Archive for the 'Culture' Category

15
Dec
10

Random Sketches 2010 December Part I

Cecily Cambell from The Sacred Blacksmith

Source: Unidentified but official looking artwork

As with all other works, click on image for the larger version.

More to come.

31
Oct
10

The NeverEnding Story, Part IV: The Review of The NeverEnding Story, Part I

NOTE: The short title of this post is “The NeverEnding Story, Part IV” as in the sequel to the three movies.  Hence “The NeverEnding Story, Part IV” subtitled “The Review of  The NeverEnding Story, Part I” is a review of the original “The NeverEnding Story” movie.  However, due to licensing whatnots, you can, at best, consider this as a parody of a parody of a review of a parody of the movie that was not conceptualized as a parody when first viewed but was reviewed with the movie as a parody in mind.   Thank you.

———-

Prior to Transformers The Movie and G. I. Joe The Movie (1986 and 1987, respectively,) I was very much influenced by another movie called  The NeverEnding Story (1984) during the course of  my childhood.  Despite the fact that I was not aware of the movie’s existence until 10 years or so after it was initially screened in the theatres, the movie was and will always be timeless for me.  I recently rented a DVD version of the movie from the local library due to closures of all video/DVD rental establishments in the lower 48 states.  (I have yet to succumb to subscribing to anything with the word “net” in it.)

First of all, before popping in the DVD, I wanted to make sure that I was to prepared for a huge disappointment at how the movie has aged.  It was an 80’s movie after all.  If The NeverEnding Story had been a non-special-effects movie like The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I might have thought differently.  However, there was the case of Back to the Future series which somehow endured the test of time even in this age of computer graphics and robot actors/actresses, i.e. R. Megan Fox.

So, my pathetic adventure started with the title screen with the ever grandiose and magnificent prelude of a theme song appropriately titled The Never Ending Story.  The NeverEnding Story, from my memory, had been one of few movies that actually have the theme song played at the beginning of the movie where the actual title of the movie is sung in the lyrics.  Forget what I just wrote, I just remembered Flash Gordon.  You remember that one?  The one that sounds like Queen’s Bicycle.  Anyhow, back to the subject at hand.

Engorged with a feminine voice drowning in a sea of synthesized staccato of acid gumdrops, the movie opens and displays its title over a thick flow of twilight haze, obviously left over from the writers and editors trying to figure out how to best enjoy the drugs still left over from the 70s.

Speaking of engorged, this is Morla.  Morla is a character in the movie that takes the form of a turtle that is more or less a large hill.  The screenshot here shows Morla speaking to the main character Atreyu holding unto a tree branch directly in front of Morla.  He is hardly visible but that’s not important.

Did I mention that this movie is actually rated PG?

That’s nothing to be excited about, I guess.  Above shows Atreyu and a random gnome checking something out with the “telescope” of some sort.

Nothing to be excited about, right?!?!?!

If you click on the image and you can see that those are 2 pairs of exposed nipples and breateses.  Yes, this movie was still rated PG!

After watching this scene, I felt rage bigger than the Statue of Liberty.  At least, HERS was covered.

After doing some research, I realized that this movie was actually based on a German novel from GERMANY written in GERMAN with the title of Die unendliche Geschichte. BUT!!! BUT!!! This is a review of a movie and not the next segment of my ongoing series of “What is Wrong with These Foreigners!?”

Going back to possible disappointments, I was utterly shocked at how well the special effects held out.  I expected Styrofoam rocks and badly sync’d puppetry but instead I was greeted with Styrofoam rocks that sounded like real rocks and puppets that far surpass Jar Jar Binks.  For an 80s movie, the special effects and especially sound effects were superb.  The NeverEnding Story is a classic example of solid cohesion between classic puppetry, green-screen, painted scenery, and forced perspective.  I’m surprised that I didn’t notice a single instance of stop motion animation.

Aside from mere visual and aural aspects, the movie did contain a very important moral message.  Without really spoiling a 25 year old movie and to put it as succinctly as possible, the movie sums up what is still true to this day, that one must always keep imagination and hope alive.

05
Oct
10

Obscure Anime Series That You Haven’t Seen (and Won’t See): Part III

Have you ever heard of Neon Genesis Evangelion? FLCL? Nadia: Secret of Blue Water? Gurren Lagann?  (Note: All 27 episodes of Gurren Lagann is currrently available on Hulu)

I’m sure you haven’t.  The above mentioned anime series are some of the MOST obscure anime EVER created.

And who in the world of anime is behind this obscurity?  None other than Gainax!

Have you ever heard of them?!  I haven’t… that is until now.  Turns out back when Gainax people were still amateurs (quite literally so,) they did this.  When this animation short was played in Daicon IV, I’m guessing many eyes were aghast with shame and embarrassment at the poor quality of such amateurish project.  Can you believe it?  This was before they started getting paid for doing so.  Such shameless candor these guys showed.  Such blasphemous and heinous act of doodling if it can even be called that.

Folks, it turns out Gainax was not finished with their meddlesome act of desecrating the anime culture.

Their newest release comes in a Pandora’s box ready to unleash its wrath at unsuspecting audience and non-audience alike.

Of course, I am acting as the opener of the box but I shall take no blame.

Panty & Stockings with Garterbelt is a new anime series produced by Gainax.

As the name implies this show is about Panty & Stockings with Garterbelt.

Since I will not be spoiling any plot I will get to the point.

Panty and Stockings are two angels who were rejected from heaven and thus must gather (I’m not making this up) H-coins to re-enter the celestial bastion.  Garterbelt, as far as I could gather, is a priest of some sort.  I am guessing that since he lives in a church and we all know only priests live in churches.

Here is what I think Panty and Stockings look like, respectively.

Left: Panty, Right: Stockings

Garterbelt has a dark complexion and sports a giant afro.

You are probably wondering what this show is about.  Aside from what I have mentioned (about coins and such.)  I cannot tell you what this show is about.  I can, however, tell you that this show is a cross between Powerpuff Girls and one of those avant-garde cartoons from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim segment.

As the title implies, it contains some “graphic elements” as shown below.

From Panty's "transformation" scene

Since this show is available on Crunchyroll, an anime streaming site, you should all check it out.

Despite me poking fun at Gainax, this one’s another looker as expected.

Up next, I draw an actual human figure. . . depicted as a 4 sided polygon.

29
Sep
10

What’s Wrong with These Foreigners?! – Part I

So there I was prancing about in the Inter Web, which we all know, is a series of tubes transported by large dump trucks dumping God knows what to God knows where.  Thanks to the late former Senator Stevens, I now know my way around the Web like the backs of my hairy fists.  And here I was I run into something that I found to be extremely disturbing in that 4th dimensional sense.

Did you know that Windows 7 was marketed in Japan using an anthropomorphic Windows 7 character?  I mean what is wrong with these foreigners?!  Here in the good old New World, we like our Windows completely sanitized and devoid of any humanoid depictions of such inhuman product as the Windows Operating System courtesy of the Microsoft Corporation which is definitely not funding this particular article nor contributing anything to my barren pockets.

In fact, this past year when Windows 7 was released in Japan, a “special” Windows 7 was available ONLY IN JAPAN with the addition of themes and sounds of a character named Nanami Madobe.  Apparently, and I only know this because someone told me so, “nana” in Japanese means seven!  And of course, this particular character had a voice to go with it too.  The voice actress behind this abomination was none other than Nana Mizuki, supposedly popular voice actress and an accomplished singer, so I hear.  Did you notice the “nana” in her name too?  I was gasping for air with all this conspiracy whirling about me and by these extremely foreign acts by a bunch of foreigners in their foreign land with their strange foreign customs.

Here is a witness depiction of this abomination.

Nanami Madobe. The cat is probably included in the foreign version of Windows 7.

I was more than relieved when I convinced myself that because almost a year had passed since the abomination’s birth, there would be little to no effect to the rest of the cultured and decent worlds.  UNTIL… I found out about THIS!

Microsoft Corporation’s rival to the Adobe Flash software has a glitzy ring to it, so called Silverlight.  You may have noticed, if you are an owner of a Windows installed computer, that Silverlight loves updating itself almost as much as your outdated antivirus software telling you that you will lose your job and family if you do not renew subscription right now.  In fact the only reason I recognized the name was because it happened to be updating itself as we speak.

Okay, back to the subject.  My rage begins here.  So a bunch of foreigners in Taiwan apparently thought it appropriate to create an anthromorphic Silverlight to market it.  I mean, “what?!”  After finally closing my eyes to the the plights of Windows 7 in Japan I see screams of character marketing in another Asian nation.  The profanity that this implies is devastating.  So, instead of relying on the extremely vague and what appears to me like a deformed mobius strip, Microsoft in Taiwan opted for a 2D depiction of a harlot codenamed Hikaru prostituting herself to the general masses to bring tainted market share from the Adobe Flash users.

Harlot depicted below.

Hikaru. Note: Above depiction was constructed during an extreme rage and thus the placement of the head is unintentional.

So, the question lingers… What’s wrong with these foreigners?!  The answer to which, if I were able to answer it, I feel is best left and perhaps buried in a pile of mud to be preserved as fossilized remains to be dug up by some future denizen a million years from now to learn from our foreigners’ erring ways.

29
Sep
10

Obscure Anime Series That You Haven’t Seen (and Won’t See): Part II

Here is another article on an anime series that most of you may have never heard of.

Kaichou wa Maid-sama! (会長はメイド様!) Wikipedia link is here.

This one is based on a shoujo manga, which is mainly geared toward the female audience.

The title is loosely translated as “The President is a Maid.”  Unfortunately, I was turned off by this loose translation as I was expecting a cross-dressing middle aged corporate business man prancing about as a protagonist.

However, I realized such chauvinistic generalization would not fit this humble writer, so I decided to give this anime a try.

After watching the first 2 minutes of the first episode, I realized that I had grossly mistranslated the title.  The “president” was actually referring to “president of the school council” and not a corporate “president” which would use the same 2 kanji in Japanese, Kaichou (会長).

The premise of the anime as with the original manga from which it is based is that the president of the school council (the female protagonist) has an after school job where she works as a server at a maid cafe, which would be quite an embarrassment in real life.  For those that are not familiar with some of the lesser forms of Japanese culture, and by lesser I mean “sub” as in subculture.  A maid cafe is an atypical cafe establishment where the servers (typically female) are dressed in what we in the West would call French maid outfit and address their customers as “master” or Go-shu-jin-sama (ご主人様.)

The main protagonist of the series looks something like this.

Misaki Ayuazawa. Note: The subject depicted above may differ in appearance to the actual subject.

Her not-quite-beau and male adonis plays the love interest which we all know will end up with the heroine anyway.

He looks something like this.

Takumi Usui. Note: This subject depicted above also may differ in appearance to the actual subject.

To prevent myself from spoiling the plot for those of you who may amuse themselves by learning more about this series but also to prevent myself from spewing gibberish and to post these sketches with some sort of relevence I will end the article here.

But I assure you my benevolent readers, this show is quite interesting.

27
Apr
10

Obscure Anime Series That You Haven’t Seen (and Won’t See): Part I

When we say “anime” in America, we often refer to mega hits like Ponyo or one of those Ghibli flicks. The more apt gurus of anime may even drop names of classics like Akira, Evangelion, or Cowboy Bebop.

Despite growing popularity of diverse anime franchises, here in America, we are lucky just to catch a glimpse of few of the best that Japan has to offer. Of course, in the process, we end up missing out on niche anime also.

Although, not the case in Japan, “in America” (to quote a famous Yu-gi-oh parody,) these some excellent works of anime are known to only a few crazed anime maniacs not satiated with the cache of works officially imported from the land of the sun to the United States.

Some of these “obscure” works of anime (TV series mainly) that I would like to mention have been abandoned by US-based anime publishers but remain most dearly in my heart… literally… in my heart, lodged in there, somewhere, bleeding…

Part I of this segment deals with a show called Tentai Senshi Sunred. A show so fresh, the final episode of its second season only ended a month ago or so. Tentai Senshi Sunred (or Astro Fighter Sunred to English speaking fans) is an amusing super hero parody. Such parodies are never too original but I feel that Sunred deserves more attention for its content than what it’s setting itself out to be.

Tentai Senshi (Astro fighter) Sunred

Of course, when we talk about super hero parodies, we can’t forget about the American-made (and drawn in Korea) parodies like The Tick, an absurd comic adventure of a super hero with a brick for a brain and a very Sancho Panza-esque sidekick. (Hm.. remember my old post about Don Quixote? The yet to be finished Part II of that post will be about Sancho Panza) and more recently, Aqua Teen Hunger Force on Adult Swim block of venerable Ted Turner’s Cartoon Network. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is basically about three unemployed super heroes doing things that are typically done in Southpark. Despite some originality, it is a show more known for its popularity among pot heads.

Now that you have grasped what a super hero parody is typically like. We can now talk about how awesome Sunred is. Let me remind you, my readers, I am in no way biased. I am writing this as an unbiased individual writing about something I care little or nothing about, which in this case, is anime.

Tentai Senshi Sunred is set in Kawasaki, a real city in Japan. The super hero, Sunred, is unemployed as you would expect from a super hero parody (Can’t fight crime and thwart evil if you’re busy working). Also if you’re familiar with any Japanese television shows, you can see that Sunred is also a clear reference to the Super Sentai hero shows or more commonly knowsn as Power Rangers in the US.

Sunred Random Montage

Sunred’s notable habits include Pachinko (American equivalent of visiting the local Indian casino every other day,) smoking cigarettes, and beating up bad guys. He lives together with his insurance saleswoman girlfriend who also supports him financially. The background of the story tends to be uber realistic at times. Even though he’s a super hero, he’s still living in the real world with real people dealing with real issues. In the show, all of that is treated as how we treat such such issues in real life, as minor annoyance.

The show is a mirror image of a one-fight-per-episode format of a typical of super sentai series (you can add Naruto, Bleach, or any other cookie cutter fight shows.) With obvious result of the hero emerging victorious.  In Tentai Senshi Sunred, the fight always results in Sunred beating the living crap out of the bad guy but he does this in mere 2 seconds or less as opposed to half of the show in non-parody cookie cutter fight anime series.

Sunred is in constant battle against an evil organization called Florsheim (no clue what the name is derived from) determined to take over the world much like Doctor Claw and M.A.D. from Inspector Gadget. However, unlike some real (as in existing in real life, of course) super evil organizations bent on global domination, Florsheim functions more like a sales company with branches and managers. Each branch can include a couple of henchmen and a few evil monsters and a leader. All in all, in the show, Florsheim is just a shady company where its motto is “to take over the world” but never acting on it. Its employees are decent citizens who actually partake in neighborhood cleaning, etc. and some have real life jobs, e.g., one of the monsters works part-time at a convenience store.

Florsheim-Group Date

Members of Florsheim out on a group date

After watching a season and a half of this show, I asked myself, what is this show about? It’s actually and truthfully about nothing. It is a comedy series based on a super hero living in the suburbs. Interactions between Sunred and everyone else serves as an impetus to drive the story or rather drive the story to the comedic climax. In essence, it’s just an animated situation comedy just trying to make you laugh using references and real life elements and poking fun at how absurd its own characters are in the show. (an episode featured a monster that became stuck as it was molting.)  You can probably see where this is going… (prime time cartoon shows much?)

Is this show a classic?

No.

Is this something you’d like?

I doubt it.

Is it funny?

Yes, I thought so.

Is it good?

I don’t know. Does American Pie rival Citizen Kane in its cinematic mastery?

Anyway, the point is, you will not see this anime any time soon. More than likely, you will never ever watch this show, EVER. Tentai Senshi Sunred is just one of those obscure gems of Japanese anime that I would be happier to have known about among a few dozen anime fans.

04
Jan
10

It’s his way or the Norway

As the movie Avatar recently reminded us, there is little more inspiring than a super, super badass.  Colonel Miles Quaritch enjoys wielding guns, scowling, piloting giant robots, and not repairing his awesome scars with wimpy plastic surgery.  He looks like this:

Colonel Miles Quaritch: The Action Figure

Actual Photo

No doubt any movie would benefit from having such a character as part of its dramatis personae.  I think we can all agree that The Curious Case of Colonel Quaritch would have been both a critical and commercial success.

However, Quaritch pales in comparison to a real-life badass, a man whose very name inspires simultaneous shudders of ecstasy and terror: Knut Haugland.

Action figure available soon.

Unfortunately, we lost Haugland this past Christmas at the age of 92.  Even more unfortunately, I didn’t even know the man existed until today, when his obituary appeared in the New York Times (login required).  While reporter William Grimes already did a fine job tabulating Haugland’s impressive list of accomplishments, it’s clear that he also failed to imbue his article with an appropriate amount of flabbergastedness (or is it flabbergastronomy?).  After all, this is a guy who had enough real-life adventures for two Colonel Quariches, and with the assistance of neither CGI nor battlemechs.  I hope Grimes won’t mind me correcting his oversight.

1. Resistance Training

First of all, Haugland was a bona-fide, badass, undercover WWII commando.  While eking out an ordinary living as a worker at a radio factory in Nazi-occupied Norway, he secretly used his communications expertise to not only support but to help lead the resistance.  Although he had already fought the Nazis in a more traditional military setting, which I assume was also full of crazy badassery, I skip ahead to this period mainly because of the following events.  To quote the obituary (emphasis mine):

“Twice he was captured and escaped, once by back-flipping over a snow bank and running off into the woods before his guards could use their weapons.”

I repeat, he escaped the Nazis by doing a fucking back flip.  And in the very next sentence:

“A third time, surrounded by the Gestapo at a maternity hospital in Oslo where he had set up a transmitter in a chimney, he shot his way to freedom with a pistol.”

Shot his way to freedom out of a maternity hospital? I don’t know about you, but I’m picturing something exactly like this in every way:

More famously, he took part in an event known as The Norwegian Heavy Water Sabotage, which involved a) paradropping into enemy territory, b) surviving in an isolated cabin for four months, without supplies, during the harsh Norwegian winter, c) MacGyvering a radio out of a car battery and fishing rods, and d) being a part of the team that blew up a Nazi hydro plant.  Apparently, people back the also thought this was pretty hardcore, as it was made into a 1965 movie, with the enticing tagline “COME FROZEN HELL OR HIGH ADVENTURE.”  I’ll take high adventure, please.

2. The Wrath of Kon-Tiki

After the war was over, one would think that even a badass like Haugland would have every reason to seek early retirement, light a nice fire in the hearth, pour a glass of scotch, put his feet up, and never take them down again.  However, this is not the story of an ordinary badass; let’s not forget that this unassuming Norwegian radioman was a super badass.  His next outing, only two years after the end of the war, was a little jaunt known as the Kon-Tiki Expedition.

I really wish more people these days had heard of the Kon-Tiki.  Basically, six crazy Scandinavians built a raft out of balsa wood and sailed it over four thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, because they could.  All right, to be more accurate, they made the voyage to prove that it could be done, on the theory that ancient South Americans might have been the original colonizers of the islands of the South Pacific.

The Kon Tiki

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

The voyage took more than three months, included at least one spectacular rescue of a man overboard, and ended in a shipwreck that left the crew stranded on a remote island until they were rescued by a tribe of friendly natives.  Let me emphasize, as I did for Haugland’s wartime exploits, that this all happened in REAL LIFE.  Naturally, this adventure also became a movie – a documentary this time – that went on to win an Oscar.

***

So how does a Norwegian man with the nebbishy profession of radio expert and the dorky-sounding name Knut Haugland end up having so many adventures that they were fodder for two movies?  Obviously, my thesis holds: the man is a serious bad dude.  I can scarcely imagine what he would have accomplished if he had been, instead, a master of archery named John Rambo.

THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED BY NINJAS. ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH DUDE TO RESCUE THE PRESIDENT?

Knut Haugland’s answer would definitely be “Ja.”

It’s clear that the world lost a great man last month, one whose sense of humility I haven’t even touched on, and whose fearless, brazen spirit I could never do justice.

I suggest we honor him in a way everyone can appreciate: a special-effects laden trilogy in which Haugland’s character discovers he can travel through time.  You take it from here, James Cameron.