Seven Anime Recommendations: Getting Into Anime

Do you, oh humble reader, ever look at this anime shit and think: “Slap my ass and call me Timothy, I sure want some of this in my life!” Well I was once in your position, so I’d like to lend a hand and give you some series and film recommendations, especially for those more familiar with western animated works, dividing things up into kinda-sorta categories.

(By the way, you have no idea how long it took me to figure out how to spell “recommendations”. I may be an idiot.)

One thing to bear in mind about anime as a genre or medium or art form or new wave or whatever, is that alot of it is distinctly Japanese, and Japanese culture, when viewed by a western audience, comes across as really weird. Anything particularly, opaquely Japanese will be mentioned in the given case.

 

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When I hear about new classics of anime and great starting points for a western viewer — I know many people make comparisons to the big HBO dramas — Steins;Gate is a name that comes up alot in both cases. Steins;Gate is the character-driven, intelligent high concept sci-fi story that you expect from one of the golden age authors like Heinlein or Clarke. It has references to things like maid cafes and the general otaku culture, but not too much is lost by the amateur viewer. Essentially, Steins;Gate is a show about this guy, his friends, and the time machine they make out of a cell phone and a microwave. It’s a little weird and a little silly on first bluff but it quickly gets serious, and by the halfway-point of the series, things take a complete one-eighty.

 

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Death Note is in a similar vein to Steins;Gate: that kind of serious, adult and dark drama with some slight comedy and supernatural or science fiction themes that people usually associate with more western television. Death Note may be familiar to someone only casually familiar with anime, but a synopsis may still be necessary. A high school student–intelligent, athletic, charismatic and quite popular–discovers a notebook which kills anyone whose name is written in it, but things quickly spiral into chaos as he looses control. There was a recent live action adaptation on Netflix, but it was quite poorly received and looks, frankly, like ass, so please ignore it.

 

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Studio Ghibli is one of the most popular animation studios in the industry, often called the “Japanese Disney”, and Spirited Away is an excellent gateway to their work. A fantasy story about a young girl “spirited away” to another world full of strange creatures and surreal landscapes. Containing some of Ghibli’s best animation, most interesting characters and enchanting music, Spirited Away is a must-watch for any anime fan.

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For comedies, I have two recommendations, one more Japanese, and one more a bit more familiar. The first show is I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, a two-season series made up of three minute episodes revolving around a normal office-lady wife and her otaku house-husband. Both an actually pretty cute love story and a really funny comedy, the entire show can be blown through in an afternoon. This might not be the best starting show because of all the references to anime, manga and games, but alot of the humour is still going to shine through.

 

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The second series I want to recommend is Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt. Panty & Stocking is certainly the most American-influenced show on this list. With an artstyle more reminiscent of Cartoon Network and a story about foul-mouthed angels who got kicked out of heaven and have to fight ghosts to get back in, the series is best watched in the English dubbing. Lots of neat animation tricks and some decent action scenes stand alongside fart and sex jokes.

 

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Cowboy Bebop is another all-time, must-watch classic of anime. A mix of classic noir, hardboiled western and cyberpunk, the show follows the crew of the titular Bebop as they hop from bounty to bounty in episodic adventures but with persistent character stories. There’s action, comedy, drama, romance; really there’s a bit of everything in each story. The English dub comes recommended.

 

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Gurren Lagann is probably my favourite off this list, one of the few mecha shows I like and one of the best to start with. If you want awesome action, watch Gurren Lagann. If you want a show that starts small that ramps up so hard it’s like a screaming rock guitar solo right in your face, watch Gurren Lagann. If you want actual character development with characters you love, watch Gurren Lagann. Basically watch the show, is what I’m trying to say.

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Book Review: “Mary-‘Gusta” by Joseph C. Lincoln

I am borrowing this book in perpetuity from my grandmother, who used to have it up on the top of her bookshelf, and who, I suspect, got it from her own mother, who has long since passed away. A thin leatherbound volume with fraying covers and yellowing pages, it seems to have been long held but little read.

Searches for Mary-‘Gusta turn up few results: the Goodreads page has less than fifty ratings, there is an imdb page for a 1918 film adaptation, along with a copy of the novel on Project Gutenburg and most other results are in spanish for the word “gusta”; the author, Joseph C. Lincoln, appears more popular, with a brief Wikipedia page and a few other miscellaneous links. He seems to have been a writer of some popularity, mostly of stories about the New England area, especially the coast or the fishing industries.

The novel itself is in the same vein as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Anne of Green Gables, stories of somewhat precocious but ultimately very charming young girls who go to live with estranged or alternative guardians in rural backdrops, and thereby come to experience both the trials and tribulations of domestic life, and episode adventures of varyingly eccentric nature, eventually growing up into complete, matured young women by the story’s end. And no doubt the titular Mary Augusta is very charming, “very winning” as a character in novels of this age might say, but that is only the first half of the book.

Mary-‘Gusta may be divided quite neatly into two halves: the first half to which I gave general outline above, and the second half which more resembles the weaker sections of the later Anne sequels (or any of L.M. Montgomery’s worst short stories, but without any of Montgomery’s sublime prose or unique, somewhat subversive–to the modern reader anyways–charm), opting instead to focus, after a time skip, on a love story lacking in chemistry between the lovers, or any suspense or thrill at all, who are kept apart by the flimsiest of old family conflicts.

There’s something quite brilliant about seeing a novel fall so utterly to pieces, like seeing the best laid of plans fall apart due to the smallest poor decision or bad luck, but it’s only fun to look back on after some stretch of time, not while while you read. But a hundred and ten years distance is more than enough distance to look back and say, “well that happened alright.”

“Mars of Destruction” – The Greatest Anime Ever Made

I love trash, I really do.

I love stilted acting, confusing direction, horrible writing, everything that makes a film or TV show bad. Admittedly, bad novels and games I’m less forgiving towards, but I love The Room, Birdemic and Troll 2, and I love The Room of anime just as much: Mars of Destruction, which may just be the greatest OVA ever made.

Mars of Destruction is in the same vein of anime that came out in the years after Neon Genesis Evangelion that attempted to either strike the same type of chord or ape it off entirely. Good shows like Revolutionary Girl Utena and RahXephon (supposedly good anways, considering as I’ve yet to watch either, though they’re on my backlog) have come out of this period, mostly aiming for the former, and so has trash like MoD, which went straight for the latter.

The plot runs thusly: aliens from Mars called Ancients have begun attacking Earth and only one boy in the (titular?) power-armored suit, the Mars and his harem of three–

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Er, make that two

–girls can save the Earth from destruction! Along the way they learn the power of friendship, the best ways to shoot xeno scum, and the true origin of the Human race! Run time 20 minutes.

Oh boy, oh boy where do I start? How about the animation, which makes a kindergartener’s flipbook look like Kyoto Animation? It is hideous, just plain ugly, and stiff as all hell. The opening fight scene consists of the Ancients and the Mars Brigade standing on opposite sides of a field and shooting at each other, completely still, camera cutting occasionally from team to team, while nobody gets hit except for Rightmost Girl. (Who the hell remembers the names in this thing? Certainly not worth the effort to look them up. This post is getting done in one take anways.) Rightmost girl’s head just fucking explodes in a shower of blood, while the rest of her remains perfectly in place.

Later in a hospital, the doctor sadly pronounces her dead and covers her headless body with a sheet, as though the audience needed to be told this.

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Maybe we were supposed to expect something like this?

The second fight scene is just as awkward, but with swordfighting this time, so that it looks like our Main Boy and Ancient antagonist are like two retirees fighting over the best recliner in the old folk’s home.

Oh and the music! None of the music is original to the anime. No sir, only the best would do for Mars of Destruction so what else for our final battle but “Ride of the Valkyries” and The Barber of Seville‘s overture?

THE BARBER OF FUCKING SEVILLE.

Beethoven, Wagner, Chopin and Satie are credited for the music on MaL!

This is something I would come up with when I’m drunk!

But let’s talk about characters now before I get a hernia. Main Boy is so clearly Shinji Ikari there’s even a scene of him whining to his dad about not wanting to pilot the Mars but his dad is all “Meh heh get in the Mars, Main Boy!” and Main Boy is all “I hate you dad!” And that’s all the character development we get so moving on.

Most of the OVA is dedicated to exposition, either about the state of things on Earth or what the Ancients are or how this girl with no head is, sadly, deceased, or (and get ready for this one) Humans are originally from Mars and the Ancients are the real Humans! It’s the most out-of-nowhere pointless twist, but also the most straightforwardly obvious, with neither setup nor payoff, because the OVA ends like a minute after the revelation.

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Sniper Joe?

Oh, and get this: there appears to be an original source for this abomination, a Japanese-only (thank fuck) PS2 visual novel from the same year. Or maybe the visual novel is the adaptation, and the OVA is the original. I’m not really sure.

To sum up: Mars of Destruction is so bad I cannot possibly begin to explain everything wrong with it. I could devote my entire life to telling you how bad this thing is and it would not be enough. You really have to see it yourself. That was kind of the whole point of this post, to get you, poor reader, intrigued enough to watch. From start to finish it fucks up everything it sets out to do, it’s just so damn funny. So God bless you, director Yoshiteru Satou, for bringing us this masterpiece.

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Anime Review – “Mitsuboshi Colors”

My taste in anime seems to violently fluctuate between Moe and Misery at random intervals, which is probably why the only shows I watched from last season were Violet Evergarden (another excellent show) and Mitsuboshi Colors, based on the manga of the same name.

Colors centres on a trio of girls colour coded for your convenience — Yui for red, Sacchan for yellow, Kotoha for blue — and while the show may seem, at first bluff, a fairly run-of-the-mill Cute Girls Doing Cute Things Slice of Life Iyashikei Loli Extravaganza (or CGDCTSLILE for short), it quickly proves to have its own twisted sense of humour and, something very few shows of this style have accomplished, a true feeling of small town adventure and childhood wonder.

Best Color, reporting in

I suspect that the very first impressions gotten of the show may have been intentionally misleading: we open on Yui’s feet (and presumably the rest of her) running along the street while CGI pedestrians litter the colourful backgrounds; there are lingering shots on the various locations the series will visit while cheerful music plays and we see a couple of the characters the titular Colors gang will encounter. That’s our cold open, but when the (very catchy and very adorable) OP has finished, we meet our main characters.

The girls seem to fall into the typical archetypes with the leaderly one, the energetic one and the cold one, but by the end of the first episode, and across the series, we see the archetypes fall away to reveal a trio of really, really strange girls. Yui is a crybaby and a pushover, only the leader because she sometimes has good ideas; Sacchan has a fascination with poop, terrible plans, bullying Yui and breaking the forth wall; and Kotoha is an absolute psychopath who cannot finish a video game to save her life.

The myriad adventures the Colors get into over the course of the series also prove to be quite unorthodox. In the first episode, the gang attempts to blow a law-abiding police officer up with an RPG because he’s kind of mean…

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This scene turned into a bit of a meme for a while, but has died down now.

…and in the eighth episode, in an attempt to procure a straight man for the group, the girls track down a dinosaur skeleton and try to board a rocket at a museum.

The writing in Colors is certainly its strong suit, both in terms of character and comedy. One of the best lines in the whole series comes from a scene where Sacchan says to Kotoha, after the latter has stomped on her head, “All those video games you’re playing are warping your personality!” to which Kotoha replies, a menacing glare on her face, “Don’t talk like games are a bad influence. I have always been like this.” Colors certainly knows how to pace its jokes (pacing is atleast fifty percent of comedy), and since this is something difficult to describe in text, have a video on the house.

As you can also see, Mitsuboshi Colors is not the best-looking of shows; at times it even looks downright cheap, with lots of off-model characters, sloppy backgrounds, and atleast one montage per episode of panning shots over still images. But that’s not exactly uncommon for studio Silver Link, whose shows range from Non Non Biyori and Baka to Test to Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody and Kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya. (The series director was Tomoyuki Kawamura, episode director on Aoi Hana, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, among other shows. The script writer was Shougo Yasukawa, writer for a number of Food Wars and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure episodes.)

The series also manages to balance comedy and Iyashikei to nearly-perfect effect. At only one point, during a episode in the middle of the series, does any kind serious conflict emerge when a friend of the girls’ is worried that her bakery will be shut down and taken over by her sister, who wants to turn it into an onigiri shop (rice balls, essentially) but in minutes the conflict is disolved, and with the perfect comedic note, when the girls decide they would prefer an onigiri shop instead, and side with the sister without delay.

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The manga is also hilarious.

But let’s return to that comment I made about “small town adventure and childhood wonder”. Throughout the series, the girls are constantly making up weird games with surreal rules, breaking every rule thrown their way, disregarding any attempts at seriousness and substituting it for their own childish (used without any sense of condescension) concerns, and indulging in pure fantasy. It’s the first time in a long time I can say that the little kids in Mitsuboshi Colors actually feel like little kids, and not teenagers (or worse, adults) in kid bodies.

Here I should note that most of these examples have been taken from the first half of the twelve episode series. Mitsuboshi Colors is an incredibly funny show, so I would feel almost guilty to spoil some of the jokes. That being said, and everything else I’ve said here as well, I would totally recommend the show if slice-of-life and comedy are genres you enjoy, especially if you can appreciate the joy of being a really dumb kid again.

Biggly Milestones and Future Plans

I just got an email like an hour ago telling me that Miyo’s Permanent Record is now a month old! And, on top of that, I have, as of writing this post, thirteen followers of this blog! I never expected a single human being would be interested in my stupid ramblings, and I can only imagine that many other bloggers feel the same way. So thanks for following and I hope I don’t disappoint you all like I’ve disappointed my parents!

Anyways, now is a good a time as any to lay out some of the posts I’ve been working on and/or have planned.

  • Deep reviews of my favourite anime series
  • Analyses and recommendations for a few novels (Stoner by John Williams will probably be the first to come — I hope)
  • A series of posts on the Bioshock game series
  • A brief few posts, maybe more, on excellent episodes of anime
  • And a whole bunch of random thoughtpieces that are forming in my mind as I write this

Again, thank you and I hope I don’t disappoint.

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“Persona 5 the Animation” – Episode 3 Belated Impressions, Or: Cream All Over Pancake Boy’s Face; Or: I’m So Done and I’m Too Sober For This

Oh fucking boy this show is so fucking bad holy fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

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Sorry. Allow me to collect myself.

Persona 5 the Animation is ugly, the animation is all kinds of jank, the characters have been stripped of all personality to make room for exposition and cameos of Goro, the show runs full-tilt past all the best parts of the game and straight into a wall labelled “Getting This Shit Over With” like we’re in a political cartoon.

There is literally no reason to watch this show at all, and the more episodes I watch the more this becomes apparent. Just play the game, it is so much better.

Peace out.

 

Book Review: “The Golden Thread: A Reader’s Journey Through the Great Books” by Bruce Meyer

Recently I’ve been reading, well… the book in the title. I picked it up from my local bookstore used for ten bucks. Essentially it’s a primer for reading the western literary canon, taking you from the Bible and the Odyssey to Wolfe and Joyce.

Now I’m a gigantic nerd for the western canon, and there’s nobody I’ll love more somebody who appreciates the literary quality of the Bible, and The Golden Thread manages to cover a ton of books, with 18 chapters in all, and some of the later chapters covering multiple books.

The biggest problem with the book, for me at least, is that there’s barely any depth to the discussion; each chapter would probably be better served as those introductions you see at the beginning of Penguin or Oxford classics, which give both a general idea of the plot and the reasons why the work in question has remained both relevant and intelligent for centuries. For example in the chapter on The Aeneid, Meyer only treads upon two topics and the first only lightly: the nationalistic themes of the text, which he relates back to the previous chapter on The Odyssey, and Aeneas himself as a model statesman, but none at all on the way Virgil relates Aenias to Augustus, and treats only for a sentence or two on the romance between Dido and Aenias.

The problem is that the book is clearly designed for the beginner (at one point Meyer feels the need to define the word “protaganist”), and the author says as much in his introduction, and I’m not much of a beginniner, so at the end of the day The Golden Thread turns into being told what you already know. But hey, sometimes that isn’t too terrible.

Check this book out if you can get it free or on the cheap, especially if you feel like you’re such a plebian your body will go comatose if you don’t aquire a easy, light introduction to the western canon.