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The lazy round up post December 29, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Drama, Film, Manga, Music, TV.
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I’ve been kind of slack with this blog over the last few months, a combination of work, life and lack of motivation. Two of the most frustrating things about blogging are 1) you really have to make time for it if you’re to do a decent job; and 2) unless you’re in the mood, everything you write will suck (yes, some would say everything I write sucks anyway :P).

The result is I have a stack of draft posts on stuff that I will never get round to finishing off. So in true lazy ass Christmas holidays fashion, I am resorting to a round-up. For better or worse, here’s some of the things I’ve seen and done over the last few months:

Anime

Eden of the East: Loved this show. Fabulous concept, intriguing story, great animation, wonderful music, but no ending? (or, at least, one that makes you wait for two movies coming out in 2010? What a crock).

Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood: Still going, and so far, so great. Same wonderful animation and music quality and the same characters we’ve come to know and love. But every new direction it takes deepens the mystery. Not as obsession-inducingly addictive as I might have expected, but extremely enjoyable nonetheless. Friends tell me they are nearing the current point the manga is at. I wonder at what point they’ll take a hiatus?

That’s about it really. I’ve failed to keep up with the new anime season. I started out intending to watch the adaptations of Kimi ni Todoke and Kobato, but I really haven’t had time (I barely have enough time to keep up with FMA). Fingers crossed I can start something new in the new year.

Manga

Now this I have done a lot of.

Lucky star Vol. 1: Bit of a disappointment really. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I wasn’t in it for the art, and the jokes were always likely to be the same as in the anime, but less dynamic. Plus, Lucky Star’s jokes were always a little hit and miss. Makes me realise how much of a difference the BGM and seiyuu brought to the table. Pleasant, but to be honest, not in any way worth buying if you’ve already seen the anime.

Kimi Ni Todoke Vol. 1 &2: Simply wonderful, particularly if you’re a sucker for good shojo like me ^^;. I don’t feel too bad about not watching the anime adaptation now that the manga is getting an English translation. Yes, some of it is a little drawn out, but it’s well-paced and the wonderful characters, emotional payoff’s and achingly tortuous romance keep me utterly addicted to this.

Honey and Clover Vol. 1-8: The other shojo manga in my life right now and another that could have suffered from my having seen a faithful anime adaptation previously (and one which ranks among my favourite ever shojo series). But Chika Umino‘s lovely style and subtle  storytelling have had me falling for this again. It’s worrying how much I empathise with some of these characters.

Pluto Vol. 1 &2: Hands down one of the greatest manga I’ve ever read. Completely absorbing, jaw-dropping gorgeous artwork and perfectly paced, not to mention full of the most thought-provoking sci-fi themes and moral questions. Like most Naoki Urasawa manga, this is outstanding. I just wish I’d decided to buy it instead of doing a swapsies with my friend Suzy, who’s borrowing…

20th Century Boys Vol. 1-6: ….. off me. This is also outstandingly done, but hasn’t grabbed me as much as Pluto, mainly because I’ve already seen the first two live-action movies, which spoilered me slightly ^^; Still, the pacing is different, as is the order of events, and you get a much deeper knowledge of what’s happening, as well as clues as to what happens later in the story. As of vol. 5 things have started picking up pace and I hope to gain more insight into the rather confusing events of the second movie.

Meanwhile, Tsubasa and XXXholic are nearing their end. Without going into it too much, Tsubasa finally got exciting in the last 10 volumes, having abandoned it’s ‘world of the week’ formula and revealed more of the overarching story. Some of it is still lost on me, but the drama is enough to keep me interested, and the art continues to be gorgeous. XXXholic meanwhile, continues to be outstanding. Despite being dragged down somewhat by its attachment to the Tsubasa plotline, it continues to surprise and touch. I really think its charm comes from the balance of dealing with interesting moral issues and the comforting fallback of it’s ‘hitsuzen’ motif.  That and some of the most wonderful characters who, despite the supernatural theme, readers can really identify with.

Movies

A Bittersweet Life: Not quite as good as the other two Kim Ji-Woon films I’ve seen but very stylish. Perhaps the modern gangster motif is not quite my thing, but I just wasn’t as absorbed in the story as I had been with the other two. Still, Lee Byung-Hun is undoubtedly cool.

Ichi: Yet another retelling of the Zatoichi myth, except this time with a girl! Excellent stuff, even ignoring the undoubtedly appealing Haruka Ayase as the lead. Perfectly paced, well acted and with wonderful action scenes, plus a decent take on the usual ‘unexpected hero who comes good’ you find in most Zatoichi films.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl: Brilliant. Totally ridiculous Japanese gore-fest fun. Saw it at Frightfest 2009 with a rapturous horror audience and exactly the kind of thing you want to be watching at midnight on a Saturday. At no point takes itself too seriously (and neither can you after the opening scene).

Hana Yori Dango Final: The Director’s Cut: I’m almost afraid to talk about this lest I get flamed again. Honestly, if I hated the show so much, would I have subjected myself to the near 3 hour version of the movie? Yet it was clichéd, yes it had its cringeworthy moments, yes, I would have been disappointed had I been watching this in a cinema. But its a finale adaptation of a Japanese television drama and delivers just about everything a HYD fan would want. I laughed, I cried, I smiled sheepishly at the end ^^;

Music

Another year spent on way too many Jpop CDs….

Rie Fu Urban Romantic: A really gorgeous album. I defy anyone to not feel upbeat and perky after listening to the first five tracks. Lovely vocals from Rie accompanied by some fantastic melodies and arrangements. As the title suggests, this is perfect, wistful music to listen to while staring out the window on the bus through town.

Ayaka’s History 2006-2009: A laughable title for an artist that’s been around for just three years. Ayaka’s best of album collects most of the her first two albums plus some new tracks. Nothing spectacular, but I was pretty happy with it. She still has one of the best voices in the Jpop industry.

Yui: It’s All too Much/Never Say Die: Yui’s released two singles since her My Short Stories album, with a third on the way next month. Again, I’ve already raved about. In comparison, It’s All Too Much/Never Say Die was a bit of a disappointment. Upbeat, but not really that striking, though it does come with a great acoustic version of Again as a B-side. Still, I look forward to the next album.

Perfume “BUDOUKaaaaaaaaaaN!!!!!”: Being the closet Perfume fan that I am, I quietly watched this two-hour live gig one Sunday evening, and it was great! If you love Perfume this gig will have you in goosebumps, especially the opening. I even enjoyed the (normally cringeworthy) ‘audience interaction’ bits in-between songs. My only disappointment was that they didn’t play One Room Disco, but hey ho.

Macross Frontier – Galaxy Tour Final in Budokan: A real treat for otaku. Macross Frontier had one of the best soundtracks of recent anime and is the one time a two-hour live concert is actually appropirate for a show. It’s almost entirely May’n and Megumi Nakajima of course. I adore Megumi’s voice, but May’n is definitely the better showman :P

(On a side note, I can’t believe how much live music DVDs cost in Japan. Even by Japanese standards, £57 for a DVD is ridiculous. And no, I did not buy these :P).

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