Friday, November 23, 2001

Nov 23 2001

I had the day off of work today, so my Mom and I went shopping. We had great success finding Christmas presents and such things.

Particularly, I happened across an anime import store. It contains mostly Hello Kitty merchandise, but they have a wide selection of CD’s, wallscrolls, and models. Most importantly, they’re at American prices; I don’t have to pay USD $35 for a CD. I ended up spending $90 there, on a variety of stuff I’d never dreamed of finding: Tenchi Muyo! CDs, a Totoro plushie, and one of the Gunsmith Cats manga books. This is in addition to the anime DVDs I bought for myself at Suncoast.

I wonder if I’ll ever get used to manga…in that Gunsmith Cats manga, May works at a brothel for a day to get information about a case, and much is made of her sexual prowess. She’s just barely eighteen, not to mention her nude shot, and her…ummm…entrance exam. But I think I’ve made my point.

As you can tell, I couldn’t want to dive into my goodies. One of the Tenchi CDs turned out to be essentially an anime music video collection; music from the series, set to clips from the OVAs. Very cool stuff.

I also watched the first half of the Irresponsible Captain Tylor disc. I really like the show, as it manages to be an outright comedy (much like, say, The Honeymooners, where the screwball comedy always came first) while still sprinkling some fascinating comments on leadership, war, etc. into the mix. The setting just begs for personal interpretations of every character’s perspective.

Tylor is perhaps the most laid-back man in history, but rather than land him in trouble, his attitude seems to save his bacon over and over. Is this luck? It appears to be, but along the way Tylor makes some lovely observations about human nature. Is he playing it cool and trying to teach everyone something important? Or is he just lucky besides being observant? I can’t tell, and therein lies much of the fun.

I then finished watching the first Robotech collection — it’s rare to find anything that’s so much unmitigated fun — before trying Soul Music, a British-made animation of the Terry Pratchett book of the same name. My love for Terry Pratchett was ignited by Soul Music, so when I saw this in the store, I couldn’t resist buying it.

[Soul Music cover]

How was it? For an aspiring animator, it’s quite instructive. The only really bad element of Soul Music is the visuals. It looks bad, and that ruins it.

Now, this may sound like a trite, veiled insult. It isn’t. Look at it this way: The voice acting’s good. The adaptation’s decent. The music is quite good. The special effects are well-done. The pacing’s OK. But the visuals are so vital that, when they failed, they ruined the entire thing.

The animators failed in two ways: (1) the character designs are terrible, and (2) the animation isn’t matched to the backgrounds. The characters are drawn using simple, crispy, cartoony colors, while the backgrounds are generally detailed, soft, and dark. It feels like the characters are floating several feet from their surroundings.

The weak direction doesn’t help. If the visuals were OK, then the confusing direction wouldn’t be so noticeable. Unfortunately, the director chose odd, constantly-changing camera angles, and seemed to favor short shots. I found myself disoriented and annoyed at the frenetic pace.

OTOH, translating a book to a miniseries (which, I assume, was the origin of this work) is incredibly difficult, especially one of Pratchett’s touching and cerebral comedies. Boy, there’s a phrase I’ll probably never use to describe any other author’s work: “touching and cerebral comedies.”

In any event, that’s all I have to report for now. I’ll probably post a POV review tomorrow.

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