Posts from June 2010

Texas Pandaa - Down In the Hole

Down In the Hole is Texas Pandaa's third album after their 2006 debut One Gleam After the Shadow and demonstrates a band who are wonderfully progressive in their availability and interaction with fans but also refining their music in an increasingly crowded genre. What that genre is depends on one's definition of the slow, poised and melodious tracks that Texas Pandaa produce with such care: shoegaze, post-rock, down tempo, ambient, romance-pop and indie. All could describe the mesmeric harmonies Asako and Mikiko produce backed dreamily by respective guitar and bass as well as Kaz on a supplemental guitar and Nadehiko on drums. Down In the Hole comes off the back of Days, retaining and refining everything that make the group more than just another self-indulgent ambient rock offering and shows a development of exactly what makes them special.

It demands repeated listens, at its best when left as ambient and unintrusive
The stand out entries come swiftly after the album's title track Down In the Hole which sports a catchy melody and child-like lyrics, evoking stories such as Alice in Wonderland or Wind in the Willows which follow from the delightful art that accompanies the album. Suddenly, the second track, is superbly paced: building from the start with a solemn guitar until the vocals cut in, heavy with nostalgia and a melancholy timbre that characterises the best of the album; the lyrics tell of an absent love and reconciliation but even in impressive English they pale to the atmosphere the track crafts and exhibits the greatest triumph of the album overall.

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Why Sawako still isn't married

The most innocuous of episodes and off-the-cuff remarks can lead to the most fascinating of rabbit holes. In this case, Sawako of K-On!! and why despite all of her obvious positive attributes, is unable to find a boyfriend and get married. It would seem she has everything going for her: looks, demeanour, intelligence and drive but it's only when scratching beneath the surface that it becomes apparent how much is aligned against her happiness.

The obvious remarks on this: she's fictional and the chances of finding a compatible partner are always slim. The former means that her status of being single is part of the character written for her, however as with other elements in anime, it is reflective of deeper social issues.

Ironically the past she desperately hides would likely offer her more opportunities to find a partner
Finding a compatible partner usually boils down to waiting for a perfect partner - what that definition of perfect is varies, but the mentality is universal. Do you settle and potentially miss out on somebody better suited or do you maintain your standards and threaten to reject a more than acceptable match for some potentially minor fault. It seems that a large part of the Japanese ethos favours "wait-and-see", forgoing decisive action and hoping for a better situation to arise; while not universally true the best demonstration of this can be seen in their financial crisis in the 1990's, had the banks taken action instead of waiting in the hope that the economy would revive, the so-called Lost Decade may not have happened. But even if Sawa-chan isn't being unnecessarily picky, there is a vast array of barriers obstacles of her control.

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My fling with Noel Vermillion

I am abjectly terrible at fighting games. This didn't stop me from seeking out arcades in Japan to hamfistedly fondle the seductive BlazBlue machines, or importing the US version when it was released, or venturing online to be emasculated in short order. I may appreciate their focus and purity but a lack of innate talent and free time means I'll never be as good as I desire. Talent is not in question, but is my ineptitude really an issue of time?

waiting for a time when I've run out of series to review and ideas to explore
Certainly a nine to five job blocks out close to ten hours of the day, but leaving a modest six hours for sleep that still leaves eight hours for hobbies and the minutiae of life. Pondering the issue more, I could only conclude it is still fundamentally a time issue, but it would be more apt to brand it as a lack of dedication. When that invisible plateau is reached where the time to become better encroaches on the ability to enjoy other games and anime, that dastardly analytical part of my brain takes over.

Even when I'm waist deep in Noel's story and practically giddy from her soundset when facing Litchi, a mental flag pops up. There's new anime to be watched! New games to be played! Things to do. Sometimes very good games can override this, dragging me under for weeks at a time, however all it takes one slow section to send me gasping back to the shoreline. This sounded like a good enough reason: essentially a free time defence mechanism; and it certainly fit with my habits, but it doesn't explain why the balance between video games and anime I used to maintain had been broken, marginalising former in favour of the latter.

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Bygones: Otgoi Zoshi

First released: July 2004

Just like the taijitu that features so heavily in the plot, Otogi Zoshi is split into two parts with elements of its twin interspersed throughout. The tonal and aesthetic difference between the two parts is arresting, the first favouring a poised and atmospheric wander through a viciously feudal Japan, the latter a collection of modern mysteries scattered around Tokyo and sharing many similarities with the latest two Shin Megami Tensei: Persona video games. This division of themes and story promotes perseverance: if the initial tale of blades and intrigue doesn't engage, perhaps the dark and foreboding march across many of Tokyo's landmarks will. Conversely it threatens to alienate an audience that fell in love with the first story or losing them before the second begins. By and large it succeeds in crafting a compelling story with characters that, crucially, work across the gulf of a thousand years, however even with the guiding hand of Production I.G the series isn't without its flaws.

switching between schoolgirl prep and urban pop with pleasing regularity

The Heian era city of Edo is infected by discontent: famine and lawlessness plague the streets while the outlying lands are run by thieves and malcontents. Even the Emperor isn't immune: struck down by a debilitating illness and without long to live, his closest aides, advised by the mystic Abe no Seimei, send word to retrieve the magical magatama stones in order to save the capital. With the eldest son of the Minamoto household, Raiko, bedridden it is up to his sister Hikaru to undertake this task. Disguised as her brother and joined by her faithful bodyguard Tsuna, and eventually the womanising Usui, the enigmatic Urabe and freakishly strong Kintaro, the group hunts out the magatama against foes both weird and devious. On their return however, all is not as it seems and the Emperor's aides have ulterior plans for the magatama, although it will be Seimei whose actions will have the most far reaching consequences, the ramifications echoing a thousand years into the future.

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The last Evangelion 2.x post I'll write

I would strongly suggest not attempting to read this all at once, madness is sure to follow. It is meant as a coherent brain-dump: my take on different aspects of the film rather than fluid prose. Intrinsic knowledge of the original series, Death:Rebirth, End of Evangelion, the first Rebuild film You Are (Not) Alone and ancillary materials surrounding franchise is assumed. Because this is the last one I'll write, it has to be epic. Epic enough for sub-navigation:

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