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    I was very pleased by Wolf & Spice episode 6.

    Shion no Ou episode 15 continued to impress me with its ability to say so much with such compact and minimal gestures and statements. I also wonder now if it really is possible for Satoru to have a heart.

    By coincidence, Gallery Fake episode 14, which I watched on Valentine's Day, turned out to be a Valentine's Day themed episode. Gallery Fake isn't the most technically impressive anime available, and the show's quality is frequently uneven, but I find that I really like the program.

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      The Darjeeling Limited, which I watched Saturday, has Wes Anderson's signature sense of contemporary ennui and angst, and signs of the absurd wit present in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but it's not as strong of a film. The Life Aquatic succeeded by introducing likeable and loveable eccentrics faced with dilemmas and tragedies. The three brothers of The Darjeeling Limited are bored, aimless, self-absorbed rich and priviledged men, which automatically makes them more distant for the viewer to like and relate to. Francis is unconsciously domineering and short sighted. It's he that plans the brothers' spiritual journey, but it's also he who is most obsessed with material posessions, values, and personal property. Peter consistently seeks to escape blame and responsibility, literally planing his life around running away. Jack is literally amoral - not evil or cruel, but rather always able to have what he wants, his way, and able to go out and get what he wants by any means because he dissassociates himself with himself and others, and doesn't think in terms of morality. These brothers aren't bad guys. They're not off-putting. But they're also not engaging. As a result, while the characters struggle throughout the movie to overcome their alienation from each other, the viewers likewise have to spend the entire movie trying to get to like these characters and care about them. I think that the degree to which that constitutes excellent film depends upon the individual expectations of viewers.

      My reaction to Takeshi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django is the same as my reaction to much of the film maker's output. I'm pleased that I watched the movie, and the film certainly has some strengths, but I can't call it entirely satisfying. Part of the problem lies in the same problem that every version of the yojimbo story has: the story has a narrative center, but not an emotional one. With basically only two factions of villains and an enigmatic, self-serving loner in the middle, there's no one and nothing for the viewer to invest in and care about. The film is certainly great looking. And it's plenty quirky, although I'm particularly bothered by the sheriff character because his unique personality simply blossoms full-blown in the middle of the picture without any warning or introduction, making it feel like an idea that Miike was struck with part-way through filming rather than a planned and organic attribute of the movie. The film feels over-long and ironically a little bit restrained, as if Miike wanted the film to be an absurd, violent spectacle, but still not so outre that it would discourage average viewers from watching the film.

      I was quite disappointed by Jumper because it turned out to be the worst kind of mainstream teenage date-movie sci-fi. While the action is mildly interesting, the characters aren't, and the entire film demands that the viewer absolutely not even begin to apply logic or real world criticism, hence the film fall apart. The villains, or, at least, the most obvious "villains," are ridiculously simplistic cookie-cutter antagonists. The rest of the film demands that viewers accept that the events of the film occur in a vaccuum that doesn't attract any notice from anyone not directly involved.

      Fido honestly took me a little while to get into because even knowing that it was a parody, it still felt difficult for me to believe. However, as the characterizations and relationships developed, my immersion and enjoyment of the film increased as well. By the end of the movie, despite a very slightly over-long epilogue, I found the movie charming, amusing, and well constructed, intelligent entertainment.

      At last I bought and read the domestic Ichegeki Sachu! Hoihoi-san manga. The manga itself is consistently amusing and does an interesting job of weaving two different stories around the concept of the Hoihoi-san domestic robot. Reading the manga also makes the short anime OVA now make much more sense to me. Now I understand why Combat-san tries to attack Hoihoi-san, and why Combat-san always fails. Sadly, I know that it's impossible with present technology, but now I so dearly wish that I could buy a $300 customizable little girl robot that would walk around my house like a house cat.

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        After watching Gundam OO episodes 18 & 19, I'm surprised to see that Setsuna is actually a half-way likeable person when he actually makes an effort to communicate his feelings straightforwardly.

        Shion no Ou episode 16 felt like it slightly changed the show's pacing and focus. That's not bad, just an observation. I wonder what will happen to Saito now.

        Finally got around to watching the obscure 1986 OVA Samy Missing 99. Even by 1986 standards its animation quality is poor. It's also not especially exciting, even though it includes virtually every anime convention and characteristic imaginable. I think this OVA provides evidence that not everything from the "golden era" was actually golden.

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          The third episode of the current Torchwood season was another one of those good but slow, dramatic, and not very exciting episodes that don't really feel like sci-fi. I don't mind these episodes very much, and they're consistently well made, but if I want a solid focus on human relationship drama, I'll watch something else. I watch Torchwood to see exciting sci-fi. Pleasantly for me, it looks like episode 4 gets back to being precisely that.

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            Bought and read the fourth issue of Grendel: Behold the Devil. Especially considering the final panel of this issue, now I'm really curious about how the story is going to develop.

            After recently watching Miike's Django, I got in the mood to watch the infamous gory spaghetti western Cut-Throats Nine. While the film may be arguably over-hyped, I think it deserves a lot of its infamy. The movie is actually pretty good in the respect that it does an adequate job of personalizing each of the characters and creating a grim, dangerous, and outright violent tone. The movie is fairly gory, eventually reaching some moments of vicious sadism. The flick is not well constructed enough, nor affecting enough to really be excellent, but it is a respectable, good mean-spirited and unpredictable western.

            The 1992 anime adaptation of Suehiro Maruo's Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, titled in the version I watched, Midori was a very interesting piece of work. Its limited animation was obviously due to a small budget, but it also gave the work the effective impression of a kamishibai story. It's a strange, grotesque, bleak animation, and its animation style and presentation enhance that atmosphere. This is definitely not an anime for everyone, but it's quite good for those who can appreciate it.

            Watching the first episode of Dororon Enma-kun was a bit of a strange situation because the show is so similar and so different from its remake, Kikoushi Enma. It's recognizably similar, and the antagonism between Enma and Yukihime is still there. But Dororon Enma-kun also has some slapstick, and it seems much more action oriented than its modern remake. While it is a playful children's anime, I'm still surprised that it's a dark and gruesome as it is, especially for its age.

            Began my effort to catch up on Naruto by watching Shippuden episodes 16-30. These episodes remind me that Naruto is enjoyable to watch, and occasionally actually pretty good. But there's also a whole lot of dumb in these episodes. And I don't know how anyone can claim that Dragon Ball Z moves slowly and not make the same claim about Naruto.

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              Over the past two days, I've powered through Naruto Shippuden episodes 31-37.

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                Saving the best for last, the sixth omake episode of Potemayo may be the best single episode of the entire series. Explaining why, though, is a big spoiler.

                Watched Gundam OO episode 20. Interesting plot twists in this episode.

                Moegaku 5 episodes 3 & 4 weren't especially good, but they were short, easy to watch, and mildly amusing.

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                  Worked my way through Naruto Shippuden episode 38-48 in order to catch up to the current Japanese broadcast. Some of this really bothers me. The seeming differences in strength between different characters is beginning to bother me. For example, is Orochimaru's strength really more than half of a kyubi's? Is Orochimaru really that much stronger than Jiriya?

                  After watching Yes! Precure 5 GoGo episode 2, and seeing some of the Japanese fan reaction to this new series, I'm beginning to wonder if I should try to give this season a shot. Episode 2 doesn't feel like the first two seasons, but it's closer to the first two seasons than seasons 3 or 4 seemed to be.

                  After watching Minamike Okawari episodes 5-7, I'm certain that this season doesn't look as good, and isn't animated as well as the first season. But it is still just as amusing as the first season.

                  Watched Zoku Saoynara Sensei episodes 3 & 4. Episode 3 was fun, but episode 4 was an especially good episode.

                  Caught up with Wolf & Spice episodes 6 & 8-9. Apparently episode 7 is going to be a DVD exclusive. While the animation quality occasionally gets noticably limited, the story and characterizations in this series remain some of the very best of this season's anime.

                  I won't complain about the Gurren Lagann OVA being a disposable side-story because there's no way it could be anything else. I will complain just a bit about it being a bit dumb.

                  After watching KimiAru episode 3, I realized that I'd sort of forgotten exactly how ecchi and amusing this series is. The Initial D parody was both ridiculous and funny.

                  I was quite pleased with Appleseed: Ex Machina. The film does have some major problems, most significant among them being some very dumb cops. Other problems include a story that sacrifices philosophical and substantial depth for superficial action, and some very predictable plot developments. However, the film has many more strengths that outweigh its weaknesses. The CG rendering is drastically improved. Textures and shadows look better. Flesh has lost its vinyl sheen from the first film. Character movement is now faster and more realisitc. This film benefits from having characterizations that viewers can empathize with. The film feels more human than the first one did. Furthermore, there's more action, and more exciting action in this movie than in both the first movie and Vexille combined.

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                    Chewed through a bunch of anime yesterday, beginning with Precure 5 GoGo episodes 3 & 4. The fights and action are definitely improved. The action scene in epsiode 4 was quite impressive. This show still feels a bit sappy, but I'm now seriously considering getting back into Pretty Cure with this series.

                    Since I had only two episodes left, I finished the Murder Princess OVA series by watching episodes 5 & 6. I don't think the series was outright bad, but it never got especially bad or especially good. The final episode displays a remarkable absence of character motivation and unbelievable, artificial plot mechanics, but despite weakening the show, much of the series still feels, not good, but at least entertaining.

                    Hakaba Kitarou episodes 4-6 are difficult to pinpoint because Kitarou's personality, and the tone of the show itself seems very amorphous. It's at times very morbid, and at other times comical and lighthearted.

                    Shion no Ou episode 17 was another of the series' periodic fightfully intense episodes. I'm not sure if I'm pleased or disappointed to find that Satoru hasn't lost any of his bad attitude.

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                      The long awaited fourth Hellsing OVA was quite a mixed bag. The scenes prominently featuring Alucard are interesting but most of what's left isn't. The pre-title sequence is edited so poorly that it's disorienting. Numerous scenes, such as all of Anderson's appearances after his first scene, are pointless and unnecessary. The climactic speech goes on much, much too long. The episode feels like the weaknesses of the original manga shine through clearly.

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                        Watched Naruto Shippuden episode 49.

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                          So busy here at work these days that I only have time to visit the Forum once every few days. So this covers the past several days.

                          Had a chance to watch The Mist. It's a very characteristic Stephen King horror becasue it concentrates more on conflicts between everyday people than man versus monster. I enjoy psychological conflicts when they deal with extraordinary circumstances or people, such as the geniuses of Death Note or the undercover agents of Infernal Affairs, but The Mist is about average, ordinary people with differences of opinion, which doesn't hold my attention as well. Without going into clear spoilers, I'll also say that I was very disappointed with the film's ending because it feels contradictory to the theme of everything in the film up until the final act.

                          Also watched the indie British horror flick Outpost. It's very similar to the Korean war horror movie R-Point, but deserves a half-letter grade higher score for delivering more payoff than R-Point did. I respect the film for answering the question, "What do you do if you're hunted by an unstoppable threat?" with, "You die." I also appreciate the film depicting mercenaries in a believable way. The soldiers in this film are clearly professional soldiers who are good at what they do, respect chain of command without question, and do their job without asking unnecessary questions. As a suspense horror film, the movie doesn't achieve quite the unbearable tension of a film like The Descent, but it's still quite a respectable atmospheric chiller.

                          Torchwood season 2 episode 4 was a slight disappointment because it was the first episode of the series that obviously felt poorly directed. The episode had no rhythm, and it felt like it was much too self conscious about trying to advance major evolutions in the onoing plot.

                          Gundam OO episode 21 was good. Episode 22 was a gut punch filled with major plot changing events.

                          Minamike Okawari episode 9 was another humorous episode, yet another with less than stellar design and animation quality.

                          In my attempt to catch up a bit with Yes! Precure 5 GoGo, I watched episodes 5 & 6. I still don't get the sense that this series is developing its relationships between the characters as well as the first two seasons did, but the action scenes are definitely better than they've been in years.

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                            Even more major surprises in Gundam OO episode 23. For the past couple episodes, the show has been killing off and getting rid of characters at such a rapid pace that I wonder if there will be anyone left to star in the second season.

                            Took a break to sample some older anime, starting with the first episode of 21 Emon from 1991. The show reminds me of an anime version of The Jetsons.

                            Next up was the first episode of 1988's Tekken Chinmi. This was interesting because I didn't know that it was basically a Chinese kung-fu comedy movie in anime form. It's a series about a young Chinese boy who leaves his sister to learn kenpo at a monestary. The show is mildly amusing but not really exceptional in any way.

                            Finally, watched the first episode of Sasuke, a ninja anime from 1968. This one was really quite enjoyable because it has a brisk pace, plentiful action, and some graphic violence. For its age, some of its animation is also exceptionally good. Since the first episode ends on a thrilling cliffhanger, I'm eager to watch the second episode.

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                              Went out to see Doomsday last Saturday. To put it simply, the movie kicks ***. While full of homages to other, earlier genre pictures, it doesn't become beholden to them. The film plays out with its own, unique identity, and it's a breathtaking adreneline ride from beginning to end.

                              Marathoned One Piece episodes 331 to 348 in order to catch up. I like the new "Thriller Bark" story arc because it has such a different setting than what we've seen before. It also looks like it's going to be a long story arc, which I'm of half-mind about.

                              The second Strait Jacket OVA disappointed me because it once again emphasizes everything that's wrong with anime that consciously tries to suit American tastes. It's certainly gory and dark, which average American viewers will love. But it also tries very hard to shoehorn in angst ridden drama, doing it very clumsily. Foreshadowing is dropped with the subtelty of a ton of bricks, and what's foreshadowed appears on cue literally minutes later. The writing for this episode feels like the worst kind of American comic book writing that struggles to be serious and weighty within 22 pages and without sacrificing any of the gore or action. So far Strait Jacket is bloody and attractive looking crap.

                              Speaking of crap, I've been meaning to give the Kino no Tabi anime a second chance in order to see if it really is good and I've been too hard on it, or if it is the crap that I think it is and a lot of other viewers are fooled into believing that it's better than it actually is. The Kino no Tabi: Byouki no Kuni -For You- is terrible, pretentious crap. Apart from the fact that the 3D CG backgrounds don't mesh well with the 2D animation, the film introduces a society then fails to give viewers any insight into it at all. What the citizens think is never explored. Why the citizens don't seek outside help is never explored. The extent of the problem the citizens face is never explained. The morality of the film is wafer thin. The film clearly wants viewers to believe that the city is bad, and the postman is sympathetic merely because the film tells us that the city is bad and the postman is sympathetic, not because the film offers any convincing evidence or makes viewers actually feel anything. The film also isn't long enough or atmospheric enough to get by on style. As a result, it just feels weak and very pretentious.

                              As I'd hoped and somewhat expected, the Kodomo no Jikan TV series does seem to get better as it progresses. Watched the amusing and just slightly touching DVD version episodes 3 & 4.

                              Wolf & Spice episode 12 was, once again, very good, but I'm getting the feeling that viewers are still merely being introduced to this story although it's now nearly finished.

                              Watched the Naruto episodes 51-52 special. I'm beginning to think that "special" is Naruto code for "long and boring."

                              Persona episodes 6-8 still didn't offer much to explain what's going on, but the characterizations and pacing are still strong enough to overcome the series' opaque story and bouts of idiocy. For example, I think that any normal school would have closed temporarily well before the circumstances that occur in episode 8.

                              The second episode of Mnemosyne was a bit surprisingly adult. I'm pleased that it began offering some explanations while, at the same time, introducing new mysteries. I think that the weakness of this episode was in having too many concurrent plot threads without spending enough time with any of them to make them all completely make sense, but the episode was fairly good.

                              Watched the second episode of Sasuke. Man! The ninjas in this series sure are resourceful!

                              Precure 5 GoGo episode 7 was neat because the girls actually attacked the villain instead of concentrating on the monster-of-the-week henchmen the villain created.

                              After a very long hiatus, watched Yoiko episode 14. Nudity, a lost puppy, and a sweet ending. Definitely nothing original, but still an enjoyable way to pass 12 minutes.

                              An even more enjoyable way to pass 12 minutes was watching Paul Robertson's new short film Kings of Power 4 Billion %. It's literally 12 minutes of psychedelic, spasm inducing, brain exploding sprite animation mayhem. Awesome.

                              Read the first volume of Dark Horse Comics' Revised Gunsmith Cats manga. While I like Kenichi Sonoda's character designs, I can't help feeling that this manga seems half-boiled instead of hard boiled. Many of the chapters feel like half of their storytelling is missing. I really wonder if the entire series is like this, or if Sonoda's Gunsmith Cats storytelling skill improved in later volumes.

                              Over the past two weeks I've read all six (?) volumes of Paradox Press' original American release of the Gon manga. Great stuff.

                              Also read Udon Comic's translations of the Street Fighter Alpha manga volume 2 and Street Fighter III: Ryu Final volume 1. I like these manga because they actually add a bit of depth to the street fighter story by giving many of the characters three-dimensional personalities. I also thought it was amusing that Chun-Li's American soldier partner in the SF Alpha manga had his name change from "Nash," to "Charlie" in mid-volume - probably an oversight by the translator that slipped by during final editing.

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                                Kite Liberator. What the g*dd*mn *****?! Everything that made Kite and Mezzo good is missing from Kite Liberator, and then Kite Liberator has additional flaws on top of that. Despite being longer, it has significantly less character development and atmosphere than either Kite or Mezzo. Whether Monaka is a simple professional assassin or a vigilante seeking justice is never clarified. Why she works as a killer is never explained. There's another teen girl in the OVA, but who she is never gets explained - is she Monaka's roommate? Classmate? Cousin? Friend? The OVA suggests that Monaka's co-worker is more than she appears to be, but that sub plot is never developed. The doctor character simply vanishes from the film with no explanation. Calcium fortified curry and solar flares make men turn into indestructable, homicidal monsters? Really? A space station explodes, killing most of the crew, and the only people that seem to investigate at all are employed by a food manufacturing company? Really? Monaka tries to avoid a customer at her resturant, but viewers are never informed of who the patron is. The OVA wastes one, or possibly two opportunities to pay homage to the original Kite. The OVA isn't entirely sanitized, but it definitely feels much more restrained than Umezu's earlier works that were made strictly for Japanese audiences instead of international audiences. Many of the digital camera pans are hideously ugly and artificial looking. The editing is sometimes very jarring. There's no sex. There's rather little action, and none of the action scenes have the tension or excitement of either Kite or Mezzo. And the OVA's ending ought to be called a lack of an ending. The OVA is paced as if it's a 90 minute or 120 minute long feature, and it's story unfolds as if it's going to take a full 90 or 120 minutes to play out. But at the 55 minute mark the OVA simply stops and the credits begin rolling. It doesn't reach a cliffhanger ending. It doesn't reach an ending at all. It literally just cuts off, as if the production simply ran out of time or money, leaving both of the OVA's primary plot threads at loose ends. Everything about this OVA feels like a rough cut work in progress, not at all like a finished retail release. This was really a massive disappointment.

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