Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rah Project

If you're feeling a strange, intangible excitement, a sense that something wonderful is immanent, rest assured that it's not just your imagination: I've started rewatching Rahxephon, and I'm going to keep you posted on an episode-by-episode basis. You're welcome.

Why am I doing this? Because I bought the whole series (I don't know why, I just did, okay?) and might as well get my money's worth. Plus it's out of print apparently, and unless people discover a way to, I don't know, download bootleg copies of video material from the Internet or something, it may be hard to find, so someone should keep some kind of anecdotal record.

Having rewatched the first two episodes: Okay, blandly attractive boy has goofy friends (whom I found tiresome the first time I watched it, but now prefer to the endless fighter-jet and giant robot routines. This is a rare instance of something from a anime becoming LESS tiresome to me over time.) KABOOM military attack, fighter jet porn, and his friend-who's-a-girl gets a slight cut. Wait a minute, her blood is red; as I recall a key plot point about seventy episodes later is that her blood is blue, indicating that she's unknowingly a Mulian (the filthy rotten alien invaders.) Is there a continuity screwup here, or do they justify it later? Something to watch for.

So protagonist-boy runs around bumping into several Mysterious Girls. Rei Ayanami of Neon Genesis Evangelion started an anime fad for Mysterious Girls, so this show has a bunch of them. One of the other big trends in anime at the time was the so-called harem anime, in which a nebbishy boy socializes with five or six hot girls. Rahxephon tries to subtly cater to the same adolescent-boy urges while maintaining plausible deniability with furrowed-brow Lost-style seriousness and plot complexity.

The only interesting things in episode one are

1. the Mulian giant robot things look like art projects: pseudo ethnographic, with broken doll heads and such. Sadly the main herobot, Rahxephon, looks much less interesting, like a big boring robot toy, plus feathers.

2. One of the mysterious girls is actually a mysterious woman, with hips and body fat, and therefore more interesting to look at than the usual willowy mysterious girls.

The only interesting things in episode two are

1. the inevitable connection between the boy and the robot is kept uncertain for a while, which in giant robot shows represents an innovation.

2. The boy's Mom is an evil scientist who, like all scientists everywhere, is doing something nefarious. Plus her minions seem to be keeping tabs on the boy hero for some reason. Some of the best episodes will revolve around Satan-Scientist-Mom. The Japanese, like the ancient Greeks, always do well with lurid family conflict.

3. The version of Tokyo where this takes place kinda sorta reminds me of Birmingham, and all the running and driving around prettily painted urban locations sweeps me back to happy days of tooling around The 'Ham. Cheap instant nostalgia is half of what anyone watches anime for.

So far there doesn't seem to be any compelling reason to keep watching this thing, but as I recall other fans who had seen more assured me that the series gets more interesting once it's established its giant robot bona fides, and they turned out to be right. One of the reasons I found this show compelling was that each episode had its own identity, even if that identity was often not much of an identity. It never quite felt as if I'd watched slight variations on the same episode three times in a row, which can't be said of most anime.

P. S. this is dated September 15 because I started writing it then, but I posted it October 2nd. Thanks, Blogger. What do you want for free?

Friday, September 10, 2010

One Man Show

I recently heard an NPR story about Hal Holbrook's one man show about Mark Twain. It's got me inspired. I'm planning a show about Edgar Allen Poe in which I get drunk and hit on teenage girls, followed by a show on H. P. Lovecraft in which I have a seizure if a non-WASP is in the audience.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Color Correction and Incorrect Conning

Today I was strolling across the college campus where my Wife works when a dude in a car (I don't notice things like makes and models, but it looked pretty nice) pulled up by me, leaned out the window, and started giving me a spiel. Started with a very long, very rehearsed routine about how he was a data something-or-other-supposed-to-sound-technical-and-impressive, doing fancy-pants computer work for the college, but he was in Charlotte by mistake and needed to get to Charleston and was out of gas money and his phone was booby-trapped or something, so could I do him a favor and go to an ATM with him and withdraw some money, he'd pay me back honest, he makes $130,000 a year and is totally good for it if I'd just help him out here.

Although one fantasizes about telling off con men, I slipped into my default response to such routines, which is a sort of counterspiel, a "huh, whu, I don' geddit, no speekie de engwish, duh der diddle doo, oh look a sunbeam."

He said "Sorry to interrupt you," and sharked off.

Thanks to my wife I know a lot of people who actually do work with technical stuff, actually do travel around, and actually do make a lot of money.

Item 1: They have better problem solving skills than the kind of shmoe who stops random people on the street to get help. In a jam they'd find campus security or whoever was arranging for them to be doing a job in the first place. They have connections, and even if they are desperate for money, they don't get desperate about the money, at least not in front of strangers.

Item Two: They don't lead with a Life's Work infodump. People who do sophisticated work, like people of breeding, communicate who and what they are with their bearing first and foremost. They don't bling it, they just are it. They'll bring up specifics when specifics are called for, but if they need a stranger's help they don't start with "Hey buddy, I do XYZ and I gotta favor to ask," they start with "Can you direct me to Campus Security?"

#

The other night we saw a cheezy 80's movie; what I think of as a time capsule movie, where you're not there for the narrative or whatever, you're there for clothes, hairdos, cars, all the cultural bricabrac. And we were satisfied customers. I bring it up because, in paying attention to the bright colors of the film, I noticed something you won't see in newer films.

The heroine was outdoors on a sunny day, and the different planes of her pale-skinned face were reflecting various colors, including green and blue. She really looked like a Fauvist portrait, but one would never notice it if one weren't contemplating the color scheme of the image, because our eyes harmonize this kind of thing all the time in real life. Without looking like amateurish filmmaking, it gave the picture a little reality.

You won't see that in modern films. We watched some Lost Sseason Two) the next night, and I looked for any stray bits of reflected color on peoples' faces.

Fergit it. One thing future generations will mock about current movies and TV is that they color-correct everything to death. Got a face? It'll be beige, chocolate or orange. So will the background, if it isn't blue.

That's one reason I find myself drawn to older films (okay, it was Teen Witch, pure schlock but wonderful Eighties duds and 'dos.) Whatever may be phony or false in them, the reflections on the actors' faces have some bearing on reality.