Smile down the Runway

I like where this thread is going

by Bob Johnson

Crawling through this season’s anime chart is no easier of a slog this time than any other. Just searching through the A titles yields two notable loads of bishi-bait – A3! (Dull!) and ARP Backstage Pass (drama buoyed by peppy J-Pop while also boat-anchored to CGI dance numbers, and dripping with BL subtext).

On the flip side – things that are actually good – in yet another triumph of meta-anime, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! has steadily become the talk of the town. I don’t disagree with that, it plainly belongs up there on Mount Weebmore with your Shiro Bakos and such. Just don’t miss the forest for the tallest tree, either. There’s at least one other show this season worth watching.

Smile down the Runway is a classic tale of two misfits who are propelled by a mutual love of fashion. One suffers from the weight of disappointment, never growing to the height needed to model clothes in the usual way. The other toils in obscurity, patching together viral clothing designs from odds and ends laying around, but is held back by economics and inexperience. With an odd wisdom before their years, both realize that with their handicaps, they might only have one shot to break into the big time. So they give it their all.

But can you fix being short on short notice?

The simple mechanic where our leads take on the specific challenge before them has produced a show that is both joyful and practical. This is what you need to do, what kind of job you need, what you need to do to get through the day. And when someone tells you that you can’t do something, you do it anyway! In this way, it’s entirely different in tone from other fashion anime – Princess Jellyfish (zany antics punctuated by desperation plays that in true comedic fashion, always lead to the protagonists failing upward) and Paradise Kiss (a melodramatic slide from innocence into a struggle in a grey and jaded world).

Now granted, most Americans caught their fill of this sort of thing sometime early in the previous decade. But if you haven’t already been over-Tyra Banks-ed, you might weave this show into into your tapestry.

Maybe check it out:
Smile down the Runway (Runway de Warette)
Based on the manga by Kotoba Inoya
Produced by Ezóla, Licenced by Funimation

Glorious Zipang

All the excitement of a documentary
by Bolt Vanderhuge

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this anime. On the one hand it’s an interesting take on the premise of the movie Final Countdown which features a modern Japanese Aegis destroyer named Mirai being transported to WWII rather than an American aircraft carrier, but on the other it tends to really slow its own plot and action down for the sake of philosophic discussion or just for the sake of military fanservice. This isn’t to bash on this series exactly, because I can totally go for slow, philosophical plots, or discussing the features and capabilities of both modern and WWII era ships and aircraft, but this can get kind of frustrating when it has the effect of slamming the brakes on everything else that’s trying to happen in the story.

Some of this comes from agonizing over whether it’s ethical to even defend themselves or to rescue anyone from this time period they see in distress as it might alter that timeline. This could be a cultural difference, as I doubt an American ship in their place would hesitate as much, and would probably be more concerned over how irreplaceable any resources might be. There’s also the awkwardness that comes from finding yourself in a shooting war with people you’ve grown up all your life thinking of as allies (their ship is even based on an American design). But most of the focus seemed to be on how any actions they take could alter time with the crew deciding they wanted to avoid this, that is when it isn’t taking time to nerd out over the various ships, submarines, aircraft, and weapons in the show.

There isn’t anything Freudian about this scene at all

Enter LCdr Kusaka, an Imperial Japanese Navy officer whom the Mirai‘s first officer, LCdr Kadomatsu, decides he just can’t watch drown as they come across his crashed airplane. They then double down on this by letting someone who was supposed to have died have access to the ship’s library, so he can read all about how the war and its aftermath are supposed to go down. This does result in interesting maneuvering by Kusaka, as he leads Kadomatsu on a cat and mouse chase as it’s not entirely clear what his endgame is beyond expressing a desire to end the war in a more favorable way for Japan, and in doing so creating a new Japan. This also leads to some interesting questions as to what has happened to the very aptly-named Mirai as events happen which make it clear what the crew knows as history has been altered, without causing any changes in them as per Back to the Future rules. Paradox? Alternate timeline? Who knows? After all, the anime never got a second season and it ended on a cliffhanger without ever answering any of the questions it brought up.

It is still a fairly interesting plot to follow, though, especially as the ship struggles to stay out of history’s way while ending up being repeatedly forced to act to defend itself, as well as making what allies it can to ensure the crew might actually have a chance of living through whatever is going on. Naturally both Japan and the US are interested in the ship and its technology and want to either get their hands on it, or destroy it so as to deny it to anyone else.

Ultimately, the most frustrating aspect of this show is its abrupt end and lack of any resolution. The anime came out in 2004, so it’s unlikely it will get any follow-up because you degenerates are way more interested in watching cute girls doing cute things than alternate history political thrillers. If you were hoping to get some resolution by reading the manga, you’re kind of out of luck unless you can read Japanese, Korean, or French, as only a quarter of its forty-three volume run has been translated into English, and only four were ever published in North America. But if you like drooling over military hardware and/or fantasizing about how a modern warship would fare in WWII, this anime might still be worth a watch.

Maybe Check it Out:
Zipang (2004) 26 episode anime
based on the manga by Kaiji Kawaguchi
Produced by Studio Deen, licenced by Geneon

Library War

Your Books or Your Life
by Bob Johnson

Maybe.

Fahrenheit 451 gets the anime treatment in the biggest brouhaha over print media since Read or Die. In an alternate year 2019, book learners and book burners have fought it out for over 30 years – while the general public is terrorized by the Media Betterment Committee, libraries retain academic freedom, guaranteed by the law and the Library Defence Force.

We see these struggles through the eyes of Kasahara Iku, a plucky 22-year-old trackstar who has become the first woman inducted into the Task Force, the elite security force of the LDF. Though gifted with physical ability, statuesque height, and stubborn determination, Kasahara struggles with the mundane business of sorting and finding books, which is still the main job the LDF does between battles.

Kasahara Iku, our hero! Plucky, light of foot, a bit more heart than brains.

In this, she’s assisted by her competent classmates Tezuka and Shibahara, while her instructor Dojo attempts to drill more discipline into the impulsive young cadet. Meanwhile, she wants to find the LDF officer who inspired her to join the force, and protect books just like him. From time to time she also deals with drop-ins from her tiger dad and worried mom, ever-fearful their daughter may be the next victim of a censorship raid.

Though it can be excessively moé at times (Kasahara is a Greek god in hand-to-hand combat, but a startled klutz with a book cart?), Library War is a solid show, well-drawn and animated. As a battle anime, the LDF are careful students of tactics and strategy, with a focus on preparation: planning, training, learning regulations. When you fail in battle, it’s because you didn’t do your homework. None of your Code Geass make-it-up as you go along here. Then again, the villains aren’t too fleshed out – the LDF is always the good guys, always quoting law and regulation, and never firing first. The MBC, on the other hand, are cartoon mooks whose main goal in life is to take books out of the hands of little kids, or just generally smash and grab dead trees.

Your tax dollars hard at work.

In romance, Iku is a true half-and-half tsundere, and faces two leading options. Tezuka is a pretty dry candidate, simply ticking the boxes needed for ‘responsible boyfriend’, while Dojo is pretty clearly best guy, but also is kind of her boss, and ‘too short’. And oddly enough, there’s not much in this show for bibliophiles, beyond the fact that they work with books: none of the leads is constantly nose-in on a tome or constantly quoting literature.

Library War is perhaps not significant enough to merit a solo watch, but its pacing of stretches of interpersonal drama, punctuated by pitched battles or hilarious reaction shots, keeps it engaging as a group or club title. It certainly won’t offend sub purists.

Maybe Look It Up:
Library War (2008) 12 episode anime
based on the light novels by Hiro Arikawa and Sukumo Adabana
Produced by Production I.G., Licenced by Discotek

Driver vs. Machine

A vision of Musk-sama’s desired future

by Punch Rockgroin

In the year 20X6, the vast majority of citizens will no longer drive. Instead, they will be able to rent an AI-driven car of their choice, depending on their needs. This system will greatly reduce the number of driving-related deaths, and also allow a more rapid response to road-related emergencies. These new cars will also be driven by electric motors, thus also being much cleaner for the environment.

But any system is prone to issues and random errors, and the world of éX-Driver is no different. When one of these self-driven cars goes rogue, a small but elite group of human drivers and their internal combustion-powered vehicles to chase and safely stop these runaway cars from going further.

Self-driving cars have been discussed for many years, and occasionally make an appearance in anime and other media. In éX-Driver, the concept is discussed a bit further to address the what-if and potentially hazardous situations a fully autonomous vehicle would cause if it ran amok.


Lorna prepares to use a Single Shot Sticky Stuff Shooter
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Robo Stomped

Monolith’s mostly-fogotten, anime-inspired FPS is a needle full of nostalgia.

1998 was a big year for the first person shooter. Unreal was the start of a long-running series that would be most famous for its multiplayer-focused (with available single player campaign) Tournament games. Most notably, Half-Life was released, changing the landscape of the FPS for a long time to come. Though not revolutionary in its gameplay, it was nonetheless a polished and exciting experience, with a well-told story to boot. I played Half-Life until my eyes bled from ecstasy, especially once the modding scene was established.

In the same year, Monolith Productions dropped 2 FPSes that are not well known outside of those in the retro FPS community. Blood 2: The Chosen was a rushed (forced by GT Interactive while they were being bought out by Infogrames) mess. The levels are bland, enemy placement gets cheap and frustrating as the game goes on, and most weapons don’t have much impact. The other game was Shogo: Mobile Armor Division.

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A look at copyright in Japan


Loveable rogue Lupin the Third – a case study in Japanese attitudes.

by Bob Johnson

The Japanese approach to copyright and trademarks used to seem a lot more relaxed, especially when it came to characters. In the 1980s it seemed like every other character was lifted straight out of a Hollywood film! In those days, to use some famous character in an anime, was seen as a parody in itself, or failing that, as no big deal. Probably the biggest example of this relaxed era is Lupin III, whose manga spawned an eternal fountain of new TV shows and feature films – plus a lawsuit from the Maurice Leblanc estate. By the time the family of the creator of the original Arsène Lupin caught on to the craze, their lawuit was essentially ruled to be too late.

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Unlimited Date-a Plan

In Another World with my SmartphoneSuppose – just suppose! That THE LORD himself killed you and kinda felt bad about the whole thing. By way of apology, Providence sends you to a fantasy world with magic, and makes you a superpowered hero who is completely sexually irresistible.

All of this seems to have happened to Touya Mochizuki, who, after a certain incident with what I assume was a mechanical rice picker, is thrust into a world where just having a cell phone makes you the bestest husbando. Where in the normal world he might only have been able to aspire to be the straight man in a slice-of-life anime, in this fabricated reality Touya has a preternatural ability to save damsels in distress and win their undying love in the process. Continue reading

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan

The Art of Making a Show About Nothing
by Bolt Vanderhuge

This show in a nutshell.

Just in case it isn’t obvious by now, I don’t really watch “slice of life” shows. I generally like the shows I watch to be about something, and the majority of shows that fit into that genre generally aren’t. It doesn’t help that the majority of shows like this also tend to take place in high school. I realize this is because the target audience of such shows tend to be in high school, but I still don’t get the appeal. When it comes to college-aged man-children such as myself, I understand that there can be a nostalgia factor, but honestly even when I was in high school I tended to be interested in things other than high school. Which is why shows like this tend to be more about the stupid shit friends talk about or do while they’re in high school. Of course, if you’re like me, while some of that can be kind of funny, it doesn’t really stretch very far. Which is why the absolute best thing about this series is that each episode has a run time of less than 10 minutes, which includes the minute and a half long opening.

This show is basically about a small group of friends consisting of a busty, bleach blonde girl called Galko, a grey sweats-wearing otaku girl called Otako, and a creepy rich girl called Ojou, and the pointless stupid shit they talk about in while they hang out together at school. Like how the anus is made out of the same kind of tissue as the tongue, at least according to Otako.

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Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius

Moécratic Vanguard for the black hole of anime gaming
by Bob Johnson

Jeez, next time, why don’t you keep it in your pants?  Every time you whip it out, someone has to clean up after you.  Seriously.  Your credit card has been causing me nothing but trouble.  Now just look at this mess of American-made otakubait games preselling their brand concept on KickStarter.

If you use Steam, you can download one such game, Sunrider:Mask of Arcadius, right now on a whim.  I wouldn’t exactly call it “Free” … it’s more of a demo.  But if you were cheap like myself, there’d be nothing sweeter than seeing that green “Download” box on its Steam Store page. Continue reading

What am I watch?! – Standup Comic Rakugo!

rakugo1There are some things that don’t translate quite right.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, just as a title, doesn’t really work. You basically need a full sentence in English to unpack “Shinju,” even though MyAnimeList biffs an attempt in “Showa and Genroku Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo”. In reply, I think my moé-addled brain was able to come up with “Ragtime Stand-up Suicide Pact” – but that’s not short enough at all! What I really want out of anime again, is the “Adjective Noun Protagonist” title format. You know, groin-punching names like Battle Angel Alita, Combat Unit Shinesman, or Ramen Fighter Miki.

Therefore, the English language version of this title should bear the name

Standup Comic Rakugo!

Wherein the dying art of Rakugo is itself the series protagonist. I think that’s bourne out by the four episodes I’ve cribbed fujoshi-squirming screencaps off of.

rakugo2Rakugo is a curiously Japanese form of theatre. It blends rote recitation with poetry, comedy, and voice acting, so it’s no surprise that this attracted top-tier talent.

Though there’s plainly more to it than I’m able to notice, the art involves tongue-twisters and rhymes, which you can hear just fine with untrained ears. Most essential to rakugo is the timing, tone, and delivery, which is absolutely spot-on. I never thought I’d be happy about a laugh track in a comedy, but without it, I’d probably be just as lost as I was with the deadpan Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei (where the only thing that translates is *crippling depression~!*).

I don’t think a dub could do this justice, given the plethora of licence houses from the flap-match reich that underbid on translators and seiyuu. Yet somewhere out there, there is a cadre of passionate voice actors that could get hold of this and prove me wrong with exceptional panache.

Maybe look it up:

Standup Comic Rakugo! (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)
Based on the manga by Haruko Kumota
Produced by Studio Deen, Simulcast by Crunchyroll