let the world be your PC

ok, anyone who watched Dennou Coil will immediately recognize where this is headed:

Although the miniaturization of computing devices allows us to carry computers in our pockets, keeping us continually connected to the digital world, there is no link between our digital devices and our interactions with the physical world. Information is confined traditionally on paper or digitally on a screen. SixthSense bridges this gap, bringing intangible, digital information out into the tangible world, and allowing us to interact with this information via natural hand gestures. ‘SixthSense’ frees information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus making the entire world your computer.

The SixthSense prototype is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant like mobile wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls and physical objects around us to be used as interfaces; while the camera recognizes and tracks user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision based techniques. The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the colored markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.

The thing is a project at the MIT Media Lab and can be built for $350 in off-the-shelf hardware. And just to make the obviousness of it all even more so, compare the following:

sixthsense08denmo coil 1

I posited in this slideshare presentation on the future of the Web that mapping a virtual layer on top of reality would be “web 4.0”. I think i may have been more right than I realized.

unsure about Fullmetal Alchemist

I watched disc one of Fullmetal Alchemist tonight (episodes 1-4). I got kind of interested in it via Shamus’ early review, so added the series to my netflix q. I have to admit that the premise is engaging and original and the characters thus far are appealing. It’s fun to watch a mahou shoujo where the magical girl is actually a boy for a change.

That said, I’m not sure if I want to commit ot a 51-episode series based on what I’ve seen. Thanks to the OSE, I found Shamus’ review of the ending, which would be spoilerific if I had seen more than 4 eps but on the whole the details were largely meaningless (though I do gather that we meet Rose again).

Sometimes it is hard to judge how a series will wear on you. Shingu and Dennou Coil started out very slow, and I was actively repelled by Ranma’s first couple of eps. But in the end, all of these series became strong favorites that I am glad I stuck with (though I’ve stalled a bit on Ranma in season 7). There are other series, like Samurai Champloo, that grabbed me right from the start and were gripping right to the end (in fact, Champloo might be one of my top ten of all time, surprisingly.) And then there are those series that I do make the time investment in, but ultimately didn’t really impact me upon completion (I am thinking of Samurai 7 and Escaflowne specifically).

There’s no algorithm to help you assess how a series is going to go based on the first few eps. But I wonder what others have to say about FMA. Any opinions anyone has on eth matter would be helpful; there’s a lot of other stuff I want to watch, after all, so this isn’t a critical series.

Drastic my Anime

Finally got around to adding Drastic my Anime blog to the blogroll (and the Otakusphere search engine).

I’m increasingly disillusioned with google reader for keeping up to date. Its better than visiting sites manually, but I’d rather have a twitter-based model. I am thinking of setting up a twitter feed dedicated to the same blogs as the Otakusphere search engine (henceforth abbreviated as the OSE). Will work on this and report back when I’ve got something to show…

the whisper of the Cat

I am a huge fan of the movie The Cat Returns. It just entranced all of us in my household, so I was looking forward to the “prequel” Whisper of the Heart. However we just found that movie incredibly tedious for some reason. As it turns out, we seem to be an outlier, as everyone else I’ve spoken to who has seen both are in agreement that Whisper was the better movie. Nick is just the latest anime fan to affirm their preference for Whisper over Cat.. I just don’t understand it. Maybe I need to give Whisper another try…

Old Home Bulletin Board

I’ve been meaning to mention that if anyone really wants to get into in-depth Haibane Renmei discussion, the Old Home Bulletin Board is still the best place for it. I’ve linked a few times before but figured it deserves a mention of its own. It isn’t the most vibrant arena around but it has a lot of loyal regulars. If you’re new to HR then finish watching and then go check out OHBB asap!

I do have a gripe; lately they have required that you must be a registered user and logged in to even view the posts. This level of security strikes me as obstructionist; the usual convention for web fora is to require registration to post, but anyone can read. I hope they reconsider. I hope it wasn’t due to some issue with their hosting; if so then I for one would be happy to help then out.

new perspectives on Glie

Pete sent me this link some time ago, but I haven’t had time until now to really browse in some detail – Chris Fritz has been blogging his journey through Haibane Renmei, and it’s a treat to re-discover the series via his eyes. In his commentary on the final episode, Chris muses on the big picture of what Glie represents:

I have wondered for a while if the world of the haibane, the town within walls, may represent either a place between death and what comes after death, or a state of consciousness, such as being in a coma.

The strength of Haibane-Renmei is its ability to create a complete world with no need to explain why the world is as it is. The viewer learns how things work alongside Rakka, but no deeper explanation is given.

It’s definitely true that almost everyone who writes about HR ends up at the same question of what the world means, and seeks to explain everything, usually within the context of an afterlife. I was intrigued by Chris’ musing about it being an alternate state of consciousness, however, which is the first time anyone to my knowledge has suggested that Glie is not an existence beyond death, but rather an intermediate existence between life and death.

If we are to posit that Glie is halfway, then why not keep going, and look for analogy to life itself? In fact that’s what Andrew Pernick does in his “Radical Interpretation” where he posits that Glie is really symbolic of our present world itself – or rather, that the town of Guri represents the land of the living, and the walls the boundary between life and death:

The walls separate Guri, the land of the living, from that which is outside, that which is beyond. Early in the series, Kana explains that if one were to leave Guri and return, “no one would recognize you.” To move beyond the walls is to die; to come from beyond the walls alive, either as a Haibane in a cocoon or to be born to a human mother, is to be reincarnated as a different living being, one that cannot be recognized as the former living self. The Toga and the Renmei cannot speak because they are both metaphors – they cannot speak because the dead cannot speak; you would not be allowed to speak to them because they would not hear you. The Day of Flight, therefore, is a death with one’s life lesson learned or one’s life task accomplished.

Andrew delves into the analogy much more deeply than this, so it is worth reading his essay in full. This is indeed a radical departure from the concensus interpretation, and really opens up new avenues of interpretation. For example, under this interpretation, what can we learn from Rakka’s journey inside the walls?

I think a rewatch is in order with this perspective in mind…

One more thought occurs to me; Glie is an anagram for Lige, defined as “the act of telling a lie.” This is probably a coincidence, though…

disliking Avatar

I think that part of the reason some otaku get so fervent about shoving their favorite series on other otaku is because at some level, we want to share our experience of joy and discovery. This is a simple human impulse but it gets somewhat twisted by the enthusiasm (an overabundance of which is a defining characteristic of otaku). It can also be a validation of sorts when others acknowledge the greatness of a given series that you have been evangelizing – ego is also a defining characteristic, it seems 🙂 However, we must simply accept that not all of us like the same things. This is why Steven’s decision to drop Avatar is not particularly bothersome to me; I am disappointed I wont see any TMW essays on it, because those are invariably enlightening and stimulating, but it would be pretty foolish to argue that Steven is missing out on something or is somehow making a mistake in not choosing to push forward. He didn’t like it. That’s fine by me.

One of Steven’s commenters makes a good point about Avatar’s overall season dynamic:

If season one feels like filler, its probably because, on a certain level, it is. As near as I can tell, the writers were mainly aiming to produce a reasonably fun, but not great, story for season one. . . with plot threads to be developed later, if the show didn’t get cancelled. Their goals, and targets, thus rose at that point.

Honestly, if you had asked prior to checking the show out, and bearing in mind what I know of your tastes? I would have suggested something along the lines of “Watch the two part intro, watch the Northern Water Tribe sub-arc, then skip to Season 2.” As otherwise? Its a series that’s not going to sell itself to you, because the first part you’ll watch is the part that’s selling it to someone else. Given that, honestly, *I* wouldn’t have have given it more than a passing glance based on season 1 either, not shocking this outcome.

I heartily agree (and subsequent dissenters who argue that every single thing that happens in season 1 was utterly critical to the overall story are both missing the point, as well as simply factually wrong). The bulk of what Steven casts as filler is really character development that really rewards the second viewing of Avatar, rather than driving the plot forwards on the first. In fact this is why I think that I am cautiously optimistic about the live action movie, because they won’t be under the same constraints as the series was (on Nickolodeon, etc).

On another level, though, I think a meta critique of Steven’s argument for dropping Avatar is warranted. Given how much otakusphere complaining exists about how little good material there is to watch nowadays, dropping series too easily seems counter-productive. I’m not arguing that we should force feed ourselves but rather than we do need to recognize the creative environment and real-world constraints that operate on the anime industry – especially the american animation variant (which I called Amerime). It is no coincidence that Samurai Jack – the best Amerime series ever produced – is unfinished. Had Jack been produced for Nick instead of Cartoon Network, there might have been an annoying sidekick character or a lot of filler episodes too – but it also might have actually been seen through to completion. Artistic purity is great but doesn’t always suffice for simple survival. Whether such a scenario would have been worse or better depends on implementation, as well as viewer preferences, so its at best an open question. Arguing that all series must meet specific standards of plot advancement and being too stringent about filler sets a certain bar which may be impossible to meet.

UPDATE – J makes a related point (though not in response to Steven’s post) about the patience of the Japanese consumer:

Anime is often like this as well. It’s not unusual for a series to spend most of a season meandering towards the plot, with a sudden burst of (usually rushed, over-compressed) activity towards the end. In many cases, there’s an obvious production or financial reason, but my point is that the target audience doesn’t seem to mind.

Anime bending

Steven has ordered the first season of Avatar, largely based on my recommendation, which both gratifies me and also makes me squirm, because my reputation is on the line now 🙂

The first season is in many ways a very straightforward one. It aims to set the scene, introduce the characters, and give them a nice clean goal and a clear-cut villain. At least, that is what you’re supposed to do in a first season of a multi-season arc; the genius of Avatar is how they subvert every one of those aims, both subtly during season 1 itself and then in a major way in the later seasons. For season 1, though, the viewers’ job is simple; to fall in love with the characters alone. There are plenty of things going on right before your eyes that have massive significance later on, but on the first viewing that stuff is just not as important as understanding who Aang, Kitara, Sokka, Iroh, and Zuko are. The storytelling is simply effortless in this regard – the season ended far too quickly for me, but then I realized looking back just how much actually happened (quite a bit, plotwise, though you are barely aware of the larger arc at this stage).

very mild spoilers follow, so I am putting them below the fold… Continue reading “Anime bending”

Animeme

Mark has an anime meme that I think I’ll give a go:

• What anime are you watching now?

I am watching Samurai Champloo and Fate: Stay Night. The latter I’ve had on my hard disk for almost a year but only got motivated to start watching it when I saw that other otaku had started giving it a shot. I’ve only finished disc 1 of Champloo but I am already on episode 20 of FSN.

• What is your favourite time to watch?

In the evening, when I am waiting for Baby Otaku to finally stop fighting sleep, and sometimes during the day when I’m feeding her a naptime bottle.

• And your favourite place?

On the floor in front of my sofa (it’s comfy to lean against) watching on my television. I am either watching a DVD from Netflix or using AVI files on a USB stick attached to my DVD player.

• Who is your favourite auteur?

Easily Makoto Shinkai. Easily. I have my eye set on this but can’t really afford it right now. Patience is a virtue…

• Your favourite OST?

If we are limiting this to anime, then the only one I’ve been moved to buy so far is the Haibane Renmei soundtrack. It’s amazingly moving and ethereal.

• What is the most difficult anime you’ve ever watched?

Grave of the Fireflies. It almost killed my interest in anime forever (not to mention turning my wife away from anime completely, until Sugar came along).

• What was the first anime you remember watching?

Does Robotech count? if not, then Akira, like everyone else.

• Do you have a comfort show that you re-watch?

If I owned Samurai Jack, that would be my preferred one. I like rewatching Sugar: Snow Fairy with my daughter.

• What is the most erotic anime you’ve watched?

My answer will probably make some of you laugh, but I’d have to say Ranma 1/2. I’m just not into the fan-service titles and largely avoid them. I described earlier what types of anime interest me.

• Which classic should you have watched?

Probably Evangelion. I also should have finished Noir.

• Which series did you never want to end?

Ranma! which is good, because it never did 🙂 Seriously, though, I pretty much always want a series I am enjoying to never end. Though the two series I think I wanted most to continue indefinitely were Samurai Jack and Kino’s Journey.

• What is your most overrated anime?

I tried very hard to like a tale of ef, but I just couldn’t get into it. I have yet to find a single person who’s seen it who hasn’t loved it, so I am clearly in the extreme minority here.

• Which character could you have an affair with?
• Who is your favourite character?
• Which character do you most dislike?

In one sense, the answer to all three of these questions could be Reki from Haibane Renmei. However, in the interest of being more accurate, I’d say tsunderes in general for the first question, mahou shoujos in general for the second, and heroes who fail themselves for the third. This also means that I could just as easily answer Nayuta from Shingu instead of Reki for all three, actually…

• Which character do you identify with most?

That’s a better question than the previous three. I think in some sense, absent the physical prowess or skill, I identify with Samurai Jack and Ranma, which is why those series resonated so well with me. It’s the (male) hero who strives to do the right thing, and in so doing characterizes what it means to be a man, who appeals to me.

• Which anime changed your life?

Probably Robotech came closest, by almost making me fail out of my first semester of exams in college (finals week is a bad time to get addicted to anything, let alone a 50+ episode epic series). Haibane Renmei was the impetus for me starting this blog, which has also been a great thing for me.

Well, that was fun, and gave me an excuse to link some old posts for fun, too. I am unsure of the usual protocol for internet memes, but I am going to risk a faux pas and “tag” Nick, Astro, and Pete for the animeme next.