Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Makibét, Ak 5, Sin 5


Da livit im bera wa ting nalush ando du wok, wa *dorámawala mal,
Demang pasa ora im ere da mesa da *dorama wit lek bik unte wit seteráx,
Unte deng namang na pochuye im natim efa. Im wa setoriye
Deting wa *baka tili showxa, wit walowda walowda sownte unte walowda walowda gova-tet,
Wit wa senyawu nakangekeng.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Talentless Nana

Talentless Nana

To explain exactly why Talentless Nana is a show you should be watching would be to spoil its best moments1. Its premise, character designs and animation all bring to mind the kind of mid-2000s filler that eventually brought down ADV Films, but underneath that cheap veneer is an experience that's quite unlike anything I've seen before – even as it cribs elements from many, many other places.

Nanao Nakajima is a student at a school for the "Talented" – teenagers with various special mutant-style abilities, including pyrokinesis, healing, and teleportation. They're brought to a remote island to be trained to fight the "Enemies of Humanity", but Nanao's power is limited in comparison to his classmates', and he's constantly ridiculed for his ineffectiveness in battle. But the arrival of two transfer students, the telepath Nana Hiiragi and mysterious Kyouya Onodera, finally gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his power's usefulness.

And then, the first episode ends with the most confident shift in both tone and context that I can remember since at least SaiKano.

Even more surprisingly, it's managed to sustain its new premise easily so far, even exceeding that first cliffhanger multiple times. The pull-and-push between the protagonists and antagonists is held taught at all times, with every suggestion of an advantage expertly (and often, in the story, accidentally) disarmed, with the audience – at least this member of the audience – secretly hoping both sides somehow come out victorious, despite their mutually exclusive goals.

I've got no idea where this story is going to end up; only five episodes into the series, there's a lot more ground to cover and challenges for our… "heroes" to face. At some stage the balance is going to have to shift against the protagonists, which is going to be a fascinating needle to thread.

I desperately hope they pull it off, though. It's been a long time since I've seen a show that felt this fresh and unpredictable.

1 And as a result this is going to be awkwardly vague in places.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Bloom Into You

And Yuu/Tainted my entire world

There's something about the central relationship in Bloom Into You that I can't quite gel with. It's frustrating, because otherwise it's completely up my anime alley: a high school romance with a large dose of emotional turmoil and self-examination.

Spoilers follow.

Yuu, a high school freshman, has never fallen in love. She suspects she never will. When she meets Touko, an upperclassman with a similar attitude, they become friends, bonding over this shared aromatic outlook – until Touka confesses that she's fallen for Yuu.

Normally this would result in a fairly rapid reciprocation (and, depending on the decade, a bunch of angsty reflection on the part of Yuu), but here she just kinda… goes along with it?

She doesn't pretend to have feelings for Touka, and tells her as much, but she's willing to put her own discomfort completely aside to indulge the (at times frightening) emotional storm that Touka is going through.

There've been quite a lot of shows recently which have this kind of one-sided romantic interest, and there's even a tendency for the characters to explicitly state as much. Both Re:Zero and OreGairu's protagonists admit to themselves and others that their actions are driven by their feelings for the female lead, but that they are willing to disregard (or in some cases run roughshod) over her wishes in order to prove the strength of their affections.

It's pretty baffling, and more than a little alarming, that these monomaniacs are so commonly commended by these shows.

Where Bloom departs from this mould, is how we're allowed into the thoughts of the recipient of the fixation – but rather than fixing the problem, it somehow makes it worse.

It's disappointing that Yuu doesn't value herself, her time or her feelings enough to push back against the unreasonable demands Touka is putting on her. Yuu spends a not-insignificant amount of time wondering how to get Touka to value and accept her "true" self, all the while apparently denying herself the same courtesy.

Is it too much to ask for a show in this genre where both participants have some degree of self-respect..?

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Kowpelésh Ere da Vedipelésh

Mi finyish vedi ere fo translate wang mo sowngit fo langbelta: All Along the Watchtower

(I have tried to translate another song to langbelta: All Along the Watchtower)

(Asilik kowltim, sili tolowda mebi tenye wawe fo du im mogut, fodagut showxa mi!)

(As always, if you have any way to make it better, please tell me!)

Kowpelésh Ere da *Vedipelésh

Mogut fo desh wa we fongi
Da *dzhoka ta showxa fo da pirata
Desh walowda walowda govatét
Mi na kang ge pash natím

Inyalowda beve rowm mi
Imim leta kowlting mi
Namang na gonya natim du mi eka
Imim na gonya gif mi wowt imim

Na desh radzhang fo ge natét
Da pirata showxa nadura
Walowda walowda milowda xiya
Pensa da livit im kaka

Amash to unte mi finyish du im fore
Unte im na shukumi milowda
Mogut fo setóp fo showxa nasheng xitím
Da ora xiya kasi da nax

Kowpelésh ere da *vedipelésh
Inyalowda vedi fong
Detím kowl sésata ta kom unte go
Oso welwala nawit but

Fongi de ere da pelésh nawowm
Wa koyo ta showxa tet
Tu kapawu ta ando kom
Ere da kuxaku da belék

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Gleipnir is a vaguely body-horror manga adaptation, about a guy who has, somehow, found himself with the ability to transform into a "monster" with the appearance of a Japanese prefectural mascot. After his secret is discovered by a classmate, she finds a zipper down the back which allows her to climb inside and pilot him.

Also, other "monsters" (with various other abilities and transformations) are trying to kill them, in an attempt to collect enough alien coins to unlock the power to destroy the world. (Not a word of this is an exaggeration.)

The season starts out strong, but I felt like it very quickly fell back on fairly predictable shonen tropes, without spending any time on the much more interesting psychological implications of the main characters' unique bond. They're very different people – a scared, reclusive nerd and a borderline-sociopathic gyaru – and the way they complement each other's issues and weaknesses, both in and out of the costume, had a lot of potential for interesting character work that was ultimately squandered.

But then, given the parade of obvious shonen villains in the OP, I was probably expecting too much from the get-go.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Dear Brother

Oniisama e

After some… let's call them recommendations on Twitter, I have started to watch the 1992 shoujo manga adaptation Oniisama e. It was described to me as "pure uncut black-market shoujo" and I honestly cannot find fault with that assessment.

This is melodrama in its concentrated form. Directed by Osamu Dezaki – whose better-known works include the sports anime Ashita no Joe and Ace o Nerae, as well as trashy assassin thriller Golgo 13 – this takes all his trademarks and crams them into a genre that is, frankly, not prepared for it.

Split-screens, dramatic watercolour freeze-frames, lighting cues that would make Edgar Wright sit up and take notes; all in the service of a story that has no rights being so intense. It's something of a credit to the direction here that in the first episode the tension around a teenager's first day at a new high school was ramped up to the point that I genuinely expected the third act to end with a horrific murder.

One of my favourite shows, Kyoto Animation's exquisite Hyouka, is a detective series about nothing of consequence, but does an admirable job infusing its ultimately-insignificant mysteries with dramatic tension and satisfying reveals. Oniisama e doesn't have that whodunnit structure to rely on, but manages (with the liberal application of over-the-top thunder-and-lightning) to make "my new friend seems overly concerned with her position in the social pecking order" feel like the kind of life-or-death situation that most anime shows could only dream of portraying.

In short: I don't know what the hell this thing is, but I love it.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

O Maidens in Your Savage Season

O Maidens in Your Savage Season

One of the principal characters of O Maidens in Your Savage Season, a 2019 anime based on the manga by Mari Okada and Nao Emoto, describes fictional stories as not simply escapism, but a way to experience emotions at a safe distance; by empathising with the characters in the story, we get a kind of a vaccination against emotions that we'll experience first-hand later.

The trouble I'm having, now that I've finished the series, is that it's made me re-experience a particularly potent, complicated cocktail of emotions that I've not had to for quite a while — and I'm not sure I'm handling it well.

I'm not going to get into spoilers, but in short I'm something of a mess right now. It's been less than an hour since the last episode ended, but the borderline-anxiety that built up as the complicated relationships tangled themselves more and more (a phenomenon that's not exclusive to O Maidens, but hasn't been this pronounced since White Album 2) is still swirling around and not yet entirely processable.

This is probably — hopefully — just a side-effect of the dangling plot threads that the show has left me with; I'm not usually bothered by open endings, but there were two characters in particular who I'd hoped to see get a little more resolution. They were the less conventional of the relationships, but that made them all the more compelling — I know what the other two characters' arcs would have looked like even if they'd been left open, but these two needed more definition.

It's been years since I bought any manga, but I've ordered the first two volumes with the hope that it can give me some closure…

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Mi ando xunyam fo showxa langbelta

Pashang fong, kopeng

Because I can't ever make things easy for myself, I've started running a second RPG campaign.

It's a sci-fi game this time, using The Expanse RPG rules and in that setting (albeit without any connection to the TV show or books), so it's a nice change of pace on the front—and it makes it harder to reuse any of the plot beats or influences from my 13th Age campaign, which is slso useful because it's for three of the same party members.

One of my favourite things in The Expanse is langbelta, the creole spoken by the inhabitants of The Belt and the Outer Planets. While the novels have just used a slap-dash approach of mixing words from various languages, the TV show hired a lingust to create an actual creole, with syntactical and grammatical rules governing it.

And because, as mentioned above, I can't ever make things easy for myself, I decided to learn how to speak it to give my in-game Belter characters a bit more flavour.

When I was studying French for A-Level, I found myself thinking in French during classes because that was easier for my brain than the two-step process of thinking of a thing in English and having to search for the words in French. I'm doing this again now with a constructed language designed for a science fiction TV show, and it's fun.

I'm noticing myself translating my thoughts, random sentences that other people say, TV dialogue, books… almost everything I'm encountering gets an internal langbelta pass.

Which is how I ended up translating the lyrics to The House of the Rising Sun into langbelta. I had to use English words for a couple of things that don't have official translations, as well as coin a couple of new compound words, and singing along take a little creativity, but it is more-or-less possible.

Da Imbombo da Sowng da Leva

Desh imbobo ere Seteshang Erosh
Imim du nem da Sowng da Leva
Unte im finyish du suchok fo walowda walowda beratna
Unte Got, mi fosho wang

Matna mi ta básengwala
Im ta xalte gut da *dzhing da belú da nuva mi
Papa mi ta *kasínyowala
Ere Seteshang Erosh

Deting kasínyowala du mowteng
Im bera kaxa ere kapawu
Unte detim im xush im bera
Detim im ando beve

O matna, showxa málimang tolowda
Fo na du lik mi finyish du
Na du livit wit papeka unte terístiting
Ere da Imbobo da Sowng da Leva

Mi tenye wang lek ere da seteshang
Da owta ere kapawu
Mi ando go bek fo Seteshang Erosh
Fo leta-go mi fongi fode

Desh imbobo ere Seteshang Erosh
Imim du nem da Sowng da Leva
Unte im finyish du suchok fo walowda walowda beratna
Unte Got, mi fosho wang

Or, back to English...

The Hole the Sun the Raise

There-exists (a) hole in/on Eros Station
(Non-specific third-person-plural) make name the Sun the Raise
And it (perfect aspect) makes problems for many many brothers
And God, I (certain-opinion) ∅ one

My mother (past) ∅ clothes-person
She (past) keep good the jean(s) the blue the new mine
My father (past) ∅ casino-person
In/on Eros Station

The-thing-that casino-person has need (for)
It ∅ just box in/on ship
And that-time-when he happy is only
That-time-when he ∅ (contibnuous aspect) drink

Oh mother(s), speak-to small-person(s) all-yours
To not do like I (perfect aspect) do
Not to live with sin and sad-things
In the Hole the Sun the Raise

I have one leg in/on the station
The other in/on (a) ship
I (continuing aspect) go back to Eros Station
To take-away me from-here to-there1

There-exists (a) hole in/on Eros Station
(Non-specific third-person-plural) make name the Sun the Raise
And it (perfect aspect) makes problems for many many brothers
And God, I (certain-opinion) ∅ one

Since langbelta is a "zero-copula" languaue—it lacks a "to be" verb—I've used ∅ in the translation above to represent where, in English, that would go.

1 The langbelta phrase "leta-go [X] fongi fode" is somewhat idiomatic, used mostly to mean "arrested" in the sense of the cops dragging you away, never to be seen again. "Wear that ball and chain" is similarly idiomatic for being trapped, in this case willingly, which I think I've managed to keep intact by making this reflexive.