Archive for August, 2010

Mugging for the camera

August 23rd, 2010
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Change is coming soon to Cel Shaded, and you, dear Otaku Ohana readers, can have a say in shaping it.

Ever since the Star-Bulletin and the Advertiser, by their powers combined, became the Honolulu Hyper Great Shining Robotic Protector And Super Friend to All Children Star-Bulletin And Advertiser — the Star-Advertiser for short — we’ve been spiffying a few things up here and there. Now that great spiffying project has reached … this.

To the right of this paragraph is the column mug that’s greeted Cel Shaded readers for a good chunk of five years now. You can tell it’s been five years because (a) the hat is that of an Excel Saga Puchuu, and Excel Saga Puchuu hats were one of the many merchandising missteps that led to ADV no longer being with us today; and (b) I’m trying to figure out whether tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. still has that soot sprite or whether she gave it to me in one of her occasional swag-purging sweeps. It’s served its purpose faithfully over the years, but now it’s looking a bit dated. And if you’ve seen this mug pulling double duty as the introductory mug for this blog on the Star-Advertiser blog home page, you can see it doesn’t exactly play well with cropping, either.

But that’s not the only mug that’s run in the paper. To the left of this paragraph is the rarer second-edition mug, introduced when the Star-Bulletin rolled out columnist promos on the front page around 2007-ish. As the paper evolved and eventually switched to the smaller tabloid format, though, this version eventually disappeared, replaced by the first mug. It, too, is showing its age, because (a) the cap is a Di Gi Charat Dejiko model, and Di Gi Charat Dejiko caps were one of the really-cute-but-too-few-people-bought-’em pieces of merchandise that ultimately sank Broccoli USA; and (b) the Moogle is a Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Moogle, and those Moogles were probably the only redeeming factor of the whole Crystal Chronicles arm of that franchise. (Anyone remember when GameCube/Game Boy Advance connectivity was supposed to be the Next Big Thing?)

So it’s pretty clear that it’s time to put a fresh face on otaku journalism in Hawaii. Otaku Ohana will have a shot of Wilma and me that will reflect that this blog is written by … well … Wilma and me, and not just me. We have an idea of how that’ll look (or we’ll figure that out when we schedule the photo shoot, anyway). But where you, the reader, come in is in deciding my new look for Cel Shaded.

See, I have a new cosplay cap ready to go. (And I really hope that wearing it  doesn’t doom its makers into extinction as well … I actually like the people who made this cap.) Picked out a new plushy, too. But I’m also getting starting to get up there in age — when you hear the typical “youth demographic” pegged at around 18 to 34 years of age and realize you’re at the upper end of that scale, you start thinking that maaaaaybe it’s time to stop being whimsical and start looking professional, lest you look like a complete dork. Yet I’ve looked like a complete dork for five years now … and what is anime and manga if it doesn’t help you connect with your fun side?

Thus, a poll. Voting will run until Friday, Sept. 3. Oh, and one vote per IP address, please. We’ll go into the photo studio soon afterward, so choose wisely.


More tales from “Earthsea”

August 19th, 2010
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©2006 Nibariki - GNDHDDT. All Rights Reserved.

With a movie like Tales From Earthsea, sometimes even a cover story reviewing the film isn’t enough to cover everything properly. Considering that Earthsea won’t be ending today like I originally thought it would — it appears it’ll be getting second life at the Kahala complex starting tomorrow, with showings at 12:30, 3 and 5:30 p.m. — I thought I’d reflect a bit on those additional thoughts.

Unfortunately, we have nothing new to report on the Earthsea dub. Wilma was planning on seeing it on Sunday. She even bought tickets for the 11:30 a.m. showing for herself, her fiance and her friend several weeks in advance. But due to what could only be described as a technical oversight at a certain ticketing site that shall not be named save for the fact that its name rhymes with “canned mango,” the 11:30 showing simply did not exist. She and her cohorts showed up at what she thought was a half hour early for a screening that was already 30 minutes into its run. That’s quite a bit of Arren and Sparrowhawk walking around staring at pretty landscapes that was missed by then.

So Wilma’s movie review from the day reads as follows: The Expendables was very fun, albeit slow at the beginning, with some funny cameos. And it was also very loud.

Undeterred, we press on with those notes:

The weekend box office take for Tales From Earthsea, according to Box Office Mojo’s chart, was $20,614 over five theaters — good enough for 57th place for the period, an average of $4,123 per screen. It seems on the surface like it outperformed Ponyo – that movie made an average of $3,868 per screen. The biggest difference, though: Ponyo bowed on 927 screens, and it had a sizable promotional push behind it, to boot. Earthsea? At five screens, that’s easily the smallest release I’ve ever tracked with this list. And because there were so few screens, there was no promotion for it whatsoever. A more apt comparison may be with Princess Mononoke, which was released in eight theaters on Oct. 29, 1999, and ended up making $144,446 over its debut weekend — an average $18,055 per screen. (Trivia note: Yuko Tanaka, the Japanese voice of Earthsea’s Cob, was also the voice of Lady Eboshi in Mononoke. And yes, Cob is, indeed, supposed to be a guy. Granted, he’s a bishonen, Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth-esque guy, but a guy nonetheless. Those of you confused at the screening whom I overheard, now you know.)

This was, as I and many others suspect, was Studio Ghibli’s “black sheep” film, the one that Disney wanted to sneak out to theaters in the dead of night just to keep the studio happy. Heck, I was actually a bit surprised that there was even an advance screening, and that it was hosted by KUMU, no less. (By the way, if you were in the audience that evening, you know that guy that deejay Devon Nekoba called out for tweeting during the pre-show festivities? That, umm, was me.)

Speaking of Twitter, one of my followers who was also at the screening told me that she liked Earthsea’s music. It’s a valid point, and one that I forgot to mention in the review: The music is wonderful. One of the biggest highlights is when Aoi Teshima, the voice of Therru in the Japanese version, sings “Therru’s Song” toward the middle of the film. But “Therru’s Song” also brings up another flaw of Goro Miyazaki’s direction: Anything he seems to love in his own film, he draws out to excruciating lengths. Those pretty landscapes, the song, the film’s climax that had some people chuckling (an effect I’m sure Miyazaki never intended) — all of them made me squirm a bit with impatience after a while. I kept thinking, “Okay, that’s great, that’s nice, but can we please move ahead with the narrative now?”

With all that said, would I buy a DVD of Earthsea when it comes out? Most likely. On the same token, though, I’d also like to read Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle first. I’m sure there’s a whole new depth to her work that’s only hinted at in the movie but never fully realized.

From the Pile: Master of Martial Hearts

August 8th, 2010
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From the Pile is a regular feature in which we profile something at random from our large pile of yet-to-be-reviewed anime and manga. Believe us, we’ve been in this game for several years now and have had only limited space in the print edition to share all our thoughts, so there’s quite a bit of catch-up work to do on our backlog. So without further ado …

Today’s profile: Master of Martial Hearts (complete series)
Publisher: Funimation
Suggested age rating: Older teen 16+

Being an anime reviewer isn’t all the fun it would seem to be on the surface. Yeah, sure, we get to watch cartoons animated features whenever we have time and get paid for it, but not all of it is good. And lately, it seems like the quality of anime has dipped in general — for every buzzworthy work like Summer Wars or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Gurren Lagann, there are a dozen cheap, exploitative works that either ramp up the sexual quotient or throw in a half-dozen “moe blobs,” patch it all together with the loosest of plots, and send it out to fanboys who obsess over every perverse detail in the darker corners of the Internet.

Master of Martial Hearts is one of those series that falls into the latter category. It seems like the producers of this series felt they had to take every possible opportunity to remind viewers, “Hey, LOOK! Hot girls and women over here! Some of whom may actually be wearing clothes! And they’re fighting one another!”  So there are slow, tantalizing establishing shots of characters from their ankles up to their heads; other shots that emphasize that, yes, these characters have breasts, and yes, they’re wearing panties; an obligatory “hey, let’s all go to the pool and dress up in as little as possible!” scene; and fight sequences in which each powerful blow is accompanied by clothing exploding off bodies in dramatic slow-motion.

Oh yeah, and there’s some plot about a jewel that grants wishes that everyone’s fighting over. But hey, breasts.

Thrown into the midst of all this is Aya … oh, let’s face it, it really doesn’t matter what anyone’s name is in this series, because all of the combatants can be described in broad archetypes. Let’s just call Aya “Schoolgirl.” So Schoolgirl’s thrown into this tournament, fighting for her missing friend (and former tournament participant) Shrine Maiden. We know Schoolgirl’s the main character because when she squares off against Stewardess, Teacher, Nurse, Policewoman, Japanese Folk Musician, et.al., the following happens, without fail:
  1. Schoolgirl gets soundly pummeled. Clothes explode off her left and right. Yet throughout the onslaught, she still manages to keep her underwear on.
  2. Schoolgirl snaps.
  3. Schoolgirl proceeds to beat the bejeebers out of her opponent … and within the first few seconds, her opponent’s topless.

I thought at first this was out of courtesy to maintain Schoolgirl’s chaste nature … and then there was a prolonged scene of her showering, which pretty much buried that theory six feet under. Heck, I felt like I needed a shower after watching any part of this DVD for a significant chunk of time. I probably should have realized what I was in for with the opening theme song, an ear-piercing horror that prompted me to push fast-forward during the opening sequence for the first time in recent memory. And I’m usually one to give opening sequences a fair shake for at least one episode.

From a young age, I was taught to always try to find the good in a particular situation. For Master of Martial Hearts, what’s good is that it’s five episodes long and you don’t have to buy it until, say, Right Stuf sticks it in its Bargain Bin for $1.98 or so (and even then, I could think of better ways of spending $1.98).

Aside from that … well, you know how every Funimation production these days starts off with the company’s logo swirling into view, a bunch of people proclaiming, “FUNIMATION!” and a voice whispering, “You should be watching”? I feel like there should be a second voice for series like these that whispers “… something else.”