March 27th, 2011

mr men lazy

Choo Choo

I've wanted to update quite a few times over the past half a week but something always seemed to be getting in the way. The pain situation still isn't fantastic but it's not as bad as it was just a little bit ago. At least the stabbing was mitigated enough that I could sleep, and that was actually the main cause for the lack of updates. It's very well possible that I've been running sleep deprived for quite a while due to pain issues. God knows that those times I felt closest to the edge were when pain and sleep issues collided. Imagine you were so exhausted that you could fall asleep at any moment and combine that with someone stabbing you with a kitchen knife. I figure that would be enough to make anyone a little insane if it went on long enough.

Anyway, since I was able to sleep again for more than a hour or two at a stretch, it's like my body chose to take the opportunity to catch up. I don't have an exact count but I wouldn't be surprised if I've spent more than 12 hours a day unconscious for the past few. I would still wake up ever 5-6 hours due to pain issues and more drugs, but that was a blessing compared to how it used to be. The exhaustion meant that as soon as the pills started to kick in, I would be out like a light once more.

In between bouts of comatose sleeping, I've been watching a buncha anime series that I had 'saved' and never gotten around to. It's sort of interesting but it seems that the activities I participate in depend a lot upon how the pain situation is currently going and how much attention the activity needs. If things are really bad then all I usually do is have something like NPR running in the background. It's basically something for which my attention can wander in and out and not have it be a problem. A bit better than that and I can watch anime as it doesn't require all that much effort to read subtitles. A bit better then that and I end up reading more, whether it be news articles or manga or whatever. At the top of the entertainment list are things like video games, which probably explains why I don't actually play them very often anymore. It just requires too much concentration usually and it's not something I can provide when McStabby is running amok. Not to mention the frustration index is usually through the roof during those times and compounding it by having your spaceship blown up or your adventurers slaughtered isn't a good thing.

While it's not entertainment per se, LJ also falls into the top category since, despite all appearances, it actually takes a little bit of effort to string along these sentences. It's one thing to jot off a quick comment or blurb on facebook but LJ takes a little more concentration then I sometimes have to spare. Sorta sad really if you think about it. It's not like I couldn't force myself through it but it's the smaller equivalent of trying to write an essay while being jabbed by the same kitchen knife. Your train of thought derails so often it's often not even worth the effort.
cookiepuss cupiepuss

I always seem to get more Tsun than Dere

So, after my pledge of a few days ago to no longer 'save' anime as if it were a commodity to be hoarded, I chose a lineup featuring Rie Kugimiya as seiyu. For those not in the know (and I'm pretty sure that means everyone who could possibly be reading this), Rie Kugimiya is a voice actress who has been dubbed the Queen of Tsundere for her work in bringing a certain type of character to life.

Tsundere is a Japanese word combining two emotional states: tsun-tsun (irritable and pissy) and dere-dere (sweet and love struck). I guess you can think of a tsundere character as having the romantic and relationship characteristics of a person with bipolar disorder. While none of us would probably enjoy being around such a person in real life, there's something incredibly appealing about this character type in anime. It probably doesn't help that one of the very first anime I watched and adored years ago was Love Hina, featuring one of the greatest tsundere characters of all time in the form of Narusegewa Naru. This trend has continued since my favorite of the newer series I've seen since rediscovering anime around a year ago was Toradora, which also features a tsundere character voiced by Rie Kugimiya as the main character. It probably doesn't say much about my sense of taste that I find tsundere characters so appealing but they're absolutely adorable when done right. Then again, maybe I just figure all women are crazy and abusive anyway so you might as well find one that's sweet and sane at least part of the time.

So the two Rie Kugimiya anime I decided to watch were Zero no Tsukaima (Zero's Familiar) and Shakugan no Shana (Burning-eyed Shanna). Interestingly, in addition to having a common voice actress for both female leads the male lead in both is also performed by the same guy. This is far more unusual in anime then in Western animation from what I've seen. For most anime, every single voice part is performed by a different seiyu no matter how small it is while in Western animation you're more likely to see one single actor portray half a dozen different roles or more. For comparison purposes just think of say, Hank Azaria from The Simpsons or Billy West from Futurama. I guess in that way, the Japanese treat their voice talent more like actors then a particular subset of entertainer. Anyway, the fact that the leads all had the same seiyus across the two series made it easier to compare between them.

Zero no Tsukaima takes place in a Harry Potter-like world where magic exists and the characters are all living at a magical academy. The land is actually based off medieval Europe to some degree, much as you would expect to develop if the nobility had access to magical powers while the peasants didn't. As a rite of passage for each mage, they're required to summon a familiar which will aid them and be a companion for life. The main character, Louise, has shown absolutely no applitude for magic despite being a blue blood and because of her lack of skill has been given the nickname Zero. As the rest of the class begins summoning familiars ranging from moles to salamanders to dragons, she casts her spell and ends up with Saito, an ordinary Japanese High School student from modern day Earth. Cue hijinx.

Now, the story might not be very interesting if that were the end of it. After all, all we have is a magical incompetent and her fish-out-of-water familiar summoned from Earth. Instead, as the story develops, it's discovered that Louise only seems incompetent at magic because she doesn't have a normal affinity to one of the common elements of fire, water, air, or earth. She's attuned instead to the Void, which is considered a lost element for its rarity and generally seems to accomplish the impossibly such as dispelling other magic and blowing the crap out of everything in sight. Saito also isn't the average familiar, having been imbued with a power that grants him automatic proficiency with any weapon the minute he touches it. Add that to the fact that artifacts from the 'real' world often times ends up in the magical world and are thought to be magical items resulting in fun circumstances where he gets to shoot off rocket launchers (The Staff of Destruction) and fly around shooting things in a World War II era Zero (The Dragon's Mantle).

In the end though, the crux of Zero no Tsukaima is the relationship between Louise and Saito. She's an arrogant, stuck up noble who views familiars on the same level as we would dogs or cats and he's a slightly lecherous high school kid who can't seem to help himself from oogling other women. Cue sexual tension. As is normal in a lot of these shows, the writers can't really bring themselves to actually resolve the relationship problems because those are the crux of the show as far as the comedy goes. So what you get is the relationship tango where you take two steps forward and one step back. It's actually sort of sad that there is so little resolution because the plot would have been much more interesting if it had been allowed to develop instead of stagnating on endless episodes where Saito gets into some compromising position with another woman (deserved or not) and Louise explodes, beating the tar out him. I'm told that in the novels that the anime is based on the plot progression explores a lot more about the world, its politics, and the epic struggle between the few but immensely powerful Void users. The anime touches on some of this but is more likely than not to devolve into romantic slapstick.

That's not to say that it's not entertaining to a degree. I found it to be fun for quite a few episodes but the anime ran for 3 season of 12-13 episodes each, and it got a little old by the end. If we were to peg the age of the viewing audience this show was aimed at it would certainly be lower than that of Shakugan no Shana. There was a far greater episodic quality to the episodes and the characters were all pretty immature in one way or another. Speaking of Shakugan no Shana, I think I'll get to it and its comparison to Zero no Tsukaima later on. I've been pecking at this entry on and off for hours now and I think I should just put it to bed already.