Sunday, June 21, 2015

short anime reviews: Arslan Senki, Kyoukai no Rinne, Shounen Onmyouji, Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi


First revies of two animes from the current Spring 2015 season (plus an alternative version to one), then there's two older ones set in the Heian period (794 to 1185).

Arslan Senki (2015 TV version)
At first I dropped this one after I watched the first episode because I was afraid it would be too bloody. But after finishing Akatsuki no Yona I felt like something similar and so took it up again. And it is indeed rather similar. And it is indeed too bloody.

Arslan is the crown prince to the kingdom of Pars, ruled by his father, who is a great warlord, but not so much a great politician. When a neighbouring country of religious fanatics attacks, pride and treason lead to a great defeat in battle. Arslan escapes, but the kingdom falls. Together with loyal legendary warrior Daryun he tries to survive and seeks allies.

Arslan Senki is based upon a popular novel series that started back in the late 80s. So the story is already rather "old" and it seems there have been a few adaptaions already.
Similar to Akatsuki no Yona and Saiunkoku Monogatari it covers political issues as well.
I quite like the characters, especially the friendship between  Daryun and Narsus.

Well, that is to say: I like the male characters.
Like reverse harem animes tend to have their incredibly dull and stupid so-called "heroine", it seems that shounen anime has an equal inability to portray good female characters. The Queen wears unbefitting clothes that show half of her tits and there's another female character who wears such ridiculous clothing that calling her half-naked would be an understatement. I was really disappointed about that.

After episode 6 I got so sick of all the violence that I dropped it. I'm not sure I'll take it up again.

Wikipedia entry



Arslan Senki (90s OVA version)
After getting sick of the gore and tits from the 2015 version, I thought I might try the 90s version.
This series has six episodes that were produced between 1991 and 1995.

It's still occasionally bloody, but as expected it's not as gory. And the women are actually dressed. Falangies looks more beautiful in my opinion, and she has some Xena vibe going on. I think I also liked Daryuns character design a little better.

The art is very nostalgic, Art Nouveau-ish, it reminds me of The Last Unicorn a little. Pars also looks more Persian. Since it's already 20 years old, of course you shouldn't expect high-quality HD animation.

Plot-wise it's unfortunately a lot more rushed. The characters aren't introduced as well as in the newer version and I think I might not have understood what was going on if I hadn't had the more detailed explanations. Later on in the series, this really became a problem for me. The issue of slaves is hardly touched upon, which makes it more black-and-white. The humour isn't as evident and it's not as dramatic.
Suffering most from this are definitely the characters and their relationships, for example between Arslan and Daryun. And I kind of missed the banter between Daryun and Narsus compared to the 2015 version. Gieve is awesome, though.




Kyoukai no Rinne
If you see art from Kyoukai no Rinne you will probably recognize it: it's obviously Rumiko Takahashi. Takahashis Ranma ½ was my first anime, so started buying the Kyoukai no Rinne manga, too. But after 5 books, I somehow stopped. It's not bad, but it wasn't good enough to justify the money and shelf space.
When I saw there's an anime I was curious and decided to try it.

Sakura Mamiya is a high school girl who can see ghosts. It takes her no time to find out that new classmate Rinne is no ordinary boy, though she doesn't quite know what he means when he says he's somewhat a shinigami (you know, like in Bleach and Death Note) and also somewhat human. Rinne is homeless and really poor, his circumstances and background get revealed bit by bit. For some reason Sakura Mamiya gets drawn into quite a lot of his odd jobs - and that doesn't just mean giving him the money he needs for shinigami tools.

Even as an anime it is still a bit prone to getting a little dull, it's very episodic, very monster-of-the-week, but it's fine for some harmless entertainment after a long day at work.

And Rinnes cat familiar is sooo cute!



Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi
Remember Chihayafuru, the anime about the Karuta card game that's based on one hundred ancient poems? This anime is about these poems, their authors and how they came to be - in a very liberal interpretation.

It's hard to give a plot summary because the plot and the characters change in nearly every episode (though some turn up in several episodes). Some continuity is provided by narrator Fujiwara no Teika, the man who selected the hundred poems for the anthology.
Every episode is about love and romance, but this doesn't result in simple "boy meets girl" stories. The Court affairs and status have to be taken into account, there's duty, friendship, passion, loyalty, ambition, loneliness, restrictions for women. Some endings are happy, but most are not. Despite the episodic character of the series, each story is captivating and you can feel with the characters.
Of course there's also lots of poems and writing.

I was quite surprised at how unreserved some scenes were. Not in a way that there was mature content, but these people obviously had sexual affairs and sometimes were rather open about it. I'd not have expected this in a historical anime (but then again, who knows how things really were back then).
There's also a lot of strong female characters like Ono no Komachi in there - again despite the historical setting. Lots of other animes could learn a thing or two from that (*cough*Arslan Senki*cough*).

One mistake I made: I watched the episodes with too much time in between. The names are complicated, the characters don't look that different from each other, so it was really difficult to remember who was who and did what. It was just so confusing.
Here's the wikipedia entry, in case you need to look up the names of the characters, too.

The one thing that makes this anime really special: The artwork is absolutely stunning! The clothing, the landscapes and buildings, the people... It's one of the most beautiful anime I ever watched. It's hard to describe. It looks a little like paper art collages.
The songs of the opening and ending credits fit, even though they're modern. They fit the atmosphere.

This is a hidden gem - you should definitely watch it!



Shounen Onmyouji

This is an adaption of a light novel series. It is set in the Heian era and centers around Abe no Masahiro, grandson of the famous Onmyōji Abe no Seimei (who according to wikipedia really existed). Onmyōji are civil servants who are professional astrologers/magicians/diviners.
Of course it's not easy being the grandson of such a famous person and Masahiro hates being compared to his grandfather - but at the same time he tries his best to surpass him. Protecting and helping him is Tōda (or Guren), a mystical creature and member of a mighty group of servants of his grandfather called Shinshō. Tōda can transform into a cute little fox-like creature Masahiro calls Mokkun, but hides a dark secret: in the past he was mind-controlled and nearly killed his master Abe no Seimei.

I quite liked the character of Tōda, his troubles and his relationship with Masahiro (besides, he's sexy in his humanoid form and so cute in his beast form). They became such good friends.
It's a bit sad that the anime doesn't take the time to introduce the Shinshō a bit more - it seems to me some of them are interesting characters. I also wish there'd be more about Masahiros family besides his grandfather.
Instead they spend time on this "love interest" of Masahiro, one of the worst cases of a useless annoying female - she might even be worse than Orihime in Bleach.

It took me a while to finish this. It's not really that captivating. But when I felt like something with a little action and some comedy in a historical setting, this was just the right series.
One little warning though: the end is not 100% a happy ending.

Read more on this article...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Botanical Gardens at the Palace, Karlsruhe

Recently I found that I really enjoy visiting Botanical Gardens. I've been to some before, in cities I visited, but it was more like something unscheduled, not very consciously.
I've decided to share some pictures on here. Maybe I'll dig in older pictures collections of mine, too. I'll probably not write a lot, I don't really know what to say.


In Karlsruhe, there are two Botanical Gardens: one at the KIT university and one in the palace gardens. I actually wanted to visit the university gardens, but they are closed on Saturdays.

This huge tree has branches growing into the earth and out again


The Botanical Gardens at the Karlsruhe Palace are part of the extensive palace gardens. So you can visit the outside gardens for free.




The admission for the greenhouses is only 2 euros, but they are also not very big.



Lots of different Citrus plants - they smelled great

The rest of the palace gardens are quite nice, too. There's usually a lot going on if the weather is nice, a lot of families and student on the grass.



 
And of course the palace itself is one of the main sights of Karlsruhe.
Karlsruhe palace
Read more on this article...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Like an Englishman in New York

Lately I feel weirded out again. I have these phases when I get depressed and feel utterly lonely because no one around me is like me or understands me.

At work I often feel at the wrong place. I don't share the humour of my coworkers and sometimes I despise their dull jokes and rude behaviour. Especially one external coworker is annoying me to no end - but I seem to be the only one. Am I too sophisticated? Plus I think I did some really clever work, for example I guessed the cause of a bug where programmers were searching for days; but my idea was dismissed. Even after it turned out, hours later, that I was right, no one acknowledged it.
Is there an expression for feeling superior to your peers but instead of feeling good and proud, it just makes you sad and lonely?

There were also several events in the last few weeks to maybe trigger this feeling further.

The Death of Leonard Nimoy.
When I was a certain age and struggling with what maybe was the oncoming of a clinical depression, I wished I was a Vulcan. Superior in mind and especially in control of all emotions, not letting those get in the way. So of course Spock was my favourite character of the original Star Trek series.

Surprisingly Nimoys death was big news in mainstream media, too.
But when I searched for products, you know, fan merch, I mostly got those "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock" stuff from Big Bang Theory. And it made me wonder: how many people actually saw Star Trek, the original series? Most, it seems, just know him from Big Bang Theory or the new Star Trek movies, like some kind of second-hand geekism.


The Death of Terry Pratchett.
Even though of course I was aware it would happen sooner or later, this came as a shock, too. Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, and it was always a joy to hold a new Discworld book in your hands and be able to read it. It felt like not only Sir Terry died, but with him Susan Sto Helit, and Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching and Sam Vimes - they all died, too. Additionally I'm following his daughter Rhianna Pratchett on twitter and felt sorry for her. It also made me terrified of thinking about my parents dying.

Seeing how she dealt with this made me admire her more. I'm not a big gamer myself, so I'm not interested too much in her role in the gaming industry. But I read a piece on her and her relationship with her father and it made me feel like she's a kindred spirit. In a way, maybe, a better version of myself. And I thought: Wow, it would be great to have a friend like that. Someone who maybe not shares all of my exact interests, but someone who understands and listens.
Anyway, I did wear all black at work the next day. Since I always wear rather dark clothes, no one noticed. I did not mention it, I was afraid of condescending remarks and how I'd react to them.


I feel like a lot of the good ones go, musicians, too, and I'm not sure those who are still there are good enough to fill the gap. Music and books are very important to me, but what will the future hold?


The partial Solar Eclipse in Europe.
I badly screwed this one up myself. Since I'm following scientific accounts and a few astronomers on Twitter I knew about this beforehand. But I had other things on my mind, procrastinated, whatever - and I only remembered a few days before that I'd need special glasses to watch it. I also underestimated the demand and the supply of these glasses. Other than  with the total eclipse in 1999 hardly anyone sold these glasses this time. And those places were sold out. So in the end I couldn't get any. I was rather angry with myself because it would have been no problem if I had just taken care of it a few days earlier.

No one around me was interested in watching the eclipse and most considered my quest a little peculiar. I actually built three different kinds of pinhole cameras the evening before and took them with me to work. Two or three coworkers got interested then. I got excited when I realized our shutters acted like pinhole cameras, too, and you could watch the eclipse right there, tenfold, in our office. I could not understand how people around me could be so indifferent. I just don't get it! This happens so rarely, who knows whether we'll have a chance this good ever again, the weather was wonderful. How can they get excited about a worldcup that happens every four years, but not about this?

I could hardly do any work during the morning and then went out around the time of the highest eclipse to try out my pinhole cameras. There were three others there. Three! Ok, it was just one door of many, but still... One of them had special glasses (old ones from 1999) and I could borrow them for a few glances. I was really happy about that. The others were curious about my equipment. Something as simple as a pinhole camera fascinated them so much, like a magic trick - and those were grown-ups, mostly working in IT. I felt like I came from another world.

After it was over I felt so happy that I could experience this. I wish I could have shared it with more people, shared my joy. I still can't get my head around most people being so indifferent and letting such a rare event pass without a single glance.

And even worse: a lots of German schools locked their pupils inside. Yes, you read that right: school, responsible for ecudation children, locked them inside during this rare event. Media repeated again and again that you shouldn't look into the sun and the with the shortage of special glasses they just took the easy and safe way. Some schools even closed the shutters. I have no words for how appalled and disappointed I am. I understand the need to be safe, I myself refused to looks through a space blanket. But Pinhole cameras are perfectly safe, cheap and easy to make. Even a famous TV physicist posted a rant about how we live in a society of fear mongering.

So, additionally to feeling lonely and cut off, I'm also sad about what this world is coming to. There is so much fear in this world and freedom and equality and peace are eaten up by it. And many of the people pretending to protect freedom are sowing fear and feel like I can do nothing but watch helplessly.
But this issue probably is better of in another blog post. Read more on this article...

Monday, January 26, 2015

busy time hiatus

I'm sorry that there's not been much happening on this blog for some time. You'll have to have a little more patience.

There's a lot happening in my life at the moment.

Just before christmas my parents transfered their freehold flat and the rest of the debts to me. I have to refinance everything (it's a good time to do this). It was a lot to do, with the lawyer, notary and all the talks with the different financial institutions involved. So christmas holidays weren't as relaxing as they could have been.
Today I had (hopefully) the last meeting at a bank and until the end of February everything should be done. but it'll have cost me more of my reserves than I had planned.

I've also got to have dental treatment. I'd had to organize an estimate of costs and collect my "bonus books" from three different past dentists, to prove that I've been at the dentist every year for the past 10 years - because then my insurance will pay more. Still, it's going to be several hundreds of euro.

I have three tickets to go see Queen & Adam Lambert. Of course this is great, but with all else I hardly had time to look forward to it. I had to organize a hotel and train ticket for one conert, I still have to organize train tickets for the other two.

And then my fridge broke.
It's not simply a fridgy, I have a "pantry kitchen", which means that fridge, sink and cooktop are all together. I don't have much room, so I had to get such a small kitchen. The repairperson said it'll be uneconomical to repair the fridge, but he said I can take it out and replace it. So besides that repairperson costing me a hundred euro (even though he couldn't do anything) and the new fridge costing me several hundreds of euro, I'll also have to look for a small fridge that'll fit and a company that'll carry the fridge up to the top floor, uninstall the old one (completely with un- and reinstalling the sink and siphon) and take the old one with them.

It's so much at the moment that I sometimes feel like a deer in in the spotlight, paralysed, not knowing what to do next.
I'm away from home for 12 hours everyday, I have to make calls during my work time. The last week I got home and had so many things to organize that I didn't even have something for supper until after 9 PM.
I'm so mentally exhausted. So, so tired.
I have a history with clinical depression and sometimes I'm afraid I can't make it through, though I'm always telling myself that it's only some more weeks and I'll take one step after the other.

So, I don't really have a lot of time to write reviews at the moment. Read more on this article...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

short reviews of Fall 2014 animes

I think I liked the Fall season better than the Summer season of 2014. There were a couple of surprises there.
For the first time I watched some really short animes, even two of them.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san

Kohina is a little girl who lives alone for some reason. To cope with things, she likes to pretend she's a doll. She also really, really loves instand cup noodles. One day she accidently summons a fox spirit called Kokkuri-san, who wanted to haunt her but then became more of a surrogate mother. Two more spirits start living with them, a pedophile stalking dog spirit and a drinking and gambling playboy Tanuki.

Kohina is really abit weird - she's drawn so weird, so small. And nothing is explained to why she lives all alone, as a little girl. And Inugami, the dog spirit was really creepy and too much of a pedophile, for my taste.
Kokkuri-san and Shigaraki, the Tanuki, were likable characters though. And the alien classmate was hilarious.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san is a light, enjoyable comedy. I really liked the opening credits, too, such a catchy tune.




Orenchi no Furo Jijō

This was one of the surprises. I didn't read the details before and so I was surprised that the episodes were just a few minutes long! But it soon became one of my favourites this season.

Tatsumi is a young man who lives alone. One day he finds someone collapsed on the riverbank and after rushing to help, he finds it's a merman. Wakasa from then on continues to live in Tatsumis bathtub. Wakasa is a bit childish, very clueless about the human world, enthusiastic and easy to impress. Sometimes his friends visit, there's Takasu the octopus who's good at fixing things and giving massages, Mikuni, the jellyfish who can shrink and doesn't need food and Maki, the tiny hermit crab.

It's really a bit of a strange set-up and with just about 4 minutes per episode there's not much of a plot. Of course there's some yaoi innuendos going on, but it's only hints for the fangirls, the anime itself is harmless. The opening is strange, too, it looks much more dramatic while the anime itself is pretty light-hearted.




Akatsuki no Yona

Yona is the princess of a small country, the only child of her kind father. She's in love with her gentle cousin Su-won, one of her two childhood friends. The other one is General Hak Son, a famous young warrior. On her sixteenth birthday, just when she decided to tell her father that she intends to pursue her childhood love, she sees her father being murdered by just this man, Sun-Won. Completely shocked, she's about to be killed, too, but Hak manages to save her and escape with her. Constantly on the run and in hiding, she takes some time to process what happened. Meanwhile Sun-won is crowned as the new king. Yona then decides to seek the help of four mythical humans with dragon.blood to take action.

At first this looked like another reverse harem with the annoying, helpless "heroine".  But it's actually different. While Yona is suffering at first, I think it's rather understandable considering what she just had to go through. She gets herself together after a while and starts taking responsibility and changing and growing stronger.
Still, at the beginning it feels more like it's actually about Hak, he seems more like the main person.
I also like that Sun-won is not portrayed as a completely evil person. Even after you see him coldly killing his uncle, you're still not sure what drove him and whether he wasn't right after all...

This anime is going on for more than this season, so there's still time to catch on.




Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken

As long as the title is, as short are the episodes, again only about 3 minutes. And of course, there's not much of a plot, it's more a slice-of-life anime.

Kaoro is a hard-working OL (office lady) who for some reason married an otaku. That's really all there is to day about the story.
It's funny though I probably didn't understand half of the references to other anime. But it's not as good as Orenchi no Furo Jijou.




Donten ni Warau

The three Kumoh brothers Tenka, Soramaru and Chuutarou live in a shrine together with former ninja Shirasu in an area where the sky is always cloudy. The reason for this, according to a myth, is that the region is cursed by a giant demon snake called Orochi who resides there and is reborn every 300 years within a human host.
The brothers have the job of delivering criminals to a big prison in the middle of a lake, but the Kumoh family is also part of an alliance against the Orochi. Something the two younger brothers know nothing about but will soon enough have to learn - the hard way.

One warning: this anime is really sad at times. It does have a somewhat happy ending, but it's often rather dark.
I really liked this one, enough to buy the German mangas. The art and character design is really beautiful, the characters are insteresting and there's one or two big surprises in the plot.



Read more on this article...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

worrywart

It's christmas holidays, I have a quite a few days off work and I should be happy and relax.

But I'm not relaxed at all. I'm note even able to think of a good title.
The reason is that from tomorrow on I'll be owning an apartment. Sounds rather joyous, but I'm worried.
The thing is, my parents own this apartement and it's not yet completely paid for. So I'll not only be taking over the apartement, but also the debts. If I don't take it, my parents will eventually have to sell and move out. It's all very complicated, together with the rights for my brother a right of abode for my parents and all. The debts are in several building loan contracts, which I want to end because it amounts to quite a lot per month. At the moment credit is cheap, so I want to take a new credit and use it to pay off all the building loan contracts. I'll not be able to live there, because I work in another town (which means I'll have to pay rent anyway).

I see this as a retirement arrangement. Investing in residential property is a good thing at the moment, everyone says. And I want to keep the apartement in the family, it's where I grew up, I love this place. It's a good time to take a credit, everyone says. It is not that much money, and I know that pretty much everyone who buys or build a house will be in debt. I know all this. I know it is probably overall a good idea.

But it is a risk.
I've never been in debt before. And it'll take about 20 years to pay it off.
What if we do something wrong with the contract? What if I don't get a better credit? What if something happens to someone in my family? Will I be able to support my brother with some money like I used to?

I'm a procrastinator so I'm a little late about arranging the credit. I feel bad about this, but there's nothing I can do now. I feel like I have to do more research, gather more information. At the same time I really hate this issue. I want to relax, too. I feel like I really need to. I try not to brood over it too much, I have to be able to sleep at night, but at the same time I feel like I should think about it more.
I'm so glad once all this is over and decided. But I'm afraid it'll take some time with the credit.

So from tomorrow on, I'll own an apartement. And I'll have a debt of several thens of thousands of euro.
I hope I'll be able to sleep. Read more on this article...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

red-golden leaves

I just came back from an afternoon walk. It's a nice autumn day, actually quite warm for November. The sun makes the trees glow in red-golden colours. Beautiful.



I like going for walks because it soothes the mind. You're not doing anything else, you're not going anywhere.
You're not on your bike to reach some point, you're not running to train your body, you're not walking your dog - you're just enjoying the surroundings, smelling the nature and listening to all the different sounds around you. And maybe talking to someone, if you're not alone.

I thought that I should really do this more often.
I'm usually spending my weekends at home because there's so much to do. During the week I don't sleep enough and I'm commuting, so I'm gone from home for at least 12 hours a day. I don't get anything done during the week, except for doing the laundry once in a while. So I have to get things done on the weekend. I have to do the grocery shopping for the next week, clean and do all the things that need to be done. And catch up on sleep.

Sometimes I'm wondering whether I could do some volunteering work. When I'm especially pissed off with society I think of going into politics. Or maybe join an environmental NGO.
But then I realize that I don't have the energy to do that. I'm still not sure why I feel like I lack energy. I'm taking vitamin B12 now and my iron level should be ok. I'm aware that clinical depression is looming and threatening, but as long as it's not acute I should not be this affected.

But I'll try to go for a walk on the weekend more often. Read more on this article...