Real Neat Blog Award

Firstly, thanks to Mia over at 9tailedkitsune.com for the nomination 🙂

I haven’t been involved in a blog-tag-chain-nom for many moons – not since I used to be a poet with my old blog, so it’s nice to get back into a community!

So, as many of you will already know, here’s the structure – I’ll answer Mia’s great questions now and then write up some of my own below, and finally nominate a few folks and see who else is able to jump on board.

1. Is piracy killing or helping the anime industry?

Harming for sure, I reckon – especially now that legal streaming is an option, making anime consumption about 1000% cheaper than it was decades ago. And (as I think we all know) the less income a studio sees from any given series, the less chance there is of getting a continuation of that series. (And of course, I want folks to financially support the artists they love.)

2. What anime are you planning to watch in 2020?

Gurren Lagan – it’s one of the more significant gaps in my knowledge of the Gainax filmography, so I definitely have to remedy that this year. For me, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as Neon Genesis or Nadia but that’s truly not important; and I shouldn’t be comparing them too much, and especially not before I’ve actually seen the series!

3. What is your favorite anime quote and why?

This was hard! I had to go back to an old fav, Cowboy Bebop. I nearly went with Jet’s lesson from Toys in the Attic but instead, I’ll stay with him but switch to a different episode:

Men only think about their past right before death, as if they were searching frantically for proof they were alive.

– Jet, Cowboy Bebop

I think it’s one of my favourite quotes because I like how it illustrates something about his character – I see him as someone who looks back a lot, but hides it too. And for someone who is (rightfully) hard on Spike about running from the past, Jet also maybe sets an example throughout the series re: confronting that past. The quote itself (and the preceding mini-monologue) also works as clear foreshadowing of something that’s been foreshadowed for pretty much the entire series.

4. Who is your favorite anime couple?

Edward and Winry come to mind first if we’re going for romantic couples, though I always liked the way Jean and Nadia end up complimenting each other across the course of Nadia Secret of Blue Water too.

5. What is your favorite video game?

It’s tough narrowing these down to a single choice 😀

So, I think I’ll cheat here and mention a favourite video game from a specific console, which should help me narrow down the field… a little, lol. I’ll stick with the Sega Megadrive firstly, and then skip over some classic games like Sonic 2 and Streets of Rage 3 and choose Phantasy Star IV.

Phantasy Star IV was one of the first few JRPGs I played and it had everything you’d expect from the genre; turn-based battles, distinctive characters and long storylines but also an interesting ‘comic book’ panel approach to cut scenes, which I loved. There was also a macro feature you could use in battle and that was an amazing, time-saving perk that I hope more modern games revitalise.

6. If you could meet only 3 anime characters IRL (in real life) who would they be?

I reckon I’ll accidentally leave out someone that I’d love to chat with and come back later and want to change my mind, but here goes:

Ergo Proxy

This would actually be hard work, meeting Ergo Proxy, but it would be at the very least, fascinating to meet someone so vast… of course, I’d only want to do so under strict conditions I think.

Vash The Stampede

I think Vash would be a really fun guy to be around 🙂

Nausicaa

One of Miyazaki’s heroine traits is to have them transform adversaries into allies via kindness and that’s always impressed me about Nausicaa, so it’d be fun to meet her and maybe ask her to teach me how to ride the Mēve, though I’d probably end up chickening out.

7. Do you recall the 3 worst anime you have ever seen?

Not too well – but I have (like all of us no doubt) abandoned more than a few over the years: 7 Seeds, Coppelion and The Rising of the Shield Hero come to mind. Based on my posts about them, I think it was a mixture of predictability and what felt like a lack of tension within the early episode(s).


Okay! So here’s my questions – I’ve tried to come up with a mix of ones I think might be short or long answers but also, just a warning that the first one might kinda push everyone into spoiler territory:

  • 1. If you could tweak the ending to any series or film, what would you do?
  • 2. If you could replace any world leader with an anime character, who would you choose?
  • 3. What is your all time favourite anime action sequence? (doesn’t have to be a fight, of course)
  • 4. Which anime (film/series/OVA) did you find yourself thinking about long after it ended?
  • 5. What would you say is your favourite anime OST (or just one song perhaps) and why?
  • 6. Who is your favourite director/writer and what do you want to see from them in the future?
  • 7. Who are your top 3 character designers?

The Rules

  • 1. Display the logo.
  • 2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
  • 3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
  • 4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
  • 5. Ask them 7 questions.

And now, nominating any one below who’s able to get involved (hopefully you haven’t been tagged too many times already), with thanks for being extra welcoming to me over these first with months of posting my reviews!

(Hope I didn’t miss anyone – also, can I tag someone back? If so, I’d tag 9tailedkitsune and get to seven :D)

Twitter Meme “Anime I…”

So, this was just a fleeting but fun meme doing the rounds on Twitter the other day but I didn’t end up posting there because I was too slow but also because the platform is rather ‘cramped’ when it comes to sharing reasons behind your choices 😀

And so, here’s that meme – the bare list first and then a few thoughts to go with it:

Anime I hate: I have no pithy answer here – so I’ll start with a nice ‘N/A

Anime I think is overrated: Anything that has 200+ episodes

Anime I think is underrated: Mushi-Shi

Anime I love: Nadia Secret of Blue Water

Anime I secretly love: Steins;Gate

Favourite anime of all time: Cowboy Bebop

Firstly, I don’t have much to report on the ‘anime I hate’ section because anything I haven’t enjoyed enough to continue watching… I didn’t continue watching, and so don’t have that much to say. I did do a short ‘Abandoned’ post a while back but I didn’t care enough to hate any of those shows, that’s for sure.

For the second item on the list I imagine you can guess the kinds of shows that I don’t have time for (literally and figuratively). If I’m feeling a bit grumpy I might even adjust that number to 100+ and yeah, I’m sure if I looked I’d find some exceptions quite easily… but for me, the risk to reward ratio is way off. More, the way a story ends is so, so important and obviously I hope, a show that eventually becomes more of a cash-cow* than an endeavour to tell a story, tends to dip sharply in quality all too soon and worse, fails to actually have an ending at all.

Now, in some ways calling Mushi-Shi ‘underrated’ might be a bit inaccurate as it’s highly regarded really, but certainly it tops few All-Time lists out there. I love Ginko, Yuto Nakano’s performance too and all the folktales woven throughout the episodic narrative. There’s a sombreness to the show too, which can even bring me down a little at times. Still, it’s my clear pick for the third item on the list.

For the ‘anime I love’ slot there are dozens of shows I could have included but today I went with Gainax’s lesser-known precursor to Neon Genesis – namely: Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water. No doubt I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a sucker for both the Adventure genre and Coming of Age stories too. I’m also sure at least a few anime fans are aware that Nadia has more than a few very obvious and painful filler episodes – but I’m able to both overlook and skip them. Eventually, I’ll do an episode/arc-based review on the series but for now, I’ll say that the slow reveal of the true darkness of some characters and the drip-feed of truth when it comes to their world really balances nicely against the optimism and determination of the young heroes.

‘Secretly’ isn’t quite right here but I chose Steins;Gate simply because I haven’t reviewed it yet (though I will sooner or later) so that’s as close as I could manage to a ‘secret’ show I love, I guess – though if I can come up with something that fits the implied criteria of embarrassing I’ll update this list 😀 In any event, Steins;Gate can really put you through the wringer – it’s got time-travel, drama, comedy and romance, all pluses!

And finally! I have to go with what some may well consider a boring choice here and go with Cowboy Bebop… mostly due to all the reasons in this post (and more reasons I haven’t got around to sharing yet!).

Update: Forgot to do this yesterday:

*Cash-cows serve that secondary purpose (financial security being the main) even if they become dull shows, because the money they earn a studio can then be used to produce works that are still great but might not appeal as widely, and also might not have ever been made without that income.

Cowboy Bebop 21st Anniversary Post

Cowboy Bebop is more than a Gateway Series

Obviously, I won’t be able to add anything new to discussion of a series that folks have been talking and writing about for 21 years but I still wanna mark the occasion on the blog because I’ve really enjoyed Cowboy Bebop.

To dip but swiftly into the category of ‘things already said about the show’ I’m sure words and phrases like bounty hunters in space, gateway series and trailblazing or greatest anime of all time and genre defying would be on that list and for me, most of those things feel true but one of them is also reductive.

It probably is a pretty good introduction for Western (sceptical) audiences looking to trial the genre of anime, a genre which is just as varied, in terms of content and quality, as any other. The show largely works as an introduction because both the cultural references and aesthetic tend to be very recognisable to western audiences – creator Shinichirō Watanabe mentions Dirty Harry, Bruce Lee and John Woo among his influences, and of course the OST is a veritable library of US and UK-influences.

But I still fear the words ‘gateway series’ are too often used to suggest that Cowboy Bebop is a creation of a certain depth and value only, a stepping stone toward works that are either better or more ‘difficult’. It can feel as though the series is ‘merely’ an entry point into an unfamiliar art form, the way that maybe you start with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue before trying Bitches Brew or Agharta. Yet that accessibility common to both Kind of Blue and Cowboy Bebop belies a depth and complexity that – like all great art – is better revealed during subsequent encounters.

I believe part of what makes the show so rewarding is how heavily intertextual Cowboy Bebop remains but also the episodic structure, which invites repeated viewings. Obviously, I won’t present any sort of exhaustive list here but I still want to mention a few things at least. Sometimes that intertextuality is more overt – like the similarities between Spike’s costume (and his frame for that matter) and Lupin the III or our hero’s Jeet Kune Do fighting style and the famous ‘water’ speech he gives in Episode 8 (Waltz for Venus) which Bruce Lee fans will certainly recognise. Another episode that many viewers often single out to demonstrate this is the Star Trek/Alien tribute, Toys in the Attic – but which I won’t spoil here 😀

Sometimes the references, depending on any given viewer’s cultural literacy, become subtler like the Spike/Vicious weapon swap a la John Woo, or the setting recreated from Desperado in Episode 1, Asteroid Blues, (which I didn’t pick up on at first but felt like I should have when I did finally put it together). Later in the series, as the oppressiveness of the odds stacked against the Bebop crew really starts to build we’re given session 20: Pierrot Le Fou. In this episode the colour palette becomes far more muted as greys and shadows really start to dominate in a way that evokes both film noir (without Jet this time however) and Gotham City. The Batman references won’t be surprising to folks who are aware that members from CB’s production team Sunrise also worked on Batman the Animated Series prior to Cowboy Bebop. Antagonist Tongpu himself clearly evokes (at least) both the Penguin and the Joker and much of the imagery throughout the episode brings Batman to mind (and it’s one of the more harrowing episodes in the series).

There’s a lot more to love about Cowboy Bebop but I also want to quickly mention another aspect that I’ve always enjoyed about the series. Blessedly, CB isn’t one of those shows that just keeps going and going until the character and story arcs are rehashed in an endlessly sad cycle of diminishing returns and contradictions. No, it actually presents a complete story – it has an ending! In part because of this, viewers are treated to some great character development, none perhaps more striking than that of Faye Valentine. Now, my personal favourite character remains Jet but Faye has the better character arc, I feel. Considering where she begins the series emotionally and where she ends up, it’s pretty grand. Again, I don’t want to offer spoilers in this post but Faye’s fear and her quest for belonging really plays out in a touching way – though there’s a certain montage involving other characters that’s probably just as moving, damn thing nearly gets me every time!

Now, I’m aware that I’ve only really offered three points to support my assertion that Cowboy Bebop is far more than a gateway series but they were the first ones that came to mind. If you’d like to read other folks’ exploring the depth of the show, there’s a series of posts available at Overthinking It which are pretty ace 🙂

Seatbelts – Cowboy Bebop (OST)

For me, this is the greatest soundtrack of any animated series – no hyperbole at all there, right? 😀

Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop (1998)

Case in point is probably the theme Tank! – where the hard bop just leaps out of the gates with its Latin percussion and Masato Honda’s wild alto solo that I never get tired of hearing, not to mention Rush or Too Good Too Bad… and I could go on.

As a jazz fan I guess I’m pretty biased (and I really like progressive big band too so that’s another tick) but the Seatbelts are such versatile players that this OST is never boring. They cover a lot of ground here; the Latin-influenced hard bop, the space-like saxophone ballads or sparser songs like ‘Waltz for Zizi’ which is both bittersweet and relaxing.


Most fans of the anime will know that Yoko Kanno (composer, piano) is behind the incredible breadth of music in Cowboy Bebop and while some of the other soundtracks from the TV series feature heaps of real standouts (like Elm or Call Me, Call Me) that are missing here, the self-titled OST is the more jazz-focused of them all and I reckon even ‘general’ jazz fans would find a lot to enjoy.

Usually the CD import has a fairly steep price-tag attached and I’m not sure re: streaming, but if you like Jazz you’ll probably like this.

5 Stars