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.


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.

Death Note 5cm

I finished Byousoku 5cm today. I had actualy watched the first “chapter” just before Ramadan began, and then had to set it aside (I pledge to try and engage in acts of piety rather than consume mass entertainment during the holy month. I don’t exactly succeed). That first segment was just an emotional freight train, like Haibane Renmei collapsed into 20 minutes. I originally intended to blog about that chapter alone, but then never got around to it, and today being Eid I figured I wanted to see how the rest turned out. It was no less gripping, though the bulk of the emotional impact was still in the first segment. Still, as a whole, it was something truly special, making you ache in a bittersweet way that is familiar to everyone. It deserves more attention but I dunno what to say. I haven’t felt like this since watching Lost in Translation. I can unequivocally say however that I think this was by far Shinkai’s masterpiece.

After watching it, though, I was kind of on the mood for something different, so I watched the first episode of Death Note. Um. WOW. The Japanese really don’t f$%k around, do they? Were this series made in the US, the events, and character progression of the main character, would have taken all of season 1. Here thye did it in one episode. “Humans are interesting” indeed. I am hooked, and my brief foray into Fate/Stay Night a few weeks ago is suspended for now.

Voices of a distant star (Hoshi no Koe)

Voices of a Distant Star is a surprising piece of work. For one, it’s short, only running about 30 minutes. For another, it was created entirely on director Makoto Shinkai’s home computer. The style is classic Shinkai, with a loving addiction to sunset lighting – there are a few screenshots here which will be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen any other of Shinkai’s works (especially A Place Promised). The lush visual style is as distinctive in its own way as Miyazaki’s, and he shares the same obsession with young women heroines and flying machines. Given his obsession with lighting, he seems to rely heavily on subdued pastels rather than vibrant primary colors, which also lends his work an ethereal quality.

However, what i am seeing in Shinkai’s work is a pattern of obsession with ordinary technology, like trains and cell phones. The contrast is all the more striking given that his stories involve fantastic technologies alongside them, like space mecha, battle cruisers, and gigantic towers that double as dimensional portals. He seems to always insist on keeping the fantastical grounded in the ordinary; the main character in Voices, Mikako, is an elite Agent who is selected to pilot a giant mecha on a mission to combat hostile aliens, yet wears her schoolgirl outfit in the cockpit and sends text messages across the interstellar gulf to her boyfriend, using her battered Nokia mobile phone. It’s the peculiar realities and real-world physics limitations of the latter technology that drive the story, in fact, making it a very poignant and heartfelt little piece of work. I think the fact that it’s short really adds to its emotional heft.

Makoto Shinkai Collection DVD setTemptingly, Amazon has a Shinkai Collection DVD set, which includes both Place Promised and Voices, as well as a pile of extra short pieces. I think this is a no-brainer for me to pick up, assuming it ever gets back in stock.

Makoto, light!

Astro and Nick have been talking about Makoto Shinkai for a while now. Astro’s pending review of a Place Promised in Our Early Days is one I am looking forward to, I just watched it two days ago myself and plan to rewatch today and take some screenshots. The thing that struck me the most about it was the way Shinkai is in love with light. He places the “camera” to capture the light in the most charismatic way possible, treating the light as if it were the main character in the frame. I need to snag some frames because while the plot was intriguing in its own way (I found it somewhat Kino-esque), it was really the visuals that took me in and have made me a Shinkai fan. I have quite a backlog to get through, though. I already know where I need to start.

A brief visual taste of Makoto Shinkai

via Nick, who has been blogging about Shinkai and Byousoko 5 cm for a year now. The subtitles are, ahem. not officially sanctioned. The hype surrounding Shinkai as the next Miyazaki has definitely whetted my interest. I have also learned that you can’t go wrong with a Nick obsession 🙂

UPDATE: Nick has a massive post with numerous shorts by Shinkai, and a link to an english fan site.