So-Good Sunday: The Rebuttal of Dr. M's Misguided Post on Excel Saga: or How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love the Madness

Excel Saga is my child.

Perhaps that statement requires a bit of explanation. Every otaku has a special series, might not be the best in the world, but every single one has a series that is near and dear to them, because it was one of the first that they followed. I have two: Lain and Excel Saga. They are my childs. :P

Lain was probably the first anime series that I ever watched and was truly, truly blown away by. (The actual first series was Shaman King, back on FOX. Glory days, glory days....). Excel Saga, on the other hand, was the first series that I watched and was so cracked up by it that I practically pissed myself every five minutes.

I have to admit one concession about Excel Saga, the manga is far superior to the anime, and the anime takes some liberties and leaves out a lot of material that would have been much better had they not decided to mess with the formula. There's some stuff about the anime that makes my skull hurt, like, idk, CHANGING VOICE ACTORS EXCEL HALFWAY THROUGH THE SERIES. That pissed me off but good.The Great Will of the Macrocosm is a mystery to me. I have no idea what that was about, it's actually totally at odds with the manga, because in the manga, one of the main running jokes and a point of great amusement is Excel's fantastic ability to never die, despite being put through the paces in a number of ways. So, Great Will's constant reviving after Excel gets killed...bad kill on the producer's part. There's also a lot more fourth wall breakage that I don't know that I approve of. All in all, READ THE MANGA, OKAY?

Because, the manga is brilliant. Everything good about the anime, is in the manga. Everything bad in the anime, is not in the manga. There's also an entire surplus of good things in there, just for fun!!!!

For example! There's some amazing characters and backstories. Ropponmatsu and Ropponmatsu II are more present, everyone loves those homicidal androids, right? Also, there's a lot more of Dr. Kabapu and the ever-growing fight between him and Il Palazzo. The fight, by the way, gets huge and completely insane. There are some really crazy implications for these characters so far, and in one section Dr. Kabapu and Il Palazzo both run electronics corporations and go at it economically!

Also, as I recall, Dr. M's post was a Ta-Ta Tuesday. There are a plethora of fine ta-tas to be had in the manga, even more so than the anime. For example, Elgala, who joins Hyatt and Excel, has a sizable chest and flaunts it as often as possible. Elgala is another example of why you should read the manga!
The spoiled Elgala.

There's also the Oubliette. This is the section at the back of every book that takes up anywhere from two to ten pages, and has in-depth explanations of sound effects, cultural references, and so on. The editor that writes this is genuinely very clever, and I always make time to read them because a) they make the manga easier to understand and b) they're hilarious!

But being a simple parody is easy. I wouldn't have the entire manga series, up to now, sitting on a shelf if it was just a parody series. Excel Saga becomes, slowly, and without warning, a real, heavy-hitting, masterpiece. If you've read any MegaTokyo, a very similar thing happens. Characters become deep, they have real emotions and backgrounds, and you start to really, truly be intrigued by them and invested in what happens to them. I firmly believe that a well-written comedy series can be among the most highly empathic styles anyone can do. To make someone laugh, but also to make them realize true talent has been at work.

In summation, watch the anime first, because without any outside knowledge, it's still hilarious and lampoons some pretty obvious anime themes. Then, pick up the manga and experience a truly masterful parody series that goes beyond simple lampooning to become a series worth standing on its own.

Not Simple

Life is hard. You can tell by how depressing
 everything is.
The one-shot manga is a special breed. In many cases, the one-shot is the most literary type of manga you can get. not simple by Natsume Ono (of Ristorante Paradiso fame)is one of the best examples of that I can imagine. It has all the hallmarks of contemporary written literature. A framing narrative, clever reverse chronologies, and big, classic, stage-worthy twists.

The art style is, ehhh, different. It's sketchy, with big heads and wispy bodies. It has a very American feel to it, to me. That was the main detractor, the first read-through, but then I realized that the style is actually nicely complementary to the story, because it fades and you focus more on the story. In the one-shot, that's a nice touch, because considering you only have so much real estate to tell the story, you have to keep the reader focused on it.

But not simple is so much more than that. Every time I read this book, I'm reminded of the film "elephant" by Gus Van Zant. If you haven't seen it, it's a movie that's about a school shooting. There are several different view points, and each time you get a different view the day progresses, and you get more backstory, until the shooting actually goes down at the very end. not simple has the same pacing of that movie, but each view is just a different part of the main character's, Ian, life. and let me warn you now, Ian's life is pretty damn depressing (also much like "elephant").

Ian is raised, horribly, by his alcoholic mother. He has a father, who splits pretty quickly. Ian also has a sister who tries to take care of him. I hesitate at what to include in this review, because if you haven't read it yet, any information beyond this would largely ruin the story for you, and that would actually be a shame because it's a good one.

So go read it now, bookmark this, and read the rest of the review after. ^^; k? k.

Ian, as you now know, is a bastard, incest child.

But the weird thing is, he never wallows in it. If I were in his shoes, I think I'd be a bit more sullen and have some outbursts of murder. But Ian is a hell of a guy, or at least, he's a hell of an unruffled individual.

The first time I read it, I didn't pick up on a lot of what was going on. The whole sex for pay, the AIDs business, went totally over my head for whatever reason. But the next time, I had a bit of jaw drop.

Then there's Jim, the author, who I can't really call a friend, because he's such a useless, apathetic spectator. I just can't stand characters like Jim. 

The more I write about not simple, the more difficult it is to express the way that it makes me feel. I'm sad for Ian, and his death was sad, but the disaffected way people float in and out of life makes me somewhat envious of him. Also, characters who wander from place to place are generally awesome.

The moral of the story is never let a rich married woman buy you a suit, because you'll die in that suit.

Doki Doki School Hours: The Weirdness of Everyday Life

Doki Doki School Blood Showers
My journey into the weird world of Doki Doki School Hours began innocently enough. I spied the tell-tale anime font on the spine of four dvds in a store, and upon inspection, realized it was the entire dvd series except for the first volume. I got 2, 3, 4, and 5 for the nifty price of $6, and after waiting almost year, found a copy of volume one for $10. Sure, it's annoying, but I was raring to go on this series!

One of the first things you'll notice in the series is that there are a ton of visual sound effects, straight out of a manga, sliding across the screen. I am not very brushed up on my katakana sound effects, so I'm assuming they're only sound effects and not actually important information. There's no option to bring up translations or anything like that. In fact, trying to bring up subtitles proves to be a bit of an issue, which bring me to my next point.

The dub is WEIRD. It's really, really, WEIRD. It is, probably, the WEIRDEST part of this whole series. The teacher, Mika-sensei is supposed to be a young girl, but her English voice actor sounds middle-aged and slightly overweight. Being a bit perturbed by hearing that voice come out of cute little Mika, I decided that I would switch over to Japanese with subs. This worked pretty well for a solid ten minutes, then the subtitles just stopped. Completely stopped. I realized I was listening to Japanese vocals and understanding nothing because there were no words on the screen! So it was back to the weird dub. A lot of the students sound way too old in English, but that's not terribly unusual.

The world of Doki Doki seems to be based on a four-panel style comic. It reminds me of a slightly less funny Azumanga Daoh, in a lot of ways. Imagine Azumanga with a little of the ridiculousness and elementary humor of Kodocha. Mika-sensei, the hapless young teacher who looks like a child, (but is not a child like Negima), is definitely the catalyst for the story but not always the focal character. Basically, the episodes are broken up into activities for the most part. For example, there's a part about the class weigh-in, the school sporting event, and so on. The real interest, as in all slice of life series, builds on the characterizations and their interactions.

There are a lot of really funny little moments, and some well-built jokes in this series. I keep writing in examples of some of the jokes, but they are really worth watching and build on each other, like the girl who has a sadistic streak and enjoys torturing Mika-sensei. Or the weirdly glib moment when Mika declares that her beer belly is proof of her post-pubescence. Or Old Man, who is just another student but has stubble everyday and constantly gets mistaken for a much older man, including getting mistaken for the principal.

I have to throw this series a big bone right here. There are two openly gay characters, who are actually handled rather well, and don't seem to be the usual stereotypical exaggerations you sometimes find in anime. I hate stereotypes, they do nothing to add to the story, but Doki Doki sidesteps them and just adds them in as regular characters. Good on it. Really.

This is a great series to not take seriously. Some series require all of your attention, and you have to pour yourself into it to grasp the series. Doki Doki requires virtually none of your attention to understand, and actually, considering the subs occasionally don't exist, you don't necessarily even have to look at the screen. That might sound like a detraction, but I don't mean it that way at all! I love watching anime as a way to relax, and a series that is easy to watch without being boring is more rare than you might think.

P.S. I'm currently in the middle of the series, so I might have to do a wrap-up post a little later if things get crazy!

Seriously? What is it with this Crazy Obsession with Trains in Space?

Exactly what a space train would look like.

I still don't understand why people are obsessed with space trains. It's all well and good until some aliens or rebel space forces decides to come after you!

Anyway, the good folks at io9 have an interesting article up about the feasibility of such a project.

Also, way to go io9 for identifying what happens inside my brain and then creating a site that feeds into it. You have a perfect marketing/editorial team.

Here's an even more detailed article about it at Gizmag, with pictures.