On Vacation, Off the Grid, Under the Stars and Wishing for a Shortcut Over My Anime Backlog

The real reason I’m writing this post is so that I have an excuse to post a few pictures from the summer vacation I just got back from; but, I’m going to cover up the off-topic nature of this post by talking about a couple of thoughts I had about anime while on vacation and upon coming back.

Once again I spent my summer vacation relaxing in a beachfront home along the coast of Lake Erie. The location was so perfect, literally spitting distance from the shore, that we didn’t mind that the house lacked air-con.

Just about every house one can rent for vacation nowadays advertises that they have internet service but what they define as “internet service” is always an interesting surprise. This house had no landline phone or any sort of router that I could find but there was a wireless network my laptop found that I was able to connect too. I didn’t feel comfortable feeding this connection any of my various account names and passwords so I wasn’t able to blog or post comments but I did feel comfortable enough to fire Azureus up and continue grabbing anime that I wanted to watch. (I’m not sure what that says about me but I’m sure it means something.)

Very quickly I realized that it was going to be impossible keeping up with the 20 or so anime series I’m watching right now. There was important vacation related activities – like swimming at the beach, watching gorgeous sunsets, looking for beach glass, relaxing on the patio, marveling at all the stars that one can see outside of a city, etc – that limited the time that I was willing to sit down to watch anime. Also, the internet connection was junk; I felt that I time-traveled back to the dial-up days. It took forever for a single episode of anything to download.

Not the most relaxing way to spend time on vacation but it was a very memorable episode.

This naturally forced me to decide which anime I’m watching right now was worth it and the ones I couldn’t live without was sometimes a surprise to me. The anime series continuing from spring that I had to keep up with were three: Steins;Gate, Nichijou, Tiger & Bunny. No surprises there – Steins;Gate is All-Time Top 10 bound if it doesn’t fumble the ending, Nichijou is the best comedy series by KyoAni ever, and Tiger & Bunny has finally gotten serious about showing it’s full potential and it’s been a nail-biting ride (I hope it continues). Hyouge Mono would probably be in this category but it’s been forever since a new episode has been subbed so I don’t know for sure. Of the continuing spring series there was two series that I found that I could wait till after coming back from vacation to watch – Ao no Exorcist and Hanasaku Iroha. I like both of these series a lot but if I’m being critical I know why neither anime got watched. The fight in episode 15 of Ao no Exorcist currently feels like the high point of the series with it treading water since then and I’m not sure if A-1 can make the ending top that episode. As an original work, there is no excuse for pacing issues but Hanasaku Iroha continues to stubbornly stick to being completely random even after 19 episodes and there’s really no compelling reason to why it needs to watched as soon as possible.

Of the new summer series only Natsume Yuujinchou Season 3, Mayo Chiki, and Dantalian no Shoka made the cut. No surprise with Natsume, it’s one of my favorite series of all-time and the location – near the lake with the sound of waves lapping the beach in the background – actually enhanced my viewing experience. Mayo Chiki continues to remain surprisingly engrossing and the best new comedy/fan service series this season. I’m starting to conclude that Dantalian no Shoka will not be among the best series this season but will continue to be an interesting anime to watch.

It definitely was worth the wait though.

Two of the new summer series – Mawaru Penguindrum and Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – I dearly wanted to watch but the former didn’t air that week and my preferred subbers of the latter were slow (which was okay, I understand stuff happens but going through a Yune withdrawal is a painful experience). I initially didn’t think I’d miss either series as much as I did but I guess there’s truth in that saying about absence making the heart grow fonder.

This left a pile of new anime series that I didn’t watch that waited for my return home; including, R-15, Nekogami Yaoyorozu, Sacred Seven, Yuruyuri, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi, Kamisama no Memo-chou, Blood-C, and Kamisama Dolls. There’s some good stuff on this pile but not good enough to get me to drop all the important vacation stuff I was doing. Speaking of which, while watching an awesome sunset, I got into a discussion about the best type of sunset. I argued that a sunset under partly cloudy conditions was the best type of sunset and clearly superior to a cloudless sunset but I was in the presence of someone who held the opposite. Neither of us was particularly serious but I thought this would make a good poll question that I could ask an impartial audience such as those reading this blog to answer. To help make the decision easier, I’ll include pictures I took of both types of sunsets while on vacation this year and you can vote below. 🙂

Cloudless Sunset

Partly Cloudy Sunset(s)

Thanks for the vote. The rest of the vacation was pretty typical vacation stuff. On the clear nights I saw a fair amount of Perseid meteors leading up to the peak night but I got clouded out on the peak night itself. There were a couple of storms that blew through which made for interesting viewing on how the coastline can quickly change and I even got to see several lightning strikes out over Lake Erie at night and was mesmerized at how bright and crisp they looked. However, the most exciting thing that happened during the vacation was when a P-51D Mustang buzzed the house.  In the pictures below you can see how the house sits in relation to the lake. The P-51 flew past at the same level as the first story windows and only about 75-100 feet from shore. It was really bookin’ it; a blink and I would have missed it. Thankfully I was looking outside when I first heard the engine growling towards me, though I almost missed it because I was looking up for it. I never thought I’d actually see a P-51 in-flight. Growing up I went through a phase where I learned everything I could about WWII and, even today, the P-51 has remained my favorite plane of the era.

Picture of the house I stayed at, taken from the beach
The view from the second story balcony

Vacations always end and before I knew it, I was back home and all the anime that I left alone was staring back at me wanting to get watched now. I was tempted to drop many of the lower quality series because I have a hard enough time psyching myself to watch the weekly R-15 or Sacred Seven but for a couple of these series I had two episodes to get too and for the others I knew another episode was just a few days away at best. All without my normal trick of layering together the better series with the poorer series because I’d watched all the really good ones. In the end, I trudged through telling myself that if I got through these series I would get to rate them as low as they deserve. And I was left with a bigger appreciation of how seeking balance is sometimes the right thing to do.

In closing, I’m back home with my high-speed DSL connection and the light pollution that washes out most stars at night and a clear anime backlog.

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12 thoughts on “On Vacation, Off the Grid, Under the Stars and Wishing for a Shortcut Over My Anime Backlog”

  1. What’s freaky looking is when the sky is full of clouds, it starts raining, and then the sun starts to set in the evening.

    The light atmo looks like another planet.

    (Btw the sky outside looks like something out of post Apocalypia. Raining, everything is a pink/orange shade like a rusted blood shower and solid clouds everywhere)

    Then there’s the purple/red shade that made the streets look like Mars.

    While anime and visual novels can have very nice light shades for outside, they have never produced the variations nature has produced. All those clouds and water vapor actually filters the light in completely different random ways.

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  2. Very interesting choice of series – it’s especially interesting the broad genres of them all, keeping together with balance, I guess. Even if somebody’s favourite genre is say, action, that person probably won’t only watch action series – they’ll most likely intersperse several other types of series while watching. That and how unlikely it is for a season to have more than two very good shows that are both of one genre – with two shows in one genre, it’s easy to compare the two and say ‘this one sucks, not watching’ – but if you have two shows and one is psychological action thriller, while the other is romantic comedy… much harder to say ‘this one is worse than this’, since there aren’t many fronts to compare the two on.

    As for sunsets, it definitely depends on the condition of the lake and clouds. If the water is completely calm (which probably never happens! heh), a cloudless sunset would be the most dramatic. If the clouds are very sparse or very dense, a cloudless sunset would probably be better too. The colours also have an effect, so I guess my final vote had to be ‘I hate sunsets.’

    😦

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  3. Sorry for not commenting sooner, summer colds and trying to squeeze everything I wanted to do in summer before summer ends made me MIA 🙂

    @Kitsune: Thanks, glad you enjoyed.

    @ymarsakar: so true about the resourcefulness of nature and thanks for link – I liked 5 cm/sec alot but that reminds me that I’ve been meaning to get to his other stuff.

    @Mushyrulez: Since starting my blog, I’ve made an effort to broaden my tastes. I think there are some people that only stick with one genre exclusively but I think those types of fans burn-out quickly and become ex-fans or bitter fans.

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  4. Anime is much a do about maturity and growth. Thus when people were kids, they saw power rangers, but when they became teenagers, they started watching teenage material and shounen issues, and then when they became young adults, they now became more enamored with seinen.

    Someone who stays in only one genre will necessarily be cut off from the rest of this process.

    No matter how much one liked power rangers or barney as a kid, one cannot stick to it or shows like it, as one grows older. There is no such thing as a mature power rangers show.

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  5. It would tend to be multi genre, yes, or with multi dimensional setups. Some shows are one dimensional, and inconsistent even at that level. Others are complicated hybrids which have high performance specs, but also high maintenance requirements.

    But until a person has enough life experience to understand certain things, even a multi dimensional artistic product will not be well received. It’s like teenagers reading Romeo and Juliet. All they can see is rebellious teenagers and unfair circumstances. Shakespeare did not change, but the people reading them did. They grew older. They learned to understand Old English better. They obtained life experiences in love and loss and inter-factional, inter-house, politics.

    @Steel: I first came across Shinkai with his short film, Voices of a Distant Star. It showed me just what kind of cohesive artistic vision one needed to acquire if one wanted to set the standard for holistic, complete, quality work in the visual medium. After I had seen all too many examples of short works done excellently, I didn’t go easy on those who had more than enough time and resources (26 episodes worth) and still messed up Utawarerumono and Chrome Shelled Regios. That’s the difference between those with skill and vision, and those who are fumbling in the dark.

    I’m re-watching Starship Operators now. On episode 6 and I’ve seeing all the great reasons why I gave it 5/5, which I had forgotten. Certain details may be missed by those who don’t pay attention to the military/gun club sub-culture as well. In terms of security procedures, SO did not miss a thing compared to Fantastic Children. Not everything is directly explained, but a few moments of consideration will produce a logical and consistent conclusion. I liked that kind of forethought. Creating a universe that makes sense and which I can figure out, even if it isn’t told to me directly.

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  6. http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/starship-operators-review-rewatch/

    Final, final impressions. I looked through the Ani News creds and saw Yoshihiko TOMIZAWA as being the screenplay writer. Takashi WATANABE was the director who also directed Kino’s Journey Life Goes on movie. The thing is, Tomizawa didn’t produce anything else after that, except for one shounen 50 episode tv series, which I’m going to watch now, and some other things.

    Shinkai said the Japanese anime market is unstable, and the fact that talented writers and individuals don’t stay there and work, is a very good reason why. Also provides another reason why anime often has to scrap the original source from the barrel, only taking risk on things that they know have sold well in light novel demographics or manga demographics.

    The talent that went into Starship Operators would have been so well fit to take on adaptations of light novels, due to the high compression ratio between real time and plot development.

    I get the sense that visual novels make a lot more money because they are in the PC market and the PC market is very strong in Japan, compared to say, anime. It’s kinda funny, though, that it was anime that reached foreign audiences first, and not Japanese PC adventure, text, games.

    Directors who produce their own original artistic material and presentation, like Miyazaki, are very rare. There is far more original material (meaning writing jobs) in light novel, manga, and visual novels. People go where the money is. It also delayed the importation of anime, until Funcom came along, because there was a whole train full of intermediaries to get through if one wanted to import anime. Whereas importing original source manga, light novels, or eroge, were a lot easier with less middlemen taking their cut.

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  7. http://wp.me/p2tX8-wi

    One of the interesting things I came across on an anime forum was what people took, value wise, from their shows. That was what I wrote down and I would be interested in hearing what you took away, morally or ethically, from watching certain anime shows, Steel.

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  8. Back when I wrote that reply to MushyR, I hadn’t yet decided to watch anything from Gurren Lagann. Now that I’ve finished it, it would be accurate to say that the hybrid show I described would apply to Gurren. The graphics look like they are for kids under 12. Yet… the story scale and issues challenges the teen and young adult demographic with the scale and complexity. There is humor, an attempt at politics and life-drama at the ending arc, and all kinds of other stuff going on.

    But as many people may note, due to the abundance of elements many people are apt to interpret Gurren as an over the top freak show, rather than synthesize all the elements inherent in it to come up with an objective conclusion. That’s because those who don’t understand heroes, won’t see the appeal of a heroic story in Gurren. This is the very definition of 4 or 8 koma stories. Eight because they doubled up on the story itself by splitting it into two arcs. That by itself was ambitious. The second challenge they succeeded at was the pure scale of the thing. Something out of spore, where a minor individual becomes a powerful race that controls the planet to greater, and larger, goals up and beyond. Compressed in that fashion, it loses a lot of drama, detail, and logical consistency, but they had the foresight to use humor to armor in those weaknesses and made such weaknesses into a strength.

    Oh ya, I forgot what I was here originally for.

    http://www.anime-planet.com/users/VivisQueen/reviews/2699

    Because she rated Legend of Galactic Heroes a 5, I thought we had a commonality of interests in anime. Eventually though, I realized her interests were rather dynamically opposite to me, so I instead started looking at all the stuff she rated a 3 or less and tried them out. Amongst her 3 star reviews, are the series I loved the best. After finding two interesting anime from that method, straight off the jackpot, I think that was a pretty good idea of my own. That’s a rather low review of Zetsubo sensei. There was nothing in it that had much to do about anime or otakus. Zetsubo sensei is not an in joke about otakus. Anyone who knows the otaku culture would know this. It’s a joke about the Japanese culture. Those who understand the Japanese culture, will get the joke. Those who think they know international politics and multicultural “understanding”, but don’t know anything about the Japanese, won’t get it.

    Simple as that in my view.

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  9. Btw, watching anime and reviewing politics, isn’t the same thing as understanding other cultures. That’d be like watching kung fu movies and shootouts, and thinking you know how to shoot a gun and kill people in H2H.

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