You are currently browsing the Obsessivity weblog archives for the day Saturday, October 28th, 2006.

28 Oct 2006

Discovering Noir


It wasn’t long ago that I had no clue what anime was.

Well, I knew it was a Japanese cartoon form. My kids have watched the various duelling animes over the years, Pokemon and the like. I never considered it as an entertainment medium that could do more than replace American-style animal cartoons with badly drawn kids yelling at each other.

I think it was in 2004 that Cartoon Network showed .Hack//SIGN. I caught a little of it. Not enough to understand what was going on – but enough to find it beginning to hold my interest. I rented the series one DVD at a time from GreenCine. In fact, I think it was the reason I opened my GreenCine account.

When I started to understand the story, I found it fascinating. When I realized that it expanded into a PS/2 video game, I played the game through. I watched the four episode OVA that is included with the game.

All in all, the whole .Hack multimedia experience is highly absorbing, especially for someone who was a massively multiplayer gaming addict. All of the components bind together and build on each other, which is something I’ve never seen elsewhere.

I realized that there was something to anime beyond cute monsters beating the snot out of each other. I watched other series, including Neon Genesis Evangelion, which almost cured me of ever wanting to watch anime again. Fortunately, I also saw enough of Cowboy Bebop to know that there were series with interesting, ideosyncratic characters and plots, with stories that could be light-hearted or deeply moving.

I listened to soundtrack music, which can be extremely good. From the .Hack series, and especially .Hack//Liminality, the OVAs that accompany the game, I discovered the music of Kajiura Yuki. I bought the soundtrack CDs, and am still enthralled by them. I wanted to hear more, and I’ve made a point of seeking out series that use her music.

One of those was a “girls with guns” anime named Noir. It didn’t look especially interesting, but it was Kajiura’s first major anime, so it seemed to be a good place to start. And GreenCine is ideal for movies that may or may not be of interest.

I’m not sure that the anime itself had me hooked immediately. I think it took a couple of episodes for that. Actually, I think it was the “popcorn” scene in episode 3. But the music – from the moment the haunting music box theme morphs into the backdrop for a high-energy dance of death, with Kirika killing everyone in sight, without losing the mystical feel of the music box – you know that this is something special. Those Noir tracks are still those I like the best among my Kajiura collection.

It doesn’t take long before the emotional impact of the series catches up with the effect of the music. I didn’t rent more than three DVDs from GreenCine, because I had already decided that I needed to own them. It didn’t matter that I half-expected to hate the ending; I had to buy the set, and I’ve now watched it many times, dubbed and subtitled.

I doubt that I will ever find a series that I enjoy more than Noir, or that has as much of an impact on me. If I were to define what I believe to be the best show I’ve ever seen, I’d have a hard time choosing between: the BBC production of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Babylon 5; and Noir.

Though I don’t expect another anime ever to topple Noir from its top place in my personal listings, the series showed me that it’s possible for the medium to transcend the kids’ cartoon – in many ways.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
(writing) “Skeptics” project

28 Oct 2006

The “skeptics” project


So, I’m not really sure what I should say here. Obviously, when it gets to The Book, I’m not going to mention plot, if for no other reason than I don’t want it stolen.

This “project” is a little different, though. If it’s going to work, I’ll eventually go public with it. Sooner or later I’ll have to give details. And right now it’s a major obsession, so I can’t really avoid it.

I’m not a fanfic writer. Fanfic has improved over the years, and it’s often a high-quality fictional product these days. For me, though, I wouldn’t want to work with someone else’s characters. I can’t do justice to another writer’s canon. I might possibly be able to set stories in another’s world, if I avoid their primary characters, but then it wouldn’t be as interesting. And there aren’t that many world settings outside of CJ Cherry’s merchanter space that would support disparate storylines.

So I started thinking about a setting that could go beyond a single storyline, and came up with something I think could work quite well. It’s a contemporary fantasy, centering around a group of rational skeptics who aren’t quite what they seem. The ground seems to be sufficiently fertile for several threads of stories, with comedic possibilities. I’m working on an episodic story as a starter. I’d see it primarily supporting episodic or stand-alone short stories.

What I’d like to do, after I finish this story, is open the world up for development, and solicit stories from others. I’d ask other writers to contribute to shared background in a wiki, and publish any stories online. I’m not sure whether the background itself is robust enough for that, but I think it’s an interesting concept, and I’d like to try.

My own series of stories borrows heavily from anime clichés, and would probably be better expressed in manga-form, if I could draw. And, yes, one of the clichés is yuri, and it isn’t comedic. I like it well enough so far to want to see it published online, so I’m hoping I can make the project work.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
(writing) “Skeptics” project