September 01, 2014

F1 on NBCSN: Italy 2014

Some Formula 1 circuits are like a needle-sharp rapier, requiring nigh-on superhuman levels of technique and skill to handle in a way that endangers your opponent more than yourself.  Some others are as graceful as the best swordsmen in history, full of strength hidden beneath talent honed by years of practice.  Some tracks seem to follow the way of the archer, still and quiet until they launch their deadly arrow with precision and accuracy.

And then there's Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix.

Monza is the screaming Viking berserker, swinging a huge battleaxe and leaving a huge swath of pain and defeat in its wake.  It is a heavy mace crushing a helmet under its momentum.  It is three rolls of quarters in a sock applied liberally to the back of someone's head.  What I am saying is that Monza is not subtle.  Monza does not need to be subtle.  Monza is speed and nothing but.  Before the three Variantes (aka "chicanes") were added, Monza may as well have been a NASCAR circuit seen through a European lens, though don't ever say that to a European F1 fan... they hate any comparison to NASCAR, or any possibility that anything American could ever come close to their beloved Series.

And after what the circuit did in the offseason, it's even closer to NASCAR, for they paved over the kittylitter outside of Parabolica.  There are no longer any potential consequences for running overspeed on the fastest circuit in Formula 1.  And fast it will be; the teams are predicting they'll be hitting nigh on 225mph just before they brake for the Variante del Rettifilo this year.  This pronouncement brought the stupidest headline ever to one F1 website: "High speeds expected at Monza."  Next on Eyewitness News, water is wet, the sky is blue, and fire bad

This need for speed comes with a price, of course: it's death to engines and tires both.  Mechanically, a car spends a huge chunk of the lap with the gas pedal bolted to the floor, which puts a huge strain on the noisy bit behind the driver.  The tires suffer as well, since Biassono and Parabolica are balls-to-the-wall high-speed curves, Serraglio practically an afterthought when it comes to braking, and the remaining turns are dealt with by braking late, hard, and as little as possible.

As I said, Monza is not subtle.  What subtlety there is will be divulged to us via the dulcet tones of the Legendary Announce Team.  Here's the broadcast schedule:
FRIDAY
Practice 2: 7a - 830a
SATURDAY
Quals: 7a - 830a
SUNDAY
2014 Grand Prix of Italy: 630a - 9a

All are live and on NBCSN this week for a change.  Of course, the F1U! team will be watching the proceedings with a gimlet eye.  Join us, won't you?

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August 30, 2014

Over The Edge


I woke up at 6am, groggy and fuzzy-brained.  At 9am, I went back to bed.  I got up around 1pm, ate something, and went back to bed around 4pm.  I woke back up at 8pm, and here we are.  I know what this is, I done played this game, and it ain't good. 

Not only did I not accomplish anything, I didn't even attempt to accomplish anything.  Ben-To! writeup?  Nope, and I don't care.  Wash dishes?  Nope, don't care.  Clean the living room?  Don't care.  Grocery shopping?  Don't.

My friends, the potential exists that I'm dealing with a touch of depression.  Please bear with me if I'm not funny or anything.  Not, he says self-deprecatingly, that I ever was.

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August 27, 2014

Ducks In Anime: The Show That Keeps On Giving


-Tokyo ESP, Ep03
Here's what we've learned so far:
1) The penguin is named Peggy.
2) Peggy is a Magellanic penguin.  This is not specifically said, but it's described as native to South America, and it likes to nest in the cracks and openings in cliffs.  Combined with its apparent size and coloring, that pretty much narrows it down.  Oh, it could be a Humboldt penguin, which even makes sense since there was an escape from the Tokyo Zoo in 2012 that evaded recapture for close to three months, but the coloration around the eyes is wrong.
3) Peggy is a superhero.  No, seriously.
4) Peggy, like all people of good taste, has a rubber duck.

I've said it before, but there's been a dearth of ducks in anime of late.  Quite annoying, that.  Get with it, Production Staffs!

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August 25, 2014

Tokyo ESP, or "Why Is Wonderduck Smiling?"

It should come as no surprise that things have been somewhat dour around Pond Central of late.  Relaxing, certainly, but morale here is low.  Over the past few weeks, though, I've noted the occasional good vibes being aimed at a currently-running anime named Tokyo ESP.  As is my wont when I'm investigating a new series, I tried to avoid as much spoilerish information as possible.  For the most part, I've succeeded... what I did discover was that it was based on a manga by Hajime Segawa. 

That forced me to pay attention to what I had been hearing.  See, Segawa was the mangaka behind Ga-Rei, the source material for one of my favorite anime, Ga-Rei Zero.  Around these here parts, GRZ is best known as the first series to get an episodic writeup and pretty much the only truly good series to get that treatment. It didn't take me very long at all to decide that I had to watch at least a little bit of Tokyo ESP.  After some digging around to choose a good translation, I downloaded the first couple of episodes.

So why, exactly, is Wonderduck smiling?

Note: if you're a fan of GRZ, do NOT read any farther, and DO watch Ep01 of TESP.  Trust me on this.

more...

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August 24, 2014

Mini-F1Update!: Belgium 2014

No rain greeted the F1 Circus as they made their way to the grid, but cautious eyes were cocked to the skies.  This is Spa, after all, and if it isn't raining at Spa, it's getting ready to.  So did it?  What sort of effect did it have on the race?  And can anybody stop Mercedes from running away with this darn thing?  THIS is your Mini-F1Update! for the 2014 Grand Prix of Belgium!

*THE RACE:  Right off the starting line, it was clear that Lewis Hamilton, sitting second on the grid in his Mercedes, was going for the win.  He quickly took the lead, all the while being hounded by Red Bull's 4Time Vettel.  That threat ended at the end of the Kemmel Straight when Vettel missed the turn, letting pole-sitting Nico Rosberg back into 2nd place.  Rosberg spent the rest of the first lap tracking down his teammate.  On Lap 2, at the same place Vettel went off, Rosberg made the turn but attempted what may have been an overoptimistic move.  The result was a shredded left-rear tire for Hamilton and a broken front-right nosewing for the man leading the Driver's Championship.  Almost immediately, Hamilton began whining more than a jet turbine.  His race was ruined, dropping from the lead to 19th in the space of one lap, while the tire carcass tore pieces of bodywork free.  He would eventually retire the car, out of the points.  Rosberg pitted for new tires and a new nose on Lap 8, relinquishing the lead to Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in the process.

*THE END:  And that's how it ended up.  Rosberg's nose change forced him into a three-stop strategy while Ricciardo stayed with a two-stopper.  This gave the Red Bull roughly a 30 second advantage, regardless of relative speeds on track.  To be fair, Ricciardo needed all of it.  Rosberg made his last stop with eight laps to go, and immediately began to rip two or three seconds/lap off of the Australian's lead.  Surprisingly, much of this was down to the greater maneuverability of the Mercedes.  Red Bull was carrying practically no rear wing in this race; this was great on the high-speed sections of the track, but cost them on the turns.  Qualifying with such little rear wing in the wet must have been a nightmare!  But Rosberg's charge fell short by about three seconds in the end.  Twenty-five seconds later, Valterri Bottas brought his Williams home in third place.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Daniel Ricciardo was handed the opportunity to win his third race this season when the two Merc drivers made contact, and he grabbed it.  In the end, with tires beginning to give up and a hard-charging Nico Rosberg on fresh rubber, the Australian could have thrown it away with a single error... yet no such error occurred.  It may have been handed to him, but he still ran with it.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Red Bull.  They're clearly second-best this year, but it's a solid second, and a first-fifth today has made them contenders for the Driver's Championship as well.

*MOMENT OF THE RACE
:  If the accident between Rosberg and Hamilton hadn't've occurred, chances are they finish one-two.  Now, however, Mercedes is saying things like "that was unacceptable" and "Nico was at fault" and "There will be team orders."  This can't bode well for the team down the road.  They'll still win the Constructor's Championship.  They'll probably win the Driver's.  But there's going to be a change down the road.

*SELECTED DRIVER QUOTES OF THE RACE:

"Freak yeah.  Get yo freak on!" - Daniel Ricciardo

"It was British fans that were booing me on the podium." - Nico Rosberg

"Y'know, this is my fourth podium in five races.  Bedammned!" - Valterri Bottas

"mrmrmrblrm mr rmmrbrrlrlmrmr rmrmrlrrlrmrbrmrmr mrmrm." - Kimi Raikkonnen

"So, having problems this season... let's change race engineers!" - 4Time Vettel

"(whine)" - Lewis Hamilton (note: this video really does capture his complains accurately... even the fireball)

So that's it for Belgium!  In two weeks, we find ourselves in Italy for the fastest race on the calendar: Monza!  We'll see you there!

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August 23, 2014

F1 Quals: Belgium 2014

So.  We're back.  It rained.  What happened?  Take a look:

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:07.130 2:06.723 2:05.591
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2:07.280 2:06.609 2:05.819
3 4Time Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 2:10.105 2:08.868 2:07.717
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 2:10.197 2:08.450 2:07.786
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 2:10.089 2:08.989 2:07.911
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 2:09.250 2:08.451 2:08.049
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 2:11.081 2:08.901 2:08.679
8 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 2:09.885 2:08.646 2:08.780
9 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 2:08.403 2:08.833 2:09.178
10 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2:10.529 2:09.272 2:09.776
11 Kid Kvyat STR-Renault 2:10.445 2:09.377
12 Jules Vergne STR-Renault 2:09.811 2:09.805
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2:10.666 2:10.084
14 Adrian F'n Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 2:11.051 2:10.238
15 Lettuce Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2:10.898 2:11.087
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2:11.051 2:12.470
17 Crashtor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2:11.261

18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 2:11.267

19 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:12.566

20 Esteban!
Sauber-Ferrari 2:13.414

21 Balrog Lotterer Caterham-Renault 2:13.469

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:14.438


In effect, nothing happened.  Since it was wet from the get-go (though it didn't rain in Q1, the track was so wet it may as well have been raining the whole time), nobody was at a particular advantage or disadvantage.  Which is weird... usually you'd see a Ferrari (for example) out in Q1, or a Caterham making it to Q3, or what have you... but not today.  We almost saw 4Time Vettel fail to make it to Q3, but no, he cleared it at the last moment.

Lewis Hamilton's initial reaction to qualifying second was his usual whinyness, but it changed to remembering what happened last year.  Then, he was the polesitter, and had his doors blown off down the Kemmel Straight by Seb Vettel on Lap 1.  What's to say that won't happen this year? 

Pay no attention to the two-second gap from the polesitter to the first non-Mercedes.  Lots of reasons are possible for that: Merc could have a wet-weather setup on their cars, for example, or they just like the wet-weather rubber.  It'll be a much smaller gap on raceday... which is Sunday!  See ya then!

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August 22, 2014

Ben-To! Ep07

Ha-ha!  I bet you didn't expect to see another one of these for a couple of weeks at the earliest, and maybe not for months and months.  Well, you were wrong, weren't you?  It's okay, it's totally understandable; it's not like I've had a great track record when it's come to the episodic writeups for Ben-To!.  I admit that.  Not only do I admit it, I embrace it.  I cherish it.  I make it my own.  And then I crumple it up into a small little ball and throw it away, because this here, this now, this is the way things'll be done around here when it comes to our little show about food fights!  If you smell what the Rock is cookin' Because Stone Cold said so Whatcha gonna do when Duckamania Dead man walkin' Vanilla midgets Y2J Rabid Wolverine Will somebody stop the damn match And besides, this episode is supposed to take place in a waterpark, and forgive me, but I just don't see any way that that can be bad.  I don't.  I really, really don't.  Which probably means I haven't been reading my own writeups, but let's just go with it for now... I Am The Game.  Welcome to Ben-to Ep07 is Jericho!  Bang bang!

As the episode begins, Shaga shows up with four tickets to "Totally Hawaii", the newly opened theme park.  Seems the conglomerate that runs Ralph Store ("...we do more than just Ralph!") runs the place and gave their employees free tickets.  Macchan gave her tickets to Shaga, and since she no longer has any friends from The East, decided to offer them to Our Hero and the rest of the Half-Pricers Association.  Our Hero, in a feat of mental ingenuity unsurpassed since man first put cheese on a hamburger, realizes this means swimsuits... particularly for the Ice Witch.

Needless to say, he is enthusiastic about this idea, and truth be told, it's kinda hard to blame him.  I was enthusiastic about it when I first heard about it myself, and yes, I know that sounds rather lame of me.  Yup, perhaps so, but then again, I also spend multiple hours typing episodic writeups for an anime about martial artists kicking each other nigh unto death for Happy Meals.  Of course I'm going to be enthusiastic about a swimsuit episode!  And since we're amongst friends here, you can freely admit the fact that you are too.  Because you know the animation quality of the swimming scenes is going to be top-notch, and we're all here because of the animation quality of Ben-To

more...

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Soon. Oh So Soon


Free ice cream coming soon.

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August 19, 2014

F1 on TV: Belgium 2014

The Summer Break is over.  The assembled teams of Formula 1 have loaded up the transporters and taken the Circus on the road.  Drivers have come back from their vacation spots, with Switzerland being a favorite in the past.  And this high-tech road show is aimed directly at the Walloon municipality of Stavelot in the east of Belgium.  There, in the vicinity of a small town named Francorchamps, is found a seven kilometer monster, the home of the Grand Prix of Belgium.  Here's the track map:

Of course, the overhead map hardly tells the whole story of Spa-Francopants.  Unlike most circuits on the calendar, Spa is all about elevation change.  From Turn 01, the track heads generally downhill until it reaches Eau Rouge.  From there to Raidillon, the circuit climbs steeply, then levels out until you reach Malmedy. From there until Blanchimont, the track descends, then climbs slightly back to the level of the start finish line.  All of which is raced at high speed; only the Bus Stop chicane could arguably called "slow." 

Unless it rains.  The hoary old gag about Spa is that if it isn't raining, it's getting ready to.  There's precipitation forecast for Quals, but the race is currently supposed to be dry... but this is the Ardennes.  We've seen rain appear out of nowhere before.

Of course, the Legendary Announce Team will have their slickers and bumbershoots ready as they provide their live coverage!  Here's the broadcast schedule:
FRIDAY
7a - 830a: Practice 2 live on NBCSN
SATURDAY
7a - 830a: Quals live on CNBC
SUNDAY
630a - 9a: 2014 Grand Prix of Belgium live on NBCSN

Of course, the good sprouts of F1U! will be all over the weekend.  We'll see ya then!

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August 17, 2014

Ben-To! Ep06

They say that just claiming to have decided to continue on with a series that you dropped isn't enough: you have to back it up with action.  Well, I did that to a certain extent with the writeup for Ep05, but one episode does not a restart make!  Nope, it's gotta be at least two before you can take my claims seriously.  And this, my good and dear, is the writeup for Ep06... or will be, when it's done.  I mean, yeah, right now this is just the usual opening paragraph that usually has absolutely nothing to do with the writeup itself... it's more a chance for me to warm up.  And by "warm up," I mean in the sense that a pitcher has to warm up before he comes into a game.  Sometimes, I'm like the closer: jogging in from the bullpen with the crowd going crazy and a high-octane theme song blaring, with a rubber arm that needs but a few moments to get loose.  And then there are the days where I'm the fleabitten, mangy old pitcher who needs an hour to get loose and only throws slop, junk and trash, all of it at 82 mph.  But in the end, somebody has to get the outs, no matter how hot or bad the arm is.  Good rule of thumb would be the longer this first paragraph is, the closer I am to being Jamie Moyer than Masahiro Tanaka.  Well, either way, I'm in the major leagues.  Which might be more than I can say about Ben-To!, but perhaps I'm being unkind.

The preceding warmup paragraph was written just about two months earlier.  Much has changed in that time, to say the least.  Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka tore a ligament in his pitching elbow, went on the disabled list, and realistically shouldn't be expected to return this season.  Jamie Moyer is still old.  Your scribe was put on waivers, then released.  Funmation postponed the release of Ben-To! indefinitely.  Heck, even the original viddy I selected for Trevor Hoffman went away.  So yes, much has occurred... and yet, Ben-To! is still in the exact same place it was when we last saw it, just aching for us to return.  And so we shall!

Surprisingly, this is kinda similar to the way I blog.  Except I sit at a desk, use a tower computer, have an incandescent lamp above and to my right, and red accent lighting for the rest of the living room (not bedroom), and I'm a duck.  Desaturation Lass up there is taking the events of Ep05 and making them into one of her yaoi fanfics, and that's just about all the lead-in we get this episode.  It's actually rather disturbing.  Not the lack of lead-in, her writing.  I mean, very disturbing.

OH GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO THAT POOR RABBIT?!?!?!

more...

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August 16, 2014

A Few Results

1)  Rum & 7up is awful.  Since I can only imagine that rum & orange soda is worse, drunkblogging is not going to happen tonight, if ever.

2)  My internet connection is porpoising tonight, up and down, up and down, up and (mostly) down.  In other words, I'm not going to get any serious (or even unserious) blogging done this evening as I use mu.nu to compose my posts.

3) There will be free ice cream tomorrow.  It will be good.  You will enjoy it.  Yes, you will. 
Oh yes... yes, you most certainly will.

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August 15, 2014

Just A Note About Saturday

I'm going to do something here on Saturday that I've never done before... I'm going to do an episode review while drinking.  Yes, that's right, there's a fair good chance I'll be drunkblogging Ben-To!.

I haven't had a drink in at least six years... I think once in a while I can have something, eh?  I intend to leave all errors in the post, so in theory it'll get sloppier as the night goes on... and therefore funnier! 

See ya then, fans!

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August 14, 2014

Too Much Skooma


There are days where Skyrim does stuff like this just to play with my mind, I know it.

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Milwaukee Bridge

So there I was, cruising on the Milwaukee River one evening, munching on a lovely dinner and groovin' to smooth jazz, when I have this... epiphany.  It's a simple thought, but one hit me with the force of a thousand chipmunks: photography does not have to be about ducks.  Oh, don't get me wrong, ducks are fantastic things to photograph, just like pizza is a fantastic thing to eat, but man or Wonderduck cannot live on pizza alone... though I've given it a try once or twice in my life.  But I digress: photography.  Fortunately, the Milwaukee River has no lack of interesting things to take pictures of.  UNfortunately, my skill at capturing said things in picture form is limited, at best.  Still, it could have been worse:

clicky for poppy
I found this half-span bridge endlessly fascinating as I couldn't quite figure out if it was designed to raise or not.  If so, it surely couldn't go very high, leading me to wonder if it wasn't something like part of a different bridge, salvaged and repurposed.  Guess I'll never know, but at least I got a good picture out of it.  Not easy to do on a bobbing boat and failing light.

Guess it's okay.

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August 12, 2014

Just Because


You don't mess with Rondo Hatton.  I just felt the urge to point this out, in case any of my readers was thinking of doing so.  Don't do it.  Just... don't.  There isn't any need to mess with Rondo Hatton, no matter what you're thinking.  Not even if you're drunk in a bar somewhere, full of liquid courage and testosterone.  "I'm going to mess with Rondo Hatton," you're thinking, "and then I'm going to go put some sweet, sweet moves on Beverly Garland."  And really, nobody would blame you for having carnal, libidinous, even fleshy thoughts of Beverly Garland, but if the entire process must begin with you messing with Rondo Hatton, well, I'm afraid you've just got to rethink your entire evening.  Because you don't mess with Rondo Hatton.  It's not worth it, man, it's just.  Not.  Worth.  It.  And it's not like Beverly Garland would be impressed with you for messing with Rondo Hatton.  She's a classy dame and wouldn't go for that kinda stuff nohow.  So are we cool here?  You're not gonna be messin' with no Rondo Hatton?  Solid.  Because I don't want to hear about it if you do.  I would be very disappointed.  Don't get me wrong.  Rondo Hatton doesn't need my help if you do decide to mess with him, for he is the type you don't mess with for a reason.  He can handle himself, thank you very much.  However, I say it again: don't mess with Rondo Hatton.

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August 11, 2014

A-Yup, Sure Do.

"I bet he has at least one Rubber Duck with a shower cap on."
-Mauser

As a matter of fact...

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August 09, 2014

Ducks In Anime: It's Been Way Too Darn Long


-Najica Blitz Tactics, Ep05
I had to go back to a series that aired in 2001 to find this.  C'mon Japan, you're letting me down here!

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August 08, 2014

"Girls" of the Kancolle Video

I probably should have done this last night, but I was too busy taking cold showers to do so.  There are three Ship Girls shown in the video for Kantai Collection (or "Kancolle"), and I pretty much had no idea who they were.  I mean, I know about the game, but I've never played and know nothing about how or when you acquire the shipgirls.  Which isn't to say that I couldn't figure out some stuff on my own, or with a bit of research!

Obviously the first we see is an aircraft carrier, and I'll admit that on her, I cheated: I already knew the answer.  She's the Akagi, the first full-sized carrier the IJN put to sea.

Ms Akagi is also one of the more popular shipgirls in the game, I gather, and has a figma coming out in September.  But what of the second girl, the battleship?  Well, I made a startling leap of faith considering we're talking about a game where the ships are young women, but I said to myself that they'd try and be historical about this.  First, they'd have a ship that was fast enough to actually keep up with the carrier. Second, I assumed they'd have the correct amount of turrets.

That led, inexorably, to the only class of battleship the IJN had that fulfilled both criteria: the Kongo-class "fast battleships."  Originally built as battlecruisers, refitted with more and better armor to upgrade their status before WWII, I guessed we were looking at the first-in-class (like Ms Akagi).  As it turns out, I was right: Ms Kongo it was.  Which brings us to the third shipgirl.  I had absolutely nothing to go on whatsoever except for one quick shot.

The fishhook maneuver for the girl on the right told me she was a destroyer.  She's clearly getting out of the way of the two big'uns, maybe after firing her torpedoes the way the IJN calls for.  Either way, great, she's a destroyer.  The IJN had thirty-quadzillion destroyer classes.  I had no idea which one she was... except that I did.  See, I knew that the "star" of the show was going to be Fubuki... which, curiously enough, was the name of the first-in-class of the first what we'd call "modern destroyer" design.

So there we have it.  Akagi, Kongo and Fubuki.  I've since read somewhere that these are some of the first shipgirls you can collect in Kancolle, so that makes sense too.  I guess I'm surprised they didn't have one of the splendid Japanese cruiser designs in the video, but I'm not complaining by any means!  January can't get here soon enough.

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August 06, 2014

KanColle Anime


I am so aroused right now.
Yes, yes, this looks like something I might have some interest in.  I would say so, yes.  Oh my, yes indeed.

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August 05, 2014

Random Anime Picture #87: Say Hi, Jiro!


I just finished watching The Wind Rises, Ghibli's fictionalized account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of both the A5M "Claude" and A6M "Zero" fighters.  I have mixed reactions.  As far as Ghibli films go, it's far and away my favorite of all of them.  Its no coincidence that it's also the least preachy of all of Miyazaki's films: the two go hand-in-hand. 

IJN Nagato in background
It should come as absolutely no surprise that it's a gorgeous film.  Again, it's a Ghibli.  That's to be expected.  There's just something about The Wind Rises that doesn't sit right with me, and I think it's the main character.  Jiro Horikoshi in this movie comes across as a completely dispassionate, yet heroic, leading man.  Brilliant, relatively athletic, a leader of men, and he does it all with the same nearly blank expression on his face.  Only when he's discussing airplanes does he begin to show some emotion... not much, but some.  His wife is dying of tuberculosis?  Blank look.  Tokyo destroyed by an earthquake?  Blank look.  In Germany?  Blank.  The voice acting of Hideaki Anno, who sounds like he has a stuffed nose, doesn't help a whole lot, either.

Still, it's got the Hosho in it.  Which is always nice.

All in all, it's certainly worth watching.  I'll give it 3.5 stars.  It just could have been so much more.

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