Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

Dated 9 January 2010: A possible SHAFT cross-series Easter egg

Hitagi pulls on her panties.

So, in light of Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei episode 13, do you suppose SHAFT intentionally had Hitagi in Bakemonogatari episode two put on her panties backwards?

Dated 19 October 2009: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood ED3 returns Winry to former glory

Winry at work.

There are a few common complaints about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Among them include changed voices and a less buxom Winry. Now, the matter about the voices is not going to go away, but, as Epi pointed out earlier, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood now sports a new ED. This second third ED powers up Winry to her previous dimensions. This is unlikely to affect Winry's in-show character design, but it seems likely the changes for the ED are intended to quiet some of the grumbling while hearkening back to the "Motherland" ED from the first anime season—the one about Winry killing time at home.

Winry playing make-believe.

Another common Fullmetal Alchemist complaint is that Winry does not really serve much of a purpose in the show. She has been called mere eye candy and a Mary Sue, for example. Both allegations have some merit, but I don't think these characteristics necessarily diminish Winry's importance in the show. Do not underestimate the Girl Next Door. She reminds Al and Ed of home.

I think we all know what this phone call is about.

Moreover, I submit that it is necessary to include aspects in a show not necessarily dedicated to advancing the primary plot. I am not advocating filler for filler's sake, but I don't think many will disagree if I claim the semi-parody Mustang-centric episode of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime contributed in meaningful ways to the overall success of the series by expanding the role of costars in ways we might not otherwise have seen. Likewise, the old "Winry killing time at home" and now the new "Winry at work" EDs flesh out some additional details about the character—in this case, nothing we didn't already know or couldn't have assumed, but it's still nice to have it there.

Dated 15 October 2009: Haruhi ain't over 'till it's over

Haruhi and Mai
Haruhi and Mai are pleasantly surprised.

I guess I spoke too soon; there is still someone subbing the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu rebroadcast. Although from the looks of it, they might not even be using television raws. And I don't see a new sub for episode 25, Haruhi's independent film.

The festival gets rained out
What makes the green grass grow?

I suppose it is as good a time as any to revisit some "Live Alive" points that I skipped the first time around. Although I alluded to them, I did not explicitly raise these matters because I quite frankly expected a whole slew of bloggers to cover the same ground. Three years later, I still haven't seen anyone directly address the following points—or if they did, they escaped my notice:

The crowd takes shelter indoors
A crowd conveniently takes shelter from the rain.

First, the rain. This is a spoiler of sorts, but a minor one unless you still don't know the basic crux of the Haruhi plot. Haruhi made it rain. Why? Obviously to drive people indoors to a place where a large crowd could gather and take shelter from the inclement weather together—someplace like the concert venue. No sense in a tree falling in the forest if nobody is around to hear it, right?

It is a travesty ENOZ never got a character album; everyone else got one.

Second, Haruhi does not introduce herself to the audience. After "God Knows," Haruhi introduces the non-incapacitated members of ENOZ. Then she introduces fellow stand-in member Yuki, but she never introduces herself by name. Now, perhaps Haruhi is so well known (or so infamous, more likely) that introductions are unnecessary in her case, but I like to think the omission is a deliberate effort on Haruhi's part towards developing modesty.

Haruhi introduces Yuki
Haruhi introduces Yuki.

Bear in mind that "Live Alive" chronologically follows a solid bank of episodes showcasing Haruhi at her most conceited and self-centered, including one in which her cruelty nearly drove Kyon to violence. That Haruhi, the self-proclaimed greatest and most important when it comes to everything, would pass up a chance to spread her name around is significant enough to bear mention.

Haruhi turns stage right
Haruhi glances stage right...

Third, Haruhi looks for Kyon after the first song. At least, that's the way I read the quick scene when Haruhi joyfully scans the crowd and her fellow performers on stage before setting her glace stage right, in Yuki's direction, but focusing past her.

...and looks right past Yuki.

The first time I saw it, I immediately felt that the framing of this shot—taken from Haruhi's point of view—was intended to draw attention to the wings, where Haruhi evidently hoped someone would be: Kyon, by my reckoning.

Yuki and Haruhi rock the fuck out
Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

That's it for previously omitted points, but I would like to touch upon a fourth, more commonly expressed viewpoint, that has fallen out of fashion lately: "Live Alive" is an excellent episode. This is the episode that turned Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu fans into fanatics. This is the episode that inspires much of the loyalty that causes Haruhi detractors to characterize many current fans as blind apologists. This isn't the only episode, naturally, but it's likely the one that put most fans over the top. And why not? "Live Alive" highlights Suzumiya Haruhi—and Hirano Aya—at their best. Suzumiya Haruhi for the above three reasons, and Hirano Aya for the joy and energy she delivered in what is one of the most memorable and best-regarded performances in recent memory.

Dated 12 October 2009: The End of Haruhi

Haruhi is probably okay to be around when she's not a hellion.

I am disappointed nobody bothered to re-sub (re-mux, really) the remaining episodes of the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu rebroadcast. It's not that crazy; groups re-subbed the initial episodes of the rebroadcast leading up to "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" and "Endless Eight." I guess the tedious filmmaking episodes drained their collective will.

In other news, I am also disappointed we did not get any Haruhi Cantabile episodes from the random cut of Haruhi being uncharacteristically serene in front of a piano as depicted in the OP.

Dated 4 October 2009: I like the Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ ending

Doctor Scythe Master
"So worth it."

I know the ending to Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ really angered a lot of people, but I have zero problems with it. My reaction could be related to my growing distaste for the ever-common "I MUST PROTECT HER" theme that seems to permeate anime and manga. Zwei had a touch of this affecting him as well, but I'm really glad his efforts played out the way it did. If you're going to cast a "I MUST PROTECT HER" line, you should expect these kinds of snarls to develop.

Mio isn't exactly Detective Conan, but she doesn't have to be.

Without revealing too many spoilers, I also enjoyed how the climactic battles resulted in one Phantom dead, another Phantom pretty fucked up, and another Phantom walking away without a scratch. I guess we all know who The Strongest is now.

Evening gowns of Madlax Invulnerability only stop bullets.

Speaking of which, True Noir coming out of nowhere to Kirika the Bejeezus out of the Eva Series before they could initiate Instrumentality with Ein's corpse was awesome. I'll forgive the lack of El Cazador de la Bruja cameos during the Mexico arc for more Chloe-stabbing-people-in-the-neck-type action any day.

Dated 2 October 2009: Bakemonogatari turns Panavision into shortscreen

Open wide.

Sometimes I think SHAFT/Shinbo is trying to be the next Gainax/Anno. Other times I think SHAFT/Shinbo is just trolling viewers. Some argue unfavorable opinions about SHAFT's avant-garde Bakemonogatari represent intellectual deficiencies or unbreachable cultural divides hamstringing impaired viewers.

< wildarmsheero> the people who dont like things like bakemonogatari or zetsubou sensei
< wildarmsheero> are just dumb americans who dont get japanese culture
<&Nakar> I may not know a japanese ghost from a hole in the ground - and I know from holes in the ground - but I know smug self-congratulatory dialogue when it hits itself on the back.
< wildarmsheero> i think youre jsut mad at the show
< wildarmsheero> because you dont get it
< Asuka`s_Hair_Clips> I totally agree with Nakar, but I also think Bakemonogatari is a brilliant slide show presentation.
< Asuka`s_Hair_Clips> It just wasn't any fun to watch.

As a harem-anime protagonist, Araragi is as much
a loser as Urashima Keitaro. Maybe more so.

The things I don't like about SHAFT and Shinbo in general and Bakemonogatari specifically have nothing to do with Japanese culture, though. (But I guess it is possible I might still be too dumb to "get" the show.) Mostly I'm irked that they attempt to be different merely for the sake of being different while giving their fanatics a smug sense of self-importance that seems to arise out of the very act of being SHAFT, Shinbo, and Bakemonogatari fans.

Hitagi's and Araragi's hands
(1) Best use of the wider-widescreen aspect ratio all episode.
(2) God damn, Araragi has little girl hands.

For example, the 12th episode of Bakemonogatari was presented in widescreen—not its regular 16:9 widescreen—but wider widescreen. But the actual content of the episode did not benefit in any way from the aspect ratio. Is it really widescreen if there are no gains side-to-side? If it's just a regular episode with the tops and bottoms cropped off, isn't that technically shortscreen? Is that still good? Or is it just dumb? Granted, Bakemonogatari was not the first show to attempt this trick.

Raven, Break, Alice, and Oz
Pandora Hearts uses the entire screen.

The final episode of Gunbuster by the aforementioned Gainax is in black and white and widescreen. (The previous episodes of Top wo Nerae had a 4:3 aspect ratio.) Turns out Gunbuster episode six was also originally 4:3 and was matted to give a widescreen appearance as well. Without delving into a comparison to determine if Gainax made good use of the wider aspect ratio during the final episode of Top wo Nerae, or was also guilty of shortscreen shenanigans, I can at least claim Bakemonogatari was neither unique in employing this technique nor successful at its execution.

Dated 30 September 2009: Canaan's Tactical Purse CHECK

Canaan, Shem, and Hakko
Canaan's tactical purse.

It's been a while since the last CHECK. This installment features Canaan's tactical purse. I don't know exactly what she keeps in there—probably extra magazines and perhaps a cleaning kit—but Canaan's tactical purse is clearly built for war. I'm sure we'll find knockoffs at Brigade Quartermaster shortly.

Alphard, Maria, and Canaan
Turns out Maria is a real photographer. Who knew?

In related news, Canaan turned out to be quite better than its early episodes suggested. It's not a fantastic series by my reckoning, but it is much better than jaded anime fans give it credit for. Moreover, the production values throughout remained impeccable—notable nowadays since more studios and series seem financially strapped. I guess they had to keep the animation quality up because of the three compilation movies in the works. Speaking of which, I wonder if they will change anything, and if they will be better received.

Dated 25 September 2009: Maybe I'm just not with it enough to get SHAFT

You should have accepted the naked apron offer, guy.

I've never been a fan of SHAFT, but between Bakemonogatari and Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, I'm getting really tired of the SHAFT pseudo-avant garde shtick.

It's normal to leave one's curtains open.

I keep watching more Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei because I keep hoping it will return to kind of charm and humor it had during its first season. But truth be told, I've gotten so tired of its gimmicks that I'm rejecting my earlier assertion and now declaring Nami (the "normal" one) the Best Girl of the show.