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Dated 13 October 2007: In praise of the Girl Next Door

Kyo and Kaminagi
Kaminagi is a Girl Next Door because her apartment
building is only an apple's throw away, okay?

Among the many moe stereotypes, you'll frequently find the Childhood Friend. She is a staple of harem comedies and pretty much anything related to dating sims or eroge. One study suggests that the Childhood Friend does quite well for herself, even if she does not necessarily have the inside track.

Nodame and Chiaki
Sometimes you're taking your chances with the Girl Next Door.

In addition to the Childhood Friend, you'll also find the Clumsy Girl, the Class Rep, the Athletic Girl, and the Shrine Maiden, among others. Curiously, you won't find the Girl Next Door quite as often.

Calling Naru a Girl Next Door might be a stretch,
but the floor/ceiling hole convinces me.

Perhaps the Girl Next Door is a convention foreign to Japan, at least compared to her stature in American culture. You'll remember that Hugh Hefner built his empire on her charms. He explicitly states that his Playboy centerfolds represent the Girl Next Door. (I would argue that the typical centerfold has looked less and less like "the girl next door" over the years, but you get the idea.)

A Childhood Friend, Winry is also a Girl Next Door,
even if her house is kinda far. They live in sugei inaka.

But where ranks the Girl Next Door among anime cliches? When she does appear, she's sometimes also the Childhood Friend or some other more common cliche. It's like she's just the Girl Next Door by happenstance.

Kasumi and Kazuya
Kasumi might be the best Girl Next Door in all anime.

So, while I can't claim the Girl Next Door is rare, she is uncommon where anime is concerned—uncommon and under-appreciated. All glory to the Girl Next Door. When you're with her, it feels like home.

Dated 26 October 2007: Lovely Complex and THE UNREQUITED LOVE


I was wrong about Lovely Complex in that Koizumi and Otani do not, in fact, get together early and often. I had high hopes after an early resolution to the "friends that could be more than friends" question. Instead, the show is about unrequited love, which is fine with me since the matter is addressed with the same honest despair depicted in Honey and Clover.

Koizumi and Otani

I'm confident that our odd couple will get together by the end of the show, but Lovely Complex manages to make me fear that things might not work out for the two of them after all. Honey and Clover creates a similar sense of foreboding with Yamada's pathos, but the tone of Honey and Clover makes fears that Yamada is throwing her life away quite reasonable. Partly for that reason, Honey and Clover is a better show than Lovely Complex, but the latter catches me at a time when its underlying romantic optimism is more appealing, so I'm still enjoying Lovely Complex a great deal.

Dated 11 November 2007: Re-watching Honey and Clover because Lovely Complex ended too soon

Takemoto contemplates his fate.

I'm re-watching Honey and Clover, and it's all Lovely Complex's fault. At least this does give me the chance the write about characters I mostly ignored the last time I wrote about Honey and Clover. First up: Hanamoto Hagumi. She's the tiny, kinda troll-like girl who is supposed to exceedingly cute. The first time I watched Honey and Clover, I didn't like Hagu until almost the end of the second season. Since I did end up eventually liking her, I do appreciate her character more during my second look at these early episodes.

A typical Hagu moment.

For one thing, I notice that she's the one who introduces the viewer to Yamada (my favorite character). We see Yamada in the background, but the early episodes are about Hagu, and Yamada does not interact with the rest of the cast until she meets Hagu. Yamada does already know the other characters, but it isn't until Hagu encounters her that the viewer formally meets Yamada.

Yamada and Morita
And then Yamada asserts herself right quick.

But Hagu. She's the focus of one theme that I suspect is not treated seriously most of the time: Love at first sight. Takemoto falls in love with Hagu literally at first sight. Honey and Clover is as much about his love for her as it is about Yamada's unrequited love for Mayama. That Takemoto falls in love at first sight is particularly significant because the Honey and Clover characters, all artists, frequently wonder what it's like to see the world through Hagu's eyes.

Takemoto sees Hagu for the first time.

I'm not sure if I should categorize Hagu as a prodigy or an idiot savant. (She is a very strange girl, and at 18 too old to still be considered a prodigy.) The other characters recognize that her talent exceeds their own to such a degree that she is fundamentally different on some level that they can't comprehend. But we don't get to see the series through Hagu's eyes; we see it though Takemoto's. From his vantage point, Honey and Clover invites the viewer to see what the world is like through the eyes of one who can—and does—fall in love at first sight. To that end, Honey and Clover does not merely entertain. It instructs and edifies.

Dated 31 January 2008: Sky Girls


The Sky Girls unit patch is pretty cool. I think I even like it better than the Mithril unit patch from the Full Metal Panic! series.

Dated 2 February 2008: Sky Girls OP

Sky Girls title card
Sky Girls title card.

I'm disappointed that the Sky Girls TV OP and ED aren't better, although I do admit that the OP sequence featuring Ichijo leaping into her seat is a thing of beauty.

Dated 2 March 2008: Nodame Cantabile and True Tears similarities

Saiko waterboards Nodame
Noe waterboards Shinichiro
It's okay. They both deserved it.


Dated 15 March 2008: Nodame Cantabile

You're such a slob, Nodame.

So it turns out finishing Nodame Cantabile doesn't inspire me to buy more classical music records. However, it does make me want to go to the orchestra more often. That, and possibly start seeing a really sloppy gal. Well, provided she's a musical genius.

Really, this is all Ayako's fault.

Dated 19 March 2008: Tsukihime revisited

Anime Hisui doesn't stand by Shiki's bed as much.

I've started re-watching the Tsukihime anime while re-playing the game. I never completed more than half the possible routes in the game, so there's still plenty left in the visual novel that's unexplored.

Arcueid surprised
This isn't what it looks like.

Shingetsutan Tsukihime (Lunar Legend Tsukihime) impresses a viewer differently if he is familiar with the original game. The first time I watched the series, I was wholly ignorant of the game aside from knowing that it was somehow related to Melty Blood (which I had played long enough to remember that I'm ghastly at fighting games).

Young Kohaku
Young Kohaku. Wait, oh no....

Nevertheless, I liked the Tsukihime anime enough to purchase the DVDs (including the very nice box) immediately as Geneon released the R1s. Even then I had little more than a vague understanding regarding the various plotlines and possible endings of the original game.

Hisui blushes
This isn't what it looks like either.

Now that I've finally played the game and completed enough of the paths to be familiar with the backstory, the anime takes on a whole new dimension and I recognize when the anime hints at the untold story's actual depth. Of course, there is no possible way to cover all that material in a single-season series, especially considering that many of the possible plotlines are divergent and mutally exclusive depending upon the player's choices. So, I have a greater appreciation of the work J.C. Staff managed in producing the series.

Ciel surely Jedi-mind-fucks everyone when changing for gym class.

In retrospect, it now seems obvious that the show is aimed at viewers who have played through the game (or are at least well-versed in its story). Still, the series works for viewers that approach the title without knowing anything about the game, and to that end I think J.C. Staff succeeded.

Arcueid surprises Shiki
"This really really isn't what it looks like"
"At least she didn't turn into a dragon."

Still, complaints that the Tsukihime anime is convoluted and poorly paced are understandable. This is not a perfect series by any means, although as a stand-alone work it doesn't stumble as much as the Fate/Stay Night anime (which I mostly completed only out of general principle). Highlights in J.C. Staff's adaptation of Tsukihime include superlovely character designs (Arcueid in particular is a game-breaking home run) and excellent work evolving the "you-get-the-idea" stills and backdrops from the game into beautiful designs and lavish settings that remain instantly familiar. For example, Shiki's knife looks like a possible heirloom instead of something he pulled out of a kitchen drawer and the Tohno mansion itself actually looks opulent.

Shiki's knife
Shiki's knife.

Akiha and Kohaku
Akiha plays her violin.

Also notable is the music, which is quite good here and much improved from the game BGM. Like many people, I've experimented with replacing the original Tsukihime game's music with a variety of other tracks. Currently, it comprises mostly of tracks from the My-Otome soundtrack, which is going to evoke some curious juxtapositions when I re-watch My-Otome, I'm sure.

Ciel watches over Shiki
Ciel watches over [Edit: stalks] Shiki.

Not so good are the unremarkable fight scenes, but I'm willing to let that go because (1) fight scenes are a persistent J.C. Staff shortcoming (Azumanga Daioh snowball fight notwithstanding) and (2) well, the original game contains only stills, so any animated fights are technical improvements, I suppose. Moreover, even if the occasional fights are nothing special, the show itself looks great.