Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Speed of Falling Cherry Blossoms and Moving On (5 Centimeters per Second)

I happened to chance upon 5 centimeters per second while I was browsing for some new animated movies to watch. The wonderful artwork, CG rendering and the Studio Ghibli-esque (I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki's work) rendition of its characters instantly captivated my lenses and made me decide to pick this one up. I admit though, being somewhat uninterested in the romance genre of movies, not to mention the drama that goes along with it, but being one critically-acclaimed anime and receiving lots of positive reactions and high ratings in anime sites, I really ought to give this one a try.
5 Centimeters per Second's DVD cover
5 centimeters per second is a collection of 3 short yet touching episodes that chronicles three chapters in the life of a young boy, Tohno Takaki and his continuing love for a girl, Akari Shinohara. Tohno and Akari have been very close friends since childhood and eventually their friendship had blossomed into something greater at a very early age. Unfortunate for the two, fate seemed cruel that both their families had to move slowly drifting the two apart. As time went by the two lost communication between each other yet Tohno still held on the hopes of seeing Akari again.
Episode I: Cherry Blossom. The last life-changing meeting between Tohno and Akari. Tohno took a supposedly 5-hour train ride (which became 7 due to extreme weather that day) to meet Akari before he and his family moved further away, thus the slow yet inevitable parting of the two.
Episode II: Cosmonaut. Tohno, now in high school walks home with Kanae, a classmate who has fallen in love with him since middle school. She gives up on letting Tohno know how she feels, knowing, and seeing from Tohno's actions that she is incapable of giving him what he is searching for. Tohno, after years, still longs for Akari.
Episode III: 5 Centimeters per Second. Akari is about to get married and Tohno is now working as a computer programmer. Despite more than 10 years and past relationships, he still longs for Akari. Later, on the verge of a breakdown, he quits his job and sooner, after an incident where presumably he saw Akari once more, he realizes its about time he moved on.
This movie, in my opinion definitely catches the sad reality of the slow pace in which some people who have started together but due to the inevitable, drift apart from each other. The slow yet painful realization and process of moving on in life and leaving the past behind, hence the title 5 centimeters per second.
The speed of falling cherry blossoms in spring which is 5 centimeters per second is used as a good metaphorical contrast to the slow process of separation and moving on between Akari and especially, Tohno.
Tohno, presumptively, recognizes Akari as she passed by him on a train crossing. Both of them looked back to see each other when a train passed by and cut off their views. Tohno waited for the train to pass and after seeing Akari didn't wait, finally realizes its about time.
Hats off to its director and writer Makoto Shinkai for such a wonderful yet somewhat a tearjerker of a movie. Though I don't usually go and pick up titles of this sort, I'm definitely adding this to my favorite movies of all time. Great storyline and majestic artwork and animation, not to mention the great ending song which landed the final blow and made my eyes go watery, it really kept me glued to the screen 'till the end and made me realize again that I had a soft spot too for some drama since Grave of the Fireflies.
Yesterday I had a dream.
A dream of long ago.
Within the dream, the two of us were still thirteen.
Standing upon the vast fields blanketed in snow as far as the eye could see.
In the distance, the lights shimmering in houses were set sparsely, far and wide.
All that was left upon the newly fallen snow were our footprints.
Just like that, we wished without hesitation that one day the two of us would be able to see the cherry blossoms once again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I-ta-da-ki-maasu! ♫ (Hyakko OVA)

 Interestingly different, Hyakko OVA doesn't seem much of an OVA, in my opinion, as much as I would expect an OVA to be some sort of a short movie. Running for about 10 minutes, this OVA could only pass as a short special or as one of its regular series episodes showing a very different side of Kazamatsuri Touma since in this one she hangs out and gets infected with her wild opposite, Torako's antics.
Things begin to heat up as Torako slowly infects the solitary and reserved Touma with her usual tomfoolery.

What makes Hyakko OVA seem more like a regular episode is that it chronicles another crazy day in the lives of Kamizono Gakuen students, much like how a regular fun-filled episode of the Hyakko series would go, only in this one, It's just Touma and Torako trying out a bunch of different sweets.
Say "Aah".

Touma's favorite café has closed down and apparently she is looking for another quiet spot where she and her reading fetish could hang out. Torako happened to overhear the situation and impulsively pounced on the chance to catch Touma's friendly side. With Torako's legendary persistence, Touma unwittingly, and just as to shut Torako up, accepted the offer. But it isn't just the quiet café, the weirdness of its "master", or the mounds of pastries and sweets. It's more of Torako's crazy and infectious antics.

Torako decides to try each piece of pastry and sweets sold at the café, never missing out on making fun of each one before they eat it. Torako sings "Itadakimasu" in a strange yet funny operatic voice before eating a chocolate pastry called "Opera".

It appears Torako has lots of spending capacity on sweets after taking advantage of Suzume's unparalleled luck and winning a huge amount of gift certificates on a local lottery.

The soothingly palatable, Sacher Torte. A perfect substitute for every Japanese word depicting goodness.

I have read some reviews about the OVA mainly showing the disappointment of some fans, perhaps due to its length or the lack of a better and proper story, yet in my opinion, its not that bad or perhaps it could have been released with other, maybe similar, story shorts although I would say, this is better than nothing. Still, I had a good laugh.
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Saving the World with Paper (R.O.D. the TV)

I remember watching this television series from ANIMAX years back when we still had cable TV. Being one such action-packed show with the heroines' amazing power to control paper and use it as weapons, shields and summoned creatures really astounded me. But what really made me remember this awesome anime is its cool opening theme. Really funky basslines, jazz horns and that cool guitar vibe (combination of tremolo-delay-wah effect for those who have technical know-how on guitars) gives you that super-agent, James Bond-esque kind of feel. Not to mention, its similarly cool ending theme with its relaxing, feel-good reggae beat and that smooth sultry singing voice which is Kazami, one of my favorite singers in anime music.

ROD The TV is a sequel to its three-episode OVA, Read Or Die. The TV series' story revolves around three sisters who are, like Yomiko Readman from the OVA, are papermasters (not to mention bookworms with an exception to the youngest sister) - wielding the power to manipulate and control paper and turn it into weapons and tools of sorts - and Nenene Sumiregawa, a prodigy writer and novelist and is a close friend of Yomiko Readman. She has been unable to produce new material for some time due to Yomiko's sudden disappearance which happened after the destruction of the British Library (where Yomiko worked as a secret agent) 5 years prior to this series.

Nenene Sumiregawa has been suffering from a serious writer's block ever since her friend Yomiko's sudden disappearance and hasn't been able to produce new material for a very long time. Although Nenene tends to be brash, uptight and hot-headed (perhaps due to her already failing job as a writer) most of the time, She can be very kind and sympathizing to the people closest to her as she has shown to the three "paper sisters" later in the series. 

Having a keen and extraordinary talent, the three paper sisters have formed an agency called the "Three Sisters Detective Agency" and have been doing odd jobs requiring their unusual skills and have been working as super agents for Dokusensha, a company similar to the British Library (from the OVA) with underlying shady businesses regarding collecting books which are said to contain unimaginable powers.

 The three "paper sisters" (left to right) Maggie Mui, Anita King and Michelle Cheung. Like Yomiko from the Read or Die OVA, they too are paper masters and each of them has a specialty on using their powers.

Michelle wields a bow and arrow made from paper supporting her sisters in combat with ranged attacks. Among the sisters, she plays the role of the eldest and most composed one albeit her ditzy and sometimes airheaded personality. She is also one huge bookworm and buys a ton of books wherever she goes.

Maggie is the second eldest among the three sisters and my personal favorite. She is very tall yet despite her size she is very gentle, soft-spoken and introverted. Being used to wearing men's clothing (e.g. tuxedos, trenchcoats, pants) she is always mistaken for a boy. Her specialty is summoning familiars (ranging from tiny bats to ferocious wolves to gigantic dragons) and protecting her sisters in combat. In my opinion, she is the strongest of the three.

The cute, petite and youngest of the three sisters, Anita King. Don't be fooled by this brat's cheerful smile though. With her lightning-fast agility, "paper blade"-throwing skills and expertise in martial arts, this spunky kid is unmatched in close-range combat. Similar enough, like Nenene, she is also one heck of a loudmouth.

Eventually, the Three Sisters Detective Agency was hired out to protect Nenene Sumiregawa during her trip to Hong Kong where her latest novel was to be made into a movie. During an autograph signing, as expected by Nenene's managers, an attack threatening Nenene's life was executed by a local novelist who was extremely envious of Nenene's achievement. Lucky enough, Nenene escaped certain death having hired the paper masters as bodyguards. With her life under constant threat, her paper master bodyguards, had to stay in her apartment as part of their job of protecting her. Although it was a bit too much trouble for Nenene having to put up with the sisters' eccentricity - especially with the spitfire, hot-blooded Anita - eventually, they formed a bond of friendship.

Sparks begin to fly as soon as Nenene arrives and meets her mad match, Anita, at the three sisters' apartment along with a literal avalanche of books which broke through the front door. Later on, the three sisters move to Nenene's apartment after they return to Japan, as Nenene's bodyguards.

Later on in the series though Nenene's faithful manager, Lee Linho, abducted Nenene. Apparently he was with Dokusensha and taking Nenene for her talents was part of their plan for some kind of world domination. The three paper sisters though at that time were unable to help Nenene since it was Lee who hired them in the first place. But they know that it falls into their hands to save a friend and along with it, protect the world from catastrophe.

 Lee Linho, Nenene's once kind and loyal manager reveals himself as an agent of Dokusensha, a publishing company having ulterior motives of world domination. Although later in the series, Dokusensha seems to be smaller fry as compared to the main antagonist of the story, Dokusensha's rival, the British Library.

Most of the familiar faces from ROD OVA returns in this follow-up series with some role-switching of villains-heroes. (this time the British Library, where Yomiko used to work, plots to conquer the world.)  Yomiko Readman, still on the good side, plays a supporting role being Nenene's old friend who returns to help them save the world from the British Library's plot to dominate the world through books which contain enough power to do so.

If you haven't watched the OVA of Read or Die, you might get lost on some of the episodes with references to the events prior to this series, although it might not be too much of a problem since the series has a good story of its own complete with twists and turns that'll surely get you hooked. Definitely one of the best action anime series I've watched.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Idiots, Tests and Summoned Beasts! (Baka To Test To Shoukanjuu)

Another great comedy anime, Baka To Test To Shoukanjuu (Idiots, Tests and Summoned Beasts in english) really kept me teary-eyed laughing on all 13 crazy episodes. The anime TV series, based on a manga of the same name, is a romantic comedy (with bits of ecchi on the side... really, should I mention that? LOL), fantasy genre anime that revolves around the "Baka", Akihisa Yoshii and his ragtag idiotic bunch of high school mates and their unique school that employs tests and "Summoning Battles" as a competitive style of rising up the academic ranks and the school's unique "caste system".

The most "Baka" of all Fumizuki Academy, Akihisa Yoshii. But not to be underestimated despite his extreme Baka-ness. He does have the characteristics of a stereotypical "loser-yet-chick-magnet" harem anime main guy character. Lucky prick.

Students take a placement exam upon their enrollment in Fumizuki Academy. Based on the results of their placement exams, they are placed in sections A to F where the classrooms' quality, furniture and added facilities dwindle respectively. Class A has luxury seats, desks, laptops and even a snack bar while Class F enjoys the comfort of a drafty dusty room in moldy tatami mats furnished with old wooden tables with broken legs and worn-out throw pillows for seats. Although lower sections may choose to engage in ESB's (Exam Summoning Battles where students battle as a section against other sections where they summon beings with strength depending their test scores on certain subjects.) to prove they are worthy of moving up and the winning team can have the privilege of exchanging facilities with the losing team

A one-on-one summoning battle between Yuuji Sakamoto of Class F and Class E's Class rep. Students who partake in a summoning battle can summon their "Avatars" only on a special field created by the teacher that permitted the battle.

Too bad for Akihisa, aside from being branded by their Disciplinary Officer, Tetsujin, as one hell of a "Baka", he ended up in class F. But more unfortunately for Mizuki Himeji whom Yoshii met during the placement exam. Mizuki is a very intelligent girl whose intellect deserves to be in class A but due to fever on the placement exam, she fainted and got a zero in the end thereby landing her in class F. Akihisa though, despite having "Baka" written all over him, is really a kind-hearted young fellow and is determined to give Mizuki the classroom she deserves. With the help of the "Baka" gang of class F, they're determined to win ESB's (Exam Summoning Battles) rise to the top, claim class A's facilities and prove to everyone that grades aren't everything.

Introducing: the "Baka" bunch!

 The lovely, cute and buxom Mizuki Himeji. Yes, buxom. :) Although she is not really Baka, more of a genius really - she should be in Class A, she unluckily ended up with Class F due to health problems during her placement exam. She has a big crush on Akihisa, and is having a lot of problems expressing her feelings. No wonder, Akihisa always misunderstands.

Mizuki's cooking. Looks beautifully mouth-watering and delicious, but don't be fooled. Its Snow White's poisoned-apple-in-a-bento-box-meal and unfortunate enough for Akihisa, Yuuji, Hideyoshi and Kouta (the three other than Akihisa have no choice but to share his fate lest they break Mizuki's pure heart), their mouths are always at it's receiving end.

Yuuji Sakamoto. Akihisa's closest friend and Class F's Class representative. Very fitting for him since he's the only one who seems to be using his head in Class F and always has the best winning strategies during ESB engagements. Due to a loss in their first battle against Class A, Yuuji became the unwilling yet subservient boyfriend-slash-slave to Class A's representative, Shouko, who is madly and violently - yes, violently - in love with Yuuji.

Beacause of Yuuji and Akihisa's closeness, they are capable of communicating with each other without the utterance of words (usually accompanied by this dramatic scene. LOL). This is one of the series' best running gags and whenever this happens, Yuuji, succeeds in tricking Akihisa to do dangerous and stupid stuff for him.

The lovely and adorable Hideyoshi Kinoshita, What?! It's a dude! Yes, Hideyoshi is a guy but due to is feminine looks and features, he is always mistaken as a girl and is usually the subject of fanservice in this series. Too much sexual confusion that Hideyoshi is given his own gender in the series. (There's the men's bath, the women's bath, and there's the Hideyoshi bath. LOL)

Ooh.. lalah.. Hey! It's a dude! No! It's a Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi, having very feminine features is usually the point of fanservice in the series. Though he always stresses to everyone he is male, no one seems to mind his arguments and still get nosebleeds whenever he dresses up as a girl. This sometimes gets Mizuki and Minami real jealous whenever Hideyoshi gets the guys' attention thereby calling him a traitor, much to his own confusion.

Kouta Tsuchiya, AKA, "Muttsurini", which means, the silent/coy pervert, or as the subbing (thanks gg-subs for providing) on the anime went, "Voyeur". Kouta is Class F's resident pervert and is mostly seen with a digital camera on the ready for those "unguarded moments" Despite being always on the move and on the lookout for potential eye candy, the girls in the anime usually don't mind being compromised by this peeping tom, perhaps its because of his reticence and quiet disposition... and dark stealthy strategies. :) He is also seen keeping a large file containing every female student in Fumizuki's bust sizes and measurements.

Despite being a full-time voyeur and peeping tom, Muttsurini, still seems to be not so used to seeing "confidential" stuff and always suffers life-threatening heavy nosebleeds like this whenever he chances upon "hidden and exposed treasures"

Minami Shimada is the "tsundere" character of the series. Like Mizuki, she also has the hots for Akihisa but is unable to express her feelings because of her tsundere nature. Minami spent most of her life in Germany which made her very weak when it comes to Kanji and is also the cause of her failing in the placement exams where she was only able to answer number questions.

Miharu (a girl from class D who has a lesbian attraction to Minami) and Minami locking Akihisa in a double submission hold. Minami is usually the butt of Akihisa's jokes when it comes to her femininity. He claims, Minami isn't a girl because she lacks the modesty, finesse and the physique (particularly in the "chest department") of a real female. This in turn enrages Minami causing her to try and break the bones of poor dumb Akihisa in different submission moves.

This scene really cracks me:
Yuuji (lifts Shouko's skirt): Sorry, Shouko
Shouko: Yuuji, ... you pervert.
Yuuji: Gimme a break, I promise it won't happen again.
 Shouko: Let's continue this in bed.
Yuuji: I said it wasn't going to do it again! I'm not interested in whatever the hell you're wearing down there!
Shouko (grabbing Yuuji's face): You take that back.

Shouko Kirishima is my favorite character in the series. Shouko is Class A's beautiful, soft-spoken and intelligent class representative and Yuuji's girlfriend-whether-he-likes-it-or-not. She is extremely possessive and crazily in love when it comes to Yuuji and more often than not, takes violent actions whenever he sees Yuuji as being "unfaithful".

Shouko always carries a stun gun/taser on the ready. Not for protection but for shocking Yuuji whenever he doesn't go with what Shouko wants to do. She also loves to poke Yuuji's eyes so he won't look at other girls and have him wear handcuffs with chains so he won't get away. Poor Yuuji.

What a face. This is one of my favorite LOL parts of the series. Yuuji, Hideyoshi and Akihisa are teamed up to go on a scavenger hunt. They separated to go look for the hidden items and everywhere Akihisa checks, something dumb and funny happens.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu is definitely one of the best new comedy series out there which I'd very much recommend if you're looking for a lot of laughs. Full of running gags, funny wordplay, witty comedy, tons of slapstick and crazy romance, every episode surely is one heck of a ride on the LOL-lercoaster.

From The Idiot Box

From the screen to your lenses to your brain to your nerves to your heart, lungs and muscles and out. Its a compilation of my take, thoughts and impressions on straight up, good stuff (mostly japanese, anime, music and geek-related) from the idiot box that I like and you might like.

... and idiocy. :)

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