Archive for October 1st, 2009

ef- a tale of updates

Ef - a fairy tale of the two!
^the title induces pain doesn’t it? cringe with me.

I’ve got my first review for the ranobe cafe here. ^_^ | I hope to do more unknown and useful reviews in the future, but progress comes with work, right?

As some of you may know already, I’ve got Gungnir, I just haven’t had the time to translate or even read it – I’ve been pretty busy at uni, and sick as well. But I’m better now, so hopefully I can pump up my output :D / I know how to fix at least two of my health pitfalls, so everything should be good :D

My website/blog ‘s been all over the place at this point, so I’d like some input; whether you would like more translations, a revised how-to mahjong page, more about classical Japanese or JLPT Japanese. “What do you come here for?” and all of that. If I don’t get any input I’ll just keep on wandering on, because that’s what I do best :D – this blog’s mainly for my own benefit after all.

Updates on stuff:
I’ve watched ef – a tale of melodies and re-watched ef – a tale of memories. I didn’t know that it was done by Shaft; I should have figured, interesting animation usually means Shaft after all. Anyway I loved it – it’s the best thing in the world to watch if you’re in pain. That may sound strange, but as I felt like I was dying I got to commiserate with Kuze :) Overall, even if I have some small issues with a few individual characters or a few plot inconsistencies – I think ef is the best visual novel based anything I’ve ever seen. I include Higurashi in with this conclusion. Even though Expansion07 works are more a category of their own, and though I’d rather assign “sound novel” to it than “visual novel”, it still stands.

I get the feeling a few of the felt inconsistencies don’t occur in the visual novel, so I’d like to play it; I’d like to learn a bit more about some of the other characters as well. However I think the visual novel takes it a part at a time; I really liked how the anime had everything going on all at once. There was so much going on in each episode that sometimes I thought I had watched 2 or 3 episodes, but no, just one. It made it much more amazing in my opinion. It also creates this strange thing between the two Otowas, because ef – memories doesn’t tell you that there are two Otowas. You have to figure that out yourself.

Anyway, on to characters:

Though Yuuko was really… -pause- though she had very evil intentions, she redeems herself postmortem. Though she was really stupid… stuff like that happens under pressure and panic – so I accept her character at least. Yuu was pretty dense, but he was trying to be dense, but I’d say he also redeems himself “postmortem”. If anything, he became my favorite character in the world for 15 seconds. “May the force be with you.” “What’s that?” “Something far better than God.” ^_^ Their relationship was pained, destructive, escapist – it struck a few tones with me, but I felt a bit distanced when it came to the earthquake major schism thing. Then again, I’m too good at forgetting deaths and not good enough at remembering things. D:

The relationship I liked most in all of ef was the relationship between Chihiro and Renji. I’d say Renji is the most admirable guy in the entire series. I wouldn’t go as far to say that he’s faultless, but he cuts it close. Plus, two writers? I’m in love with the idea. His best moment, I’d say, is when he runs all around town trying to retrieve Chihiro’s memories. It’s useless, he knows it, but it really shows what kind of person he is – and inevitably (hitsuzen!) his struggle is not in vain. I also like Chihiro’s character because of the interplay between the 12 year old and the young woman. Chihiro is a little girl, much younger than Renji, in her mannerisms, speech and reactions. Yet, Chihiro is also a young woman, beyond her years, older than Renji, and you can see this in her novel and the sort of transparent character that has formed on stacks and stacks of writing and weak memory. The memory thing might be cliche or not, I don’t know who started it first – whatever; it works well for this series, and that’s what counts. I thought it was pretty original when I first saw it, though I could be wrong.

I liked Kuze a lot too. He was dumb and you wanted to brick him in the face sometimes, but he was tragic, fully broken down by his illness. I think they did a good job of holding his character using the mask motif and suggesting that those insecurities that show later had been there all along, just “masked” until the sickness came. Mizuki was a very good foil to Kuze, I didn’t think there was anything immensely remarkable about her character, but she works well with Kuze and that’s good enough.

Miyako reminded me of someone I knew, and almost right off the bat I wanted to protect her. I seriously got angry if any of the characters slighted her in any way, and had trouble being annoyed at her even if she was being dumb. Therefore I loved the 100 second phone call scene. It was amazing :) Hiro is a good character for Miyako. Although he’s dumb sometimes and likes to evade things by going half-way, which does definitely lead to problems, he does have a very mature attitude to some things, which is what Miyako needs. He’s also pretty useless at keeping himself up, so needs Miyako. It’s a mutual need relationship that works out well in the end. I liked the theme of silence and the necessity for a home to come back to.

Kei annoyed me. I couldn’t help but be annoyed by her. Some of it was unfounded or unfair, but she was childish and selfish and running blind so to speak, but that was her character. I was still happy when she found a purpose of where to run to etc. with Kyousuke, and Kyousuke found what to set his eyes upon etc. It has a good idea going, one blind and running, one with eyes but not sure where to go – this series is good with character foils. Annoyance aside, I’m glad her plight was resolved, it gives a nice feeling of closure to everything.

Characters aside, the music was beautiful, the animation was beautiful, and it was short enough to watch in one sitting, Well two sittings if you count one per season. If you can get your hands on the blu-ray versions, do so. It makes a hell of a difference.

Oh and I’m going to put out a theory. Watching this over again. I figured that Renji HAD to be Kuze’s son. When Renji goes into shock he looks exactly like Kuze, and then you think why you hadn’t realized how much they looked alike to begin with. D:< *shockers!*

Welcome to the NHK Novel Review

Welcome to the NHK Novel Cover

I figured that this would be a good title to start with, given that the title is going to be reprinted soon, in December 2009 hopefully. I haven’t seen a specific date, but it’ll be what I’m giving people for Christmas. Currently if you don’t have the book and you can’t wait, you can find it on amazon from $60 or $140 depending on how new you want it. If you’re interested in what happened to the author afterwards, (because the book leaves you hanging), I believe he now writes regularly for Faust in Japan.

Title: NHKにようこそ!/ Welcome to the NHK

Author: 滝本竜彦/ Takimoto Tatsuhiko

Illustrator: 安倍吉俊/ Abe Yoshitobe

Licensed by: TokyoPop

Translated by: Lindsey Akashi / Laura Wyrick (? “Adapter”)

[It’s bothering me but the cover illustrator is not credited at all in the English Edition. D:<]

Alright. Welcome to the NHK. This is a fantastic book, and the first real book to spur me into Japanese literature, because that’s what it is. Literature. – Now, after an attempt at banishing my inner fan I will continue.

The first thing I tell anyone when I tell anyone about this book, is that it is not the manga, nor the anime, thank god. Now I know that a good amount of people like the Welcome to the NHK manga and anime, but perhaps by misfortune I read this book first, and everything else afterwards was a disappointment. So please if you have experienced NHK in one of its other forms, hold your judgement and just read.

This is what the cover of the Japanese second edition of the book says in Engrish on the cover:

The existence of the evil organization of “NHK”, I happened to find it.All the reasons why I dropped out from the university, being unemployed and “Hikkikomori” – homicidal young person – are due to NHK’s conspiracy. I’ll keep fighting till the day I will up at the vice organization.But one day, an assassin from a religious group, show up to kill me. She is a neat and beautiful girl, Misaki-chan, with a parasol.Who is she? What can save our future contaminated with eroticism, violence and drug? Love, courage, or friendship? This is an ultimate non-stop Hikikomori Action NOVEL!

In a way that makes more sense, I would say Welcome to the NHK is about Satou Tatsuhiro and how his stagnant puddle of a life gets a rock thrown into it in the form of Nakahara Misaki, and a plunger pulled in the form of his allowance being withdrawn. It is a plot designed for character development, and it succeeds. It makes incredible use of “dark humor”. It’s wonderfully hilarious, and then you think about it for a moment, and it hits you how sad and true it feels, and then you laugh again. It is also an insight into the “culture of the Japanese youth”. I think a lot of people who talk loosely about the demographic situation in Japan would do to read this, and I also think a lot of random organizations would ban it. That means it’s good.

Satou is a hikikomori, someone who has withdrawn from social life for various reasons. Satou has gotten to the breaking point, he is into drugs to pass the time, creates the NHK to move the fault away from himself, flutters on through lolicon-ism, religion, and strives to create an h-game with his friend as if it were the holy grail. You may have taken the Kafuka Fuura approach, “there’s no way someone like that could be near me!” to hikikomori before, but as I’m sure nearly everyone that has gone to college and dealt with the social, academic, economic stress… or is a writer – can identify with Satou. Part of that is because it’s really well written. Takimoto Tatsuhiko was a hikikomori when he wrote Welcome to the NHK and really put part of himself into it. Part of that is because the plot is realistic; no matter how ridiculous it gets, it has that real feel to it. The end has a lot to do with it – the writer himself by the end of the second afterward, is still a hikikomori after all.

The other characters are believable as well, I might have met them before. Misaki-chan is a normal girl, therefore she has social problems. Yamazaki is the guy that should be happy because he has money when you don’t, but has “thrown away his life” to run in random directions, running with a bomb not knowing where to ignite it. It reverberates. If I could have my way I’d assign it for high school reading, say “this is what you’re getting yourself into.”

As for the translation, I know I’ve heard people say they hate TokyoPop translations or this and that, but the translation for this particular light novel is excellent. It doesn’t over-localize things, it doesn’t try to change Takimoto’s writing style, and it has a decent but not overblown endnotes section for explaining references. It uses terms that won’t upset people with knowledge of Japanese culture etc., but still won’t leave other people in the dark.

As a recap, Welcome to the NHK is not quite an “ultimate non-stop Hikikomori Action NOVEL!” – it’s better. It’s hilarious, has spectacular character development, and is real. It’s one of the better shorter (light) novels I’ve ever read.