Kamen Rider Agito

August 30, 2007

Kamen Rider Agito

As I mentioned in the post below, I found a fansub group that offers DVD fansubs of Kamen Rider Agito (as well as other things like Sera Myu and other musicals). I found the site because I found AVI encodes of part of their Agito fansubs. I don’t have the rest of the series yet, and if the rest isn’t posted to BitTorrent soon I’ll probably get the DVDs straight from the original subber.

Kamen Rider Agito is the second of the “Heisei” Kamen Rider series, often called such because they were the first Riders aired on TV since the death of Emperor Hirohito and the change in the Japanese calendar from Showa to Heisei. Agito aired in 2001 and was an indirect sequel to its immediate predecessor Kamen Rider Kuuga. Agito displays the darker tone and complex storylines the Heisei era Riders are known for in full force. This aspect of the franchise has been sadly waning of late with somewhat lighter, sillier shows like Den-O, so it’s nice to go back to that style for a bit.

In Kamen Rider Agito, a young man with amnesia named Tsugami Shouichi is compelled by a subconcious force to seek and combat monsters dubbed “Unknowns” by the government. For reasons even Shouichi himself doesn’t know, he has the power to transform into a superpowered form that the Unknowns refer to as “Agito”. Agito himself begins to draw some unwanted attention as elements within the police seek to capture him and harness his powers. The police have their own anti-Unknown weapon, a powered armor dubbed G3 that seems to be based on Kuuga. The man who operates G3 as well as his support team seem to be caught in the middle, as they don’t believe Agito is an enemy. The final Rider in the series is a man named Ashihara whose body physically mutates into a savage creature named Gills to fight the Unknown. The mutation seems to put an extreme strain on Ashihara’s body, however.

There are numerous supporting characters with their own mysteries and subplots. There’s Mana, the niece of the man Shoutaro lives with who seems to have psychic abilities of her own. Mana is played by Akiyama Rina, the same actress who six years later plays Naomi in Kamen Rider Den-O and as a model is well known for her shapely posterior. There’s also a mysterious man who rapidly grew from a baby to an adult, and seems to have the power to influence both the Unknowns as well as Agito and Gills. His role in things has yet to be revealed as of how far I’ve gotten. Things seem to tie back to the the sinking of a ferry ship named Akatsuki-Gou, yet another mystery needing to be resolved.

Agito’s fighting abilities, like Kuuga, revolve around a number of different power up forms. Ground Form, Storm Form, Flame Form, Burning Form, Shining Form, each with their own weapons and special abilities. Agito was also the first Rider series to feature three main Riders. There had been supporting Rider characters before, like Riderman, but G3 and Gills were the first to really take their own spotlight alongside the title Rider, rather than simply play the Robin to his Batman. This trend continues right through to the current Den-O, and was taken to its extreme in 2002’s Kamen Rider Ryuuki.

Overall, Agito looks like a really cool series and I’ve been really anticipating the chance to see it. Now that I finally have found copies of it, I’m churning through at a fairly quick pace. Very addicting, good stuff.

Nostalgia

August 27, 2007

Today, I ran across a site that sells fansubs through the mail. I was a little surprised at this, I didn’t think anyone still did it. Of course, it’s not quite like back when I was getting those Sailormoon subs on VHS from VKLL (remember them?) This person is selling on DVD, pulled from R2 DVD source. I’m sure the quality trounces even a first gen VHS fansub, at least par with the average digisub. They have the whole series of Kamen Rider Agito, which I may have to pick up…

I did find the whole experience rather nostalgic. It reminded me of a time when fansubbing really was done as a service to the fan community. In those VHS days, being a fansubber was a bitch. It was expensive, it was time consuming. I had extreme respect for those folks. These days you can pull it off using raws you got off WinNY and some free/bootlegged software. Anyone with passable Japanese ability (or access to someone who has it) can put out a fansub, and they do.  There are some I still respect, but there are a lot who seem to do it for no other reason than to draw traffic to their crappy IRC channel and feel important.

Oh well, the upside is that we get sometimes 24-hour turnaround on episodes and don’t have to pay anything. You win some, you lose some. I just wish the anime fansub community could be more collaborative and less competitive, like the JDrama subbing community seems to be.

And now, the only VHS fansubs I still have in my current possession, the SuperS Specials and Sailor Stars. Everything else is at my dad’s… somewhere. I kept these because I was afraid I’d never get a better copy of them:

New music, week of 8/26

August 25, 2007

As with last week, here’s what’s new on my iPod this week:

the brilliant green - Stand By Me

the brilliant green“Stand By Me”

This is the big news. After being on hiatus for five years, the brilliant green is back. “Stand By Me” picks up right where they left off, fitting right in with the rest of the band’s catalog. I love Tommy Heavenly6, Tommy February6 is OK, but I’m glad to have BuriGuri back. Well… hopefully this doesn’t spell the end of Tommy Heavenly6, that would make me quite sad.

Nakashima MikaLIFE

Nakashima Mika also has a new single with the 8/22 release of “LIFE”. The song is the theme for the same named TV drama “LIFE”, which I would be watching but am still waiting on subs. The song is very much more pop than is typical of Mika. Not sure if this will be a trend, or if it’s just an experiment, we shall see. The song is certainly catchy though.

Ali Project – Psychedelic Insanity

Albums take a little more time to form a proper opinion of, so I’ll likely discuss this in detail more once I’ve had more time with it. Suffice to say for now that Ali Project has a new album featuring their usual Victorian inspired, mysterious and slightly creepy sound. As I mentioned below when talking about Code Geass, their work fits really well as anime themes. This is especially true of anything that comes from the same Goth-Loli culture as Alipro themselves. The pairing of Ali Project and Rozen Maiden is probably one of the most perfect matings of anime and music ever, and now every time I hear Ali Project I think of Rozen Maiden. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

On another music related note, next week’s Music Station looks fantastic. They’re having both Utada Hikaru and L’Arc~en~Ciel. Is there a more perfect guest list? I can’t wait.

Code Geass

August 23, 2007

I recently, after much ado, got to see the end of “Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch” (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion). Code Geass had a strange broadcast, given there was a break of four months before the final two episodes aired as a special. Furthermore, the current series ends fairly abruptly, since it’s apparently only the first half of the story that will be finished in a second season.

Code Geass is on the surface one of Sunrise’s traditional long running mecha shows. What makes Code Geass unique is that the focus is much less on the robots (called Knightmares), and much more on the political and social machinations of the main character Lelouch. Lelouch is a prince of the Brittania, a powerful empire with control over much of the world. After the death of his mother, Lelouch seems to have gone into hiding/exile in what was formerly Japan, now simply called Area 11. Lelouch is caught up in a skirmish between the Brittanian army and a resistance cell, and winds up encountering a secret cargo. The “cargo” is a mysterious girl called CC, who grants Lelouch a mysterious power just before appearing to be killed. The power, “Geass,” manifests in his left eye and allows him to give any human one order that they will absolutely obey. Lelouch uses the power on the military unit that finds him, ordering them to commit suicide so he can escape.

Code Geass

Like other conquered territories, Japan and its people have been stripped of their culture and even their name, with the people now simply called “Elevens.” Lelouch senses that the Elevens are the most likely to be able to form a rebellion to help him overthrow the Brittanian Empire against which he harbors a deep grudge. Using the power of his Geass (and his own brilliant intellect), Lelouch assumes the identity of the masked revolutionary Zero, and forms an elite revolutionary force called the Order of the Black Knights to accomplish his goals.

With the concept of a young man using a mysterious power to enact change against the world seems to have the influence of Death Note. This is most apparent early on when Lelouch is conducting experiments to determine the limitations of his Geass, much the same way Light did with the Death Note. Fortunately, the Geass doesn’t become the deus ex machina it could have, and Lelouch has to mostly rely on his wits and strategies to succeed.

On the production side, one very notable aspect of the series is that its character designs were done by the legendary mangaka team CLAMP. Their designs lend themselves extremely well to the beautiful futuristic Baroque setting. Musically, themes were provided by JPop acts like FLOW and Sunset Swish as well as one of my personal favorite anime theme performers Ali Project. The background music is big orchestral stuff, appropriate to the setting but nothing special enough to make me want to listen to it on its own.

Code Geass is a fantastic drama, one of those rare shows that actually gets a jaded old anime fan like me excited. I can’t wait to see the second half of it. The current season has been licensed for US release by Bandai Entertainment. Highly recommended.

iPhone Bill

August 21, 2007

There has been some hubbub on the Internet lately about the way AT&T is billing iPhone customers. People are receiving ridiculously long bills that itemize each and every time the iPhone accesses the Internet.

Well, I recently got to personally confirm this by receiving a 46 page bill of my own. While it wasn’t huge enough to come in a box as some apparently did, it’s still a pretty ridiculous thing. It literally has a line for every time the iPhone checks my email, which happens every 15 minutes. What really gets me is that none of this itemization would ever be of any use. It’s an unlimited data plan. Why the hell do I care how much transfer I’m using if it’s unlimited? I’m not an environmental nut, but this has got to be one of the most gross wastes of paper I’ve ever heard of. Come on, AT&T, let’s use our heads a little bit.

Needless to say, I’ve gone to paperless billing. Otherwise I’d personally be responsible for destroying an entire forest over the life of the iPhone.

NANA 2

August 21, 2007

I just saw NANA 2 last night, the sequel to the popular movie based on a Yazawa Ai manga. As I mentioned when I talked about HanaKimi, watching live action versions of shoujo stories tends to help them get within the boundaries of what I can tolerate watching. I tried to watch the NANA anime, but just couldn’t sit through it.

I found the first movie to be decent. I actually fell asleep on it the first time I tried to watch it, though I accredit this to trying to watch it while on the mind numbing 10 hour flight to Tokyo. Second time, I made it through and actually rather enjoyed it.

Both NANA and NANA 2 seems to bog down in the middle though, making me think the run time could have been pared down. NANA 2 suffers especially from having way too much of Hachiko moping around. It would have been better if there had been more subplots really being developed, but there wasn’t. Hachiko was prettymuch it. No development with Nana and Ren, and aside from Nobu who gets involved in Hachiko’s plotline I still couldn’t even tell you the names of the other two members of Black Stones. Not to mention the members of Trapnest aside from Ren and Takumi, I can’t even remember Ito Yuna‘s character’s name. Given the 2:10 runtime of the film, and the fact that this is now number two, I can’t excuse dragging on for so long while not developing any of the secondary characters. Hell, Nana barely gets any real development as the whole film focuses on Hachiko.

NANA 2

While I was more bored with NANA 2 than with the first film, it does have some cool concert sequences as any film focusing on rock bands should. It was also nice that Ito Yuna actually had lines in this movie aside from singing. As with the animated version, the music is a big selling point of the NANA movies. Nakashima Mika plays Nana, and Ito Yuna plays Reira. Both deliver punk rock songs, but for Nakashima this is well outside her normal type of music. Ito Yuna just rolled her Trapnest songs into her first album, but the Black Stones songs were fleshed out to a full album, “THE END” under the “NANA starring MIKA NAKASHIMA” name. I am in fact listening to “THE END” as I write, and it is a cool album. Nothing like the low key ballads Nakashima Mika usually produces (not that I dislike her usual work, it is in fact also quite good).

So, overall, if you are a fan of NANA and/or Yazawa Ai, you should probably check out NANA 2 to complete your experience with the first film. For other movie watchers, as with the Matrix, just stick with the original. It wraps up decently, and NANA 2 doesn’t really develop anything from the first film anyway.

Ami-chan no Hatsukoi

August 19, 2007

I’ve been rewatching Sailormoon lately. Lately as in on and off for the past two years. When I’m done with it (and my being done dependent on when the group doing the new digisubs of Stars is done), I’ll write about my experience in more detail. For the time being though, I just watched “Ami-chan no Hatsukoi”, the short that ran along with the SuperS movie.

“Ami-chan no Hatsukoi” (Ami’s First Love) is an animated adaptation of Ami’s Exam Battle omake from the manga. It is the only one which was animated (unfortunately). It boasts beefed up animation compared to the TV series, original music, and is the only time an attack from part 3 of the manga is used in the anime (Mercury Aqua Mirage).

All that aside though, “Ami-chan no Hatsukoi” is a delightful, cute and hysterical short story which shows off everything good about the Sailormoon metaseries. It opens with Ami going through her morning routine while narrating a description of herself. Apparently she even reads while bathing and eating. Afterward, Ami receives a love letter in her locker and proceeds to have an allergic reaction to it. Later, she describes the situation to the other girls while making the climb up Hikawa Shrine’s stairs. The other girls agree that receiving a love letter sounds like a nice problem to have, and Minako (in classic Minako fasion) butchers a proverb. Ami, however, has no time to deal with the letter as she has a bigger problem – somebody is actually matching her perfect scores on the mock high school entrance exams. Ami makes her declaration of war and the others react in a string of the deadpan jokes and visual gags that make the show so timelessly funny.

While Ami furiously studies to defeat “Mercurius”, Usagi attempts to discover his secret identity. This is easily accomplished by manhandling Umino in one of his and Naru’s rare post-season 1 appearances. Mercurius is apparently Umino’s friend. Meanwhile, Ami is possessed by a spirit who feeds upon romantic desire, and eventually attacks her. First with love letters, then by sucking out all the things she’d studied because love makes people stupid. Usagi, Mamoru and Chibi-Usa show up just in time for Ami to decide that the spirit is Mercurius and it had all been a plot against her. Ami transforms and defeats the spirit, then passes out. Usagi spent this time flailing around and being not terribly helpful (in classic Usagi fashion).

Later, at the usual hangout, the girls reveal that they had met the real Mercurius. Not wanting to crush Ami’s vision of the man she’d spent all this time thinking about by revealing he looks exactly like Umino, they lie and say he looks like the model in a magazine. Ami is delighted, commenting he looks just like a young Einstein. Facefaults all around, cue end music “‘Rashiku’ Ikimasho”.

Ranking in at only a few minutes long, “Ami-chan no Hatsukoi” is something anybody can take in and enjoy. Constant laughs, great interaction among the characters, and some of the best animation the series has to offer. I recommend it to anyone looking to laugh for a couple minutes, Sailormoon fan or not.

New music, week of 8/19

August 18, 2007

I usually get new music transcoded, entered into iTunes, and synced to my iPod while doing laundry on the weekend. So, I’ve decided to do a bit of a roundup of what I’ve added this week. This bit will probably be a regular thing, as long as I have time.

Ikimono Gakari - Natsuzora Graffiti/Seishun Line

Ikimono GakariNatsuzora Graffiti/Seishun Line

Ikimono Gakari is one of my favorite bands at the moment. Their stuff is always so much fun, and they have a unique sound to boot. Vocalist Yoshioka Kiyoe conveys a lot of energy, which is punctuated when Yamashita Hotaka jumps in with his harmonica. Natsuzora Graffiti is a song for the summertime, Ikimono Gakari’s entry this year into what seems to be almost a genre unto itself in Japanese music. Seishun Line is a fitting companion, with much the same theme but a different sound. It was used as the theme for an anime which I haven’t seen, hence the double-A-side billing.

FLOW – Answer

I’ve had an up and down history with FLOW. I first heard them, as most did, when they did the song “GO!!!” which was used as an opening for the obscenely popular Naruto anime. The song was catchy, but I found their first album to be overall dull and uninspired. The next time I heard them was with “Days”, used as an opening for Eureka Seven, and a song which just knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe it was the same band. “Answer” is thankfully more along those lines, though less hard hitting than “Days” or “Colors”. A decent song.

UVERworldShaka Beach ~Laka Laka La~

UVERworld I picked up thanks to their doing a Bleach opening. I think their sound is pretty fun, but they need to work on variety. I can’t really find anything in particular to find wrong with “Shaka Beach ~Laka Laka La~”, but it’s just more of the same thing they’ve always done. That’s not bad, but they just need to come up with some other stuff.

Sambomaster – Very Special!!

Now, when it comes to bands who stand out as unique, you don’t get much more unique than Sambomaster. This is a group of guys who not only does not fit the usual profile of rock stars, but they actually seem to revel in what huge dorks they are. And I love them to death for it. “Very Special” is classic Sambomaster. Fast, fun… spastic… odd… brilliant? Complete with the usual incomprehensible ramblings of Yamaguchi Takashi over certain parts of the song.

My PS2 died today

August 16, 2007

I’ve been having an issue with my PS2 where the disc would stop spinning during a game. I initially thought this had to do with the fact that I had the switches that tell it the disc cover is closed held down (so I can use a swap disc), and that this was starting to come loose so it was getting confused. I checked that all out, and it seemed to behave for a while, though I haven’t been playing much. Today, however, while playing A.C.E. 2 in anticipation of A.C.E. 3’s release… the optical drive in the PS2 just went stone dead. I can’t even get it to attempt to spin.

So, looks like I’m once again in the market for a PS2. Counting the one that got stolen, this will be my fourth. I don’t think I know anyone who is still on their first one. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I have to keep buying the damn things or lose access to all the games I have. Not to mention the PS2 exclusives like A.C.E. 2 and .hack//G.U. vol. 3 that I’m still waiting to play. Argh. I’m so glad there are no such games on the PS3 I want to play. I’m so sick of these pieces of junk.

Tales from the lab

August 15, 2007

I haven’t talked about Apple stuff for a while, but don’t worry this isn’t just another redundant regurgitation of Apple news bites. Instead, I have a couple pictures of some recent crazy repairs that have come through our office. I’ll post these every so often whenever I’ve gathered a few. These sorts of pictures are always fun and enlightening.

The first one is an iBook G4 with a really messed up screen. What was really odd about this one is that the cloudy effect you see was moving. It was almost like the iBook had a ghost trapped in it.

Also along the lines of really screwed up screens, this is a neat looking broken MacBook screen. Apparently some sort of toy was dropped on it where you see the big black splotch at the bottom. Whatever it was also left a deep gouge in the screen, which you can see as the thin white mark in the black splotch. Plaid is back in style on busted laptops.

This is the power supply from an iMac G5. That fuzzy brown crap you see collected on the side where the vent in the case is… that’s from the user’s heavy smoking habit. This was just absolutely disgusting. The whole computer was stained yellow, and the insides had this crap all over. The power supply was simply the best illustration of it. I couldn’t even stand being near the machine due to the stench. Folks, if this is what collected in the computer, imagine what’s collecting in you when you smoke.

This isn’t a repair, but I felt like pointing it out anyway. This is the first 30″ Apple Cinema Display I’ve deployed. Not only that, it’s the first one I’ve actually seen in use outside the Apple Store. Very impressive. To get an idea of the resolution, open the installer for something that uses the standard OS X Installer, and compare how much of your screen it takes up. Crazy eh?