Interesting and, for me, relevant short piece on ingrained media badness people do not know about or sometimes want to know about, such as Beauty and The Beast. I’ve had such “Just shup up” responses in actual conversations on really basic problems with some things before. Glad it’s not just me.
There’s a lot that can be aimed at the anime series Baccano! Schizophrenic, fast paced, action packed, comedic, supernatural. It flies between several parts of a timeline so much you’ll lose track when you realise you’re seeing things out of order. You have to go with the flow and hope for the best!
The backdrop is 1930’s America; high rise times of the mafia and tommy guns. These don’t factor into the story a huge deal other then, yes, it appears they’re all criminals in it – although most of the cast don’t seem to actually do much in the way of crime, and it certainly isn’t the focus of it. However it does add something to have a non-Japanese, fedora-wearing time – it is classy, and some of the music is very fitting, including the introduction theme which in itself is quite brilliantly done.
The actual supernatural part, although not revealed how it works until later in the series, surprises you right in the first episode (here is that surprise!) that some of the character are immortal and can’t die. It is…interesting, and while not particularly delved into too much philosophically or morally, for better or worse it drives some of the plot along; after all, eternal youth is obviously something everyone would want, right?
It is a series that decimates the leading protagonist trope too. The series stars plenty of offbeat characters; amusingly many are quite unhinged and almost all are cheerful (except the real bad guys of course). To counter this are a lot of much more normal characters, who in their own way are enjoyable to watch, but have more toned down personalities. Having such a large cast, while sometimes confusing, allows for a whole load of interesting situations to arise, with some very coincidental meetings. Obviously these meetings make up a large part of how the plot evolves.
To top it all off, and causing much of the mayhem in a very Laurel and Hardie way, are a couple – who are completely cheerful and insanely stupid. They’re a treat to listen to in Japanese – the voices just are brilliant (you’d have thought a series set in America would have a good English voice cast too!). They do the most outlandish things, double-commenting and bring good comic relief to the series. Even with what happens, it never gets melodramatic and comes off as quite lighthearted.
The plot and series as a whole suffers a bit from the rather wacky pacing it uses; slipping between around 3 different stories; one pre-Train, one on a Train and one post-Train. This is actually called out immediately in the first episode (along with the lack of main character), so you do understand that it is meant to be that way.
Each story thread contain overlapping characters; you’re never quite sure (until the end) the exact progression of events, but the pre-episode summaries are short and sweet enough to keep you informed. The cast is also rather large – just check the intro credits. This can be confusing having it move around so much with subplots in plots and mini-arcs within arcs, but it keeps it moving – you’ll never be bored at least, and you keep getting surprised – the plot doesn’t fill up with cliches and subverts a lot of typical plots with rather outrageous circumstances. Each time it shows you a shot of something really strange happening it simply raises the interesting question of how that happened, which happens a lot! It quite likely would have worked fine in chronological order, but was an interesting take on telling a story in a strange way.
The final thing to say perhaps is that, while Baccano! is fast paced and enjoyable, if you don’t like the characters just don’t bother; the first few episodes set the scene well enough, along with some rather gory violence to boot, but the basic plot perhaps by itself isn’t too enjoyable with it being very disjointed. To me, I might have preferred a series with no supernatural stuff, since the parts without it were possibly the most interesting and 1930’s America is rarely visited in animation, but since I enjoyed it might well have been poorer if that was lost. Give it a shot if you in any way like fedoras too 😉
It likely is because I enjoyed Life on Mars, but Angel Beats!, in spite of an initial shaky start, really did pull through into being a very enjoyable 13-episode anime series.
The series ramps up from an initially shaky premise of “A high school afterlife” (oh how wrong that could have gone) to a much more enjoyable questioning of regret and lives cut short for young people; that’s explained pretty early on, taking the opposite approach to Life on Mars which never makes a reveal on the nature of the world. The characters helpfully don’t do much in the dark; you get to see them propose theories and do just the right amount of internal monologue rather then having to guess it all.
It’s rather heartwarming too; if anything this has the largest amount of sympathetic characters in almost any series I’ve seen and an actually likeable smart protagonist. The short series helps this; any longer, and I’d have expected a bit more behind peoples personalities to be revealed. One or two of them was just a bit cross wired so I wonder what other ideas they’d have come up with here. In fact if they had cut some of the plots, it’d not have suffered at all; they make good use of taking over the credits at several points, making for more enjoyable lengthy episodes. The music numbers are pop/rock background tracks and don’t take over the series, which is a nice way of doing it.
There is comedy in the mix too, which I’ve not even mentioned yet; odd for a series which on the face of it appears to be a highschool action/comedy not to mention it first perhaps? The comedy is predictably based around silly comments and over the top stunts/action, sadly sometimes at the most inappropriate times (luckily they stave off doing it in the more important parts). Given two episodes are basically a massive collection of silly deaths, it is a relief how it gets can get serious while still being quite lighthearted – the past might be bad, put the present afterlife world is full of possibility after all. Humour wise though one stand out point for the English listener though is a character called TK, who just interjects in the strangest pronunciation English phrases out of the blue; this was something I did actually chuckle at 🙂
It also has some things that hang in your mind at the end poking you that it doesn’t quite make so much sense (not to list any one specific one but you do question the given world quite a bit and some of the plots are odd) but in any case; push these things aside since you can’t take it too seriously. A shame however it isn’t perhaps questioned more; frequently God, the purpose of the world and how it works, reincarnation and past people who were in the world are brought up or pointed to but never gone into much detail.
It is though fully of sentimentality and like I said, is very heartwarming! I’d watch this if you’d enjoy a rather interesting story with a nice set of characters (even if you don’t remember all their names), set against a rather barmy set of plots which luckily mainly serve to further the characters interacting – go with the flow and you’d be well rewarded overall with a satisfactory end to what amounts to a well told short story.
I’ve just finished reading Akira today, a really good comic book read in fact. It’s a pretty damn nifty sci-fi story, character driven and manages to cope with a huge cast of characters who delve into and out of the main thread. I’d recommend you read it, it’s pretty timeless considering it’s set in “the future” which isn’t seemingly that far off. It’s a good setting for the plot.
I had already watched the animated film so did know most of what to expect. They’re vastly different in scope, but the film is a nice short take on the longer book series – it was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, the person who wrote the manga in any case, so isn’t that off the mark although obviously chopped down to essentials, with excellent action and some unique scenes and bits of it’s own.
If you have to choose one, the manga works out much better and simply isn’t as rushed.
(Some spoilers below, but not many I hope).
Continue reading Akira
In a fit of what must have been totally silly padding efforts or utter genius, the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has 8 episodes all called Endless Eight. As pointed out on TV Tropes, it’s a weird thing – there are basically 8 nearly identical episodes in plot but serve up different animations, dialogue and so forth. I just found it fascinating, so I’m going to discuss it (also, because I really like Groundhog Day 🙂 ). Continue reading Haruhi Suzumiya’s Looping Episodes
Wow, how hard is it to find an item on the internet you don’t know the name of? Especially something reasonably obscure? In this case, it’s my partial area of expertise; videogames. Let’s see, and also handily (for me in the future) I’ll list all the resources I used.
This is a bit odd, I wanted to find an awesome set of animations – pixel art videos – and the only single thing I could remember (after vaguely trying some search terms) was that the artist in question mentioned a game…the game, I recall, was something based on mechanics or something. Might have involved strategy. Turn based? Mmm…DS game, yes!
Had the name of the lead in the title. So I did some searching – Wikipedia is de-facto useless for this kind of thing, consisting of non-cross referenced categories or long lists. No joy there. Mobygames is much better – but in this case, I wasn’t sure what year it was released in – I checked the DS games for 2009 (not there for certain, very limited list) then 2008 (huge list!). No pictures doesn’t help, since I remembered the distinctive art style. Giantbomb was another offering – after some URL mangling, I managed to get DS games only, by release date. Sadly, a few pages in and still no luck – and the search functions didn’t work too well on either site – “mechanic” (all I could really remember at that point) didn’t come up with anything.
Stuck! Darn it, that damn game, you know, on the DS, which I’ve not actually played…
Mmm…strategy…mmm, not in those categories on Mobygames, so coming again at it, defence was involved…towers…tower defence! To the Google machine! Google helped out – my final ridiculous search string found a reference – 3rd one, “Lock’s Quest”! Yes, matches with what I thought it was!
Finally, I found it! Now…credits…credits! Come to daddy! No credits! No credits!…wait…try agian… yes! Credits! (Via Google). GameFAQ’s is a merge between Gamespot’s DB and it’s own (now it’s just the same thing, long ago it wasn’t, but GameFAQ’s is easier and faster to search at least).
(In addition, IGN was a bit useless, and there are not many other game DB’s that either game up in Google, or in fact I know of. I need to search any more reputable ones out for this kind of work).
So, finally found the game – a victory for my memory!
However, the person isn’t on the credits list! How did I find this out? Yep, for starters, there appears to be no artists listed – I vaguely recalled the person referencing it as freelance work – but I couldn’t be sure, so I checked the people on the list. No go!
So, down to Google again – I had the game (Lock’s Quest), the item (pixel art video) and the person (artist). Some massive amounts of variations later…I had it! The 3rd link down, a name I recognised – Paul Robertson!
How can I be sure it is him? Well, his site is down (as of posting this) so no luck there, but it was a blog post. I took a site: Google search and found it, a post about what games he’s worked on – as an animator (a type of artist, so I was close). Lock’s Quest stuck out mainly because it was the one place I saw it to investigate “What on earth it was” – at the time I had no idea it existed 🙂
I’ve now got his site in my RSS feed (he has some really, really great pixel animations – a lot are bizarre, most are plain amazing, many are bizarre and amazing). The films I wanted to re-watch after losing them (heaven knows where they’ve gone on in my files) were Kings of Power 4 Billion %, and the earlier, and I think actually much cooler one Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006. Best to download them (the pixel art otherwise suffers), there are valid links on both – or check Google for the titles. Amazing works of art.
So, now, whew, finally finished – all told, took about 1.5hours including writing this mainly as I went. Internet detective work can be done frankly really quickly, although finding something without knowing it’s name is still damn hard – a person or a game!
I’ve still got a game I need to find actually – one from my days playing DOS games, it was a demo at least I played – I am sure it’s a point and click, “sci-fi” game, with the one thing I remember there being is a chain-mail-like shirt made out of credits/coins. It was the most utterly bizarre thing about it, everything else is pretty much just “it was sci-fi with gangs perhaps”. Man, that game annoys the hell out of me for not being able to find it. Older games like this can be really difficult to find if they don’t hold some kind of cult or mass status! Yes, I have asked around, and my damn post now comes top of the Google search for related terms. Hah! Thanks me! 🙁 Sadly, after trying for a few minute on Mobygames and remembering I’d only notice it by picture (who knows if anyone has any of it), and that I don’t know the platform specifically, the game maker, name, or year of release (even an estimate) it’s a bit futile. No where seems to have “point and click” as a mechanics genre either, odd that, or I missed where it was listed.
Edit: Actually, after checking, there are no such things as “point and click” it appears in any game DB, heh. They’re “Adventure” in most places, “Puzzle Solving” on Mobygames too. Still not worth checking everything in this list for it though. At least not yet!
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was recommended to me by members of Namsoc – so I went ahead, knowing it was going to be a rather strange mystery-psychological-crazy series. This might contain minor spoilers, but nothing much – I wrote most of this before the final episodes of the first series, and you really need to watch both series’ to get the entire thing.