Sunday, December 27 2009

In the Pipeline #1

I've been watching several anime series over the past weeks, but have not yet found the time to actually write something down about them. However, as the Christmas holidays have recently started, I should soon be able to find the time to write some posts.

So far I've finished watching Haibane Renmei, as well as Cowboy Bebop and the film Summer Wars. I've also been revisiting the Dragonball series, so expect a post on that as well. The review of Love Hina, which I promised earlier, should also be available soon.

If time permits I might even throw in some reviews of games I've been playing recently, as well as some info on the modding projects I'm involved in.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 02:10 | No Comments | Add Comment
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Friday, December 11 2009

Haibane Renmei - First Impressions

My first real blog post! I'm a real blogging noob, and even anime is something I have not really gone into in any significant detail before, so please bear in mind that this is all very new to me.

I will not go into the content of the show in too great detail, as that has undoubtedly been done many times before in a much more comprehensive way than I could achieve. I will simply give my opinion on what I think of the show, what I find good and bad, and what it makes me think about.

My first impression of the show was complete and utter confusion. We are introduced to Rakka (in fact that name is only given to her about halfway through the first episode), a girl who inexplicably wakes up in a totally unfamiliar place, inhabited by total strangers. She actually doesn't as much wake up as hatch from a giant egg that had nested itself in one of the rooms of this strange place.

Incredibly enough, things get even weirder from there, when she meets the people that inhabit this place. They are manlike in appearance, except for the fact that they have a pair of feathery wings protruding from their shoulders and a glowing halo floating over their craniums. They seem to represent all age groups from small children up to around the mid-twenties range, and apparently are exclusively females. Naturally, all of them speak fluid Japanese, even though some of them appear to be from a slightly more European origin.

Rakka rather quickly sprouts a pair of wings herself (which the subtitles claim to be charcoal grey, though they definitely seem plain white to me), and is given a halo of her own. However, she can't manage to balance it on her head, so she has to use some sort of holding device (read: a headband with some iron wire attached) in order to keep it in place, much to the amusement of the younger residents.

When she finally starts to recover from this entire ordeal, we finally get some amount of information about what this place is. The manor itself (which seems somewhat Mediterranean in fashion, though I could be mistaken) is known as “Old Home”, and the people who inhabit it are called the “Haibane”. All of them were born in a similar fashion to Rakka, and none seem to know where they came from or what their life was like before they woke up there. For some reason though all of them are sure they had a life and family somewhere else before they came to Old Home, which seems kind of weird to me as there is no evidence whatsoever pointing in that direction, but let's just put it down to the sub-conscience for the time being.

The Haibane are not confined to Old Home, nor is their existence unknown to other people. There is a village not too far from where they live, who all know that they inhabit the house. The village itself is secluded, however, and its inhabitants (including the Haibane) are not permitted to venture outside the walls. This leads to some interesting customs, as they do need to trade with the outside world. This is done through the Toga, the only people who are allowed to communicate with these traders from the outside world.

That's pretty much a basic outline of the setting in the first two episodes.

So what do I think of it so far? I mentioned before that the first episode (and the second one as well, though to a lesser extent) confused me enormously, and frankly this is the prevalent feeling I get so far. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing – far from it in fact. I would even go as far as to say that this is the series' greatest strength so far. It perfectly reflects the state of mind of Rakka, who can also feel nothing but confusion about this sudden and dramatic change of environment. The viewer is as surprised by everything he sees as she is, and I think this is a rare quality seldom seen in even the best series or films.

I must admit though that I also find it slightly annoying to have absolutely no sense of where the story is going, though I think this is largely due to watching a lot of series and films where the protagonist's ultimate goal is defined in the first ten minutes, followed by never ending action (something I have become increasingly intolerant for over the last year or so). In a sense, being used to this kind of material has ruined my viewing experience of many things, but that is something I will possibly go into in more detail later.

To get back to my ideas about Haibane Renmei, I am very interested in finding out more about what the relations between the Haibane and the village are like. So far it seems like the Haibane are somewhat of a repressed minority, bordering on slaves to be honest. For one, they are not allowed to posses money and can only use what the townspeople no longer need, but they do need to get a job in the village (unpaid, I assume). This is currently said to be in repayment of the village allowing them to stay in Old Home, but I have a hunch that there is more to it than that. Also the role of the so-called Haibane Renmei, whom are apparently some sort of liaisons between the Haibane and the village, is as of yet unclear and therefore very intriguing.

On a different note, I already have begun to like all the characters presented so far. They seem to be very diverse, all with their own personality and background. I am also rather fond of the art style, the characters are rendered and animated beautifully, and the at times somewhat more rough, almost impressionistic backgrounds go with the atmosphere very well.s

My greatest fear thus far is that I have so many and such high expectations that the series will be one giant anticlimax. I have watched so many Hollywood-styled films and series that I have come to expect everything to not be as it seems, whereas it is of course perfectly possible that such schemes and plot twists are not the driving force behind a series. I'm trying my best not to expect anything, but this is proving to be harder than I thought. I simply naturally assume that something is terribly wrong with that village and the Haibane Renmei, just as I naturally assume we will learn more about where the Haibane come from.

I guess only time will tell.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 15:23 | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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Thursday, December 10 2009

Introduction

The other day I was mentioning the pedobear to one of my friends, who didn't know what it was. I went looking for a picture, and came across Steven's post on Chizumatic about the origin of the pedobear. I read the post, and then continued to check out the rest of the site. It was as if I had struck a gold mine. Anime, glorious anime, as far as the eye could see!

I must admit that before coming across Chizumatic I wasn't really into anime at all. I used to watch Pokemon when I was a kid, as well as Dragonball Z and Dragonball GT, and later I went on to watch the original Dragonball. At some point I also came across Love Hina, which I would call my first "true" anime series, as the others were all dubs and I watched them more as one of many other cartoons than specifically as anime.

Love Hina was a nice series, and I ended up watching it about six times over a period of two years or so. However, it had some obvious flaws, such as the lack of a true ending (the production company went bankrupt after making the first season, the first episode of the second season, two holiday specials, and thee OVA episodes), repetitiveness of certain elements (take the Naru-punch, for example: it was funny in the beginning, but seeing it about three times each episode is somewhat of an overkill) and several filler episodes which had nothing to do with the main story (though they were generally quite funny). I'm probably going to write a more detailed review somewhere during the holidays.

Next to an interest in anime, I have had a lifelong passion for video games. It started when I was about six or seven years old: my stepbrother introduced me to the game Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation, and I have been playing games ever since. At the time I knew no English whatsoever (I'm not a native speaker), but still I played the games for hours and hours. When my stepbrother left the house, he took the game with him, and it appeared that that was that.

Things didn't go as I expected though, and several years later I got my own PS and immediately bought FFVII as well. At this time I was beginning to understand a bit of English, and I immediately fell in love with the game and its characters. I think the death of Aeris is still the closest I came to crying during any game, series or film I've seen to date. I spent at least 1000 hours playing that game, and it remains my all time favourite until this very day.

The reason I made the shift to PC gaming was the announcement of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Five years back I went on vacation to Australia, and my mother bought me a magazine entitle PC Gameplay, a PC exclusive gaming magazine. I enjoyed it, and continued to read later edition of the magazine (I still have a subscription at the present time). When Oblivion was announced I was absolutely flabbergasted by the graphics and the gameplay options. However, I also quickly realised that I would never be able to play it on the PC I owned at that time (a 1.0 GHz AMD Athlon and a GeForce 2 series video card), so I decided to start saving for a killer PC. I bought it in the summer of 2007, and have been hooked on PC gaming ever since.

One other title that deserves a special mentioning is Crysis. Never before in my life (and until this day never after) had I seen such graphics on my screen. After a while I also learned about the included Sandbox 2 Editor, as well as being introduced to Crytek's official modding portal Crymod. At the present time I am a member of their staff team (on a voluntary basis) - in fact only a week ago I celebrated my one year anniversary there. At the moment I am involved in several modifications; expect posts about that in the holidays as well.

Lastly, it must be said that I have never blogged before in my life, so this is all very new to me. I hope that I will be able to entertain and inform people who read this blog nonetheless (if anyone even reads it that is). Comments are always welcome, so please do let me know what you think!

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at 13:33 | No Comments | Add Comment
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