Puella Magi Madoka Magica

This from Darkmirage caught my eye – a typical mahou shoujo tale at first glance, but with some very unique choices for artwork. But DM sells it well, just short of overselling:

Beneath the cutesy surface, there is an unspoken air of uncertainty, paranoia and even fear. There is a subtle hint that something dark and horrible lies just out of sight and things are not as simple as they appear to be. Refuge from the unknown is only temporary and peace can at any moment be replaced by chaos. The music and the otherworldly art style bring that message home perfectly.

Adding this to my Watch Eventually list… anyone else seen it?

Kells

I found Secret of Kells on Netflix. It was only 90 minutes, so low-hanging fruit indeed. A really wonderful, enchanting story. The plot summary from Wikipedia lays out the plot:

The story is set in the ninth century and gives a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript and known today as one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures. Obsessed with building a mighty wall to keep marauding Viking raiders from destroying the Abbey of Kells, Abbot Cellach expects his young nephew Brendan to follow in his footsteps. Brendan has apprenticed in the scriptorium of the monastery and has heard the story of Aidan of Iona, a master illuminator who is working on the Book of Iona. Later, Aidan himself comes to the monastery, accompanied by his cat Pangur Bán. Brother Aidan has escaped from the Vikings who have destroyed his own monastery, and had brought the unfinished Book of Iona with him. Taking Brendan under his wing, Aidan asks Brendan to venture into the forest to look for gall nuts to make ink, though the boy is fearful as he was forbidden to go into the forest by his uncle. Brendan eventually decides to venture into the forest, where he meets a forest spirit named Aisling. She is suspicious of Brendan at first, but soon befriends him after helping him find the gall nuts. Though Cellach learns of his adventure and forbids him from leaving the abbey’s confines, Brendan secretly defies it as Aidan teaches him illumination while Aisling introduces him to a wider world.

of course Wikipedia goes on from there to summarize the entire story, which is spoilertastic, so don’t read the rest until you’ve seen it. Hopefully the excerpt above is sufficient to motivate you to seeking this one out, though.

I particularly liked the Harold and the Purple Crayon sequence! 🙂

Explaining Fukushima: Nuclear Boy and his toxic poo

So, how do you explain the nuclear disaster to children, without overly alarming them but still trying to convey some sense of the seriousness of the event? Naturally, you make anime – and replace radiation with “poo”.

I am reminded of this video I shot on a television screen in a department store in Shinjuku five years ago:

I was politely, but firmly, discouraged from taling more video than this, thankfully. Like Cthulhu, seeing more might have destroyed my soul. I can only shudder at the thought of what horrific disaster that video was trying to explain.

(BTW, excellent overview of the nuclear plant disaster at Ars Technica.)

Fractale and Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

Steven looks at Fractale, and … wow. Miyazaki-esque indeed. I am just as intrigued by the fact that the main character engages in routine prayer, as I am by the Dennou Coil-esque augmented reality.

Also, Nick has screenshots and links to the trailer for Shinkai’s next film opening in May – Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, or Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.

In a lot of ways, Shinkai is essential viewing for a Miyazaki fan. He has a way of recapturing that magic that I frankly felt was missing in Ponyo. Looks like Fractale is also an attempt to pick up that standard. Of course, Shinkai’s visual style is not a copy of Miyazaki’s at all, but something wholly new, that manages to evoke the same emotional response. The way Shinkai plays with light, in particular… wow.

UPDATE: Fractale episode 1 is here. Hopefully new ones will appear there also.

all-time favorite anime?

Wonderduck started this by posting his Top Four – 1, 2, 3, 4 – of these, I tried watching Noir but got bored, though maybe I should give it another shot (though, my anime queue is very long and barely functional nowadays. Is this still an anime blog? There’s an existential question for you…). The other three I probably should add to my list as well.

Steven weighed in as well and defined favorite in a slightly different way, which is of course the entire point of the word “favorite”. I think I’d have to qualify my choices by different metrics:

Most rewatchable: Samurai Jack. It’s actually amerime, not anime, but it blew everything else away. The plot is nonlinear and the animation astounding. If I had to choose an anime equivalent, I’d have to go with Kino’s Journey.

Most moving: Haibane Renmei, tied with pretty much everything by Makoto Shinkai. (By “moving”, I mean in a positive way. Graveyard of the Fireflies doesn’t count).

Most warm and fuzzy: Totoro. This also counts partially under most-rewatchable, though only partially because half of my repeat viewings are under duress. I’d put Someday’s Dreamers in close second place.

Most dramatic: Death Note. This is probably the most intense anime, or even television series in general, I’ve ever seen. It stands head and shoulders above everything else.

Most exciting: Cowboy Bebop. I was just hooked on this. intensity and energy of this series blew me away. The only thing that came close is the “sequel”, Samurai Champloo, which I haven’t adequately blogged about yet but definitely had a better ending.

Most philosophical: In a wierd way, I’d have to go with Dennou Coil. The modern mobile revolution is pushing us down that path to Augmented Reality much more quickly than I imagined back when I first saw it only a couple of years ago. The implications are astounding.

Unfortunately, if I were to measure my favorite by tallying the raw number of episodes watched, Ranma probably counts as my favorite. Curse you, Steven!

torrenting with no fear

I’ve become markedly more paranoid about bittorrent in the past few months, with all the news of systematic, widescale lawsuit shakedowns and the craven willigness of ISPs to hand over private IP address data. This is a perfect case study of how not having anonymity and privacy can lead to outright persecution, even if you are totally innocent of any copyright violations (fair use or not).

I don’t use BT for much beyond catching up on anime and various TV shows. Netflix doesn’t always have what i want, and even if it does I have to compete with the rest of my family for slots in the queue. And trying to catch things when they are broadcast is essentially impossible (no DVR, either). Ultimately I have to either be able to time shift or not watch at all; and paying more money above and beyond the cable TV and netflix subscription is just too high a barrier.

Unfortunately, the threat posed by the copyright tyrants is no longer negligible. So I do watch less and less TV nowadays (and play more Warcraft, read books, etc*). Though I did just discover CastTV which was indispensable for catching up on Doctor Who Season 5…

What I want is a way to torrent without losing my privacy. I did try PeerGuardian, which is a constantly updated realtime list of suspicious IP addresses to blacklist, but it never worked for me – the blacklist just doesn’t download from their server. I suspect the load is too high for a volunteer open source project to handle. The more compelling solution seems to be a paid proxy service, such as BTGuard, which is surprisingly affordable. If I understand BT correctly, even using a private tracker like BakaBT won’t protect your IP from the Bad Guys, so I am pretty sure I am going to have to bite the bullet on this one. BTGuard is intended primarily for torrenters, but I might as well also start using proxies for my casual browsing as well. There’s also the TOR project which purports to protect your web traffic from being intercepted… not sure I entirely understand that yet, but worth looking into.

I guess I’m not really sure how paranoid I should be. But the present system of just blindly and openly surfing and torrenting doesn’t seem sustainable.

*all these hobbies of course are competing for the tiny sliver of time I have late at night to myself, since my waking hours are dominated by family and work.