Friday, April 14, 2006

Simoun -- glossary of terms

Simoun is one of my favorite shows of the new season. The backgrounds, character design, mecha and music are all outstanding. As is most of the voice-acting, particularly that of Takahashi Rieko as the red-haired Neviriru. And the presence of Takahashi Mikako, Toyoguchi Megumi, Koshimizu Ami and Mamiko Noto (in two roles) doesn't hurt. The story, animation, and acting work together to make the characters and their emotions very effective, at least for me.

One thing stopping some people from enjoying the show is the unusual world it's set in and the special terminology that fills the dialogue. There is now a glossary of the terminology on the official site. Here is a translation of what's there so far, along with a short note about the world:

Two-seated aircraft of the nation of Simulacrum. Using the power of the Helical Moutoris engine passed down from ancient times in the temple of the theocracy of Simulacrum, they fly with great ease and freedom.

Shimire Simoun (abbr. Shimire)
Training craft for Simoun pilots. There are one- and two-seated versions.

Helical Moutoris
A system passed down from ancient times for using the power of the Tempus Patium, which spreads a strange radiation over Simulacrum.

The deity worshipped by the faithful in Simulacrum. The Palace of the Tempus Patium holds the “Spring” which is the centre of religious worship in Simulacrum.

The pilot, who occupies the front seat of a Simoun.

The navigator, who occupies the rear seat of a Simoun. Also controls weapons.

The two-person team that (wo)mans a Simoun

Ri Maajon
The patterns drawn by the flight of a Simoun. Whole patterns and types of lines are both aspects of Ri Maajon. There are several hundred different patterns, but they can be combined in countless ways. They have been passed down from ancient times, but the meaning of many of them has been forgotten.

Suigyoku Ri Maajon [Emerald Ri Maajon]
The legend is that Sibylla who succeed in creating this Ri Maajon serve at the side of the Tempus Patium. [This is called the Jade Ri Maajon in the fansub.]

To practice Ri Maajon by wearing implements on the legs that show the patterns formed as you move. All the Sibylla like doing Maaju.

Maaju Pool
A big columnar space built through the bottom of the Prima ship [the main ship, where the Sibylla live].

Corps Tempest
The corps led by Neviriru, and of which Aaeru and the others are members.

Simoun Sibylla
The priestesses who ride the Simoun.

Sibylla Aurea
The top Simoun Sibylla: the “Golden Priestess.”

The leader of a corps.

Words in the glossary are transliterated directly from the Japanese on the official site, except for a few which I have converted into their English/Latin originals: Helical, Simulacrum, Corps, Pool, Tempest, Regina ("queen" in Latin), Auriga ("charioteer" in Latin), Sibylla. Sagitta (sajitta, the navigator and weapons officer of a Simoun) means "arrow" in Latin. Simoun is pronounced "shimoon" in Japanese.

The world is called Taikuuriku ("Sky Land"). There are two nations: the theocratic Simulacrum, and the Craftsman Nation overseas. The industrial Craftsman Nation keeps invading Simulacrum to try to gain the secret of the Simoun, which fly so much better than anything they can build.

On this world, at least in Simulacrum and probably elsewhere, people are all born female. At 17 Simulacrans wade into the holy pool, which turns them into adults and changes some of them into males. The pilots at least, and probably everyone, get to choose which sex they want to become. In Simulacrum, there are no males under 17 years old.

Kirarin Revolution 01

A shoujo girl-makes-good show that’s really funny and has a lovely weird main character. When she isn’t being incredibly cute, Kirari is gobbling up whatever food she can find or drooling in search of it. In between, she finds time to force herself on stage with a boy she loves and become an idol.

Romance, humor that's actually funny. No fanservice. Fun for the whole family. Maybe I’m a chorus of one, but I think this show deserves more attention. Fansub on its way from Shinki Fansubs. I’ll give a fairly detailed summary after a brief review.

Kirari is 14. She is really, really cute, and really, really a glutton. She wakes up dreaming of food, downs about two dozen hotcakes, has drool spilling out of her mouth much of the time, and greets a suitor with a mouth overflowing with takoyaki.

The big-eyed character design works, especially when they drop her eyelids and blush her face, giving her a heated, determined look. Her tiny animal mascot Naa-san rides around on her head all day and no-one seems to mind. He echoes her motions in a hilarious way. And he flies into people’s faces to protect Kirari whenever she seems to be in danger. One of the funniest animal mascots I can remember.

voice acting
Kirari’s voice actress is an idol from Morning Musume, Kusumi Koharu. She is 13 but sounds older. I often defend untrained seiyuu as bringing something special to a role, but in this case I found her voice difficult to hear and either unexpressive or over-expressive, except for a few good lines. Nevertheless, the character still worked really well for me, so perhaps she was more effective than I thought.

Kusumi-chan does the OP and ED, neither of which were anything special, but both of which I enjoyed. Morning Musume, after all.

The animation is quite witty, with many visual jokes and the best use of chibis I can remember seeing. I think it’s really well done. But many tricks are used to avoid having to do anything complex. The look is reminiscent of Aishiteruze Baby or Full Moon wo Sagashite.

Kirari slumbers on through her alarm, dreaming of food. Her animal companion Naa-san wakes her by diving onto her face. Deep cuteness arises as they brush their teeth together and Naa-san brushes Kirari’s hair. Then Kirari scoffs down about two dozen hotcakes, made for her by a doting Dad. They see news of a new idol on TV, but prefer to watch the animal exercise program. More cuteness as they join in.

At lunch, Kirari is eating with her girl friends. A boy comes in with a love note to present to Kirari. She turns to him with takoyaki in her mouth, a squid-tentacle sticking out of it, and drool on her chin. After the boy has fled, her friends tell her she should try to be more lady-like. She’s so pretty that she could even become an idol. They enumerate the advantages of being an idol. All Kirari can think of is the food she’d get to eat. They mention two guys from the same school who have become an idol team and are so cool. She only thinks of finding a boy who will give her good food to eat.

Walking home that day, she tells her friends that she’s only 14 and there will be plenty of time for boys in the future. Then she bumps into a guy swathed in bulky, disguising clothes, who is madly searching for something. He rushes off after a brief apology.

Naa-san sees a turtle up on a tree branch. Kirari goes up onto an overpass to reach out and rescue it, which she does, but then she herself falls. The disguised guy rushes back and catches her just in time. His disguise falls off. He’s gorgeous, and she is smitten. His name is Seiji. The fact that the turtle is his animal mascot just seals the deal. He gives a her a ticket to a concert, where he says he works. She returns to her friends and floors them by saying she has found the love of her life.

At the concert location, she is attacked by a girl for butting into line, then finds a staff entrance. A guy jumping from an upper floor lands on her (sans fanservice) and gets angry at her for not getting out of the way, then says with a leer that she is cute. She calls Naa-san to rescue her and he bashes the guy to the ground.

When she realizes the guy has a staff armband, she asks where to find Seiji. He asks why, and she says she likes him. He asks for her ticket and tears it up, saying that she should not get close to Seiji, he belongs to another world. She turns from shock to anger and flings Naa-san at him. Naa-san wins again. She says she’s going to find Seiji whatever he says.

But when she gets to the staff entrance without a ticket, the staff there won’t let her in. She and Naa-san try various hilarious methods of getting past them -- maid service, tunnel, battering ram -- none of which works. This part is really funny animation. Then Naa-san bloats himself with water like a balloon and the staff let them in to get help for the apparently sick animal.

She has to evade the staff, and can’t find Seiji. She climbs up and crawls through the ceilings looking for the concert, and ends up looking down on the stage. It suddenly lights up and she sees Seiji and the guy who fell on her start their concert: they are the two-person idol group her friends mentioned earlier.

She is up among the lights, and falls onto the stage behind them, landing on a big couch that explodes in a cloud of feathers around her. Seiji rescues the situation by spilling feathers over her and telling the audience she is an angel. People in the audience say how pretty she is, and people watching on TV say she must be a new idol.

Seiji’s partner carries her off stage, and berates Seiji backstage for giving her the ticket. Then Seiji has to go back on alone, and the guy tells Kirari she has to give up on Seiji, who is a famous idol, while she is just an ordinary middle-school girl.

She says she won’t give up the boy she loves, grabs a mic from him and marches on stage with Seiji. She stares out into the audience and says: “Tsukishima Kirari, 14 years old. I want to be an idol, please.” Her friends are watching on TV and are astounded. Her image appears on huge screens outside the arena. She stares out into the camera, flushed and determined. To be continued.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A week of new animes: 30 short reviews

Whew, what a week. This is apparently the biggest anime season ever, with 50 new shows. Impossible to keep up with. I did all too well in the first week, sacrificing real life to anime.

Some people are very picky about their animes. The vast majority of shows don’t make the grade. But I enjoy almost every show I watch. There is a lot of talent in the anime professions in Japan. My favorite genres are josei, shoujo, moé, absurd comedy, and sf. My least favorite are mecha and anything that bases its appeal on fights. So your mileage may certainly vary.

Here goes: a week of the new season’s broadcasts, day by day. My favorites in red:

Saiunkoku Monogatari — Beautiful pseudo-medieval-China setting, good script, and great voice-acting from Kuwashima Houko. Josei historical comedy-drama. (Sat 09:00)

Fushigiboshi no Futagohime Gyu! — Gotou Yuuko as a two-foot-tall magic princess for the win. Enjoyable tension-free show apparently aimed at five-year-olds. (Sat 10:00)

Shoujo Changeum no Yume — Changeum is a young girl in old Korea whose dream is to cook as well as her deceased mother and bring people happiness through her food. She is also a bit of a supergirl. What can you say about an anime whose most powerful emotional moment is when the protagonist realizes that people love her cooking. Different and enjoyable. (Sat 19:30)

Himawari! — Very sympathetic main character: a girl with a special past who wants to study at a ninja school. Interesting group of female fellow-students and a nice run of semi-supernatural ninja feats. But I felt as if it was missing something. (Sat 24:30)

Soul Link — Cliché-filled comedy-drama in space from the makers of Shuffle! It could become quite interesting and could just fall flat. I liked the characters, even if I did have trouble following who was who. Nothing really happens until the very end of episode 2. (Sat 25:35)

Yoshinaga-san’chi no Gargoyle — Saitou Chiwa is good as the uber-violent comic child, the Gargoyle itself is an intriguing character, and the story has a smidgen of depth. But the first episode just didn’t do much for me. (Sat 26:05)

Yume Tsukai — Few of the weirder elements of the manga were evident in episode 1. What’s left is a very well made story with excellent character design and animation, but no strong center…yet. (Sat 26:30)

Black Lagoon — Action. Guns. Modern-day pirates. A corrupt corporation. The Russian mafia. And Toyoguchi Megumi as a hard-drinking, hard-shooting pirate cowgirl. Well directed and well animated. Excellent OP. But just not my deal. (Sat 26:35)

Kiba — Alienated teen fighter in a future dystopia breaks through to a magic world. A decent start. We’ll see where it goes. (Sun 08:30)

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu — The first episode is an instant classic, completely unique and uniquely hilarious. Gotou Yuuko as a none-too-clever “combat waitress from outer space” for the win. Highly regarded both in Japan and overseas. (Sun 24:00)

Simoun — Not just a yuri-fest, but also solid SF/fantasy with real human feelings and a plot. And great CG of amazing yuri-powered flying machines. (Sun 25:30)

Joshi Kousei Girls’ High — Nobody but me seems to like this. Blatant fanservice and gross details of life at a girls’ high school. But very good voice-acting and some developing relationships and personalities. And I know there’s lots more comedy to come. (Mon 25:30)

Utawarerumono — A promising comedy/drama with effective characters, beginning in a village of fox-people in medieval Japan. Yuzuki Ryoka (Minagi in AIR) as the first of two bewitching fox girls to appear this season (the other is in Inukami!). (Mon 26:40)

Strawberry Panic — The yuriest anime ever made for guys. Nakahara Mai, Shimizu Ai, Saitou Chiwa, Nabatame Hitomi, et al., do great work in a blatant homage to the far more serious show Marimite. Highly enjoyable. (Mon 26:45)

Gintama — A run-down detective agency in an Edo ruled by aliens. Crazy-funny in spurts. Good work from Sugita Tomokazu and Kugimiya Rie. (Tue 19:00)

Makai Senki Disgaea — A lovely innocent chibi angel starts a constantly-pissed-off little devil on his journey to the upper world. The angel is great, but the devil, who is the star, could get very old. Disappointing to fans of the manga. (Tue 24:15)

Ouran High School Host Club — One of the hits of the season. Good anime version of a well-known manga. Sakamoto Maaya is fabulous as the star, a girl mistaken for a guy, who is drafted into a private school’s “host club,” where glamorous guys entertain girls to tea. (Tue 25:10)

Air Gear — A determined young goofball refuses to back down from punks and is beaten up again and again until he learns to air-skate, with the help of some great-skater girls. Solid first episode that one viewer called the funniest anime episode he’s ever seen. Not that good, but decent. (Tue 25:00)

Love Game CHU ~ Miracle Seiyuu Hakusho — Undistinguished first episode about five girls at an audition for seiyuu training. But the voice-acting is good, the set-up has possibilities, and I will watch anything about seiyuus. (Tue 25:30)

MagiPoka ~ Renkin San-kyuu Majikaru(?) Poka~n — Supremely cute young vampire, witch, werewolf and android live together in the cutest house in the forest, and have various misadventures. No real plot, but who needs one with character design and voice-acting that are this cute and this moé? (Tue 25:30)

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni — Mysterious and threatening plot played out against a sunny small-town background. The first episode did not grab me, but this anime adaptation of a famous audio-novel has been eagerly awaited in Japan, so I’ll keep watching. (Tue 26:40; the red "Na" is part of the show's lore.)

Garasu no Kantai — Is this a boring and poorly animated rehash of other space operas? Maybe, but I was still captivated by the atmosphere and the plot. (Tue 26:40)

NANA — Wonderful anime version of the supremely popular Yazawa Ai manga for young women. One of my two favorite shows of the first week, along with Suzumiya Haruhi. Sensitive adaptation that preserves the look and feel of the manga. The voice-acting is not great, but it works. (Wed 23:25)

Inukami! — Horie Yui is excellent as the bushy-tailed fox-girl who has a locked collar on her horny boyfriend, and magically disrobes him in public whenever his eyes roam. Unfortunately, Hocchan was the only thing that kept me watching. Many otaku in Japan consider this the best show of the new season, so it deserves attention. (Wed 25:00)

Witchblade — Another Gonzo harsh adventure in urban dystopia. But I enjoyed the first episode. Mamiko Noto expands her range as the star, a desperate single mom who can turn into a bladed monster on the side of good. (Wed 25:45)

RAY the Animation — Nogawa Sakura makes me believe in the woman who was raised as an involuntary organ donor on a baby-farm and had her eyes taken, then replaced by a great surgeon with x-ray eyes. Much more entertaining than I expected. Set in the world of Black Jack. (Wed 25:15)

.hack//ROOTS — Wonderful animation from Bee Train. Nazuka Kaori (Erisu-chan in Canvas2, Eureka in Eureka) as Shino is terrific. And unlike fans of the series, I liked the music from Ali Project. But the stories in this franchise have never reached me, and this is no exception. (Wed 25:30)

Princess Princess — So this good-looking young guy is sent to a private boys' school where he discovers that the best-looking boys dress up as girls, becoming honored “princesses.” Strange situation, but the characters made sense to me and I actually enjoyed it. Not really yaoi. Fans of the manga seem to hate the anime. (Wed 27:10)

Zegapain — (Thu 18:00)

xxxHOLiC — Well-made Clamp anime with good character design, backgrounds, music, animation, and characters. I thought the main guy was too silly sometimes, but the witch who ensorcels him was fabulous and the plot appears to have some depth. We’ll find out. (Thu 25:25)

Kirarin Revolution — The surprise hit of the season for me. Witty family fare starring a cute teen who loves to chow down. Great chibi drooling alternates with supreme cuteness. She falls in love with an idol and pushes herself on stage to become an idol herself. Wonderful animal mascot rides on her head wherever she goes. (Fri 18:00)

Good Witch of the West — Orikasa Fumiko strikes again. Fine characterization of the country girl who receives a pendant on her 16th birthday from her long-dead mother, whose name she never knew. Suddenly she is involved in the aristocrats’ palace intrigues. Very promising adaptation of a popular fantasy novel. (Fri 25:45)

Dai Mahou Touge— If you liked Dokuro-chan, you'll love Punie-chan. A cute princess is sent to Earth for a year, as training for becoming a queen. She revels in the beauteous Earth that will soon be all hers. Her magic destroys all opposition, her charm seduces all guys. She transforms with the cry: "Lyrical Tokarev, kill them all." Totally hilarious if you liked Puni Puni Poemi or Dokuro. Stupid and disgusting if you did not. (irregular OAV series)

Note: Shows I plan to get around to are included without reviews. No second-season shows included. Spring anime calendar.