September 2007


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     Moetan 5  starts off with Ink walking home from school with her friends, while walking home they talk about current TV shows, and Ink spots a red balloon floating in the sky. Later at home Ink and her mother talk about Ink’s younger days, and this dicussion brings back little memories from the Ink’s past. Ink goes off on a rescue mission to save a boy from drowning, and Sumi-chan shows up and ending up in the water too. Ink ends up saving both the Boy and Sumi-chan from the river. After the rescue Alice-chan shows up and attacks Ink and Ak-kun, the end result is that Ink and Ak are drawn into a time gate and thrown into the past. While in the past Ink sees the red balloon again, and then runs into Sumi-chan as a child. Then we meet Ruriko-san (Sumi’s maid), at this time she’s only seventeen years old and still in high school. Ink goes to have a look around the city and ends up at her house running into her mother in the process, to Ink she looks younger but to Ak-kun she looks the same. In the evening Ink runs into Sumi-chan again and proceeds to try and teach her English which backfires, Sumi seems to hate English. Ink then meets Nao-kun in the park and shows him how to play video games. When Ink and Ak-kun finally get to their proper time Ak-kun tells Ink that her actions in the past caused Sumi’s dislike of English, and Nao’s addiction to video games. Well that’s all for episode 5, Below are some screen shots. 

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     Well this was a very nice episode it was really fun getting to see Sumi, Ruriko, and Nao as children. I may be getting this wrong, but I loved how they integrated elements of French classic film The Red Balloon (1956) in to the episode’s script. For those who have never the film it involves a little boy and a red balloon, a little girl and a blue balloon, and a group of bullies. The themes of the film are about the magical nature of childhood friendships and compassion. Overall this episode of Moetan  explains the origins of Ink-chan and Nao-kun’s long running friendship. Very nicely done.

      Well the controversial manga Kodomo no Jikan  (at least it caused a stir in the United States) is finally available in animated form. Before I begin my review of the OAV I feel that I need to cover a little bit of the controversy surrounding the attempted introduction of the Kodomo no Jikan manga into the US market. In 2006 the Los Angeles based company Seven Seas Entertainment licenced the Japanese manga Kodomo no Jikan  for distribution in the US. At the request of the manga’s creator, and over the objections of Seven Seas Entertainment the manga’s creator demanded the manga be called “Nymphet” in the United States. The literal translation of Kodomo no Jikan  into English would be “a child’s time”. The creator’s demand for the manga to be called “Nymphet” in the US was very unfortunate for Sea Seas, because almost immediately a firestorm of controversy erupted surrounding the manga. Within a short period of time, Seven Seas announced the cancellation of publication of Kodomo no Jikan  in the US.

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     The basic plot-line of this manga is that a 3rd grade student Rin Kokonoe falls in love with her 23 year old school teacher (Daisuke Aoki) and continuously makes sexual advances towards him, kind of like a role reversal of Nabokov’s classic Lolita. In Lolita, a 37 year old man named Humbert makes a twelve year old girl named Delores (Lolita) the object of his affections, and this leads to sexual obsession, and eventually murder. The publishing of Lolita  lead to the introduction into mainstream culture the usage of the terms “Lolita” and “nymphet” when referring to sexually attractive girls “under the age of consent”. To most mainstream culture inside the United States anime (cartoons) and manga (comics) still equals kids, so a manga or comic book named Nymphet was bound to cause quite a firestorm.

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     So now I’ll review the content of the Kodomo no Jikan OAV. The story follows the exploits of Rin, Kuro, and Mimi who are friends and classmates whom attend the same third grade class. The plot for the OAV is that Rin and her friends try to decide what to get their teacher (Daisuke) for his birthday. The girls go shopping for a gift but in the end decide to go to Rin’s house and hand-make a gift for him. The basic setup for this OAV is that Rin has a serious crush on Daisuke, Kuro is crushing on Rin, and Mimi is infatuated with Rin’s older brother. Of the three girls, Rin is the only one who really tries to change her crush from a dream to reality. While the other two girls pretty much act their ages when it comes to being around their crushes, blushing, acting shy, being a little goofy, and so forth. Rin, on the other hand does the most inappropriate things possible, pantie flashes, coming on physically, sending sexually explicative pictures, and so on. Well that’s about it for the OAV’s basic plot, below are some screen shots from the OAV. I choose very mild screen shots for this blog entry. 

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     And now for the review, I found this OAV to be quite amusing and funny. The animation quality was very good and the accompanying music matched the pacing and feel of the story quite well. The color pallet used for this show was very crisp and bright, and I like this kind of feel when watching a show of this type. After reading the first couple of volumes of the Kodomo no Jikan  manga I thought the OAV version was really quite mild mannered. I know I’ll be in the minority in stating the following opinion, I feel that Kodomo no Jikan is a very good example of a well done Seinen (men’s manga or anime, targeted at men aged 18-40) comedy.

     The whole idea of a reverse Lolita  plot-line is very interesting and has many humorous possibilities. Think about it, in country that has large roricon (Lolita complex) problem, and a seeming national obsession with enjo kosai  (compensated dating; the practice of older men paying teen aged schoolgirls for dates and maybe sex). The idea of a young girl terrorising a older man with unwanted sexual advances is quite a change of pace, it’s almost like the sayings ”be careful what you wish for”, and “you’ll reap what you sow”. Hell, if Japanese schoolgirls started groping men on the trains like they grope the girls, all hell would break loose.

     What I found funny was how Rin having some basic idea about what should turn on a guy takes everything to such an extreme and absurd level that it has the opposite effect on her teacher.  This episode contained all tropes that go along with a Ecchi flavored series, pantie flashes, the mandatory shared bath scene, the eating of ice cream in a seductive way, and so on. The problem that this series has which will make it unairable and even unreleasable in the US is because of the sexual overtones contained within. Western Christan culture has always had problems with sexuality in general, even bigger problems with blatant female sexuality, and huge problems with any mention of child sexuality.

     I can remember the huge controversies surrounding movies like The Blue Lagoon, Pretty Baby, Taxi driver, and Kids. The main difference between Lolita and Rin is that Lolita is aware of Humbert’s attraction to her, and she is able to use that attraction and her skills of seduction to eventually end up pulling most of Humbert’s strings. Rin unlike Lolita lacks the ability to see that Daisuke is not interested her as anything other than a student, so as she throws herself at him harder and harder it only makes her look more like the child she really is. In my opinion, Rin is a really nice but confused little girl, and hopefully by the end of the manga and anime series she’ll get straightened out without getting hurt. Because of the above mentioned issues of sexuality this series will never in a million years see a manga or DVD release in the United States.

     If you interested seeing in a quirky live action movie dealing with the issues of sexualization and objectification of teen-aged girls in Japanese society watch the horror movie Stacy. In the movie Stacy, Japanese girls between the ages of 15-17 contract a illness called Near Death Happiness (NDH) which turns them into giggling airheads, and then a little while later they turn into flesh eating zombies. Well I’m looking forward to the Kodomo no Jikan  series starting in October 2007, as with any continuation of a OAV the regular series will be much milder than the OAV. 

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At the beginning of this episode the girls get an invitation to visit an onsen (hot spring) located in the village where they performed the rescue mission. They ask Togo for leave, and he grants the leave stating it would be a good idea if everyone went along. So everyone loads up into a van and they drive to the onsen. Upon arriving at the spring the crew finds out that it’s in pretty bad shape after the storm, and everyone pitches in to help make the whole thing work. While Togo is fishing at the river the girls find out their unit has been transferred to the special forces group, and they will be fighting the remaining worms. Otoha reacts very poorly to the news, and calls Togo a liar. Eika tells Otoha that following orders is part of being in the military. Later Togo tries to apologize to Eika, and Eika tells him not to, and that she’s already decided to lay her life down if necessary. After a while Otoha calms down and decides that protecting people can be a worthwhile goal too. Then every one goes to the onsen, and in a moment of excitement Otoha knocks over the divider separating the male and female sides, and mayhem ensues. Well that’s all for this episode, below are some screen shots.  

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Every anime featuring hot young girls has to include the mandatory onsen (hot spring) visit. But in this episode of Sky Girls the visit served no propose whatsoever, if your going to give me a hot spring storyline I need some fan service. Overall I considered this whole twenty-five minutes of anime nothing but filler and a waste of time. One of the funniest plot threads in this episode was the little girl screwing up the Sky Girls team name, calling then spy girls, small girls and so forth. I for the life of me can’t figure out where this story is going, after the OAV and the first two or three episodes I thought this was going to be a fan service ladened light hearted mecha. Now the show can’t seem to decide on the direction or overall feel the series needs.

 

     Daddy Long Legs begins with Judy receiving a letter of thanks, and a package of candy from Jarvis for the courtesy she shown him during his visit to the school. When Julia finds out about the candy she is not very pleased telling Judy that she hopes nothing bad is happening to her. We find out from Julia that Jarvis is 27 and still messing around according to her. Julia’s attitude towards Jarvis causes conflict between her and Judy. Judy writes to daddy telling him about Jarvis and how she felt like a normal girl for the first time in her life. Later Judy finds out that the girl dormitory will be closing for three months over summer break, and this upsets Judy greatly since she has no home to return to. The next day Judy receives a letter from the orphanage stating that she can return for the summer if she needs someplace to stay, needless to say this almost destroys Judy. As the school is closing for the summer Judy prepares to return to the orphanage, then at the last minute she is granted a reprieve and Mr Griggs makes arrangements for Judy to spend the summer at a farm. Well that’s all for episode 10, below are some screen shots from the show.

     This episode concludes Judy’s first year of high school, while Judy is doing well in her studies she is still dealing with issues about her past. Judy still has not told anyone about her upbringing at the orphanage, this secret constantly hovers like a dark shadow over her. But the endearing thing about this series is how the simple things in life give great pleasure to Judy. Because of the bleak environment at the orphanage she grew up in, small thinks like a good meal, nice candy, a good book, a clean bedroom, and common kindness bring her joy. Also I enjoy her interaction with her roommates; Julia a blue-blood rich girl has all the airs that go along with her status, and Sallie a upper middle-class girl with Midwestern sensibilities, set up a situation for great value clashes. One thing I look forward to is watching all three of the girls growing up, but the main issue will be if Judy will ever come to terms with who she really is.  

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     Well, this is the last Lucky Star  episode. The final episode starts off with the two groups of girls (Konata & friends, Yu-chan & friends) looking over the school’s bulletin board. The flier on the board makes the announcement for the school’s upcoming cultural festival. Patty decides that she wants to do a cheer-leading act for the cultural festivals’ opening ceremony, she manages to talk Yu-chan and her friends into helping but she’s a few girls short. So Patty uses a special event ticket to bribe Konata in to helping, and Konata talks her friends into helping too. 

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     So as the cultural festival draws nearer Kagami asks Konata about the practice schedule, and Konata says that Patty hasn’t told her anything yet. Then Kagami jumps all over Patty telling her to get her shit together. While preparing for the festival the girls and their parents reflect on what they did for their cultural festivals, and the girls find out that most of the stuff their parents did is the same kind of stuff they still do today. The next day the girls continue to get ready for the festival, Akira shows up for a rehearsal of her appearance at the school’s festival, and Shiraishi and her get into it again. The girls continue to practice until the day before the festival.

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     Then the show ends with the girls up on the school stage right as the curtain rises, the girls are very nervous about their performance, and then the episode finishes on a light hearted moment right as the curtain rises. Below are some screen shots from the final episode.

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     Well Lucky Star  ended the same way the it started, the series began as a light hearted comedic romp filled with small skits sent out with love to anime otaku everywhere, and that’s the way the show ended. The last episode showcased all quaky character traits of the girls that made them so endearing to hardcore anime fans, including me. No graduation ceremony, no tearful goodbyes, no walking off into the sunset, the show ended on a laugh with a wink and a nod to the fans. I think that the two screen shots below sums up entire vibe of the Lucky Star  series in a nutshell. 

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     Well here we are, only one episode of Lucky Star  remains, so here’s the review of episode 23. Well the episode starts off slowly with little skits about other peoples’ computers, Spam mail, and downloading files. Then Yui stops over to visit Yu-chan and Konata, both of them being sick. Then Yu-chan’s friends come over to visit her, and Konata makes comments about moe to Tamura. Also the subject of Manami small breast insecurities turn up, leading to some pretty vivid yuri thoughts by Tamura. The ongoing Miyuki dentist saga continues at full force, poor Miyuki her dental work is never done. Then Konata, her dad, and Yu-chan, watch a dog show, with Yu-chan making comments on how cute the dogs are, and Konata and her dad making otaku remarks about the handlers. Then the rest of the episode is about the relationship’s between the two groups of girls, Yu-chan and her friends, the main group of girls, and Kagami and her classmates. A lot of discussion of moe takes place within all the groups of girls. Then at the end of the episode Akira and Shiraishi must deal with the aftermath of the destruction of the Lucky Channel  television set. Well that’s all, below are some screenshots from the episode.

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     With only one last shot of Luck Star  remaining it’s almost like the feeling I get when I find out that I only have one smoke left in my pack and it’s too late to stop at the store. This episode of Lucky Star surprised me in many ways, first I thought that it would have continued on with the more emotional and melancholy feel of the previous episodes. But, instead the show returned to the feel of the early episodes. The topics of this episode were many and varied, manga, anime, dentists, computers, and of course moe. The concept of moe permeated this entire episode completely. The only clue to this being the last episode was is the viewing of the real and symbolic destruction of the Lucky Channel  television set by Akira and Shiraishi. I haven’t got a clue on how they’ll end the series. I would like the series to end with the girls walking off into the sunset with the same endearing good natured qualities that made this show so enjoyable. No sad ending please, after all there has to be life after high school in anime.  

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     Lucky Star 22  starts off with little skits about gas prices, otaku buying habits, and baseball, then a lot of smaller gags follow. Then there is a pretty funny gag involving Yu-chan and Konata that has do do with opening jars and bags of chips. Then Konata asks her dad if she or Yu-chan were approached by a guy from the same grade would that make him a lolicon, and her dad replies, no that would probably OK, but because of Konata’s appearance it might be suspect. Then Konata asks her dad what about him? He fell in love with someone like her mother (Kanata), and she did look very young. Then Konata tells her dad that she can see why he fell in love with her mother, but why did she marry him? This question leads to Konata’s dad explaining his relationship with Kanata to Konata, all the while Kanata’s ghost watches. Well That’s all, below are some screen shots.

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Below are some screen shots of the Kanata part of the anime.

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     I found this episode of Lucky Star  to be very fulfilling and touching. It seems that the whole issue of why Konata’s mother (Kanata) would have married her dad has been bothering her for some time, It was even said jokingly that she might have been forced. But seeing the flashbacks of their relationships really fleshed out the the whole story nicely. He truly did love her, and Kanata truly loved him, flaws and all. As the end of Lucky Star  approaches it definitely has taken on a more melancholy, and somber mood. Last episode Kagami thought she had a chance at romance, and this episode dealt with Konata’s mother and father’s love for each other. For all the deadpan humor and in-jokes this series, in the end, has been a sweet and loving  look at all main characters and their relationships with each other.

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