Friday, December 18, 2009

The Disapperance of Haruhi Suzumiya Trailer

Yesterday, a teaser-trailer for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya was released and after watching it, I am officially beyond excited. This is going to be the greatest movie of the year and possibly one of the greatest of all time. So I decided to actually blog about something that’s only one minute in length.

The trailer starts off innocuously enough. It’s winter and Kyon is heading home from school with the persistently annoying yet lovable goof, Taniguchi.

However, upon arriving at school the following morning, there’s something missing…Haruhi to be exact. I love Kyon’s subtly-pensive expression.

Cut to the SOS-dan’s clubroom, which is back to being the literature clubroom for the introduction of Yuki Nagato. Gotta say, I pretty much died out of elation here seeing Disappearance-Yuki animated for the first time. Irresistibly cute and woobie-ified. Now here's something that's totally worth going to jail for (two separate references in one).

Next up, Kyon meets Mikuru who looks completely perplexed as if she doesn’t even recognize him. And then, Kyon comes face-to-face with an old friend, someone who he thought he’d never see again. It’s the person who’s taken up residence in the seat behind him.

That’s right, our favorite insane-yandere rogue humanoid interface Ryoko Asakura is back, baby.

Cut to a shot of Kyon breathlessly racing alongside a speeding train and then to a picturesque, heartfelt confrontation between him and Yuki.

After another innocuous shot of Kyon, we get glimpses of him interacting with Future-Mikuru and pre-Disappearance Koizumi, complete with irreverent sketchings of Kuchiki-clan quality.

So yes, things are quite confusing although admittedly really intriguing so far but we haven’t really seen too much to get excited abo…

HOLY S**T! Kyon with a gun? Kyon looking like he’s in some serious danger? Well, okay, you finally got my attention, trailer. What else have you go…


Okay, I have to admit, I’m really surprised that they threw in the deranged Yuki-shot for a mere teaser-trailer but I guess that it’s just all the more frighteningly mind-boggling without context and does a fantastic job of proving just how hardcore this arc is going to be. And indeed, even though I have read Disappearance, seeing that shot of Yuki really did shock the hell out of me.

And then we get a wonderful shot of Haruhi’s ponytail before ending with...

The grand-daddy of rhetorical questions.

Fantastic teaser-trailer. It really got me pumped to the point of nearly passing out from hyperventilation about this movie. I am literally foaming at the mouth with anticipation after seeing this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 in Review

Honorable Mentions

Spice and Wolf II
Spice and Wolf II is nothing more than the continuation of merchant Lawrence Kraft vi Britannia’s journey with the wise wolf Horo chock-full of economic babble and romantic banter. The series suffers from being more of the same, although I can’t fault it for that seeing as Spice and Wolf was a unique, majestic gem of a series and my personal pick for best of 2008. However, this time around it seems that spark of excitement is missing as the interplay between Lawrence and Holo just isn't as compelling as it used to be.

Although I still very much appreciate the series for what it is in addition to fully admitting that I am a staunch proponent of Horo-ism (she’s still my favorite anime character), I do feel that Spice and Wolf has lost its luster and may be starting to run out of steam. That’s not to say I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy myself for the second go-round. Basically, if the original Spice and Wolf was your thing, this will be a satisfying second serving, if insubstantial.

Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou

The polar opposite of the description for Spice and Wolf. I thought ZNY took magnificent leaps forward in quality and entertainment for its second run. The series still delivered its surprisingly delicate and emotional handling of the supernatural detective sub-genre, but this time around also brought it’s A-game by fleshing out the characters in more detail.

I’m still put off by its deliberately slow-pacing, but most people won’t have a problem staying transfixed by the imaginative and sometimes ominous wonders being dished out. ZNY shows the inherent appeal of being able to find solace and tranquility in a picturesque quasi-fantasy setting.


Eden of the East

Ah yes, Eden of the East, the title that singlehandedly breathed life into the Spring 2009 and had everybody up in a tizzy with its authentic and ominous take on a mystery thriller. Part of the appeal lied in its foreboding mystique and the other part came from its unusually high concentration of energy for a sinister conspiracy yarn.

For the uninitiated, here’s the skinny. There are these people who were granted special cell phones that would carry out essentially any command with a budget restriction of 10 billion yen. They are tasked with “helping the world,” but how they choose to go about fulfilling that task, ignoring it entirely, or spending their money is up to them. Naturally, some strive to eradicate their competition, while others are content with dripfeeding their economic assets to the world through charity or construction of public projects. And of course, some are more, let’s say creative, in their approach. The story starts when our hero, a happy-go-lucky film-buff named Akira, happens to find himself in possession of one of these devices.

There’s no doubt that Akira stole the show with a wildly carefree and sanguine approach to handling his appropriation of a cell phone that can essentially do anything the user wills. The series makes a reference to the legendary Taxi Driver early on and Akira is definitely anime’s answer to Travis Bickle. Brash, defiant, and everything chaotic neutral, Akira was irresistibly charming and engaging.

The biggest problem with Eden of the East is that for the gigantic strides it takes forward during its first half, it loses all of its steam and struggles to reach one sorry excuse for an ending. It’s like sprinting full-speed down the track for 200 meters only to pull a muscle and being reduced to languid limping before crashing into a stack of hurdles, falling face-first into the pavement, and savagely clawing your way past the finish line. Scratch that actually, it's more like the producers just said, “Subtlety be damned; let’s just scrounge up a flimsy, equivocating whiz-bang ending that lacks any credibility or finesse whatsoever because people like MISSILES and EXPLOSIONS!

Eden of the East was by no means bad and definitely stood out as the highlight of the Spring season, but to label it a “must-see” would be a bit too much. “Worth checking out” might be more appropriate. I fell in love with its boundless vivacity and engrossing complexity, but at the same time I can’t help but lament its squandered potential.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
The nation of Japan is due for an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 in the next 30 years due to its geographical location on the planet. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is Exactly What It Says on The Tin; that is, what exactly would be the result of an 8.0 earthquake hitting the economic center of the country.

TM8 is centered around two children, Mirai and Yuuki, who have angrily stormed out on their own after a dispute with their parents. Mirai gets so frustrated that she wishes for "the world to break" and unshockingly, disaster strikes. As the ground ruptures beneath their very feet and shards of shrapnel and glass rain down from the sky, Mirai and Yuuki must not only survive the initial fallout, but the subsequent harrowing journey to reunite with their family on the other side of Japan.

TM8 is another perfect example of squandered potential. The concept is wholly refreshing as it paves the way for a very Fireflies-esque tale of realistic and relevant disaster. Studio Bones did not skimp on the art as there is plenty of sensationally rendered scenery to gawk at as debris is flying everywhere and buildings are toppling over left, right, and center.

However, the problem with the series lies in its sloppy execution. After two completely engrossing opening episodes, the story just sort of meanders around and never capitalizes on the unfortunate trauma that a faithful interpretation of a disaster story could potentially entail. In fact, over the course of 11 episodes, there are two or three that could be almost be classified as filler, if not for the passable levels of character development contained within.

Not to give anything away, but a set of events about halfway through TM8 serve as a wonderful metaphor for how the series was perfectly positioned to deliver the game-winning goal but somehow managed to cock it up. There’s a glimpse of truly spectacular brilliance in a superlative mind-screw sequence; however, the series fails to follow through and lapses into obscurity.

Ultimately, TM8 does succeed in painting a sympathetic portrayal of two siblings making their way through a ruined modern-day city in search of salvation. The tragic angle is a bit contrived, but the emotional impact is satisfyingly pronounced and poignant. If only the pacing could be tightened up a bit more and the characters a bit more fleshed out, then we could have had a true masterpiece on our hands.

Pure Win

Let’s cut to the chase. Bakemonogatari is hands-down the best series of 2009. It's as simple as that. Nothing even comes close and this is possibly the first landslide victory I’ve experienced in many years.

Bakemonogatari’s most outstanding achievement is its unrivaled uniqueness. It’s such a breath of fresh air in a stagnated industry that it might as well be awarded best series of 2009 on originality alone. And much to its credit, that’s not even the bulk what the series has got to offer.

The premise of Bakemonogatari is so warped and twisted that it’s wickedly delicious. Koyomi Araragi, a former vampire, meets Hitagi Senjougahara one day and discovers that she has been cursed by a supernatural affliction. Initially portrayed as a dangerously standoff-ish sociopath, Senjougahara opens herself up to Koyomi after he manages to cure her of her ailment. The two go steady soon after and Koyomi finds himself the unwitting detective of gruesome occult mysteries that plague the various high school girls he encounters from then on.

Yes the art is everything we’ve come to expect from the drug-addled minds of the art directors over at SHAFT. Put simply, everything is rendered in beautiful, surreal detail while the overall style retains SHAFT’s infamous iconoclastic, hallucinatory and schizophrenic slant.

However, Bakemonogatari truly shines due to its unparalleled dialogue. This series sports the best and most captivating dialogue since Spice and Wolf and in many ways dwarfs even the likes of S+W due to the fact that its conversations flourish in non-sequitur frivolity as opposed to being stymied by fake economic tirades. Senjougahara’s verbal sparring matches with Koyomi are an absolute riot. It’s far too amusing to see how every excoriating line she says leaves him rattled, distraught, or utterly dejected. The vitriolic flirting and rapidly escalating sexual tension between the two radically different people who were nevertheless undeniably made for one another is what makes Bakemonogatari so fascinating. Well aside from Senjougahara fascination of course.

Bakemonogatari walks away with the grand prize. Unquestionably. We need to see more series’ like this in the coming year so the industry can finally triumph over the sempiternal season of moe.

What? You didn't expect me to not end with a picture of her, did you?