Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai)

Jintan, Menma, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, Anaru, and Poppo were the best of friends during their childhood and they made up the "Super Peace Busters." In their clubhouse they would spend their days together and have fun in ways that only children with clubhouses can.

Then tragedy strikes and Menma is killed in an accident.

Ten years later the Super Peace Busters are no more and the bonds that once bound them together are completely shattered.

Jintan has become a hikikomori (a shut-in) and he doesn't leave his house at all. He doesn't even go to school. He just sits at home playing video games and doing other things that shut-ins do. His mother has passed away in the time since Menma's passing and his father leaves him to his own devices without giving him an ass-chewing or two that he probably needs.

One day Jintan's hectic life gets a bit more complicated when he begins to see and hear either a hallucination or a ghost resembling a grown up (for the most part) Menma. Menma tells him that she had a wish that was never granted and that she can't remember what it is. Jintan, unsure of whether or not he is going crazy, decides to find out just what it is that she wished for. Even if it means going outside and tracking down some of the people that used to be his friends.

On the surface this is a nicely animated slice of life ghost story with some bits of comedy woven in to keep things from being a little too heavy (with varying degrees of success, I might add). The very nature of the story itself keeps the story from getting very humorous and when the show indulges in the dramatic it oftentimes overindulges and becomes an all-out cry-fest. Most of the episodes have "cry moments" but the last episode alone is going to either make you puke or buy your local Wal-Mart out of Kleenexes for the week. But I got to think even the most hardened person is going to at least get misty-eyed at some point. I mean, I didn't cry, but I had moments where I thought I would. The one things that kept me from reaching that point were certain shabby plot holes that I will talk about in a moment. 

The short episode count (11) keeps things from becoming too drawn out (pardon the pun) and the characters are certainly interesting. Poppo is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I also feel a bit of kinship for fellow loner Jintan. But they all have certain charms except for maybe Yukiatsu. That guy is just a prick. Yeah, he has his reasons and he's not all he seems to be, but he is easily the least likeable character of the bunch. I know a lot of people found Menma rather annoying, but I didn't. I thought she was wonderful. Since she died as a child it makes sense that she'd retain her childlike playfulness. Just hearing her say "Jintan" is pretty adorable. 

However, that plot hole I mentioned has everything to do with Menma and the fact that Jintan is the only one able to see her. When he begins to track down his old Super Peace Busters crew he never once asks Menma to try to convince them she is really there by moving an object or doing something equally spectacular. In fact, she doesn't do anything of the sort until episode eight when everyone is fighting and things are at their most dramatic. Had that happened a few episodes earlier than the main characters probably wouldn't have been at each other's throats like that in the first place. And it's that kind of story planning that just gets on my nerves. Hell, from the first episode I thought, "Why don't she just move something?"

And when Jintan is sleeping on his futon and Menma is sleeping on his bed does Jintan's dad not see the blankets on Jintan's bed shifting without anyone under them? I mean, I know his dad is pretty absentee, but if I saw that I'd have some questions. 

It's these sort of forceful plot oversights that frustrated me. It made this show feel like a blatant drama whore. I mean, had this show played by the rules of reality and common sense just a little bit more than this one would be one of those really great shows. As it is it's pretty good, but there are a few head-scratching moments that make some of the more dramatic moments feel like they aren't worth it. 

If the writers clearly didn't care enough to put a bit more thought into then why should I care enough to keep watching?

However, I guess I can't really call that a valid argument on my part since I did end watching the entire show and did end up enjoying it. Again, this is a good show; it just could have been a lot better. 

But if you can accept its faults and just try to overlook them then you will be rewarded by the journey. I was. The final episode did have me groan a bit because I thought it was going just a bit overboard on the waterworks even by the standards of this show, but it had a resolution that managed to salvage the episode and the show as whole. Everything felt pretty satisfying in a weepy bitch kind of a way. 

P.S. - There was a movie released not too long ago that tells this story from Menma's perspective and also includes a short epilogue not set one year later. It has earned more money in Japan than The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya did during its theatrical run. So that means I've got to see this movie. 

P.P.S. - One thing I really did like about this show was the music. The opening theme song and the ending theme fit the mood and atmosphere of the show perfectly. Especially that ending song which is done by the seiyuu (voice actors)... Yeah, you're going to feel the feels. 

P.P.P.S - This show is also named wrong. The proper translation would be We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day. I'd prefer that title because it fits the mood and theme of the show more. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 1 by Puyo

I have never paid for manga before. Never really had the urge or the need to because every other time I tried to read manga with very few exceptions I found them unfulfilling. And this goes to comics in general, too. However, I can take a guess at why. For one, a lot of manga are long as hell, but are released in editions that are too short and too overpriced for their size. Sure, you can wait until they are released in a compendium editions, but those take some serious patience to wait for since they aren't really compendiums otherwise.

And I don't like reading manga on the internet. Yes, there are free fan translations readily available, but if I wanted to read a bunch of typos on possibly illegal sites then I'd be doing myself and the genre a bit of a disservice. I tried reading Suzuka and The World God Only Knows online before and while I suppose I could have kept doing so I didn't see how anyone other than me was benefiting from that. I'd rather pay for an official (and quality) translation than to just read something of questionable quality for free. Sure, the latter might be good for a quick fix, but it doesn't work for me long term. The artists aren't making any money from that and if they aren't making that money then those manga-inspired anime won't get made or distributed to the States. Of course, Suzuka and The World God Only Knows are already anime so those aren't great examples, but I think you still get my point. 

But all of this is more of a rant or a lecture than a prelude. So excuse me. Now let's get to business...

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is what I want to talk about and it stands as my first ever manga purchase. Since I have to wait until November ninth to get the final book (to date) in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series, I decided to hit this rather odd spin-off since it was readily available on Kindle.

The first volume is 160 pages and while that may seem a decent novella length it's actually very short because this is manga we're talking about. You know, pictures and stuff, so that means it's really short. And there are only five volumes so even if each successive volume is fifty pages longer (they're not) I will still breeze through this series in no time. Oh, well. Might as well continue since I've already read the first one.

This series is heavily derived from the "alternate history" segment of the fourth book in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. At least that is what we must assume because the story itself has yet to elaborate on why everything is different from the events of the light novels and also because no other explanation really makes sense.

In this world Nagato is a normal human being who happens to be a shy bookworm with a crush on Kyon. Kyon himself doesn't remember the world being reset and even has false memories of how he met Nagato (again, this is an assumption based on the material provided in the first volume of this manga). In this world Kyon is just a guy who joined the Literature Club and got Nagato a library card. 

It should also be stressed that Kyon himself is not the main character here. In the light novels and the anime he was the narrator and actually the main character even though the series is named for Haruhi Suzumiya. Here it's all about Nagato... and her constant companion Asakura Ryoko. In the "true" timeline of the novels (and anime) Ryoko went renegade and tried to kill Kyon twice before being destroyed both times by Nagato. In this world Ryoko is just a normal girl with a strong sense of loyalty for Nagato. It's certainly weird turning one of the most hated characters in the series into one of the most potentially likeable and I'm still not used to the idea. I mean, she was pretty awesome before she became a crazy bitch but she went crazy early on in the series, too.

Another big change is the absence of Haruhi Suzumiya. Yes, she's here in a few scenes, but they are cameos. And that's another thing I am curious about. When Kyon was given the choice of whether or not to accept the changed world in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, he was in the club room with these timeline variations of Nagato, Asahina, Koizumi, and Haruhi. So when he chose to accept this changed world (which he clearly didn't in the "true" timeline) what happened after that? How did they get from that point to where the first volume of the manga started? I mean, it doesn't make sense for Kyon to lose his memories unless the other Nagato from the "true" timeline erased his memories via proxy. And if so, why? If Nagato trusts Kyon enough to leave the decision to him then how can she erase his memories of the decision itself? Certainly something to ponder about. I doubt the manga will address the issue, but I will see, I guess. But again, if Kyon actually chose this alternate timeline over the real one then maybe Nagato assumed that it would be easier for Kyon to adjust to new world without having his memories. Tough to say since in the "true" timeline things didn't happen that way. 

And speaking about oddities...

Nagato sure does talk a lot for a shut-in bookworm. I mean, she talks more than I have just about ever seen her talk. I guess that is what happens when she becomes the main character as well as a normal human, but it is just odd. And I haven't seen her read a whole lot, either. 

Perhaps I just kind of miss the almost completely expressionless and compulsive reader Nagato who never seemed to blink. Let alone blush. 

I don't particularly like how Asahina Mikuru or Tsuraya are drawn up. It's tough to tell them apart. I have to rely on the dialog bubbles for that and since I am a newbie at this I have to sort of thing I just have to sit and pause until I can figure out who is talking. Just for a second or two, but still. It's it the same way with Nagato and Kyon at times. When Nagato and Kyon stand beside each other in the Santa suits and Nagato takes off her glasses it's kind of tough to tell them apart. Their hairstyles are similar once you take the color out of it. Black and white really doesn't help this manga. 

Puyo did the illustrations for this series and while I am not knocking him because he draw better than I can... I don't think he drew them the way they should have been drawn. I think Ito Noizi nailed it with her character drawings in the light novels and those drawings were ultimately what the anime relied on in terms of designs.

All of that being said, I suppose you can call me a fan of this manga. Or at least someone with a lukewarm interest. Not because of the artwork, but because of the scenario. I certainly prefer the light novel series to this variation, but there's something here worth checking out, I think. It's just not the philosophical sci-fi story anymore. Nope, this one is a romantic comedy. Definitely a change and not one I really prefer, but I'm willing to see where this goes. Again, it's an interesting scenario and a sneak-peak at what could have been had Tanigawa ended The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya differently. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Anime I've Watched This Year Plus Nerdy Stuff Vs. Creepy Stuff

I have been hitting the Japanese 'toons pretty hard this year. So far my anime count on the year is about forty. With only thirty-four reviews posted (I think). The others will be posted momentarily and since there is still time in the year I am sure I will add to that total. However, it wasn't until I took stock of my posts on the year that I realized I have been watching a ton of anime and I actually own less than half of them. So ever since I got my Roku 3 I have been in anime overload. I mean, I am paying monthly fees for both Crunchyroll and FUNimation premium memberships so it is a waste of money if I don't take advantage of my memberships, but it's beginning to sound like the only reason I have a job is just so I can pay for my anime habit. And that may be true to a point. I mean, I spent a long while without any money and not being able do anything at all so I guess you can say I am catching up on lost times. 

However, I just like going home and watching some anime. I believe in moderation, though. And there ain't much else to do at home. I mean, yeah, there's chores and stuff but as long as you do a little every now and then you don't have to worry about crap building up. So I got a lot of free time. And rather than go out and get drunk or ride around and cause even more oil to leak out of my car I just mostly stay home and watch some 'toons. Every now and then I will go to Guitar Center or Best Buy and get something I probably don't need but not very often. I'm okay with that, though. Or probably just used to it. I have never been that big of a social animal anyway and as long as I get out three or four times a year with some friends I'm cool. Yeah, I am pretty boring. 

Anyway, here is a list of all the anime I have watched or currently am watching this year (not in exact order). 

  1. Phantom
  2. Attack on Titan
  3. WataMote
  4. Oriemo
  5. Naruto
  6. Valvrave the Liberator
  7. Black Lagoon
  8. Last Exile
  9. Noir
  10. Gungrave
  11. Darker Than Black
  12. Hellsing
  13. Rumbling Hearts
  14. Yu Yu Hakusho
  15. Basilisk
  16. Shuffle
  17. Suzuka
  18. InuYasha
  19. Photo Kano
  20. The Devil is a Part-Timer!
  21. Tenchi Universe
  22. Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki
  23. The Severing Crime Edge
  24. A Bridge to the Starry Skies
  25. Flowers of Evil
  26. Tenchi Muyo! Tenchi in Tokyo
  27. H20: Footprints in the Sand
  28. Good Luck Ninomiya-kun!
  29. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
  30. Anno Natsu de Matteru
  31. The World God Only Knows
  32. Gargantia on the Verduous Planet
  33. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
  34. Dog & Scissors
  35. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
  36. Wannabe the Strongest Fighter in the World
  37. I Couldn't Get a Job So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job!
  38. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
  39. Linebarrels of Iron
  40. My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering With My High School Romantic Comedy

Anyway, while we are on the subject there is an article here I want you to read:

You know, I can understand the mole-like existence and the pessimism about the future referenced in the article. Having a virtual girlfriend seems a little bit too creepy, though. Especially when the virtual girlfriend is 17 and you're a 39 year old guy passing yourself off as a teenager in the same game. But I really don't have a lot of room to judge these folks (although I will anyway a little bit). Because while the idea of dating sims or these ridiculous virtual girlfriend apps sounds kinda funny I suppose I could try 'em if I was bored enough and if they were available in English. But I understand the fine line between what I am talking about and what those dudes are talking about. 
Not my room, by the way. 

However, it is still a depressing thought. I think the difference is that I have a self-awareness and if I was 39 and doing many of the same things I am doing now... Well, that would not be progress at all. It's true that the fairer sex and I have an almost non-existent relationship, but that has less to do with anime and more to do with the fact that I haven't bothered pursuing anyone. Yeah, I suppose it is a kind of laziness and could be an indication of what that article is hinting at (that I somehow prefer animated girls... as if I need a reason for anyone else to think I am strange), but it is definitely not, folks. 

I am a 23 year old fast food cook living with his parents and I spend my time not getting into trouble and trying to figure out what I am going to attack my future. Trying to establish a relationship at this point (with who, I wouldn't know) would be like trying to build a thirty million dollar mansion on a known sinkhole. Yeah, I understand the concept of being young and reckless and I am kind of envious of those who are in a weird way, but I am not reckless and don't intend to start being that way now. So yeah, I watch a lot of anime, but I do feel feelings of loneliness and whatnot but I just deal with it internally rather than seeking out virtual girlfriends or some crazy shit like that. There's no telling what the future will bring. No need to make myself a complete work-from-home shut-in just yet. I need to get a publishing deal first and in order to do that I must write. Give me ten years and we'll see what happens. XD

So yes, it is true I expect the future to be pretty crummy if not kinda boring but I remain hopeful that it is not. I guess that makes me a pessimistic optimist. Or kinda normal, I guess. And just because I don't really care what a lot of other people think doesn't mean I am not aware of how people think when they hear about this stuff. So if I were to actually have a virtual girlfriend... you sure as shit wouldn't hear about it from me in a damn magazine. These guys are nuts if you ask me. Maybe not because they actually do what they say they do (although quite possibly they are), but because they actually say they do it with a straight face in a public format.

I know I don't fit in that well and I accept my limitations, but I still try to be better anyway. Even if it is in just a small way. 

These guys have given up on reality entirely. Pretty sad. Shit, if I had a wife (kinda jumping ahead quite a bit of the process here but it's just an example and it's my blog) I sure as hell wouldn't say dumb shit like "I can't choose between the two." One girl in your life is fucking cartoon, dude. Yeah, it'd be pretty cool if she were real, but she ain't. The other one has a vagina that's real. And boobies. And a personality and looks that weren't created by some creepy ass company. Otherwise, yeah, the cartoon broad is a total keeper. 

Anyway, at the end of the year I am going to do a worst to first list of all this anime. That should be fun. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

I am reluctant to review this book because the book itself is not a complete work. By that I mean that there is no conclusion. This book contains the prologue and first three chapters of a longer tale that has yet to be published in America. At least for another month. Next month The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya will be delivered directly to my Kindle and I will be able to finish this story, but until then I will just sort of be scratching my head. 

We start off with the SOS Brigade in its second year, trying to recruit new members from the batch of incoming freshman. However, things take a bizarre turn (or do they?) when Kyon meets up with an old classmate as well as a few familiar faces who might or might not mean ill will toward the brigade. 

The prologue and the first chapter start off like a normal Tanigawa adventure might. We have Haruhi's hijinks, Kyon's snarkiness, and some behind-the-scenes trouble brewing. Then things get a little interesting in chapter two as the story splits into two different plotlines. By that I mean that at the end of chapter one Kyon gets a phone call and the caller in chapter two is revealed to be either a girl that Kyon doesn't know or a girl named Sasaki that Kyon knew from middle school. Both scenarios are told as if they are both true so we don't really know which plotline is real or maybe if both are somehow real. From there the two plotlines continue to diverge with no explanation as to why. 

Then things just stop at the end of chapter three and I am forced to wait until The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya to start chapter four. 

So the jury is out.

But the verdict is looking good if the second part can deliver and hopefully wrap everything up. I really do like the idea of one story telling two different ones simultaneously. The only difficult thing is keeping track of what is happening in story A versus what is happening in story B since the two stories are told in a mostly alternating pattern. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

So Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, J.F. Gonzalez, Ryan Harding, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, Nate Southard, and Shane McKenzie wrote a book together...

I've kind of been shying away from the harder stuff. However, when I heard that what could only be called a hardcore horror supergroup was going write a novel in order to help author Tom Piccicrilli (who is recovering from a bout with brain cancer)... Well, I wanted to buy it and read it as soon as I could. Sinister Grin Press (co-founded by Shane McKenzie) decided that they were going to release it as a signed hardcover (yes, every author will sign including proceeds beneficiary Tom Piccirilli) and since it was only fifty five bucks I jumped at the chance to get it. I mean, think about how much a signed Stephen king book costs compared to this. 

I don't know what it is going to be like. I hope it isn't a case of one too many cooks spoiling a recipe and all that, but hey, I'm going to be optimistic. This is like the hardcore version of Hear N' Aid, after all. 

This signed hardcover is not going to be a numbered edition because the amount of copies printed will equal the number of copies pre-ordered. Later on the book will be re-released as a paperback and an e-book (probably by Deadite Press), but if you want a hardcover version that is signed then you better get on the stick. 

Get it here:

The Halloween Films from Worst to First

So I haven't really been feeling the October mood just yet. I don't know why. Probably because while so many people will be having fun on Halloween, I will be stuck at work enduring the much-dreaded $0.50 corndog day (only at participating Sonics). Although I hope I won't be stuck on night shift. I hate working normal nights so I'd rather avoid "special nights" if I can help it. Anyway, enough about that. It's time to start having some Halloween festivities around here! So why not a worst to first list about everyone's favorite boogeyman? 

10. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers - There are a few things I like about this movie. I like the production. I like the idea of the Strodes moving into the Myers house. I have no idea how anyone could possibly be that stupid, but it makes for an interesting scenario assuming that Michael Myers comes back to his home turf again. And what do you know? This time Michael has come back with a bunch of insane druids who want Jamie's baby for some apparently fucked up reason. Ummm... I'm sorry? Seriously. I kind of get the plot of Rob Zombie's Halloween II; that's why that one ranks higher. At least the story there seemed more reasonable even if the story still kind of sucked. But this? If not for Donald Pleasence I wouldn't even bother with this movie at all.

09. Rob Zombie's Halloween II - I dig some Zombie, but this film is a mess. I mean, I wanted to like it. There was a certain original flair about it that was admirable, I guess. But this movie just doesn't quite cut it. Had there been a more coherent plot and less surrealism it would have been a bit more palatable. 

08. Halloween: Resurrection - Yes, my friends. Apparently, the appearance of a rapper in H20 was such a success that they chose another rapper for its sequel. This time it was Busta Rhymes. Because when I think horror I certainly think Busta Rhymes. At least LL Cool J could act! Add in some Big Brother-style plot device, a hokey explanation for Michael's survival that would fit in perfectly with the Friday the 13th franchise, and the killing off of the only character that anyone cared about outside of Loomis or Jamie and you have this piece of shit.

07. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers - So if you've gotten into the story this far then you are either a huge fan or someone who has too much time on their hands. I'm not sure which I am. Stylistically, this movie isn't much different from the fourth one, but the movie becomes borderline unwatchable with all of this Jamie-Michael psychic connection stuff. And the guy running around in black that rescues Michael Myers at the end... I mean, someone actually planned a cliffhanger to segue to the godawful sixth movie?! Drugs and greed at work, folks. Stay away from them.

06. Halloween III: Season of the Witch - I actually kind of like this movie. It ain't exactly great, but it's different. There's only so many times I can watch Michael Myers get shot or stab babysitters. Although we do have a few androids. 

05. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers - Michael meets the late 80's. This is the last coherent and largely enjoyable Michael Myers movie until H20. Well, the ending makes absolutely no sense at all so there's some serious points knocked for that, but overall the movie is okay and crazy druid-free.

04. Rob Zombie's Halloween - Yeah, I dig this movie. Objectively speaking, Michael Myers is transformed from shapeless evil to tall stinky redneck with a bad childhood, but hey, at least there aren't any crazy druids or shit like that. No samhain talk. If you honestly think this movie is one of the worst in the franchise then you obviously haven't seen any of the movies in this franchise. The film isn't perfect and it isn't the original but it is good and mostly competently made. It is kinda like a modern day Edward Lee novel with more swearing, though. Which might or might not be your thing.

03. Halloween II - The original sequel. The original bloodier ripoff with a higher body count and sillier kills. Here we are introduced to the pandora's box of all horror movie plotlines: Laurie is Michael's sister! It's an enjoyable enough movie, but it hasn't quite aged so well in my eyes. Expanding the setting to cover an entire hospital (magically devoid of more than five people, of course) and half the town (whose townspeople were conveniently rioting at the Myers house) just didn't quite get across that unnerving sense of isolationism and dread that the first one did. Hospitals have the potential to be creepy and scary places, but the environment is just too aesthetically neutral and sterile to make the feeling stick for an hour and a half. Plus Rick Rosenthal just doesn't have the same skills as a director that Carpenter does. Rosenthal proved that with this film and then further reinforced that notion when he returned to the world of Myers with Halloween: Resurrection.

02. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later - This is the final Halloween movie in the original canon and I don't care if reality says otherwise. It essentially skips all of the previous movies, smartly pretending that they never happened, and reunites us with one of the few characters in this series with which we deserved to be reunited. Having Janet Leigh make a cameo appearance is also a huge bonus. It is unfortunate John Carpenter could not return for this one, but having Steve Miner direct is the next best thing. The involvement of Kevin Williamson is also a big plus.

01. Halloween - Michael Myers was my own personal boogeyman growing up. I was in third grade when I watched the first film with my parents and my mind was blown. Pure unadulterated fear followed by the inability to sleep without a night light on for about three months. Ah, I miss that. Does that make me weird? Well, probably. And it's probably not the only thing, either. The impression Michael Myers made in his debut outing on my brain can still be felt to this day and nothing has managed to fill that impression, either. If anything, it's only been expanded upon by the discovery of other great horror films and books. Naturally, I watched all of the other films in the franchise after that (hence this silly list), but none of them managed to convey that sense of pure terror I got from watching Michael lose his shit in the first film.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

WataMote ~ No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! (Watashi ga Motenai no wa dō Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!)

Anime titles are getting longer and longer these days. There's I Couldn't Become a Hero So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job, The Devil is a Part-Timer!, Wannabe the Strongest Fighter in the World, Oreimo (not even going to bother retyping that one) and of course WataMote (yeah, you see the full title above). Undoubtedly, there are others, too. Those are just the ones that come to mind. 

I suppose there is some sort of attraction to long titles these days. Well, hey, I could care less what an anime is called as long as it is good. And WataMote is indeed a good, no, a great anime. Especially if you are or were among the unsociable or unpopular outcasts of society. I myself have never been popular and I generally keep to myself. Not because I prefer things that way, but that is just the way I am. I have a good personality and am naturally witty and have dashing good looks (well, okay, maybe I am laying it on a bit thick here), but I am also a little skewed, too. I didn't actively seek out to become unusual or bizarre; things just kind of happened that way. And that's cool. I'm cool with how I am for the most part. 

Kuroki Tomoko is the main protagonist of the series and she has a goal to become popular in high school. Unfortunately, Tomoko is so awkward around others that she can't even go into a WcDonald's (yeah, you read that right) without breaking into a nervous stutter and fidget while ordering her food. Sad to say, I can totally understand that. When the cashier asks her to repeat what she wanted to have to drink because she mumbled too softly, Tomoko becomes embarrassed and says she didn't want anything to drink. God, I have been there. Trust me, nothing is as embarrassing when you ask a quiet and shy type to speak louder. It ain't gonna work. 

I mean, this show is so filled with embarrassing and shamefully humorous moments that I didn't think I could make it through. You can't just tell someone to be less awkward or be more sociable because it isn't like that at all. It's something that either will happen over time with growth and age and attempts at interaction or not at all. But never mind being "normal and sociable." Being popular? Well, that's a whole nother kettle of fish, folks. And that is what Tomoko (rather delusionally, I must say) wants to be. She wants to be one of the "popular bitches." 

Each one of these twelve episodes of this delightful series shows Tomoko trying her hardest (relatively speaking) to win her fellow students over to where they treat her with respect and awe. Of course, nothing really works out for the best for her. If anything, the worst happens to her on a consistent basis. And that is what is so damn funny. As well as sad. 

My funny bone rarely gets tickled in such a way that I legitimately fall on the floor and laugh my butt off for a good ten minutes, but I will admit that WataMote had me laughing so hard that my tummy began to hurt. I had to pause and squint to watch some of the scenes. Oh, things were just too unbearable at times. Like bad diarrhea. 

Again, I am speaking as someone who has been on the outside of most social circles. Yeah, I was the guy who spent his summer reading books and watching TV, being jealous of all the cool kids who went to the beach with their buddies. Not that I personally knew any. I'd have thirty minute debates with myself over whether or not I should call some friends up to hang out and then I would talk myself out of it because the sheer thought of me calling somebody... Well, it could very well have been interpreted as a sign of the coming apocalypse. And I wouldn't want that. Yeah, I was that guy.

Trust me, I don't ever want to be a teenager ever again. Nowadays I just don't call people because I hate phones and gadgets with those small-ass buttons. I'm okay with this irrational hatred. 

This short series practically guarantees a case of secondhand embarrassment so strong that you'll find yourself cringing and laughing at the same time. Especially if you've been there. If you haven't then you get a nice (if slightly exaggerated) viewpoint of the socially awkward type going through daily life. 

This anime is also a nice stylistic change in terms of animation. It's so unusual to see characters with actual purple bags under their eyes! We also get anime references galore! I spotted multiple The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya references, an Attack on Titan reference, an Another reference, as well as a few others I can't think of at the moment. One thing I love is when a show admits that other anime actually exists. Since the main character is actually a fan of the genre it also helps us anime fans develop a certain kinship with her. One no one else in the show seems to share. 

The ending song is actually sung by the voice actress of Tomoko (Kitta Izumi) and it is absolutely adorable when combined with the animation of the ending credits. Oddly one of my favorite parts of the show. 

So where would I rank this show on the year? Hmmm... I've seen a lot of good anime this year. I'd need to go back and look at the list, but I think top five would be a good spot for now. I wish the finale could have brought a bit more closure, but that's just the ways things are sometimes. It may not have been the most emotionally satisfying ending, but it was a true one. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

Originally published in Japan in May of 2006 and then later republished in English in the US in November of 2012, The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya is the eighth book in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series. This time around we have two novellas instead a book of shorts or an actual novel. The first novella is entitled Editor in Chief, Full Speed Ahead! and in this story we finally get to see the student council make its move against the illegal school organization known as the SOS Brigade that happens to be residing in the literature club's room. Of course, Kyon is quick to catch that the student council president is not all he seems and that maybe fellow SOS Brigade member Koizumi Itsuki might have even something to do with sudden antagonism. 

In order to keep the literature club's room from being taken away the SOS Brigade must create a literary newsletter and all of the copies of the newsletter must sell out. The contents are not set in stone but the must be something literary and naturally Haruhi has a few ideas. 

Deciding who will write what by lottery, Kyon finds himself forced into writing a love story if he wants to save Nagato Yuki's reputation as well as Haruhi's precious clubroom. More importantly, thanks to Koizumi's never-shutting mouth, Kyon is forced to wonder if he drew "love story" because Haruhi wanted him to or if it was just a fluke. Ah, that is indeed the question. 

This novella isn't anything groundbreaking. However, we get to read Nagato's "story" and that is certainly as puzzling as it is interesting. The very definition of a brain on diarrhea. 

Other than that little gem, I don't want to call it a must-read. In fact, I would have preferred a story that took place right after The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya instead of one that takes place before it, but that is just the way this series is. I'll take the good with the slightly less than good. 

The second story is Wandering Shadow and we finally get to see a peek of life after The Intrigues. For some reason dogs are avoiding an area outside of North High and the SOS Brigade are called upon to investigate by the Brigade's second ever client. The culprit supposedly causing the dogs to steer clear of the area is a ghost, but Kyon isn't so quick to believe that. Sure, he knows an ESPer, a time traveler, an alien, and someone who might very well be God, but he doesn't quite believe in ghosts. When a few of the dogs start getting sick and Nagato begins to explain the cause, Kyon starts to wonder not only if ghosts exists... but if souls do as well. 

I rather preferred the second story of the two. The ending did leave me in full-on contemplation mode and it certainly did have a bit more meat on it than a lot of the other shorts, but the second story still doesn't quite have the gusto of a full-length novel. 

I am not sure if either of the these stories will play a large part in The Disassociation of Haruhi Suzumiya or The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya, but I am sure I will find out. These last two books comprise one longer novel with The Disassociation containing the prologue and chapters one through three. Not quite sure while they were released like that, but I didn't write or edit them. I just read 'em. 

I am kind of bummed out that the ride is almost over (Nagaru better write more!), but I still have The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan to look forward to so there's that. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013


It may seem silly to review a film like Ted because if you've seen Family Guy then you probably already know what to expect from Ted. However, I initially didn't relish the idea of watching Ted because I figured it would be a bad movie. I don't want to say that "I thought it would be a stupid movie" because there are plenty of movies that are stupid that I find to be reasonably entertaining. No, what sort of initially put me off of it was the fact that, while Seth MacFarlane's humor generally worked well with me on the small screen, I wasn't sure if he could do the same utilizing the big screen. That and The Cleveland Show made me wonder if MacFarlane was jumping the shark. 

When my brother got me the DVD last month for my birthday I decided that it would just be rude if I didn't watch it. And one thing I am not is rude. 

Well, I just wanted to say that Ted is flat-out freaking funny and it is the definition of MacFarlane humor at its best. That being said, if you don't find MacFarlane funny then you won't find this movie funny. Which, well, I'm so glad I'm not one of those people. And no, it's not exactly groundbreaking, but this ain't Platoon or Gone with the Wind, folks. It's about a teddy bear that gets high and bangs hookers. Adjust your expectations accordingly, please. 

Perhaps the one thing I want to say about this movie is that it is consistently funny throughout. I mean, the ending gets a bit dramatic (relatively speaking, of course), but there are still punchlines that work well into the movie. Not all of them work, but most of them do. A lot of comedies sort of run out of funny material after the first thirty minutes and just kinda trot along, hoping they can come up with a few more funny bits before the movie half-assedly ends. But Ted seems legitimately thought out like a fine dance choreography. 

My advice? Watch it knowing what to expect but don't take everything so seriously. If you are easily offended then this isn't your movie. Of course, the same could be said of just about everything else associated with Seth MacFarlane. If you are thinking about giving anything by MacFarlane a chance then start with Family Guy. If you can handle that then this movie won't be that much of a shocker. Basically, the only difference between the two is that one has cuss words and is in live action while the other is a FOX cartoon. If you can watch Brian get shitfaced then you can watch Ted light a bong. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabu Kome wa Machigatteiru)

A common and annoying trope in many harem and romantic comedy anime is a main character who happens to be a bumbling and dense idiot who just happens to chance his way into these envious situations. While I'm sure I fit the bill of "bumbling and dense idiot," I can honestly say that I have never wound up in the middle of a harem accidentally or even on purpose. If I had then I probably would not spend so much time blogging or watching anime and spend a lot more time with my harem. If only I was an anime character... Or Hugh Hefner. 

The amount of time I spend cursing at the television because "Main Character No. 1" is such a complete idiot that he just doesn't get it... Well, hey, it's nothing to brag about. The female character he likes could go right up to him and say, "I like you," and Main Character No. 1 would be thinking, "What does she mean by that?" At which point my inner matchmaker would say, "Well, I am pretty sure she just told you! Are you some freaking Vulcan or something?"

But I digress.

What a lot of these brainless (but shamefully entertaining) shows fail to convey is that relationships are as much about psychology as they are about the achievement of romantic ideals. But hey, this is anime. In anime people accidentally fall down and kiss instead of cussing because they just got some teeth knocked out. Nothing psychological about that. 

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a sort of rarity in that it plays on the stereotypes often presented within anime (characters introduced by an incident in the past meeting again much later pretending not to remember each other, cute little sisters, and even a "trap" character), but delivers its own twist by having a main character who is antisocial and does everything possible to disassociate with his classmates. He's practically the anime version of Dr. House.

When his language teacher and "futures advisor" tries to bring him out of his shell by semi-forcing him to join a club that only has one other member, Hikigaya Hachiman's goal to maintain his low profile to avoid awkward social situations becomes increasingly more difficult. 

Yukinoshita Yukino is the sole member of the Services Club and she is just as shut-in as Hachiman. However, Hachiman avoids people because he flat-out dislikes them while Yukino avoids people because so many people she knew tried to undermine her because of her looks and family. From the start they do not get along since both of them have the tendency to dissect the other's faults and speak bluntly about those faults. Indeed, the one problem they do not have is speaking their true feelings no matter how awkward the situation.

Together, the two of them perform services for students who ask for them. But they will not acknowledge friendship between themselves. 

Their first customer is Yuigahama Yui. Yui is an outgoing classmate of Hachiman's with a lot of friends, but she has trouble expressing herself. She is actually envious of Hachman's and Yukino's ability to say what is on their minds and before long she becomes the third and final member of the Services Club.

Since this is a romantic comedy to an extent a love triangle soon becomes apparent, but the way it is presented and resolved is different than your everyday romantic comedy anime. Because we are dealing with a main character who simply wants to be alone. And it should be brought to light that the true the purpose of Hachiman being in this club is not to find romance, but to actually just be a better and more sociable person. Whether he becomes one or not... Well, that's why you got to watch. 

I actually learned a lot watching this anime. Hachiman is indeed a very low character and downright nasty at times, but his monologues/narrations do hold some serious truth and made me think, "you know, we are not that much different" quite a few times. 

No, Hachiman isn't exactly your ideal romantic lead because he doesn't say nice things or send sweet texts, but even the most antisocial surely is capable of using their heart for more than just pumping blood, right? 


P.S. - The correct translation of the Japanese title would be My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected. I have no idea why it was changed to My Teen Romantic Comedy Situation Normal All Fucked Up. At any rate I would like to read the light novels if they are ever translated properly and made available for legal purchase in the U.S. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (Suisei no Garugantia)

Within minutes of finishing one of the best anime I've seen all year, I find myself trying to reflect on what I have seen and compose my thoughts enough to where I don't come out sounding like I just went on a massive "feel trip." Well, folks, I did just go on a massive feel trip so I am not sure I can help sounding like an overzealous fanboy.

There is no doubt in my mind that Attack on Titan was the best show of the summer (probably best show of the year), but I would dare say that Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet was the second best and I feel like a complete idiot for avoiding it just because it was "another mecha anime."

It's not that I don't love me some mecha action, but I find them difficult to tell apart every now and then. I mean, once you've seen a few of the Gundam shows, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Eureka Seven, Escaflowne, and Code Geass the list of mecha must-see shows kind of dwindles a bit. At least for me. I don't mind digging a bit for harem, romantic comedies, horror, or straight-up action shows that fit the bill of "must-see", but mecha is the one genre that just kind of slips between the cracks for me. While I can watch a couple action shows or a couple of harem shows at once, I can't really do the same with mecha shows because they generally have such complex storylines that having multiple mecha shows going on at once isn't really recommended. So while I was watching Valvrave the Liberator season one, I was deliberately putting off Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and Majestic Prince.

Not saying I made a mistake because I really enjoyed Valvrave the Liberator, but Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is definitely a must-see show while Valvrave the Liberator is technically a still unfinished show which might or might not fit the bill of must-see depending upon what the second season brings.

Anyway, enough dillydallying. It's time for me to do some serious anime dissecting.

Ledo is a brainwashed soldier and he pilots an AI name Chamber. Together they fight against these mammoth squid-like creatures called Hideauze. The Hideauze are apparently the enemy of humanity. Before getting a chance to go to Avalon (where brainwashed futuristic people live now) after a failed attack on the Hideauze, Ledo and Chamber crash land on some strange primitive planet covered in water where non-brainwashed primitive people live. In this new world that features no war on a galactic scale and seemingly no Hideauze, Ledo finds himself struggling to adapt. 

That's the start. Now here's the sell. 

My goal here is to sell you this show. So let's start with the 5 W's and the 1 H.

Who - Who is this anime for? Well, if you are a fan of the "fish out of water" genre, the post-apocalyptic Mad Max/Waterworld scenario, big ass squids, or the mecha genre then this show is what you want.

What - What will you get from this anime that you can't get from any other? This show is a superbly crafted characterization piece disguised as a post-apocalyptic mecha anime that wouldn't look too out of place next to Miyazaki Hayao's Spirited Away. The thing is that each character grows as the story progresses, not just one or two of them. Hell, even the mechas and the enemies end up becoming something completely different than initially expected. If you watched the last episode before the first episode (why you would I wouldn't know), you wouldn't even recognize all of the characters because they've just grown so much. Perhaps the biggest character growth will surprise you, too.

Where - Where does the story actually take place? Well, Gargantia is a loosely bound fleet of ships that swims across the water-covered earth. They try to evade pirates and generally try to live in peace with everyone. Then Ledo and Chamber come down from the sky (well, technically they find them six months after they landed on earth deep under water during a diving/recovery mission) and things get pretty interesting from there. 

Why - Why should you watch this mecha anime and not any other mecha? I honestly don't discourage people from watching this show or that show. I think you should watch as many anime as you can get your hands on, mecha or not. But why should you add this show specifically to your watching queue? For one, I think the pacing is excellent. With its twelve episode, Gargantia makes the absolute most of its screen time. (That is not saying it's action 24/7 because the first half of the series is fairly loose. It's where Ledo learns to enjoy things like just spending a day at a cookout or having to outrun a bunch of cross dressers in a dark alley to keep from being possibly raped. You know, just your average every day living life stuff that doesn't require mass amounts of killing. These episodes are important in providing a false sense of security.) For another, AI Chamber is easily one of the best robots media has produced. I'd place him up there with Ash from the Alien franchise, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Terminator from T2 for sure. At least, those are my favorite robots/AI. I'm sure you'd place Chamber next to your favorites, too. 

When - When does this story take place? I honestly don't know. It's obviously futuristic, but there doesn't seem to be a specific date. I actually prefer my sci-fi like that. It makes things less silly when humankind actually catches up with the timeframe of a given sci-fi show. 

How - How should you watch it? It's streaming legally right now on Crunchyroll. Except for the two OVA's. I haven't seen those yet. But I will whenever they are made available for purchase in the US! Same for the series. 

Curious yet? You better be. 

P.S. - A sequel to the first season has been green-lit and I am freaking glad. This show is good. Let's hope the sequel (whatever it is: movie, OVA, another season) does the show justice. Although I am wondering just how they will do it considering the... well never mind. 

The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

The Haruhi Suzumiya series is at its best when the subject is time travel. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (book 1), Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody from The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya (book 3), The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (book 4), and The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya (book 7) all sort of rise above their brethren as not just great Haruhi Suzumiya stories, but great stories in general. That's not saying I don't enjoy all of the stories that aren't about time travel, but it's more my way of saying that the time travel stories are the meat and most of the other non-time travel stories are flavorful fat.

Published in Japan in August 2005 and then in America in June 2012, The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya clocks in at a whopping 280 pages. Okay, maybe that isn't an epic as long as Stephen King's The Stand, but The Intrigues does make for the longest Haruhi light novel so far. And the story is that much better for it! 

In The Disappearance Kyon had to go back in time three years in order to prevent a world in which there was no SOS Brigade from coming to fruition. Once he made it back to his present time he was stabbed and almost died if not for the assistance of someone who sounded and looked an awfully lot like himself. 

The Disappearance ended with Kyon knowing that he would soon have to go back in time to save himself, but deciding that he would celebrate Christmas by eating some of Haruhi's hot pot first. In The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina from The Wavering (book 6) we were told that Kyon did go back to save himself, but we weren't exactly given any details. Naturally, that annoyed me, but Tanigawa has been great at filling in the gaps so far (honestly, a little too great with all of the short stories filling in every single detail) so I knew he would have a book or a story somewhere that provided us with that info. 

Well, The Intrigues finally wraps up The Disappearance and we get to see Kyon's journey back in time to save himself first hand. 

Once his life is saved and Kyon returns to his normal time and a world with the SOS Brigade is safely guaranteed, Kyon decides that it is time for some R&R. Of course, there are a few things trying to keep him from relaxing, but overall everything seems smooth until he hears a sound coming from the broom closet of the SOS Brigade club room. 

That sound is the sound of an Asahina Mikuru who has been sent back in time eight days by none other than Kyon himself! 

Kyon is naturally confused as to why Asahina would need to travel back in time and he is even more confused as to why he would need her to travel back in time. Which makes sense because from Kyon's perspective he hasn't had a need to send Asahina back in time yet and might not for eight more days. 

But all of that confusion takes a back seat when Kyon realizes that there are now two people named Asahina Mikuru in his timeline and he must somehow keep them from meeting each other while trying to figure out why the hell he needed two Asahinas in his timeline at all. Just what the hell had his future self been thinking? 

Not to mention there is yet another Asahina from even further in the future who keeps leaving Kyon obscure notes telling him to pull childish pranks for seemingly no reason with eight-days-from-the-future Asahina. 

Meanwhile, Haruhi is back to her usual tricks again and has the SOS Brigade going on treasure hunts, mystery searches, and even raffles. Of course, Kyon knows all of this beforehand thanks to eight-days-from-the-future Asahina, but knowing this doesn't help him know why he has to deal with even more time traveling shenanigans when he apparently already has a full plate. More importantly, it makes him even more agitated because now he has to act in certain ways around present Asahina that fit eight-days-from-the-future Asahina's memory lest there be some sort of potentially future-ruining paradox!

If you are a fan, if you wanted a novel-length follow-up to The Disappearance, if you want to know why the boy from The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina was so important, or if you want a story that features three versions of the same easy-on-the-eyes character then this is your book, folks. Plus it's just damn good. 

It's available for Kindle download, paperback, and hardcover just like all of the others. Go buy it. Buy all three versions. 

Failure to do so means punishment!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top Ten Mood-Improving Songs

Naturally, this list will be a subjective one meant to inspire discourse. I think that everyone listens to music that makes them feel specific emotions even if they only do so on an unconscious level. Sure, you can listen to music for the technique of a player or for the beat you can dance to, but unless you are an android or a Glee cast member then you probably just listen to music that makes you think about where you are in life more than anything. Unless you are one of those who thinks that "heavy" music isn't a good thing because it'll "bring you down." In that case you can call me a contrarian. There is no greater mental therapy than to confront negative emotions with a sense of understanding and gradually turn them into positive emotions. Music by itself can't do that, but it can help be a catalyst. When we are finished with our silent ruminations we want to start feeling "happy." Well, music can help with that, too. I think we all have a list of songs we listen to when we want to be happy or to mentally reinforce our own sense of happiness. Again, think about why you listen to the songs you do and just when you listen to them. What are the songs that make you happy? And more importantly, do you actually like most of the songs that make you happy or do you avoid them because they don't fit your ideal genre or because they are too embarrassing to listen to in public? These are important things to know. As for what songs make you happy... if you don't break out into big shit-eating grin every time you play that a certain song then that one probably doesn't fit the bill. 

Here's the list of songs that make me happy. 

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) - Bruce Springsteen - There are a few Boss songs that could be here, but this song just worms into my head even though I have no idea what the hell he's saying half the time. This Song + Me = Instant Smile. 
I'm the Man - Anthrax - I am not a big rap fan, but I am a fan of being goofy. This song is certainly my goofy fix. 
Change the World - V6 - I have a rule about pop music. I only really like it if it is sung in a language I can't understand and accompanied by Japanese animation. Perhaps this is because my distaste for modern American music is so strong that I have to outsource my fix for pop music. 
Born to be Wild - Ozzy Osbourne (featuring Miss Piggy) - Oh, yeah, I know my day is made when I start it off with this one while eating some eggs and bacon. Especially the bacon. Although it sounds like maybe Miss Piggy is a little too happy to be singing with Ozzy at times. I bet Kermit was pissed. 
Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy) - Rob Zombie - Not sure what a kroovy is or why it is red, but this is a hard rocker that makes me think of spending a day at the beach. 
Happy Crescent - Nakagawa Kanon - Okay, so I credited the song to an anime character. Technically, she does sing it in the show, but the true singer is Kanon's voice actress. 
Cha La Head Cha La - Kageyama Hironobu - This one took a bit to grow on me because I was so accustomed to hearing the Funimation English dub opening, but after a while it's tough to not want to listen to it. 
Oops, I Did It Again - Children of Bodom - Pop songs covered as metal songs make for a great combination. The only thing that could be better is if it were sung in German or Japanese and accompanied with a Japanese animated video. 
Braineaters - The Misfits -  Almost a minute about eating brains. A minute spent well, my friends. 
Yellow Submarine - The Beatles - Yeah, this isn't their best song, but that isn't what this list is about. This is about just being happy. The Long and Winding Road is great if I want to get hopelessly depressed, but Yellow Submarine is the one I turn to for that smile. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Wavering of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa

The sixth book in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series is in the books and ready for the Blog House. Like The Boredom (book 3) and The Rampage (book 5), The Wavering is a book of shorts. This one contains five stories, though. And the first two stories take place within the timeframe The Sigh (book 2) or just after while the final three stories take place after The Disappearance (book 4) and before and after Snowy Mountain Syndrome from The Rampage (book 5). 

  • Live Alive - Kyon journeys to the yakisoba cafe to meet with Asahina and Tsuraya before catching Haruhi and Nagato perform with the band. Aside from a little more insight into Haruhi's character, there isn't much here. When this story was adapted for episode eleven of the first season of the anime the singing was done by Hirano Aya, the Japanese voice actress for Haruhi. Aya just happens to be a real-life J-pop singer, too. She sang the opening themes and the ending themes for the anime. In the English dub the singing for the two songs the band performed at the cultural festival was done by Wendee Lee. Between the two, I'd say that Aya really stole the show. Wendee did okay though and kudos to her for giving the singing a shot. I infinitely prefer the anime to this story, but again it is nice to see where the anime came from. But once you take out the ability to actually hear the music the story becomes kind of pointless. However, Nagaru has expressed his opinion that after so much build up to the cultural festival in The Sigh only to have novel end before the cultural festival even began... Well, it does seem rather anticlimactic, doesn't it? Well, here's the cultural festival, folks. 
  • The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina: Episode 00 - In The Sigh we were told about the production of the movie that the SOS Brigade made for the cultural festival. Well, this story is actually the movie itself. Not sure I see the point of expanding the movie to where it could be a standalone story, but it is amusing enough in its own right. Nagaru joked in the afterward that he might indeed turn it into a trilogy.  This story was adapted into the first episode of the first season of the anime. 
  • Love at First Sight - From this point on we are anime-comparison-free. This story takes place prior to Snowy Mountain Syndrome and it is about an old acquaintance who calls Kyon up out of nowhere and confesses his love for Nagato Yuki to him! Kyon is certainly curious as to why anyone would fall head over heels for Yuki, but he decides to help play matchmaker against his better judgement. And perhaps he's more than curious about how the alien-made humanoid computer-human interface might respond to a declaration of love. Who knew Nagato could be such a heartbreaker?
  • Where Did the Cat Go? - This is the mystery that the SOS Brigade tried to get to in Snowy Mountain Syndrome. It's much shorter than its spiritual predecessor Remote Island Syndrome from The Boredom, but I would say the mystery is even better this time around. It actually required me to think a little bit more. It wasn't as dramatic though since everybody knew it would be a fake murder this time. 
  • The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina - Having already gone back in time to save himself from dying in The Disappearance, Kyon is looking forward to some nice R&R. Then the Asahina of his time seemingly invites him out on a date and he's overjoyed. But his hopes are dashed when he discovers that his dream of a date with Asahina isn't a date at all, but more "classified information time travel-related" hijinks. Nagaru himself said that the next novel in the series will be a direct sequel to this story. Call me interested then. In fact, the next three books are more or less one long book from what I understand. This is a very good thing. Shorts are nice and fun and stuff, but I want an epic Haruhi adventure!

I really do hope the anime makes a season three from these unadapted stories as well as the sequel light novels to this book. Oh, and speaking of the anime, there's an episode called Someday in the Rain that was from the first season of the anime and it is the only episode that has yet to be covered by any of the books I have read. Why? Well, that episode was written specifically for the anime and has no basis in the light novels. Chronologically speaking, that is the final episode of the series (even though it is technically only episode nine of season one) before the movie so I think that is an important point worth making. 

Next up is The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Oreimo (Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai)

There are some guilty pleasures that are so guilty that they make other guilty pleasures look as wholesome as the azalea trail maids by comparison. This is especially true of Oriemo (this title is actually an abbreviation for that long ass title you see above; a true English title for this show would be My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute). At first glance it is a seemingly light-hearted comedy about a school kid named Kyosuke and his sister Kirino and their frustrating relationship as siblings. However, it isn't before long that you begin to wonder if maybe Kirino and Kyosuke's problems aren't how they act as brother and sister, but that they are brother and sister.

Allow me to elaborate.

At the beginning of the series Kyosuke accidentally discovers that his estranged sister is a huge otaku and that she has rather large collection of moe anime and "little sister" eroge. Now eroge describes a bunch of animated video games that feature erotic content. Generally explicit scenes of sexual intercourse and whatnot. Little sister eroge are games that feature "relationships" between brother and sister with the game player assuming the role of brother and the conquest of the game being the sister.

Now imagine your little sister with a little sister eroge in her possession. Awkward, right? Bizarrely enough, it's that dynamic that really sells or drowns the anime for you.

Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing sexually explicit about this anime. There's no incest. But there are moments where you will find yourself thinking, "Please don't end in incest, please don't end in incest," and you keep watching because you just don't know how everything will turn out. It's that flirting with the edge of taboo that makes things interesting.

However, this really isn't a show you would want the whole world knowing that you watch because... well, a show that even hints that a brother and sister might get into a relationship together is not of those things you would typically want to share. Unless, like me, you either don't care or don't worry about the perceptions of those around you.

In fact, that last statement largely describes the intent of the first season of the anime. Kirino is a popular girl who happens to be a model and she doesn't want her "model" friends to know how much of an otaku she is, but she desperately wants someone in her life to appreciate the same things she does so she can talk to them about it. This is where Kyosuke initially enters the picture. Kirino practically forces the little sister eroge on him and demands that he tell her what he really thought about the games. This, if you can put aside the very icky thought of bonding through games that feature intercourse between brother and sister, serves as common ground setting for both Kyosuke and Kirino. However, Kyosuke does this because he is a good sibling. Before long he tries to get Kirino to get her own otaku friends apart from her model friends so that he doesn't have to be subjected to so much little sister eroge. One she makes these otaku friends, Kirino tries as hard as she can to keep the two groups from ever seeing each other because she is mortified as to just what her model friends will think about her.

But is Kyosuke himself enjoying being drawn into the otaku world as well as the world of eroge? More importantly, is he really doing all of this because he is just trying to be a good sibling or is there something else?

Hmmm... indeed.

The second season becomes almost harem-esque with all of the female characters pursuing Kyosuke, but Kirino seems to be standing in the way. Is she doing so because she is just trying to be her usual bitchy self or is it because she wants Kyosuke to herself?

Again... indeed.

I don't want to say it is all that tough to say because the little sister eroge is a big hint, but Oreimo spends most of its running time tap-dancing a fine line and it really keeps it up until the end when that moment you've either been dreading or waiting for finally rears its head. The issue that has been staring us in the face the entire time finally gets confronted for better or worse.

The first season was comprised of twelve initial episodes, but there were four additional OVA's that offered an alternate ending to the first season. These OVA's also serve as a branch to the second season. The second season itself is thirteen episodes followed by three OVA's that wrap up the series entirely. Without the OVA's the series doesn't really get resolved so I don't understand why they were OVA's at all and couldn't be broadcasted along with the television series. The change in media really irks me. Oh, well.

I'm not quite sure what I think of this show. The first season was better while the second season found itself falling into some of the same tropes as a lot of previous shows. All in all, the subject matter was handled pretty well, but I am still not sure how I feel about giving an approval rating to show that portrayed such subject matter in such an offhand way.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this series. It was ridiculously funny at times and it practically had to be in order to pull off the story. When Kyosuke's dad found out that he played those games with Kirino I about died laughing.

So I guess I would have to give my approval to this series and call it a "must recommend." I just... umm, yeah, I just feel kind of weird about doing so.

Chances are you'll feel the same way as I do if you watch the show. So come on and join the "I really liked that anime, but damn that was weird and kind of uncomfortable to watch" club already! You won't regret it. Mostly.