Seikai Novel Review (Partial)

*I will likely add to this post once I've finished.*

So, about a week or so back, there was a post at Ambient Irony about the strange covers for the Seikai no Monshou and Seikai no Senki manga. At first I thought they may be the novel translations. Turns out I was wrong. Over the weekend I was in Borders grabbing the next Discworld volume when I decided to wander over to the manga section.

Now, this is truly abnormal for me. I've known some real nerd-core otaku, and while they're fun people to cross paths with from time to time, I certainly don't want to be thought of as one of their fellow travelers.

So, I'm in familiar yet uncomfortable territory, when what should my wandering eyes see? Volume one of the actual really-real Seikai novels.

I took it home.

It sat for a couple days while I read some Pratchett.

Blasting through over half of it in a couple hours last night has left me with a few impressions.

1) This is not very long for a novel, even if it is one part of several. It doesn't crack 190 pages of actual plot.

2) The characterization is different. It's hard to describe in words. I can't tell if the anime was dialed down, or if Tokyopop is dialing the novel translation up, but there is just more, what I can only describe as, "attitude" in the novels. I'll go into more detail on this in a bit.

3) The Abh don't take themselves as seriously in the novel as they do in the anime. So far, none of the genetic Abh that have been introduced are as eccentric as portrayed in the show. They are not stand-off'ish intorverts. I won't get far enough to see her until I grab the next volume, but I suspect Admiral Spoor is going to be the character least affected by the transition from novel to anime.

Now for the more detailed differences:

The novel is written so far entirely from inside Jinto's head, with the occasional narrative on Abh culture. The young man I've been reading is nothing like the "laugh, smile, put one hand behind your head, and sprout an over-sized sweat drop" anime cliche that was pasted over Jinto's character in the show. He never gets that stupid red-faced embarassed look. He thinks Lafiel is hot, catches an eye-full here and there, and isn't embarassed about it in the least. The conversation between he and Dorin on the space station is far more crass and familiar (even going so far as to joke about each others sexuality). He doesn't get overly wrapped up in the formality of his rank the way Anime Jinto does.

Lafiel is much more open and personable early on than the reserved and formal princess in the anime.

The scene of the kid stealing the bag in the space station? Never happened.

The conversation about Lafiel being a Daughter of Love happens onboard the Kalique, much earlier than in the anime (part of what I meant by her being more forthcoming with a complete stranger).

Black Abh! One of the engineers on the Gosroth is described as having ebony skin, but I'll be damned if a single one ever appears in the anime.

The only ship that's been described in detail so far is the Gosroth, and it reads nothing like what we saw in Crest. It's described as a "flattened-hexagon."

What is really making this a slower than normal read is the copious use of Baronh in the text. All the Baronh is written out phonetically, but only a few words are ever given a clear definition in the narrative. More often than not, you're using pure context. When even that is not enough, it's time to hit the glossary in the back. The only problem is that often, as should be the case in a military setting, people are referred to mostly by rank with the occasionally addition of surname. Anyone who plays a major role in the anime is easy to pick out, but quite frequently, random Abh names can be hard to discern from titles until you've begun memorizing a few ranks.

Looking back at this list, I'm beginning to see a pattern. Either the novel has been overly Westernized in translation, or it was beset by anime cliches in the transition between formats.

Characters actually banter back and forth! Joking with one another! Getting the joke! Riposting! Sarcasm! If the novels weren't like this in the original Japanese, I think I'd be dissapointed. It would make perfect sense for civilizations hundreds of years in the future and billions of miles away to not act like pent-up Japanese. This is what I meant by there seeming to be more "attitude" in the novel. Morioka put a lot of time into developing a unique future, and I can't see him destroying that by populating it with joshikousei and salary-men with perpetually bloody noses. I sincerely doubt the novels have been given the 4kids treatment.

If not overly Westernized, then it may unfortunately be the later.

There are a number of well defined anime archetypes for male and female characters. Rarely do producers and directors allow their characters to stray far from the herd.

Jinto just isn't lecher or loli-freak material, so he's been putzed down to the cliche "Gomen! Gomen!" young man embarressed for being a young man and just about everything else.

Lafiel would be repellent as a tsundere or prissy-princess, so she's been afflicted with Rei Ayanami Introvert Syndrome and the occasional case of curiousity about landers.

What I think we have here are two square pegs hammered to fit into round holes by anime producers that refuse to see any hole that isn't some variation on round.

That impression may change once the anti-matter mines start flying. I stopped just as the United Mankind Fleet was detected by the Gosroth. I'll pick it up again later tonight, I think.


An Off and On Again Project

What do this,


and this (starting about, oh, 1:20'ish)

have in common?



(I just need to get off my lazy duff and gather all the stuff I need. That, and I need to learn how to actually put it all together.)

Geeky, Nerdy, or Just Plain Dorky

So, what's an anime fan to do when he's given the tools to create a custom star-faring race and take on a galaxy full of ugly, uuuugly aliens?

You recreate the Abh Star Empire of course.


Full Moon wo Sagashite

I've had a couple days to stew on the ending of this show, and it occurs to me that very many parallels can be drawn to a show, which on the surface, is wholly different.

Mitsuki is 12 years old and has an overpowering childhood crush an an older boy name Eichi (a poor choice of name given Japanese slang) who she hasn't seen since he left for the US with his adoptive parents two years ago. In their short time in the orphanage together, they develop a bond, and when he is forced to leave, they promise one another that when next they meet, they'll have been well on the way toward achieving their dreams. He wants to be an astronomer/astronaut (the fansub seems to mix this up a couple of times) and she wants to be a singer.

Mitsuki loves to sing. Mitsuki has throat cancer. These two facts mutually exclude one another. Surgery will likely mean loosing her voice. She discovers that she can see Shinigami (Death gods, or more appropriately death spirits) and subsequently discovers that she has only one year left to live. She begs to be spared so she can keep her promise and become a singer. The Shinigami-in-training (Takuto) charged with taking her soul at the appointed time, for subconscious reasons that are revealed later, decides to assist her for her remaining year. With his power he turns her into the 16 year old soon-to-be singing sensation Full Moon. But she obviously can't stay like that forever, what with living with her Grandmother who rescued her from the orphanage. So the typical transformation/secret identity dynamic comes into play.

It sounds like a premise ready to drown in its own angst and shennanigans, if not for the fact the that Mitsuki is an unredeemable optimist.

From this point we watch Mitsuki, Takuto, and Meroko (Takuto's sempai who gets dragged into the whole scheme) navigate the treacherous waters of becoming a Japanese Pop idol.

For a show that appeared so trite from the beginning, I can't help but compare it to another show with a completely different reputation: Haibane Renmei.

This show is a full 52 episodes, and it had several stories to tell, which is part of why it never seemed to lack for material. On the surface, there is the story of Mitsuki fighting to reach Eichi through singing fame in Japan (a method I'm sorry to say is only likely to reach a very small and devoted fanbase). But as time goes by we're slowly brought into the story of Takuto and his mysterious (to himself as much to us) urge to help this young girl out.

Ahead are many a...

Part of what we're taught about Shinigami is that they were once human, and that being forced to harvest human souls is punishment, for what, we're not told until much later. Their memories are wiped. Should they begin to remember their human life, they dissolve into Ghosts, losts forever.

This is sounding very much like the Haibane, isn't it?

Takuto was a singer (in the same band as Mitsuki's father, one of the few points that seemed rather contrived and unnecessary), and after the breakup of the band, he became listless and basically took his own life before his time was due. For that he was made a Shinigami, and through helping Mitsuki, his own memories begin to resurface, threatening his own existence. Meroko (who has confessed her love to Takuto a whopping 57, no 58 time) is terrified that she may loose Takuto, but has become fully involved with their scheme and has also developed a great deal of affection toward Mitsuki. She wants to do right by them both, but can't puzzle out how.

A conflict between their duties as Shinigami and their desire to change fate develops over the course of the show, culminating in Takuto giving his last bit of power before fading to keep Mitsuki tranformed in the middle of a massive concert, and Meroko sacrificing herself to stop another Shinigami from taking Mitsuki.

I should mention that about 2/3rd through the show, an experimental surgery that may remove Mitsuki's tumor without loosing her voice is developed in the US. After cheating fate the night of the concert, Mitsuki goes in for the surgery and comes out unscathed.

But what happens to the Shinigami? Kamisama steps in and does a couple of things. Takuto and Meroko have done a [fingerquote]very bad thing[/fingerquote]. They've prevented fate from running it's due course. Something must be done. Takuto, a special case not being full Shinigami, will be returned to the world of the living to try again where he left off. Meroko will become an Angel and ascend to Heaven. This all happens in a closed space between Kamisama and Meroko. Mitsuki, having had the surgery, will live to a ripe old age.

"What the deuce," you say? Well, here's where I have to speculate a bit. Like being Haibane, being Shinigami is a test, set out to redeem those who gave up on living. Refusing to take the life of someone, or sacrificing your life to save them, breaks the Circle of Sin. Those who don't learn that lesson continue to perform a horrifying job for all eternity or fade away after remebering their past life, just as a Haibane that doesn't achieve the Day of Flight is exiled and dies the ultimate death. The test is kept secret by Kamisama, otherwise no one would ever die ;)

End of ...

I honestly didn't expect anything nearly so deep and ultimately rewarding of what appeared to be a very shallow concept.


This Blog's Title

Criminally Weird just kinda appeared inside my head one day, and I used it because it reflects just how strange I find myself from time to time. Prior to that I'd toyed around with the idea of using T.W.I.T.. The World is Toto. It was going to be my way of making a coy joke in Cockney about the world going to hell in a handbasket. Thankfully I thought better of it.

Today was just the sort of day that makes me realize how perfect that name really is.

I started the day up to my elbows in assembly lube, cam grease, motor oil and Loctite. We're finally getting around to the assembling the engine for the Falcon.

After that, I had to make a stop off at the gun shop to buy a collapsable stock for the AR-15 I'm building.

Did I mention that I've been assemblying this gun while watching Full Moon wo Sagashite in the background? Well, more like: install a couple parts, watch an episode, launch a detent spring/pin across the apartment, swear a lot, watch an episode, feel better, hunt for parts, find them, spend a half-hour getting troublesome parts locked in place (swearing all the while), watch another episode, feel better again, realize I need more parts to get to a stopping point(swear a lot again), wonder why I didn't just buy an AK for half the price, watch another episode, feel better. It's a show that makes you feel good, for the most part. Episodes make good bookends to other more frustrating tasks...

...and I swear to God I'm going to go kill that son-of-a-bitch that keeps blasting up and down the parking lot outside on his 4-stroke dirt bike! WILL YOU JUST QUIT IT? PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY COMPLAINED ONCE! IT'S 11:45! GAH! (never mind that that's early by blogging standards)

Semi-automatic "assault"-rifles, cutesy-looking-but-actually-quite-deep anime and horsepower: all available here at the Bureau of AlcoholAnime, TobaccoTorque, and Firearms.


The First Rumble

There's something special about the first time you kick off the engine, even when it's not your own.

I got to spend today helping bring a half-restored '77 Chevelle to life. A Chevy 400 tranny takes 3+ gallons of transmission fluid, and filling that bastard through a tube barely bigger than a McDonalds straw is a boring yet essential task right along with priming the fuel system, power steering, and oil pump.

The car wasn't wired yet, so we mocked up a quick wiring rig for the starter and distributor, kicked off the starter and away she went. Well, not literally, though I'm sure some poor bastard has forgotten to put the tranny into park before the first firing.

She had a fussy thermostat in the cooling system and a couple water leaks, but nothing major. The engine has to come back out prior to finishing anyway, so fixing it won't be a problem.

All in all an entertaining day, and it's making me itch for the day we get our own project fired up (possibly as early as January).

The Seinfeld of Anime

I'm sure there are other shows out there more deserving of the title, but I long ago decided that Tenchi Muyo is the Seinfeld of Anime.

And from the sound of the reception for the third OVA series, most aren't liking it. I can't disagree, but I long ago gave up on ever seeing a resolution to this series. It really does seem, at times, like the anime about nothing, and Kajishima seems too in love with these characters to give up any of them.

The only non-spinoff Tenchi series I've seen that has even approached a solid ending is the first TV arc. It's still fairly open-ended, but the first movie (which is the only one of the three solidly linked to that arc) ends with a pretty clear implication that the space pirate takes the gold, mostly for perseverance and endurance.

And as for the rumor that GXP wagged the dog on the third OVA, I find that surprising. Based on all that I've read, they were promoting GXP on the coat-tails of the original OVA, not the other way around. I can't think of anything in GXP that would have warranted a change in direction for the OVA short of completely destroying the universe. There has to be somewhere for your sequels to happen.


Asinine Fortune Cookies

I received this little gem today.

"Happy events will take place in your home."

Yeah. Oh, and by the way, you'll also die and pay taxes.

Tomorrows forecast, daybreak, with a chance of breathing, followed by eating and a sunset.