Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back in the Saddle & New Anime Season

It's been a while since I blogged, but lately I've felt the need to have an online presence again, specifically relating to my areas of interest: namely Japanese culture and Religion. So I've cleaned up the ol' blog, applied a new skin, and am now setting forth to be the blogger I've always wanted to be.

So in keeping with this theme, it's only right, I think to talk about the new anime season. Thus far, I've only seen two episodes of anything, and neither one was something to write home about ... despite the fact that that's kind of what I'm doing now.

What's the anime world without gender-bending, voluptuous schoolgirls, and a touch of yuri? Perhaps a little better off. In any case, Kampfer has it all: the guy who suddenly has a mysterious bracelet on his wrist which randomly changes him into a busty girl who can shoot fire; some as-yet-unexplained impetus for him and girls like him to fight; a love interest who is apparently a lesbian and only interested in the main character as a girl. Yeah ... if you can't figure out who the target audience is for this one, you're probably not smart enough to be browsing the internet anyways. It should go without saying that this show is going to have to do something AMAZING to keep me interested.

The Sacred Blacksmith
Medieval swordfighting your thing? Girls with formed-into-breasts armor more your style? Then look no further than The Sacred Blacksmith. Don't get me wrong, this one has the potential to be passingly interesting, but for the most part exudes quite the aura of "meh." Blah blah, girl knight who's never fought before, blah blah, magical katana-weilding blacksmith with an elven companion, blah blah, giant demonic monsters. Suffice to say the first episode didn't suck me in, but I'm still open to see where this one goes.

Honorable Mention: InuYasha - The Final Chapter
This one is out, but hasn't been fansubbed. Oh, it's been Viz-subbed, but not fansubbed. Depending on how this plays out, it could signify the beginning of the end of fansubbing. I haven't lost my faith yet in the fansubbing community, but InuYasha could be the dealbreaker.

That out of the way, the only way to describe this show is that it's InuYasha. Continued. No recap, no review. They just jump right in where they left off, except this time at a breakneck speed. If you liked InuYasha before (and fyi, I did), then you'll like these final chapters.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Book Recommendation: The Quest For Holiness

So the thing about Seminary is that each of your classes require a HUGE and VAST amount of reading. Now if you're uber-study book guy, then no sweat. You can read and read and read and do it quickly enough so that you have time to get it all done AND still have what passes for a social life in Seminary.

But if you're like me and have video-gamed yourself into A.D.D. while in college, then the reading doesn't always get done. Usually, it's okay because you can learn what you need in class and still get a decent idea of what the book says with some skimming. But then there's the occasional book, that when you talk about it in class, you say to yourself, "I really wish I had the time to read that." Thank God for vicarage.

I've kept those books that I wanted to go back and read someday and brought them to Mobile in hopes that I would actually read some of them. And first and foremost on my list is "The Quest for Holiness" by a guy named Koberle. I've started working through the book, and while it's some pretty heavy reading (I'm working myself out of ADD through reading, but I'm not sure I was ready for something this heavy yet) it's really a GREAT book.

Koberle in this book describes all of man's efforts to achieve holiness, how they all fall short, and how God has taken matters into his own hands. Then, if I recall from class, he swings back around and shows how Sanctification is not synergism or anything like that, but is 100% God and 100% us. Fascinating stuff. I look forward to getting to those portions.

But already where I am in the book, Koberle's done some great stuff. If you've ever wanted to know how Christianity is different from every other religion in the world, then you should check out this book.

I'll try to remember to get back with full reaction once I finish.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sometimes, Getting Caught Up Is A Bad Thing...

Finished getting caught up with Toradora! today. Now I have to wait a week like everyone else until the next ep comes out. Drat!

What is it about high school love stories? Or, I suppose, Japanese high school love stories. I not much one for the American ones. But for some reason, the Japanese ones just suck me in.

Here I am, going about my business, watching a funny anime with quirky characters and WHAM! All of a sudden, it's a drama and I find that I actually CARE about what happens to these characters. This is PRECISELY the problem I've been having with Naruto lately.

In any case, I think in my initial reaction to the first few eps of Toradora!, I made mention of a couple of the main characters being two-dimensional. Well, that's no longer the case. Those characters have now been fleshed out pretty well, and, as I said, I find myself caring about the story.

But going back to my initial question: what is it about Japanese high school love stories? If you haven't noticed, the vast majority of anime/manga take place in high school. So what is it about those years? Is it the first time kids have real relationships? Is it because you have an excuse for people seeing and interacting with each other on a daily basis? Is it because it's a period of life with a definite end? I don't know. But for some reason, in anime/manga, they work pretty well. And when you have characters as in Toradora!, well, it gains the ability to suck in the random passerby.

So well done, Toradora! I now have another anime to follow. Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Thoughts on My New MBP

So I've now had my MacBook Pro for a few weeks now, and I realized that I haven't really posted any reaction to it. I thought about doing a proper review ... but that sounds like it'd be too much work to do it properly. So I'll just give you a few thoughts on the good and the bad.

First of all, the trackpad is AMAZING! It really IS something that takes some getting used to. It took me a couple days. But once you get used to it, there is NO going back. The sheer ease of clicking anywhere, the multi-touch, all of it. Navigating the web is amazing with the two-fingered scroll. Reading manga is a dream because of the pinch-zoom-thing. And the best part about the multi-gestures is that it knows when you want to use them and when you don't. For instance, the bottom part of the track-pad is more "clickable" than the top. So when I want to drag a file, I can click on the bottom with one finger, and then drag with another finger, and it knows that's what I'm doing and doesn't try to scroll or zoom or whatever. Great stuff. Well done, Apple.

And of course I got it all souped up with the fastest proc (at the time) and all that, so I can do anything from video editing to watching HD anime, all while having Safari, Adium, Entourage, iTunes, and Vuze running in the background. Truly great stuff.

I also installed WindowsXP on it with BootCamp (I know, I feel properly dirty for doing so) so I could play Windows games (something I've been sorely missing). And I've installed Portal, HL2, and Supreme Commander thus far, and the MBP handles them all like a pro. Way better than my native Windows box I had previously. The graphics card in this thing can handle whatever the current gaming scene can throw at it.

The only thing that is sort of a negative with the thing would be the heat issue. It hasn't really overheated, but one must realize that the entire bottom of the laptop is the heatsink. The way it's designed to work (I had to think hard about this, since I couldn't readily find any fan outlets) is that air blows down out of the joint between the keyboard and the screen in such a way that it is supposed to hit whatever hard, flat surface the laptop is sitting on and then blow across the bottom of the laptop, cooling it down. Where this hits a snag, then, is when the laptop is ... on my lap. The air isn't directed properly, and if I'm doing anything processor-intensive, the bottom of the laptop heats up pretty quickly. In such cases, my flesh of my leg becomes the new heatsink. :-P

But overall, it is a REALLY nice laptop. Sturdy. Dependable. Fast. All the things you'd come to expect from a Mac. And as I said, once you learn the multi-touch trackpad, you'll be hard-pressed to go back to a normal trackpad. (My Pastor brought in his laptop for me to look at a problem it was having, and I tried to click the trackpad and was confused for a second when nothing happened. It just becomes that natural.) A recommended purchase for anyone looking for a powerhouse in a manageable and portable package.

On an unrelated note, I'm catching up on Toradora!, since I can watch HD anime with no hassle again. I'll post more about that when I get fully caught up ... maybe. And more on Naruto as the plot unfolds. Ja ne!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

There's a Disturbance in the Force ...

... as if millions of Naruto fans cried out in one voice: "WTF?!" And then were immediately engulfed in flame wars.

Seriously, Naruto manga 437 was HUGE. I won't spoil it here, but ... well, *I'm* still working through the roller coaster of emotions that was this chapter. And I'm not that emotional a person, at least when it comes to fictional characters.

So if you're a Naruto fan and AREN'T current with the manga, I'd highly recommend you get that way. Not sure whether you will admire Kishimoto-sensei for his brilliance or want to kill him after getting current (I'm not sure *I* know which to choose [but leaning toward the killing]), but you should definitely read it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A New Project Undertaken

So I got this crazy idea to make an AMV for each song in Dr. Horrible.  Decided I'd make it into a project.  So I did.  Even created its own website: http://horribleamv.blogspot.com.  If you're interested, check it out.  I've already started working on my first AMV for this project, and as I get them done, I'll update on the Horrible AMV Project blog.  Enjoy!

On another note ... sorry for not updating.  Getting ready for Lent + a new MacBook Pro distracting me = falling behind on the blogging.  I'll try to do better.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kannagi - Sometimes, even gods forget who they are.

So with the Who Scarf done and nothing else pressing, I finally got to do some much-needed anime catch-up today, starting with finishing off Kannagi.

The anime was 13 episodes, and was a fun one to watch, although in my opinion, the sexual jokes/themes were a bit TOO overdone.  But overall, a good sort of harem/gag comedy.


What was especially interesting for me, though, was how the whole shinto god thing was done throughout the series.  There were some fascinating themes presented in the midst of this lighthearted anime: local deities tied to the land, the necessity of praise for gods to function, etc.  The most interesting, though, turned out to be the sort of "final conflict" which the series built to.  All through the series, Jin has been curious as to Nagi's identity and her mission.  Nagi has always brushed him off or avoided the questions, but one day, in episode 11, Jin puts his foot down and insists upon some answers.  Is Nagi really a god?  Why does she have to capture impurities?  What would happen if she didn't?  Why does she have to live at Jin's house?  Nagi runs off in a fit.  But over the course of the next episode or so, we find out a troubling truth: Nagi doesn't even know.  She's got instincts and intuition, but she doesn't really know who she is.  The resolution comes when Jin catches up to her and accepts her as she is.  Jin says something to the effect that he doesn't really know who he is yet, so the two of them can figure out who they are together.

Interesting, no?  Japan certainly has had and continues to have some issues with identity.  Individuals attempt to derive their identity from the clubs they're in, the fashions they wear, the company they work at, the family they're a part of, etc.  Young people especially seem to be searching for a source of identity, as can be seen with all the subcultures that have been cropping up lately: otaku, harajuku, goth loli, mamba, etc.  Young people in Japan are searching for who they are.  And even as a nation in the midst now of economic turmoil and with more and more culture being imported from the West, Japan as a nation seems to have lost its identity and is searching for it again.  Emblematic of this would be Nagi, a Shinto god who's forgotten who she is.  She *thinks* she's a god.  She has the instincts and some powers, but no memories, no proof of her identity.  She, like Japan, has somehow lost her identity.

What's the solution?  Let's find our identity together.  A positive, encouraging (if ultimately idealistic, and without Christ, futile) message to the youth of Japan found in the midst of a harem/gag comedy anime.  Well done, Kannagi.  Well done.