November 28, 2006

Anime Night Whoops!

Y'see, this is where Real Life gets in the way of Fun. The Librarian had a serious problem at The Library today, and had to cancel out.

She said something about having "Shhhhhhh Elbow," an occupational hazard for Librarians worldwide.

(actually, it's much more prosaic than that; an unscheduled visit from The Librarian's Mother, also known as "The Evil One." Please note that that's a term of endearment. I'm not entirely sure where it comes from, as The Librarian's Mother is a very cool person.)

So I have to try and control my lust to watch more CCS for another week. Well, I've got plenty of fansubs to catch up with. Kanon 2006, the reimaged Negima!?, Crescent Love, Death Note (which The Librarian has at The Library in manga form, and talked me into d/l'g for her... which, of course, sucked me in), and Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru, which Ubu's rantings convinced me to give a shot.

I've also realized that somewhere down the line, I somehow got the first episode of Kasimasi: Girl Meets Girl, which seems to be a perfect candidate for a "First Episode Review" soon...

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November 25, 2006

First Episdode Review: 009-1

I was on animesuki.com the other day, hoping that the new episode of Kanon 2006 had been posted, when I saw a listing for the first ep of a new show called 009-1. After a quick read-up on it, I decided "hey, what the heck, why not?" more...

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November 24, 2006

Anime Night Report: CCS

So, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, The Librarian and I decided to move Anime Night to Wednesday... that way, we could get together earlier than normal and I could buy us dinner (Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza... yum!) for once. Usually, she brings dinner, and I provide everything else, but that makes me feel guilty.

Anyway, after great food and conversation, we broke out the remains of PockyPalooza II: Electric Boogaloo, settled into our usual seats, and fired up the DVD player. This week's episodes mostly DIDN'T center on Sakura, oddly enough. Ep22, "Sakura and her Kind Father", centers on her father (duh); Ep23, "Sakura, Tomoyo, and Wonderful Songs", hits Tomoyo (and has the cutest outfit for Kero-Chan yet); Ep25 was "Sakura and Another Sakura", which leans on her brother and The Mirror card heavy, and Ep26 introduces a new character with "Sakura and the Wonderful Teacher". The only episode that really centered on Sakura was 24, "Sakura's Little Adventure."

Episode 22 might be my favorite so far. The relationship between Sakura, her father, and her brother really does seem to be 'perfect.' They're all completely devoted to each other, and not in a sappy way, either. In this world of video games and iPod earbuds blocking out reality, it was really refreshing.

But as is usual when The Librarian and I get togther, our senses of humor heterodyned and we just started riffing on the show. For example, bet you didn't know that Sakura's father is sleeping with his 'Research Assistant', did you? Or that The Mirror is simply Tomoyo's greatest fantasy come true?

Really, we're spending more time having fun with the show than watching it. We'd probably drive serious fans crazy.

We discovered that the Clow Cards have realized that someone's hunting them... and they ain't happy 'bout it. Things are gonna get nasty, I think. Heck, The Mirror already tried to kill Toya by making him walk off a cliff (successfully... I mean, "successfully walk off a cliff," not "successfully killed Toya." Toya can be pretty dumb at times.). I'm wondering what the cost to Sakura will be in the end...

Gotta keep giving this show huge approval ratings. I'm even going to say that it's BETTER than my favorite show, Azumanga Daioh... but it's not going to move AzuDai out of that slot. But it'll be 2nd with a bullet, that's for sure.

Anyway, after the episodes were over for the night, The Librarian and I wound up discussing the Holiday season, and how much we don't much like it... while standing in the kitchen, for some reason. Oddly, we both said that we don't like the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year stretch, and it's not because we worked retail and hated the incessant crowds and evil customers...

(Digression: we've both either had books thrown at us, or have been in charge when something like that happened. We both ran mall bookstores for the same chain, which is how we became friends... it's been five or six years since she worked for them, four or five for me, but we stayed close. End Digression.)

...except I think, for both of us, at least some of our dislike comes from that. Not all, but there's a sliver of deep, deep hatred for people because of our experiences in retail.

Did I mention Sakura had bunny ears in one episode?

Look!  It's the Cheat!!!

(image from the AMV "Lollipops, Sunshine, and rrrRRRrrr" by Dokidoki. A must watch if you're a CCS fan!)

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November 15, 2006

CCS and the end of PockyPalooza II

Another Tuesday night, another visit from The Librarian, another Anime Night at The Pond. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, all is right with the world.

To finish up with PockyPalooza II: Electric Boogaloo, we dug into the three remaining boxes of Pocky: Strawberry Chunk, Almond Crunch, and the famously named Men's Pocky.

The Strawberry Chunk supposedly was the basic strawberry pocky, with little pieces of chocolate buried in it. As I'm not a fan of artificial strawberry flavoring, this was my least favorite of the three. The Librarian, though, dug it like strawberry was going out of style. One thumb up, one wingtip down. Not awful, but not great.

The Almond Crunch looked like a small stick coated with sharp rocks and chocolate. Fortunately, the taste was much better than the look: pretty much like a peanut M&M on a cookie. One thumb up, one wingtip up. Pretty tasty, I'd order it in the future.

Finally, the long awaited Men's Pocky. Surprise #1: each pack of sticks was actually HEAVY. Lots of pocky in each one, and each stick is about twice the diameter of a normal biscuitstick. The flavor? Honestly, it tastes about the same as a regular chocopocky. It's supposed to be bittersweet; it seems in the Japanese culture, men aren't supposed to go for sweet flavors, so Glico made this. Maybe it was just me, but it really wasn't any different than the stuff in the red boxes. One thumb, one wingtip up, but a slight bit of disappointment in there.

Onto Cardcaptor Sakura! We made it through another five episodes, bringing us to ep21. The long-dreaded Lei Meilin has appeared, and boy, Steven, you weren't whistlin' dixie about her. I will say that her Death Stares at Sakura have been pretty funny, though. So far, the series doesn't really have an 'evil' character, but she's up there on the "annoying and despised" scale... somewhere around "Michael Schumacher", just above "Shinji", just below "Pikachu" and "Satan."

The unintentional comedy was almost absent, though. Oh, we made our usual little jokes (Sakura is lying on her bed, arms above her head, Kero-chan floating above her. The Bondage jokes came fast and furious...), but really there wasn't that much to poke fun at. Darn. :-)

Truthfully, the five episodes this night were the most disappointing so far. Really GOOD, but not as flat-out entertaining as in the past. The "scary test of courage" episode had a couple of nice sight gags (and I WANT a pair of glasses that go opaque and shine when I'm being naughty!!!), but otherwise was pretty 'meh.' The Summer Festival almost had Sakura confess to Yukino, but that fell through... and the Glow Card might be the most pointless of the bunch. Holiday Homework had a moment where I was sure Sakura was on LSD.

(As an aside, The Librarian was seriously vexed by the portrayal of librarians in this episode. "What sort of librarian says 'the book is somewhere in the library?' That's just wrong. And where are the librarian's heads? Literally! They cut them off with the top of the frame, or they're turned away from the camera, or..." She stopped there, looking ready to kill. Rule #1: Don't Screw With A Librarian.)

And then Meilin arrived. Moment of the night #1: when The Fight card kicked her into the next timezone. Moment of the night #2: when Meilin sprained her ankle during the marathon and faceplanted into the street. Pure comedy gold.

One final note. I've not mentioned one highpoint of the show, and that's the sound effects being used for comedy. Meilin gives Sakura a deathstare, Sakura recoils in fear... and there's the sound of a rubber duck. One of Sakura's friends bounces a beach-ball off someone's head, and you get a 'boing' and a clattering crash sound. It's hard to explain with words, but if you watch the series, pay attention to the sounds. It's enough to make me and The Librarian laugh out loud at times.

Two wingtips waaaaaaaaaaaaay up for CCS. I just hope that, when the show inevitably turns serious, they don't get too far away from what's made it good: Sakura, and an underlying sense of humor that shows that the show doesn't take itself too seriously.

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November 09, 2006

Haruhi II: The Wrath of Kyon

Over at Ubu Roi's place, a commentor shows a report that the next Haruhi Suzumiya series is coming out in Fall 2007, instead of 2008 as expected.


(note: there is no WAY I could let "Haruhi II: The Wrath of Kyon" sit in someone else's comments without my making it into a post... even a short one like this. I think it's just too good! Um... is that all right, Haruhi?
Bow to your sensei!

...phew.)

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November 08, 2006

Um... Steven?

Recently spotted over at Chizumatic:

"Look, Pixy Misa just ordered Ikki Tousen. Girls High isn't as bad as that. (It can't possibly be.)"

Yes, it can. MUCH worse.

She's talking about a hotel room.  You pervect, you.

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Imported Snack Food, Imported Cartoons... what's the difference?

SDB, in a comment, wanted an update on where The Librarian and I stand in relation to CardCaptor Sakura after the last PockyPalooza. I think I can dredge up enough motivation to cover that!

We're now four full DVDs into the show, and there's still no end to the fun it's bringing us (which is a good thing... four DVDs finished means there's still 14 DVDs left to go!), both intentionally and unintentionally. This really is shaping up to be an amazing show, quality-wise. The animation has been top-shelf. The story, though 'monster-of-the-week', hasn't been dull... the Clow Cards have all been interesting enough to keep our attention. While I don't think CCS will supplant Azumanga Daioh as my favorite anime of all-time, it's going to be right up there.

But Oh! That unintentional humor will kill us yet. Episode 16, "Sakura and the Rainbow of Memories," which was one of the first NOT to feature the hunt for a Clow Card, had us in unintentional humor hell. Short (EPISODE SPOILER) version of the story: Sakura, her family, and Yuuki take a weekend vacation to a country house, Sakura meets her great-grandfather who lives in a house down the road. Sounds simple enough, right? Except she doesn't know it's her great-grandfather, because nobody ever tells her... including GGF himself! He just misses his granddaughter, Sakura's mother. (END SPOILER).

But, since WE don't know that until the end of the episode, the story is a little creepy in our era of Amber Alerts and "cyber-predators," and for once we're not talking about Tomoyo... well, yes, her too, but she's only in one scene (and it's one of the creepier ones for her so far).

The old man asks Sakura, amongst other things, to play in his dead granddaughter's room, play tennis with him, have tea (who made that?), and dress up in some old clothes... all the while, The Librarian and I couldn't help but make jokes about "Sakura disappearing, never to be seen again," or "the amazingly realistic female dolls (ahem) in the closet... and the crawlspace... hanging from a rope in the ceiling...", and so forth. Good times, good times.

Tomoyo couldn't come along on the trip... band practice or some such thing... and since her mother is gone "on a business trip," she's all alone. So what does she do? Bow-chicka-bow-bowwww, she's watching some of the Sakura videos she's shot on her projection screen TV. In the dark. Alone.

Oh-kayyyyyyyy.

But it turns out that her mother ISN'T on a business trip. Remember when I asked who made the tea? Turns out that it was Tomoyo's mother! She's at the Creepy Old Guy's house, too... makes sense, since Sakura's mom and she were bestest friends, she'd undoubtably stay in touch, right? So she stole away from her own daughter to serve Sakura (she even says so at the end of the episode)!

Nice mom... that whole family is seriously screwed up, y'know that?!?!

Good times, good times.

The Elephant Throwing Contest in e13 was pretty good (and Li Shaoran proved he can be an awful dick when he wants to be. This time, though, he did it to a Clow Card, not to Sakura, so that's okay)... and e15 saw Kero-Chan and Sakura have a lover's spat... actually, two or three.

But cross-dressing Toya in a production of Cinderella had The Librarian and I near tears in e14. We also see signs that there's more to Toya and Yukito's friendship than just being friends. My god, three quarters of the characters in this show are gay, lesbian, or stalkers!

Man, it's fun!

Seriously. Go watch this series. Now.

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November 05, 2006

Currently Watching...

Kanon 2006. The remake of the legendary, much beloved if not worshipped, game turned anime. The original series was a half-season show, made on a limited budget (from all I've read; I've never seen it, despite having d/l'd the first six episodes. Wound up deleting them unwatched). The 2006 remake, which just had the 5th episode air in Japan, is a full 26-episode series, with a BIG budget. KyoAni, the production company that made The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, is doing this show as well, and it's amazingly beautiful. Some are saying that the plot is too slow, but I'm finding it to be just right. The atmosphere is lovely (welcome to my favorite season: winter!), and the music is the same. Voice acting is superb, and so far there's little I can complain about overall.

Negima?!. Where Kanon 2006 is a remake of a series that aired in 1999, this is a remake of a show that aired... in 2005? I haven't seen the original, so I've nothing to compare the remake to, other than some AMVs I've watched. The animation looks better to my eye. Enjoyed the first three episodes, but the main story seems to start with ep4, which hasn't come out on fansub yet.

Crescent Love. Ooboo Roy's been ripping this show pretty hard (and as I went over there to get the link, I see that he's posted something covering two of the three shows I'm talking about here... I'll read it after I'm done posting this). It's generally getting reviews ranging from 'eh' to 'blech.' Me, I'm enjoying it. There's nothing NEW in it: stranger-in-a-strange-land Moon Princess visits Earth, where she homestays with Our Hero, His Younger Sister, and His Older Sister (WHOOPS! This originally said "mom." Thanks for pointing out the correct relationship, Ubu!) . The Childhood Friend is in there, too, as the Rival Love Interest. Throw into blender. Frappe'. Cliche' for days, right? Right. But sometimes a cliche' is what you WANT.

Look at the first two shows on this list: Kanon 2006 and Negima?! are both drama shows, with a smidge of humor. The other show I'm watching, Welcome to the NHK! is black humor, about a hikikomori (and once I catch up on it, I'll be writing it up).

Crescent Love is, like World of Narue, fluff. The girls are cute, the plot (such as it is) is inoffensive, and the humor is light. So what if the show is 'uncool'? I'm enjoying it, probably more than the other shows I've talked about in this post, simply because it IS fluff.

Besides, I wake up like this, too:

Good Morning!

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November 03, 2006

PockyPalooza II: Electric Boogaloo, the photos!

I've put the photos from PockyPalooza II: Electric Boogaloo in the "extended entry," because having it on the front page breaks the formatting of The Pond... so clickyclicky to see 'em! more...

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November 01, 2006

PockyPalooza II: Electric Boogaloo PostMortem

After a light dinner of some fettucini alfredo, The Librarian and I began to roll Cardcaptor Sakura and opened the first box of Japanese nibblies.

We started with the box of "Pine Cream Pocky", nicely decorated in yellow and a pineapple. The pocky itself was a yellowish color that had a very nice whiff of pine. Not pineapple, pine. Which is swell, who doesn't like pine fragrance, but it's not encouraging when it's supposed to be pineapple. The flavor was... different. Almost, but not entirely unlike, pineapple. The box also suggests that there's bits of chocolate included, but in our humble opinions, the box lies! The fact that more than three quarters of the pockysticks remain in the box should tell you our opinion of Pine Cream Pocky.

After we hit the eyecatch of the episode entitled "Sakura, Tomoyo and a Mansion," we moved on to the "Wheat Milk Pocky." It's much like the regular chocolate pocky, but with a crunchier biscuit stick, milk chocolate, and an odd hint of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Tasty enough, but not particularly awe-inspiring or anything. The box is pretty, though, with a painting of a wheat farm on the front. The considered opinion of the two judges? Meh... not bad, but we'd rather have the original-style Chocolate Pocky.

Then the nightmare began. The Librarian had been entranced by the box of Cheese Pretz all night, with it's cover photo of small pieces of rye bread liberally covered with melted cheese. The sticks are shorter than Pocky, but look the same. The flavor, though... *shudder* All salt and something inexplicable... maybe anchovies, or something like that... The aftertaste has a similar flavor to some US snackfoods, like those little 'snackables' that have Ritz crackers and what I like to call "cheez", but it comes from the back of the throat in a very unpleasant manner. Our opinion? RUN SCREAMING.

Hoping for something, ANYTHING, to get the memory of the horror out of our minds, we tore into the Poare Choco Custard. Poare, as mentioned before, is a "reverse Pocky," where the stick is hollow, and filled with the stuff that's usally on the outside of a pockystick. The biscuit was a little sweeter than the usual, and the 'choco custard' filling was soft and creamy. The box was quickly emptied, and recieved the highest honor we could impart: "Is there any more?" Even the box is pretty, with three sticks of Poare on a white background. Plain, but effective.

With our enthusiasm for the project restored, we opened the box of Salad Pretz. Alas, prior research had revealed that it wouldn't taste like salad at all, but was designed to accompany salad. In this, we figure it would be a success. Again, very salty, but the taste isn't bad at all. Similar to Gardetto's-brand snackfood, to be honest. The amount of salt used on these things, though, would be enough to melt the polar icecaps. The packaging is nothing special, however, just a picture of the food on a green and white background, with the title in red. Functional. The opinion? Not bad, could be a nice alternative to chips or pretzels.

By this time, though, we were rapidly running out of time and available stomach space, but being the brave researchers that we are, dedicated to the improvement of the world's intellects, we soldiered on and opened up the box of Pocky G. This is completely different from any other Pocky, with a crunchier CHOCOLATE biscuit, and a stronger chocolate covering. As the very 'art deco' box (white, with a big black capital 'G' centered, transfixed by a single pockystick) proclaims, it's "hard & rich". If this had been opened earlier in the night, there's no doubt the box would have been emptied. As it was, however, we only managed to get through one of the two packs (the 2nd pack was consumed with this author's dinner tonight). Just a smidge behind the Poare in the night's rankings, but only because the Poare was something completely different. Good stuff, this G!

And more pocky reviews coming down the line, as there's still a ton of flavors sitting on the table to go through! Pictures to follow, as soon as I reduce them... and figure out how to upload 'em!

I think our costumes were pretty good, actually...

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