30 Dec 2002 11:28 pm

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time watching anime this Christmas holiday. The all-day anime phest proved one thing: I’m not as young as I used to be. Staying up ’til five in the morning watching the contents of my DVD’s and the first episodes of many series downloaded to my hard drive was probably not a wise choice. Fun, but not wise, as the lingering fatigue headache that lasted until Sunday proved.

On the other hand, I’ve managed to get more people indoctrinated into good series. The overwhelming choice seemed to be Cowboy Bebop, but Azumanga Daioh was a good close second. The crew also went through good single bits like Studio Ghibli‘s exceedingly beautiful and moving On Your Mark music video (is it just me, or do all of Studio Ghibli’s adolescent and post-adolescent heroines have that “sweet, but wise beyond their years” look?). We also managed to watch the introductory episodes of most of the shows I’ve downloaded so far (props to Full Metal Panic, though I hear it’s now available on DVD, so I’ll have to pick that up…).

Having finally watched the entirety of Hoshi no Koe, I can’t wait until ADV released the DVD (if the two-page splash ad on the front of Newtype USA can be believed). If it’s anything like the Japanese release, the liner notes will have more information about the series. Makoto Shinkai is definately one of the bright new directorial lights in this medium, and I happily look forward to any and all of his future work.

Also on the topic of anime, I’ve finally finished both Azumanga Daioh (so sweet and sad!) and .hack//SIGN. I am eminently grateful that I managed to peg the latter show as a character drama set in a MMORPG, rather than an action-mystery show, because otherwise the ending would have been anticlimactic. But, yay, Tsukasa!

I'm home

I seem to be stuck in some kind of time-warp; I’m playing FF IX (about 30 hours in now, and just leveling up, building up abilities and finishing side-quests) on my PSX, Scorched Earth 3D on my PC (and, oddly, managed to introduce one of my friends to it. He’s now one of it’s developers), and avidly awaiting the release of the PC port of Escape Velocity Nova, which is a game that came out for the Mac nigh unto seven months ago now. It goes without saying that because I’m watching fansubbed anime, I’m about a season behind most of the shows being released in Japan, or so my copy of Newtype Volume 2 Issue 1 tells me. Ah, if only I had a time machine. Or, alternately, paid more attention and spoke Japanese.

Segue: I have this strong attraction for Mac games. It probably stems from the fact that when I wandered into the Science Undergraduate Society‘s lounge, all their machines were Macs (used for the publication of the biweekly humour newspaper, The 432). Thus I got hooked on to Marathon (and it’s sequels), Bolo and, of course, Escape Velocity, quite possibly the most addictive space trading/warfare/espionage/diplomacy game ever written. If my remaining free time was a fully stocked luxury space liner, then the upcoming release of the EV: Nova port is an unavoidable black hole just off the starboard bow. I can hear faint cries of panic from the doomed passengers now.

Addendum: For those of you with access to the digicam page, I’ve uploaded a schwackload of images, ranging from Joce’s birthday to the (appropriately) all-you-can-eat Sushi break during the Anime Phestacular, and including the most recent “There’s nothing to do between Christmas and New Year’s” party.

22 Dec 2002 2:27 am

The vacation has begun, if my lack of updates is any indication. Sleep habits have fragmented under the load of cramming as much entertainment as possible into these three weeks off; this probably started with the Two Towers midnight showing, which I’ll refrain from expounding upon in any great length. Suffice it to say that I’ll echo the comments of most of the people who’ve seen it: I have my reservations about the new scenes, but it was a great movie nevertheless. Remind me never to get into a fight with a bearded old wizard capable of plucking a sword from midair and then pummelling me with it whilst we fall hundreds of feet into an abyssal lake. And the Gimli as humorous foil was nice, though possibly a bit overdone.

Still, the best part about going to the movie was the cogent discussion with other Tolkien fanboys afterwards. It was a solid conversation, which pulled together aspects from diverse areas of the humanities (bits from the Bible got tossed around a lot), and it, thankfully, had very little RPG munchin-speak (though the “well, the shards of Narsil are probably a Dirk +4, but Anduril itself seems to be a +5 weapon” talk rang too true and hit too close to the mark to be ignored. Unless you happen to be sane, that is).

In Christmas Shopping news, I’ve discovered that Lansdowne Mall, with it’s Future Shop and Toys-R-Us, is walking distance from a smallish strip mall that contains not only the redoubtable Imperial Hobbies (source for many a plastic model kit and action figure), but also Sakura Media Richmond, which has nothing less than a wall of anime and video game import soundtracks. And, of course, the all-important “random otaku materia” that are transformable Veritechs, inflatable Tetsuwan Atom pillows, Evangelion bubble-toys and Love Hina hot-springs figure scenes. All I need now for this area to be the perfect vehicle for Otaku expression would be a truly well-stocked magazine store, and I’d never leave the intersection of 3rd and Lansdowne.

In related news, Sakura Media had January 2003′s copy of Newtype USA in, so I picked it up (note to you Comicshoppers, yeah, I’m still looking for the back-issues, and will be picking up regular copies of Newtype from you guys heretofore, but you seemed all sold out…). The mag does show it’s Japanese heritage (it reads like most import mangas, starting from the “back”, and proceeding to the “front”, but the two-page spreads are arrayed in the traditional western left-to-right orientation). It’s nice to see the “What’s showing on TV in Japan” section, plus very otaku-oriented reviews on new shows. It would also seem that ADV is pushing it’s upcoming Noir DVD’s, as they’ve thoughtfully included episode 1 of Noir on DVD with this issue.

And for those of you whom I’ve noticed browsing this site under Opera, run, do not walk, and download Opera 7 beta 2 now. It fixes all the nasty UI issues from beta 1 (like the missing context menus when selecting addresses from the address bar), and is significantly less crashy. The Opera team will be receiving my money shortly for this version, as it finally has decent Document Object Module support.

One more thing: How come no-one told me about Invader Zim before? Gads! This show is funny! And, I hear, it’s cancelled! Why, it’s enough to drive a grown man to tears. Thank god for Lewk, and for DivX versions of the episodes.

The blood of an Invader flows through my veins! It's like... pants!

15 Dec 2002 7:30 am

There were quite a few of us who gathered at my place to watch the extended version of the Fellowship of the Rings last night, in anticipation of this Wednesday’s release of The Two Towers.

I’ve had this DVD set for a while (and have found the polystone Argonath helpful in keeping part of my DVD collection from toppling over), but somehow managed to avoid watching most of the special features. Part of it had to do with the fact that I purchased the superlative Bablylon 5 first season boxed set at the same time, and the otaku-crew and I took our sweet time watching every episode over with full commentary (along with us hamming it up and speaking along to the more memorable Kosh-isms).

Which means, that up ’til last night, I managed to miss out on all the glorious “making of” extras that were packed in with the extended Fellowship release. Some things that blew my mind: the use of moving forced perspective to make actors seem hobbit-sized; the miniature work for their sets (or as they called it “big-atures”); and of course, the much-touted Massive AI-agent system for rendering their large-scale battle scenes. If Studio Weta was a publically-offered company, now would be a great time to buy stock.

But the icing on this production-cake had to be the way they created the chaotic fight scene in Balin’s tomb, wherein they had rendered the entire thing on their effects computers, and then gave Peter Jackson a fake steady-cam with motion-capture reflective tape on it, and fitted him with VR goggles. As he moved through the motion-capture field, the positioning system put him inside the battle scene, allowing him to film the virtual scene as though he was really there.

Peter Jackson is my new hobbit-god (he even looks the part). Note to Lucas: you wanna see how a good movie is made, oh maestro? Fly down to Kiwi-land and talk to Jackson. He seems to know a thing or two about creating effective dramatic tension and letting the characters and plot speak for itself, while allowing the visual effects to fade seamlessly into the background, as opposed to George’s “hey, lookit me, I’ve got a lightsabre! And isn’t my spaceship all sleek and shiny?” approach.

13 Dec 2002 1:04 pm

I’ve been watching, and enjoying the dynamic character interactions in both Azumanga Daoih and Witch Hunter Robin for a while (the latter show, while being fairly episodic in terms of it’s “action” theme, is absolutely marvellous when it comes to character empathy and development). So imagine my surprise when I found Witch Hunter Chiyo-chan:

She needs glasses. Definately glasses.
It makes me wish I knew how to read kanji…

Update: 7:27 PM A tasty and invigorating reward to anyone who can send me translations for this! Contact information is at the bottom of the page (just keep scrolling down ’til you can’t scroll any further).

12 Dec 2002 11:50 pm

I’m done. Finals are over for this season, and I have three more workdays before I begin my Christmas break. A right riotous number of people are coming home for the holidays, and it looks like at least some of it is going to be spent watching anime in a large group. It’s been one long burn since September, really, what with all the school / work projects, the New York trip, and the girls coming to live in Vancouver, but it looks like the downtime will be spent doing a lot of the same things I’ve been doing up to now; namely gaming, watching videos and movies, and hanging out with fun people in good company. Of course, without the distractions of work and school, I’ll finally get around to the bigger projects; food will likely be involved, as well as small, culturally-enriching trips to various convenient locales. And I’ll get to do some more scripting for this here blog, finally adding in a comments page or something of that ilk. If I can just scrounge together the cash, I’ll probably move the whole kit-’n-kaboodle off to a happy little Lunix boxen and finally fix this horrendous perl-based page-loading difficulty. I hear those Wal-Mart Lindows PC’s are pretty good (though, like the compact PC’s being flogged by Future Shop, I harbour strong doubts about expandability and server stability).

But for the immediate future, I’ve got to plan the playlist for the Stupidly Spectacular Anime Phestacular, and it’s surprisingly easier than making a mixed CD, though there are the pitfalls of playing too many similarly-themed episodes back to back (I mean, how much of the “robot girlfriend” genre should be shown uninterrupted? And there’s a lot of it — Steel Angel Kurumi comes to mind, as does Hand Maid May, Mahoromatic and, to a lesser extent, All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku). And there’s the dilemma of how much to show; one episode of a series? Two? Many plots don’t get moving for a while, and it’s horribly unfair to the series and to new viewers to simply jump to the exciting episodes due to the inevitable problems involving lack of context.

Thankfully, there are a number of marvellous stand-alone pieces like the 5-minute Blame! short, or the Studio Ghibli music video “On Your Mark”. And then there’s the beautiful gem that is Hoshi no Koe (Voices of a Distant Star), which brings the medium one step closer to perfection.

Still, I get the feeling that I need to find more “new” episodic series to download. I’m reaching simple collection mode for Azumanga, .hack//SIGN and the like, and I crave newness. Thankfully, Anime News Tokyo’s forums are a great resource to get new show titles and some initial feedback. It’s a shame that a lot of the lists for the upcoming Spring shows are in a language I can’t read.

Heck, if I needed inscrutible indecipherability, there’s always Serial Experiments Lain.