Thursday, December 23, 2010

Origins of a Semi-Weeaboo

It's obvious that I'm a big fan of Japanese stuff, but the other day, I actually stopped to think about how I turned from normal American child to semi-weeaboo adult.  I identify as "semi-weeaboo" because while I think Japanese stuff is super cool, I don't exhibit some of the inherent (and often annoying) weeaboo stereotypes, such as inserting Japanese words or phrases into my normal speech.  Lolis?  Not in my town! Heck, I don't even care if I never visit Japan.  As long as they keep making cool stuff, I'll be interested.

With that being said, how did I get to this point?  My first contact with Japan came through anime.  When I was about five or six, SciFi made some sort of big deal about how they were going to show the best in Japanese animation.  I was interested.  Cartoons.  Cool.  The lineup for this special event was Robot Carnival, Lensman, and Vampire Hunter D.  I still remember the commercials and intro for it.  Heck, I found a YouTube clip of it.

I sadly say that I don't remember much of Robot Carnival.  I think I might have been too young to appreciate it.  Lensman, however, blew me away and was recorded on VHS for later viewings until the tape got eaten or something.  Vampire Hunter D was cool as hell, and it forever became an epic masterpiece in my young mind.  Of course, Fox began airing Saban's Power Rangers, which would put me on course to becoming a tokusatsu fan.  I also watched the occasional Godzilla movie.

Some years later, the SciFi channel provided some more titles every weekend.  I ended up seeing a bunch of anime, much of which I can't actually remember anymore.  I distinctly recall seeing Iria: Zeiram the Animation.  SciFi had already showed the live-action Zeiram movie, so I ate Iria up.  They also played Ronin Warriors early in the morning on weekdays, and that was incredibly epic at the time.

Zeiram: bad mofo

By this point, I came to consider Japanese animation to be the top-notch stuff and serious business.  American animation just didn't do it for me anymore.  I actually went a few years without seeing any anime due to living in the middle of the woods and lacking cable service.

Anime would later come back into view in middle school as my friends started talking about Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing.  Of course, DBZ caught my interest, and I watched it until Toonami went kaput.  Gundam Wing was a major force in getting me permanently fixated on anime.  Say what you will about the show, but it was responsible for introducing me and many other Americans to the Gundam series.  GW also sparked my interest in Japanese music.  TWO-MIX's songs were so upbeat, melodic, and addicting that I didn't care whether or not I understood the language. 

The early days of Adult Swim took things a step further, with shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, and InuYasha keeping me interested while I developed my own tastes.  I also started getting into Japanese artists such as T.M.Revolution and L'arc~en~Ciel, whose music was featured in a number of anime titles.  After a while, I began surfing the net, hitting up places like Rightstuf and CDjapan.  

From that point on, my own tastes began to guide my viewing and listening selections.  .hack//SIGN, Macross, Evangelion, Zeta Gundam....  Yuki Kajiura, access, Sound Horizon....  I bet most semi-weeaboos and weeaboos can come up with a similar timeline of sorts.  I wonder if others started out similarly, as early, etc.  But yeah, back when SciFi was cool and wasn't SyFy, it set me on the path to where I am today, and then Toonami sealed the deal back when Tom was still alive.

RIP Tom ;_;

It's fun to sit down and actually think about the origins of your interests.  This can probably apply to everybody, even non-weeaboos.  It's fascinating to take a look at a fun part of the journey that has defined who you are and where you came from.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's Playing at Kingstone Flash

Now that the semester is winding down, I can take a moment to give my thoughts on the shows I'm looking into at the moment.  I suppose I could wait and do full reviews (I still may), but some of these shows are fansubs that probably won't be complete for years at the rate they're going.  I guess I should go learn Japanese or something.

Current tokusatsu lineup:

Choujuu Sentai Liveman

I am pleasantly surprised at how much darker this show is then the Power Ranger stuff America usually gets.  The villains get a lot of good development, especially Obler and Mazenda.  I'll admit to having a crush on Megumi Mori.  I'm also very fond of the episodes where Jou gets emotional and his voice practically cracks as he henshins (episodes 3 and 18 come to mind).  It's been so many years since I've seen Power Rangers, but I can't recall PR having drama this good (at least for a kid's show).  Sometimes I catch myself really wanting to call Machine Buffalo when things get tough at work.  God, I really do get immersed in these shows.  I'm taking a break from Liveman to let GUIS churn out some more subbed episodes, but I love what I've seen so far.

Megumi Mori....Hnnnnng!

Kamen Rider Black - I absolutely love Tetsuo Kurata as Minami Kotaro.  The way he goes on about Golgom's actions being unforgivable and how his eyes widen and he clenches his fists and all before he henshins...god, it gets me pumped.  The henshin sequence is so awesome that sometimes, I try and henshin myself, arm motions and everything.  For some reason, I can't say anything else except that I'm hooked and I'm enjoying the ride. Hopefully, Century Kings will finish it soon.

Kamen Rider Stronger - I started Stronger as sort of a diversion from Black to give Century Kings more time to finish the series.  I'm only a handful of episodes in, but I find it to be quite enjoyable.  Shigeru Jo is such a strange character.  He's kind of crazy, but he's definitely got balls.  He wastes no time telling Black Satan exactly who he is, and he always goes around wearing a shirt with huge "S" on it and gloves to cover his cyborg hands.  He's so quirky, and his henshin is so over the top that it breaches the awesome threshold.  Black Satan's henchmen look so derpy...they crack me up.  The action is very old-school, but it's great fun.  Also, Tackle <3

Current Anime lineup:


Not my usual type of show, but it's been pretty solid so far.  I can't say that I'm blown away or anything, but it's kept me interested enough to slowly pick at it.  Maybe it's the (scantily-clad chicks + violence) guy factor.  My roommate's reaction to seeing the opening was, "Why is she smearing blood on her ass?"  I'll probably finish it when finals are over.

That's all for now.  I'll probably return with my video game backlog and rant about something.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Being a Man-child (and why I'm okay with it)

So, here's the thing.  I'm almost 23 years old, and I watch shows like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider.  I am well aware that these are kid's shows over in Japan, but I still watch them and I still love them.  I've been giving this quite a bit of thought.  Why do I love these shows so much?  Is it okay for a grown man to watch these silly things?

The result of awesome and hilarious trolling from Kamen Rider V3

Sometimes when I watch tokusatsu shows, I actually find myself getting really excited.  I'm talking things like, "Holy crap, Liveman is going recruit two new members and combine Live Boxer with Live Robo to form Super Live Robo!!"

Like many adults my age, I was a kid when the original Power Rangers first came on television, and I got sucked into it.  The style and concept was so different and interesting at the time.  I was attracted to anime that was showing at that time for similar reasons (Ronin Warriors, Vampire Hunter D).  It was just so damned cool.

Ronin Warriors.  Was cool.

Of course, after reaching a certain age (probably around 10 or 11), I stopped watching Power Rangers, and most boys I knew around that age didn't mention it anymore.  It wasn't cool anymore.  We were above that kid stuff.  I was too busy playing Pokemon, anyway.  Funny enough, Pokemon would also seemingly fall out of popularity by the time high school came around.  I can only recall one or two people that were openly into it, and they were the brunt of jokes.

However, during my senior year of high school and my subsequent years in college, nearly everybody I knew admitted to watching Power Rangers.  They even recalled their favorite rangers (Mine was the Green Ranger).  On a side note, everybody started admitting to playing Pokemon, too.

You know you thought he was cool

It seems that as we grew up, we started wanting to become more adult and started to discard all of the childish things we once liked.  However, when many of us became adults, loaded down with work and responsibilities, we wished to reclaim pieces of our childhood, things we would never fully experience again.  Things we liked as kids that were considered lame in middle school and high school became awesome again.  I'm pretty sure if I had asked any random person in college if they watched Power Rangers as a kid, they'd have said, "Hell yeah, that shit was awesome!"

I discovered Super Sentai as the origins of PR during my early college years when I saw a picture from Himitsu Sentai Goranger.  Imagine my surprise to find out that this series of Japanese shows that have been running for over 30 years contained the show on which PR was loosely based.

Himitsu Sentai Goranger.  Awesome.

It all started to make sense.  Of course the Japanese were behind it.  Everything they touch seems to be cooler to me.  Long story short, I started to slowly get into Sentai.  I started watching Liveman earlier this year, and I am loving it.  It's kind of dark sometimes, but it's still obviously a kid's show.

I recently recalled how my roommates in college started getting into shonen shows, like Naruto and Bleach.  I don't particularly have a taste for the newer shonen stuff, but I am beginning to understand why some people I know are still into it, years after watching DBZ on Toonami.  

I began to realize that many of us are entertained by this kind of stuff for different reasons than when we were kids.  I personally love the nostalgia, and I frequently find myself chuckling at the pointless explosions and the crazy action, but at the same time I'm actually kind of into the story and the drama.  The style is just plain fun.  Even with the older shows, where the fighting is noticeably deliberate and punches and kicks obviously don't connect, I find myself loving how over-the-top everything is.  I laugh and then go..."This is awesome."

Does this make me a man-child?  Probably.  Is this okay?  Sure, when it's appropriate.

There's really nothing wrong with fun and entertainment, no matter how childish it is and no matter how old you are.  I have a friend that's 23 years old and has a well-paying job, and she still goes out and does stuff like play hide and seek, with other adults no less.  Our childhoods may be long gone, but they are still very much a part of who we are.  We shouldn't discard childish things just because we are adults.  We should rather embrace them and give our inner-children some time to play every once in a while.

Monday, December 6, 2010

RahXephon Review

Brief synopsis:  Ayato Kamina is a teenager from Tokyo who becomes entangled in a conflict between humans and trans-dimensional invaders known as the Mu.  He is called to pilot the RahXephon, an almost-mystical technological construct, and he becomes a useful tool of the Mulian defense organization known as Terra.  As the conflict with the Mu intensifies, so does his inner conflict as he struggles to find the truth about himself and those around him.

Initial thoughts:  I had seen parts of RahXephon several years ago and recently decided to purchase the boxed set in order to view the entire thing from start to finish.  I recalled enjoying what I saw of the show very much the first time around, and I was curious to see how the title held up during its second viewing.  This is my first time really trying to review something, so I'm going to try to tackle it by breaking it into sections.  Please keep in mind that this is all just my opinions based on what I have seen and felt.  It's really okay to have a different opinion.  I don't care for arguments and shitstorms.

Story: RahXephon is a complex show, with many references to music, literature, folklore, etc.  That being said, I definitely got more out of the second viewing than the first time I watched.  The show is often likened to Neon Genesis Evangelion, and it's apparent that RahXephon was influenced by Eva and various other shows in a number of ways.  However, RahXephon's basic plot is inspired by the 70's super robot show Brave Raideen, and it really has more in common with Raideen than Eva.

Brave Raideen

Like most anime fans, I have seen Evangelion, and I will admit that the similarities between some of the scenes in Eva and Rah are startling, especially toward the beginning of the shows.  However, as I watched RahXephon further, I noticed more differences than similarities.   I don't really see Rah as being an Eva ripoff.

Anyway, the characters in RahXephon are well-developed and complex.  I found most of them to be likable or at least very interesting.

Visuals:  I found RahXephon's visuals to be absolutely stunning.  I'm kind of an old-school anime guy, so I admit that I don't have a good feel for how they hold up against current titles, though.  I was pleased with RahXephon's beautiful imagery and smooth animation.  I loved the designs of the dolems used throughout the show, and I thought that the RahXephon's design was quite interesting and captivating, despite the clear influence of Raideen.

Music:  For a show that contains so many references to music, RahXephon doesn't disappoint with its powerful musical score.  It's opening song, Hemisphere, is definitely a standout anime opening.  Yoko Kanno and Maaya Sakamoto did a fantastic job, and I found the song to be unique and powerful.  Hemisphere was on heavy rotation in my mp3 playlists for some time after hearing it.  The ending song, Yume no Tamago, is amazingly beautiful, and is well-suited for the feel of the show.  In addition, the background music was used very well, and often complemented the scenes quite nicely.  One track that comes to mind off the OST is Second Sorrow, which was used to great effect in episode 19.  ;_;

The Requisite Rah vs Eva Section:  It's nearly impossible to talk about RahXephon without talking about Evangelion, and most discussions end in arguments about which is better.  I don't care to argue about it, but I figure I'll share my two cents on the matter.  Quite frankly, after seeing both, I vote for RahXephon.  It has stronger characterizations, more likable characters, better-grounded and well-thought symbols and references (not just there because producers thought it was cool), a clearer and more satisfying ending, and superior music and visuals.  That's just my take on things.  Don't get huffy.

Conclusion:  I found RahXephon to be a very interesting and riveting experience.  I blew through the whole thing very quickly, and when it was all over, I found myself sitting and thinking about it for quite some time.  Highly Recommended.  Do yourself a favor and buy a copy.


I'm back!

Well, I have returned to blogging.  I ditched the old black mage picture and username.  That's not really me anymore.  To be honest, I can't say how long I am going to keep up with this blog.  I deleted all of my old stuff a while back.  I'm pretty sure it was because I felt like nobody was reading my posts.  I didn't really expect the general public to become followers or anything, but I think I really would have liked friends and family to take an interest and leave a comment here and there.  I guess at the moment I feel like even if nobody notices the retarded things I post, I can have fun simply recording my thoughts, right?

I think this time around I'll focus more on things other people with interests similar to mine might be keen on reading and discussing.  I've got a number of things I'll likely be writing about in the next week or so, including such riveting topics as:
  • RahXephon (Review)
  • Why I'm Okay With Being A Man-Child (and associated thoughts)
  • Why Acguy is love
  • Thoughts on the current toku shows I'm watching
  • Awesome music (will likely become a weekly post)
I'm actually getting a little excited.  Stay tuned.