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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Almost Bodacious Space Pirates

I feel like I need to write this sooner rather than later, but Toonami is coming on in about an hour, so I'm probably going to challenge myself to keep this as concise as possible.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Lol.

Anyway, the next season of anime will start up in just two or so weeks from now, I believe. There's a lot of shows I'm looking forward to. Psycho-pass, with its combination of writer and director, can't help but at least be memorable, Dvorak's 9th would be interesting on pedigree alone, and, of course, Jormungand S2. Not to mention, I hear...interesting...things about Lychee Light Club, and when it comes to anime nowadays, different is almost always at least worth a watch.

But before the next season, I had a bit of a backlog of shows that I started but then neglected to finish from the spring, for various reasons. Specifically, I had yet to finish Bodacious Space Pirates and Kids on the Slope.

Bodacious Space Pirates I hadn't yet finished for a very simple reason: it had lost my interest. When the show started, it started strong. It was obviously a show designed to be a safe bet among otaku, but within that bracket, it was immediately apparent that quite a bit of thought had gone into the world building and the characters. It takes the show several episodes to even get into space, because it's concerned enough with developing the good captain Marika on the ground. Even the stock megane-tundere-whatever girl had some interesting moments that belied a deeper layer. When we did go to space, the mechanics were not at all arbitrary but well developed and well explored in a strategically limited scope.

But then the director's attention shifted to Lagrange, and all of a sudden, it stopped. The characterization stopped, the world building stopped, and the attention to detail stopped. It went from being an interesting take on a decidedly limited concept to an astoundingly mediocre show. It was never bad, and I kept at it for a while - until the end of the first season arc - but it almost never did anything even remotely interesting. It's like the show was in holding pattern, and actually, I suspect that was exactly the case. The director was working two shows, after all.

Eventually, I stopped watching it weekly, and eventually, I was barely watching it monthly. I just wasn't motivated to follow it anymore, and I hadn't dropped it yet only because I heard from people who did keep up with it that the ending picked up quite a bit.

But then just recently, still being on episode 19, I decided to go ahead and finish it. First was an arc about Ai-chan (yes, that's what they actually call her: "love-chan") which was pretty okay. I was wondering where everyone else was coming from, when all of a sudden, we're introduced to the final arc.

Now, let me set this straight. The final arc isn't super awesome. It's only about as good as the first part of the show, and it comes very close to feeling rushed. But it is several other things that the middle was not.

It's engaging, it has the same attention to detail as the start, and it picks up the same thematic thread as the start alluded to but never explored. Honestly, the thematic thread still isn't explored very far or very well, but it's something. The pirates in this show are more similar to the romantic Spanish conception of pirates, as you'd find in El Canción del Pirata. These pirates are about freedom in the unknowns of space, with power as a means to that. If that were what the whole show were about, I'd be a happy otaku, but alas.

Since it's still not a particularly masterful show, there's not much I can say about how it achieves what it achieves. The director has a set of preferred camera angles that he uses for different characters in different situations, so the style isn't particularly dynamic. Most of what makes the show work or not work is in dialog and pacing, I think. It knew - at least in the beginning and end - how to take a dramatic breath for the sake of getting us to care about the characters.

But in the end, it's not a terribly good show. It could have been, I wish it were, and other people seem to think it is, but it's really not. Watch the first few episodes. Then, if you progress through the series and find that the high school girl tropes are enough to keep your interest, then it'll probably be a worthwhile series. Otherwise, either drop it, or skip to episode 23.

At least, that's my take on it.
There are individual shots in this show that are cooler than the show as a whole ever was

(Kids on the Slope writeup to come.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


So yeah, posting.

That thing.

I’ve been pretty busy ever since I got back to college, but that isn’t really an excuse. I guess I never felt inspired to really write about anything. I never did finish talking about C82, but I don’t feel like doing so now either. Here’s the brief version:
  • 東方四重奏7 (Touhou String Quartet 7) - TAMusic: I think this is probably their best quartet album so far. TAMusic’s biggest problem is a lack of form due to their improvised nature, but that doesn’t seem to be present here nearly as much. If I were to give an example of what classically arranged Touhou should sound like, it’d definitely be from this album, and not, say, Adonis Enterprise or some other WAVE album. Not that WAVE is bad…more misguided. Touhou is not not not Hanz Zimmer material.
  • 12th Spell ~ Trick Shooter - Xi~On: It did not blow me away, but there’s nothing really wrong with it. I don’t remember any real standout tracks, and I don’t feel like listening to the whole thing right this moment. I should really do so soon though. It kinda feels like it doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up: metal, rock, or synthorchestralthing.  Which is a shame, because xi~on normally has some pretty darned good power metal.
  • Blaze Out - EastNewSound: Eh. It’s a long album, and it’s filled with lots of pretty good songs. It’s hard to point to any specific feature of ENS music as “this is their signature sound,” but it’s nonetheless very particular and very strong in all their works. As a whole, it just didn’t feel like anything special.
  • Limited Dimension - EastNewSound: Their original album, however, is more interesting, though I still can’t think of any specific basis to recommend it on. Now that I think about it though, doesn’t a lot of their music feel like its from an anime ED sometimes? They’re kinda like fripside or something.
  • White Clear - Syrufit: In comparison to Blossom, it’s a bit disappointing, but anything would have been. All of the tracks work pretty well, and Shibayan and Nhato are always nice to see as well. Syrufit really is developing as a producer.

    Though incidentally, it really sounds like Syrufit is channeling Shibayan in Back Door.  He's done electro in the past, but I like where this is going.
Anyway, lately, I’ve not been playing too many video games or watching much anime besides what’s on Toonami (like the casual scum I am). I have been playing in two different D&D Pathfinder campaigns though. In one, I play an overpowered as fuck magus, and in the other, an overpowered as fuck sorcerer.

Since when did I become a powergamer? Okay, the magus (her name is Fern Hartmann) was a bit intentional, but the sorcerer (Catherine Hyland - I really do play too many girls) was mostly by accident. At least the DM put the kibosh on my idea for a spell that abused was perfectly in line with the whack-as-hell physics in Elements of Magic’s move(force) rules to do 12d8+1d6+17 damage at 30ft (read: will one-shot most enemies we'd encounter at this level on a low roll). I mean, really, the spell can put out several times the amount of energy in joules as the bullet from a Lee-Enfield rifle: did they really think about this stuff?

Oh well, playing that sort of character would be kinda boring, actually. I’ve always kinda hated rollplay in the place of roleplay, and while the move(force) railgun would actually rather fit the character, people don’t need the encouragement to see characters as an amalgamation of spells-per-day and BABs.

I’ve also been thinking of running my own campaign sometime around the ending weeks of the semester, in preparation for running something much larger the following one.

The small one I was thinking of is an excuse to a) get the hang of DMing and b) try out some ideas I’ve had for making Pathfinder more martial and deadly and d10 like. There will be crit tables, magic will have a tendency to literally blow up in your face, everyone will be rolling up NPC classes, and it will likely end badly for all involved.

The bigger campaign is going to be Adeptus Evangelion. We’re going to be operating from NERV Barcelona. It’ll be awesome. I’m kinda hoping v3 will be out in time, but I’m not counting on it.

Anyway, maybe now I’m settled in, I’ll have time to write more.

Oh, but as a bit of an extra something for people who read this and not my tumblr, here's a bit of archaeology I did.  If you look on the touhouwiki at Alstroemeria Record's discography, the first cd listed there is not ARCD-0001.  ARCD-0001 is actually arrangements of songs from Key visual novels, and it's very different from most of his later work.  It's very low key, not anywhere like his later trance and house.  There's only one track from this album on youtube.  ...the embedding of which is forbidden by the user, so:

(I think she's from Air or something, but I dunno shit about Key.  Just music.)