AURON570 (Level 15)

kukuku, how did that laugh ever become cute?... mysteries of the world..
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Well I just finished watching episode 5 of Softenni, and I have decided that I will no longer be continuing this series. So I thought I'd take the time to reflect on the series, see what I liked/didn't like about it, and what made me decide to stop watching it.

The series is a comedy about a school's female Soft Tennis Club. The Coach, Mishi, is a lethargic, young man who was a former national soft tennis champion. The female members of the club are quirky each in their own way. Chitose is the green-haired ditz. She has huge breasts, is really bad at soft tennis and as a hobby chases a specific species of wild animal in the forest naked. Kurusu is the quiet blue-haired one. She is pretty good at tennis, does magic tricks, and has fun playing jokes/wearing costumes to surprise the others. Asuna, the pink-haired pervert, she loses concentration often because she is fantasizing about perverted things. Kotone, the brown-haired one, ha s a soft spot for the Coach but it is a one-sided relationship. Kotone always tries to psyche herself and the others to play, she even names her flashy tennis moves, all to win the affection of the Coach, but often fails. Lastly is Elizabeth, the blonde-haired American transfer student. She gets along with Kurusu, and also loves the Coach. The difference is that Elizabeth is actually liked by the Coach.

Thus, hilarity ensues. Some tennis-related things that occur during the series include: practicing on the tennis court, going to the sports store to purchase a new racket and challenging a rival school to a tennis match. During these events though, the series slips in various comedic scenes. These scenes almost always draw upon a character's traits and uses fan service and exaggeration. For example: Asuna is practicing, the coach suggests that she should focus on the whole court, instead of just on the ball. As a result, Asuna notices a female student walk by the court wearing black panties. Asuna starts fantasizing and makes her unable to concentrate on playing Tennis because she is too busy fantasizing.

And as soon as that gag is over, it moves onto another character in another situation, with fan service and exaggeration. Having watched 5 episodes, I'm beginning to think that the only way one can like this series is if you like the characters and the way the series reuses the same jokes over and over again. The animation in the series is fairly good, and is one of the reasons I checked out the series. However, I think  the pace of the humor in the show and the flatness of each of the characters is what really made me stop watching. I really don't think that Softenni is going anywhere beyond what I've already seen.

What I've watched of Softenni was okay at best. I'll remember the characters, the opening, the weirdness, but I definitely won't remember laughing very much.
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I am excited to announce that I have dipped my big toe into the huge pool of purchasing things online that is related to anime! With the DVD version of 5 Centimeters Per Second. I can't personally recommend it yet, since I haven't watched it yet. Instead I'm blogging about how I came to purchase it. Feel free to stop reading at any time if you are bored with my story.

Last Christmas, one of my aunts gave me a $50 gift certificate for Amazon. Coincidentally, before Christmas, I had already purchased a HORI fightstick for myself on Amazon (Links: to amazon, to my unboxing video). At the time I felt somewhat unlucky that I couldn't have put the gift certificate toward my fightstick. But now that I've finally spent the gift certificate, I can't imagine it going any other way.

Some background info about my family: My parents are appropriately skeptical about buying stuff online and giving out credit card information. They are okay with buying stuff from trusted vendors such as chapters or amazon, but would rather not buy stuff online if there was another option. So, buying something online is a real treat for me! I ended up spending the $50 certificate on 2 books, and an anime DVD. The total came out to about $51.10 or something. The two books I bought was 1. A short anthology of Plato's dialogues. 2. A version of the KJV Bible.

Originally I had intended to buy only books, to keep my brain active during summer. So here's a rough idea of how I decided on what books to buy, and then how I decided on 5 Centimeters Per Second. Firstly I've been told over and over again that the Bible is the most referenced text in literature. One of my professors even went to far as to claim that if you haven't read the Bible you are illiterate... A bold claim, but every now and then I got the nagging feeling that I should eventually read it. So I settled with this edition.

Then I remembered that, another huge text that I haven't read yet, is the Republic. In high school philosophy, my teacher had intended to teach the Republic, but we just didn't have enough time and had to skip it. Then in first year philosophy, the way the course was built, didn't allow a reading of the Republic. So here I am, having NOT read the Republic. After reading about the various popular translations of The Republic, and the merits of all of them, I eventually settled on this anthology, which included the Republic. Since I haven't read half of the dialogues in the anthology, and it was so cheap, it was a great deal.

Then the two books came to about $20. Then I thought that, if I'm buying these two books, I'm probably set for the summer in terms of reading, why not buy an anime movie? I can't splurge on bandwidth anymore since I'm sharing with my family again. This includes, not downloading or streaming for extending periods of time (especially using torrents). So it came down to two movies, 5 Centimeters Per Second or Summer Wars. I have heard great things about both movies, but I eventually settled for 5 Centimeters. Amazing visuals for both the movies, and great reviews all around, it was a hard decisions.  I guess I'm just a sucker for the romantic premise of the story.

It might have been this trailer that sold me:        
I am pretty excited to finally get a chance to watch this anime movie, and in good quality too! And to think, if I had waited until after Christmas to purchase my HORI fightstick, I might never have considered buying anything anime-related online at all. Next thing you know, I'll start buying anime series box sets, anime character figurines, posters and blu-ray dvds whenever I feel like it! Haha, hopefully it doesn't get to that point though. ;)
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I usually don't blog about this sort of thing, but this is too cool to share via twitter or other, and it is anime related. Essentially I just want to share this amazing piece by J.S. Bach that I stumbled upon last night. So if you want to cut past my story then scroll down to the embedded videos and enjoy!

So I am currently learning Invention 13 in A Minor by J.S. Bach for Piano. And I've been using the following video recording, here as inspiration to continue practicing this song. Bach's music is just so crazy but once you understand it, is so cool, and you can't stop playing it. In the above video's description, the poster talked about Bach's musical science. So, this prompted me to google "Bach's musical science".

Which led me to this scholarly article comparing Bach to Newton (after another search I found that the author teaches at Harvard). It also cited a few of Bach's works to help illustrate it's overall point. Some of the article gets musically technical, but I enjoyed it for the most part. I appreciated the connections being drawn between Bach, the idea of God and also contemporary musicians, critics and philosophers. The most striking connection I found was between Bach and Kant. Kant himself searched for "pure reason" in philosophy, likewise Bach searched for pure music. I had never thought about it that way before, so that was really cool.

One of Bach's pieces cited in the article is Mass in B minor, BWV 232 "Agnus Dei". Video below:   
 Keep in mind that it would have been performed in a church, during mass. The lyrics are also from the Bible, the first line translating to "Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us." Listening to this immediately reminded me of Lilium, the opening of Elfen Lied by Kumiko Noma. Video below:   
I really enjoyed Elfen Lied when I watched it a few years ago. But I feel like I should watch it again, since there's probably lots of things I can pick up on and appreciate that I wouldn't have before. And of course there's always the blood, gore, boobs, and psychological horror.

I guess in sum I'm satisfied with what I was able to discover browsing the web last night. I got to read a cool article, find a new awesome old song, and reminded myself of an awesome anime series I'd watched a few years ago. Sweet!
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Well it's been a while since I did one of these. In a way it sort of breaks the enjoyment of watching an episode, when you're also looking for cool parts to pause and take a screenshot. But I've found these blogs are a good way of reflecting and thinking about what I've just watched.

This episode picks up where the last episode left off. The loveable bear-like Poppo and Menma (who only Jintan can see) run off in search of Menma. After searching unsuccessfully, everyone comes back to the club house and find Yukiatsu cooking at the grill. In this episode Yukiatsu berates Jintan for hanging onto the memory of Menma, and tells everyone to just stop trying to revive the past. Which is NOT what Menma actually wants. There are moments in the episode where Menma is brought to tears because of the apparent distance between Yukiatsu and the rest of the group.

The series so far has been very much about getting this group of old friends back together. It has done an amazing job with flashbacks, memories and character interaction to set up the plot. However it's ambiguous at this point whether what Jintan is doing (by getting them all back together) is actually doing any good at all. On the one hand sure it is nice to see old friends. But when they're together, they hardly talk much, and are often strained or awkward. The exception is of course the energetic Poppo, and Menma who only Jintan can see. And there's always the age-old question, is there really any point in dwelling on the past?
In this episode Jintan is even called crazy by Yukiatsu, for claiming that Menma baked the muffins herself. The possibility that Jintan is crazy... well that would be pretty crazy. So far the only other huge plot twist has been the fact that we along with Jintan can see Menma, and that Menma is supposedly dead. I really don't know how they're going to explain these, or if they will at all.

I guess if I had to sum up how I felt after I watched this episode it would be, troubled. There's just so many emotions being expressed by each of the characters. Along with the difficulty of being able to see Menma (and how that complicates our sympathies for various characters), the problem of memory and nostalgia, and if there is really any point to their actions.

Well, as always I'm really excited for the next episode! Character development is moving along steadily and that nostalgia train keeps on going, phew.

P.S. I've been told (or I read somewhere) that this anime gets really depressing, and I'm start to see why. I think in this blog post I was able to hint at some of the reasons as to why this anime is depressing. And hopefully those that haven't checked it out yet will do so!

Also here's the opening for those interested:   
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So I just finished watching ep 2 of Hanasaku Iroha for the second time! Which says something about how much I enjoy this anime so far. If you love reading what I have to say, you can check out my blog about episode 1 here. Or if you want to know what the episode is about before watching it, you can read the summary of episode 2 I did for the wiki here.

Hanasaku Iroha continues to follow Ohana's adjustments to working at the inn. The entire episode spans about a one and a half days, and it certainly packs in quite a bit of plot as it follows Ohana as she works at the inn with the others. Aristotle would be proud with such unity of time and place. With that said, during the episode there are also a few flashbacks which help to illuminate some of Ohana's past, and also work together with what she tries to accomplish at the inn. I don't want to spoil it, but the episode does a great job of using both flashbacks and hearing Ohana's thoughts to explain Ohana's current behaviour and also makes us more sympathetic to her aims.

There's some great artwork and animation, it succeeds in being cute when it wants to be, and also serious when it wants to be. The music is also used to great effect, at times being whimsical, at others sad. I'm really happy I watched the episode again, it's a great episode, and hopefully is going to be a great series!

Also here's the opening, from episode 2:   
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