly after that I started watching Fushigi Yuugi even though it was a series and I had to wait for the next VHS tape to come out.  That series was followed by Rurouni Kenshin, which led to Samurai X.  All of those early anime watchings were picked solely on the front cover and the blurb on the back, but by the time I got the fourth tape of Fushigi Yuugi, I was pretty well hooked on anime.

In those days I was buying the VHS tape, and was buying English dubbed anime.  The tapes weren't like the DVD where you can choose to watch either the dubbed or subtitled versions.  You had to choose which version of the tape to buy.  So when I started buying the DVDs, which started with Kenshin, followed fairly quickly by Cowboy Bebop, I was still watching the English dubbed versions of anime, and pretty happy about that.  Yup.  It's true.

Then I met the person directly responsible for the loss of my soul to true anime.  She introduced me to fan-subbed anime downloaded off the Internet.  

I should explain, I was a little slow to get into the whole Internet scene.  My friend started me out slowly by giving me the downloaded versions of CardCaptor Sakura, and then hooking me on Inuyasha.  Those early CCS downloads were tiny little files, often with less than ideal graphics and sound.  You could fit seven to nine episodes on a CD, and my friend would come over with anime burned onto CDs and we'd spend entire weekends watching CCS or Inuyasha.  Then she introduced me to Fruits Basket and Noir.  All of this anime was fan-subbed.  So I got used to the sound of the Japanese and watching fan-subbed anime, and I went back to my Cowboy Bebop and Rurouni Kenshi DVDs and watched them in Japanese with subtitles.   And I became a true anime addict.

Along the way she taught me to download my own anime.  In the early days it was via a dial-up modem and Direct Connect.  And yes, it sometimes took DAYS to download a single file, even with as small as they were.  She showed me bittorrent as soon as it was developed, and the rest is pretty much history.

From these humble beginnings I've become quite addicted.  I've watched well over 200 anime series, and those I like I eventually buy DVDs of, as soon as the licensing American companies produce them.  I have a nice DVD collection and of course the downloaded originals.  And yes I re-watch old series when I'm in between good new series.  I won't even go into my manga collection and calendar collection, etc, etc.  As I said, it's an addiction, but of course one that I won't be trying to quit any time soon.  As long as there's good anime to watch, I'll probably be watching it.

 All of this took place relatively slowly.  I probably first began watching anime around 2000, and my friend starting introducing me to downloaded anime sometime late in 2002.  Hmmm.  I've been watching anime for over 10 years. How about that.  It doesn't seem taht long.  Anyway, now you know "how it happened".  And as long as there's good anime to blog about, I'll probably keep blogging. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Last Exile

I decided to talk about Last Exile today, because I'm currently watching the second series, Last Exile: Gin'Yoku no Fam.  I'll come back to that, but most of this post will be about the original Last Exile, and as usual if you haven't seen it, massive spoilers ahead.

Last Exile is one of my favorite series, although as usual the death count is too high, including my favorite character.  Nothing new there though.  Background first: The series takes place in a world divided between factions.  It is also a world in which most commerce and interaction takes place by air, using flying machines.  On this world, the countries of Anatoray and Disrith are at war.  Over-seeing that war, and the entire planet in general, is the Guild.  The Guild controls almost everything, including the "claudia"-utilizing engines which fly the ships and the weather.  The Guild is ruled by a mostly-insane woman named Delphine.  The sky of the planet has a top, above which is the Grand Stream.  The Grand Stream is composed of gale-force winds and flying debris, and is the domain of a monster behemoth known as the "Exile".  Ships which enter the Grand Stream are battered and usually lost.  Standing outside the Guild's control and mostly outside the various countries, is the Silvana, a warship captained by an anti-social guy named Alex Rowe.  Alex and his second on command, Sophia, are shown in the first picture with the Silvana in the background.  The Silvana's crew is working to free the world from Guild control and bring peace to the warring nations.  And Captain Rowe is working personally to destroy Delphine who watched and laughed as Alex's wife was lost in an attempt to cross the Grand Stream. 

Against this backdrop, enter the main characters.  Claus and Lavie are two kids who fly a small vanship and support themselves by taking on courier tasks with it.  Their fathers were lost in an attempt to cross the Grand Stream (same one that took Alex's wife), so they are on their own.  During a vanship race, they come across a dying vanship pilot running from the Guild and take on his task of delivering a cargo to the Silvana.  The cargo is a small girl named Alvis.  Claus, Lavie and Alvis appear in this picture with their vanship.  After delivering her they worry about her treatment by the Silvana crew, and thus become involved with the Silvana.  Along the way they come to the attention of a Guild member, Dio, who happens to be Delphine's younger brother.  Dio also joins the Silvana as it is the right of Guild to go anywhere.  He does it because of his interest in Claus and his flying ability, but also to stay away from his insane sister.  Dio is pictured below.

In the course of the series, the Silvana's crew manages to bring the heads of the two nations together and starts a rebellion to take over the engines from the Guild of all the two nations flying ships.  Alex also is collecting the secret "sayings" of the four great houses.  With the combined sayings it's possible to control the Exile.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, he only gains three before Delphine catches up to him and attempts to use the sayings he knows to control Exile herself. 

In the end, Alex manages to kill Delphine but dies himself when Sophia destroys Delphine's ship while unaware that he's on it.  Claus and Lavie accomplish what their father's couldn't and cross the Grand Stream to deliver messages.  Dio is lost in the Grand Stream.  The rebellion succeeds in taking control of most of their own ships and the Exile is ultimately tamed by Alvis' fourth "saying".  The Exile turns out to be a starship, which leaves the world and the Grand Stream evaporates away, leaving the planets weather patterns natural and her people free.  

Once again, this brief synopsis doesn't do justice to everything that happens in the series and I've left out a big group of characters involved along the way.  Except for the character death, this series is awesome.  Great character style and animation, great plot, truly outstanding music.  I recommend you watch it if you haven't already.  

I'm currently watching the second series, and so far I'm not as happy about it.  I never decide completely how I feel about a series until it's over and I see how they end it, but this one is kind of weird.  I know sometimes it's hard to watch a remake or continuance, especially from a series you really like because you don't want things to change too much from what you remember.  Still, if I hadn't watched the remake of Fullmetal Alchemist, I would have missed an awesome series, so I always give them a try.  The new Last Exile though has taken most of the minor characters of the first series, put them on a different world (the world our familiar Exile came from apparently) and mixed in new characters, without explaining much.  I keep hoping for explanations, which is why I keep watching it.  I'll let you know if it's even close to as good as the original.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Short detective series - Un-Go and Kami-sama no Memo-chou

So over-due.  What can I say?  I got busy. 

 These days I've cut down on the number of series I'm watching, mostly because I can't keep up any more.  I was down to watching a record-breaking 3 series, but some new series came out this month and I simply can't resist trying some out.  Last Fall I watched several short series that I enjoyed and so I thought I talk about two of them today.

Un-Go and Kami-sama no Memo-chou are both detective series.  They're both short, 11 and 12 episodes respectively, and they both follow their respective genius-level detectives as they solve various mysterious cases.  That's pretty much where the similarities end.

Un-Go's main character detective is Yuuki Shinjuurou.  His side-kick is a 'boy' named Inga, who is not human, and who becomes an over-developed woman with the power to extract one true answer out of any person.  This talent/gift of Inga's is used by Yuuki to help him solve his cases.  In return for extracting the answer, Inga apparently gets to 'eat' that person's soul.  These two are joined along the way by an artificial intelligence who alternately takes the appearance of a small plush toy, and a small girl child.  Yuuki and Inga have a nemesis in the form of a character named Kaishou Rinroku. Kaishou is a wealthy media-king who takes credit for many of Yuuki's case solutions, and manipulates the truth on others.   At first I thought this series was going to be similar to the series Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, but it's not.  There is a much more definite story line to Un-Go and less random cases.    Of course, 11 episodes vs 25 explains that difference.   With 11 episodes, the extraneous has to be left out.  Un-Go's story line is good and it's not predictable, although I do wish the series had been long enough to give back-story on the relationaship between Yuuki and Inga.  Or barring that, that someone would subtitle the movie which is a prequel to this series.  The series music is good, as is the character design.  Essentially, it's not what I consider one of the great series, but it's enjoyable and worth watching.

Kami-sama no Memo-chou's main character is a small computer-whiz girl named Alice.  She is a NEET (not employed, in education or training), as are all her side-kicks except Fujishima Narumi, the series' other main character.  Narumi is dragged into the detective business by Alice and her friends and becomes embroiled in the Yakuza business by them also.  He ends up playing a large part in the dealings of both Alice-tachi and the gangs, as he tends to be the one who asks the reasonable questions. Narumi has a strong sense of right and wrong, and he stands by what he believes, causing him to be on more than one side in a struggle between gangs that occurs along the way.   Again, this is not an outstanding series, but it has a good solid plot line, really nice animation and character style and decent music.  It's quite an enjoyable watch, if nothing spectacular.

 One other thing the two series have in common is that the protagonist in both is dedicated to the TRUTH.  They will discover the truth and tell the world, no matter if the truth is actually harmful.  Yuuki is a little more cold-blooded about this trait, which makes me wonder about back-story, but both characters are not interested in human frailties.  The truth is the truth.

Anyway, that's my first blog of the new year.  I'm also watching a cool series right now called Guilty Crown.  I'll be talking about this one in the future, so hopefully they won't screw it up.