Shoujo Cossette: do you hear the otaku sing?

Well, Gedo Senki seems to have been a bust, but here comes a new literary adaptation to anime that I can start obsessing over instead: Les Misérables. The official site already has a trailer up. This one is going to be a series, rumors are about 52 episodes.

What made LesMis great was the underlying moral about how doing the right thing, no matter the cost, paid off. I think that in series form, LesMis will translate far better, because any adaptation faithful to the source MUST have room to explore the running themes of redemption and self-sacrifice.

UPDATE: Don says that Romeo and Juliet are also fair game.

The N Laws

via Mark, this gem from Slashdot, about Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

Have any of them actually read I, Robot? I swear to god, am I in some tiny minority who doesn’t believe that this book was all about promulgating the infallible virtue of these three laws, but was instead a series of parables about the failings that result from codifying morality into inflexible dogma?

The beauty of the Three Laws was that every story he ever wrote about them was about an apparent violation of them. Of course the apparent violation was always revealed to be false and the Three Laws remains supreme and never violated (unlike in the regrettable I, Robot movie). But it was always astonishing how Asimov could start with such a restricted premise and yet extract such fascinating complexity from it. That was part of his genius.

Of course, when we talk about the Three Laws, we really mean the First Law: A Robot may not, through action or inaction, allow a human to come to harm. But what exactly constitutes harm? And what are the limits of inaction? It was by considering these issues that R. Daneel and R. Giskard ultimately formulated the Zeroth law: replacing human with humanity. In a sense, the dominant political philosophy of both Left and Right is really just a variant of the Zeroth Law. And the same struggle with “harm” and “inaction”. And therein lies, perhaps, most of the dysfunction.

I wish

Anime on My Mind looks at the future of anime four years from now and finds:

June 25, 2010

Ghibli Announces Next Project: “Fresh off Ghibli’s highly successful yet highly controversial Ender’s Game anime movie adaptation last year, Ghibli reveals that their next major project is Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”

oh, please! oh please please please!

A Bard Shard

Google launched a Shakespeare portal. Searchable full-text of the entirety of the Bard’s work (or, perhaps, Sir Bacon’s? whatever!), along with Shakespeare “related” content from Google’s various other portals. In that sense it’s a demo for how Google’s algorithmic approach to content can be leveraged to create an automatic portal on any topic – in addition to the books themselves, there’s tie-in content via Google video, Google Earth, Image search, News, etc.

I guess I am insatiable with my expectations, but while the portal thing is cool and all, I’d much rather see something simple like googling directly for “Hamlet Act 1 Scene 4” to give me the full text on the right sidebar (much like googling for “13 yen to dollars” or “45 horsepower to watts” gets you immediate results, no clicking required). Add the Bible and the Qur’an on there too, while you’re at it.

Continue reading “A Bard Shard”

Gedo Senki: Legend of Earthsea

Studio Ghibli is producing an anime version of Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic science fiction series, The Legend of Earthsea. It is being directed by Moro Miyazaki, son of the legendary Hayao.

For a fan of science fiction alone, this would be incredibly exciting news. As a fledgling otaku my anticipation can now extend along the anime axis as well! Of course there is no guarantee that the junior Miyazaki is as talented as the father, nor is there any guarantee that a piece of literature will survive the transition to film. Bicentennial Man was a real stab in the heart for Asimov purists, and I’ve ranted on the H2G2 movie before. But there are successes – witness the glory that was Blade Runner (an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). I think that the anime format suits the subject matter far better than live-action and have high hopes indeed.

Most of those high hopes being fed by what I’ve already seen of the film, of course. You can view the trailer as a Flash movie at Ghibli.net or at YouTube.

There’s also a production blog (translated by Nausicaa.net).

1/(Tolkien) || Tolkien*(-1)

I don’t have as much time to read fantasy and science fiction as I did when I was younger, but I would like to recommend two series which I stumbled upon over the past few years and which I just completed.

Jaqueline Carey’s Banewreaker and Godslayer comprise a slim duology which can be fairly characterized as LotR from the vantage-point of Mordor. The correspondences to Tolkien’s narrative are pretty clear and transparent, Carey hits you over the head with her themes. This would probably have been better as a singleton, there just isn’t that much material to work with, and the characterization doesn’t explore new directions in the second book. Nevertheless, it is a nice and satisfying corrective to the Fundamental Attribution Error which crops up in the work of Tolkien and his children, evil is essentialistic in a character, not a function of their circumstance. In some ways Carey’s work has a closer affinity with Greek mythology, with its Prometheus like Sauron equivalent. In contrast Tolkien might not have been totally delusional when he stated that LotR was “fundamentally a Catholic work” in that his cycle did not explore the messy shades of gray which comprise such a vast arc of human experience.

Where Carey’s work is a standard inversion of Tolkien’s narrative, R. Scott Baker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy takes the classic core of high fantasy and the Evil Lord and smokes it with some crack cocaine. If there was ever a sequence of books laced with the sensibility of the cognitive revolution, this is it. Baker is a philosopher by training so I am not totally convinced that the influence is coincidental. If you want a “hero” who brings you down to earth with his lack of idealism, then this is a good series. The last of Baker’s books in the trilogy has a 50 page glossary so he certainly hasn’t stinted on world creation. But with the sharp crispness of the backdrop and the overindulgent prose the many strands of each character can sometimes get knotted, and Baker’s inattention leaves you without a guide out of this undiscovered country. Unfortunately Baker’s “trilogy” is actually the first three acts in a longer cycle, with book 3 prefacing an intermission. The real action on the grand epic scale is clearly to come.