Pale Cocoon

If we lost our written memory would we remember our history? Pale Cocoon is a 23 minute OVA about a boy who reconstructs data from the archives. He is interested in what Earth used to look like on the surface, before he and his people built cities deep underground. One of the files he reconstructs causes him to question what he knows about the world and leads him to climb to the surface to see what is there for himself. The end is surprising. I won’t spoil it for you, but it isn’t what you would think it would be.

I loved the animation and the music. It has a sad but hopeful atmosphere.

Reconstructed from Archives

High and Mighty Color

High and Mighty Color started as a Metallica cover band and worked their way up to fame until they broke apart in 2010. Honestly, I didn’t know Japan had Metallica cover bands. The band started in Okinawa like many other bands. American and Japanese music traditions mix and swirl on that island apparently. (Perhaps to Japan’s misfortune?)

I’m just kidding. High and Mighty Color was a really good band.  I was sorry to see them break up. The lead vocalist, Makii, had an ethereal angelic voice that contrasted beautifully with the raw metal instrumentals and vocals of the band and Yuusuke.  I don’t much care for scream-metal but this band had a nice balance on their albums. The way Makii, and later her replacement Halca, sang nicely offset what I normally find annoying about metal bands.

The band does remind me of Metallica with their rhythms and instrumentals. They are heavy but don’t have the same oppressive sounds that Metallic is famous for. The instrumentals often sound happy or hopeful. Their sound is complex and doesn’t lean heavily on the bass section.  They sound very American compared to other groups like Home Made Kazoku. The lyrics simply sound great. Mind you I understand very, very little Japanese. Luckily you don’t have to understand much of what is being said to enjoy music.

High and Mighty Color produced many anime themes, which was how I discovered them. Among them are Bleach‘s 3rd opening “Ichirin no Hana,” “Style: Get Glory in This Hand” for Death Note: The Last Name, and “Pride” for Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny ( Gundam always has such long titles). Not all their tunes are excellent. Some of them slice my ears with their screaming-metalness when Makii is conspicuously absent from them.  But by and large their music is good.

As I mentioned the band broke up in 2010. Makii left in 2008 after her marriage to other singer. She left the band on good terms. Halca came on board for just 1 album before the band released their farewell single: “Re:ache.”

It’s unfortunate the band broke up. They had a unique metal-rock sound that nicely mixed Japanese musical language and American instrumentals. The female vocalist could join the male’s gravel when needed or float on light wings. High and Mighty Color, if nothing else, will be remembered for their theme song for Bleach.

Cosplay Finds

There are a lot of cosplay pics on the net. Some are good; some not so much. Here are a few cool ones I have found recently. While I wouldn’t cosplay myself, I think it’s cool just how detailed and exact people can get with the costumes. Some are bought from boutiques but most cosplayers like to make their own. For those of you who don’t know; cosplay is short for “costume play.” People dress up as accurately as they can as their favorite video game or anime/manage characters and often put on sketches during conventions. Hence the “play” part of cosplay. Cosplayers can also enter competitions for the best costume.  Some game companies hire professional cosplayers to represent their franchise at these conventions

Step aside Zelda. Midna has more unearthly sex appeal than you do. This cosplay really impressed me. I hope Midna becomes a regular character in the Legend of Zelda series

Another Final Fantasy 8 cosplay. Here is the main character Squall down to every detail

Final Fantasy 8 is fairly forgotten. Here is a Rinoa cosplay that captures the feel of the character

 

I found it rather amazing just how many “old” Final Fantasy cosplay characters are around. Some of the games are well over 20 years old such as Final Fantasy VI, but people are still bring the character to life regularly. Kefka cosplay and Terra cosplay seem the most popular. I was surprised to see Final Fantasy 8 cosplay since that game seems more obscure than many of the other games. Of course there are still a lot of Final Fantasy VII cosplay around with Advent Children and the game’s general popularity.

Tifa from Advent Children and Final Fantasy VII is a favorite.

Here is another Kefka cosplay. He really captures the villain's madness. Many of the FF6 cosplayers look like they stepped out of an opera.

It is scary just how close cosplayers (pro or not) can get. Here is Vanille from the Final Fantasy series

More Final Fantasy Advent Children Cosplay goodness

It's amazing how spot on this Auron is from the Auron in Final Fantasy X

A wicked looking Kefka Cosplay

 

Sure some of the cosplay photos here and throughout the net have been Photoshoped. Although that seems to be a concern it isn’t anything different from any other photo we see in a magazine. High quality cosplay only helps increase its exposure. It is more than “halloween” for grown ups. Cosplay is bringing a character to life no differently than an actor does on the screen. I hope cosplay will become increasingly common and cool.

Highschool of the Dead

Highschool of the Dead ( H.O.T.D.) follows a zombie apocalypse, anime style. It all starts during a typical day at high school. Takashi Komuro was skipping class as usual when he noticed a strange man at the school gate. The PhysEd teachers confront the man…well being a zombie series, the stranger turns out to be a zombie and after a bite, the PE teachers proceed to kill each other.

5 minutes later the entire school is killing each other.

H.O.T.D. is violent. Heads are bashed in with anime style violence. It is the only way to kill the undead, after all. People are eaten alive, shot and everything else that happens when the world goes insane. Even the characters comment about how everything changed in just 1-2 days. They go from being normal honor students to urban warriors who have killed  former friends.

From left to right: Shizuka, Alice, Saya, Rei, and Saeko

Highschool of the Dead has too much boobage for my taste. Zombies have always had a strange sexuality to them. They eat to reproduce. The horrible intimacy of that is what gives them this sexual element. HOTD adds teenage hormonal elements to the strange mix. Many of the key female characters are….busty to put it mildly. It is a source for many crude jokes and scenes teenage boys dream about. I found the scenes unnecessary.The crude scenes only detracted from the female characters. The female characters were each likeable and strong in their own way. Each character adds a certain skill to the team that helps all of them survive. Okay, all the females are likeable and strong except Shizuka Marikawa, the ex-school nurse. She is a blond bimbo with breasts larger than her head. She is the only adult of the group and does take on a motherly role (what the enormous chest tends to represent). She is intelligent, but rarely shows it with her behavior.

I found the way the characters interact and attempt to live as normally as possible with Them, as they call the zombies, around everywhere the most appealing. Each character has baggage they bring from the previous world, such as Saeko Busujima’s “raw nature” and Saya Takagi’s troubled relationship with her parents.  I did find it annoying how the female characters fawn after Takashi, but HOTD is shonen.

Highschool of the Dead captures the feel of a George Romero flick and adds an anime twist. Unlike Romero films, the main characters are all collected and do what needs to be done. They tend not to panic as much as Romero’s flaky people. Sure some people will panic and get themselves killed, but no where near as many as in Romero’s world. In HOTD, the people become organized after the initial panic and create (admittedly temporary) safe zones in the cities. Ok, something else HOTD has over Romero: freakin’ samurai. Saeko and a few sub-characters embody bushido code. They dispatch zombie mobs with a flourish American firearms just can’t muster. Anime is good for these over-the-top flourish of awesomeness, though.

Highschool of the Dead is a good watch for any fan of zombies. The Japanese twist on American zombie culture is refreshing as much as it is familiar. The interaction and development of each of the cast is well paced and interesting. I guess the size and amount of boobs and underskirt shots appeals to many as well. At times the sexually charged scenes made the horror more horrible. Other times the scenes seemed contrived and just hurt the show. The animation was crisp and detailed. Sometimes there are short cuts: action lines and the like, but most of the violence is animated with a subtle sledgehammer. Computer animation is seamlessly combined with traditional animation. The music adds nicely to the horror and insanity.

Highschool of the Dead is one of the more plausible zombie shows I’ve watched. At least I am not yelling “idiot” toward the characters every few minutes like the Romero films. It’s nice to see characters be rational and do what needs to be done instead of being foolish and dead.

 

Cure

When starting this Japanese horror project I did a bit of research into what films were considered the very best of the genre.  Several top ten lists later I noticed one name besides Ringu, Ju-On, and Audition kept cropping up: Cure.  So naturally I wanted to watch it, but for whatever reason it took me awhile to get around to it.

I must say that I was underwhelmed.

The premise of the movie is that a rash of brutal killings has broken out in Japan.  In each case the victim was killed and then an X was carved into their necks.  The detective Takabe is investigating the case while trying to take care of his wife, who suffers a mysterious psychological ailment.  I’m not sure what was up with her, other than it seemed she completely lost track of where she was and what she was doing sometimes.  The movie never was really clear about that.

Anyway a mysterious young man is apprehended near one of the killings and Takabe questions him to try to discover what has been going on.   And at the risk of going into too many spoilers I won’t go too much further.  Suffice to say it gets even stranger from there, delving into occult, mysticism, mesmerism, and psychology.

I really wouldn’t classify the movie as a horror flick.  I’d call it a psychological thriller, or a murder mystery.  It wasn’t a scary film in my book, although there was a nice creepy atmosphere pervading the bulk of it.  It grabs your attention early on, playing this upbeat sounding music while a guy bludgeons a prostitute to death with a pipe.  I was pretty shocked by that: it came from nowhere!

But then after that the movie became sort of murky.  I think my main problem with it was that it was slow.  This is a very slow paced movie.  It sort of crawls along, not really revealing too much along the way.  When revelation finally does occur I think it makes things even more confusing.  There is a lot of jumbled imagery in this film: a lot of scenes where you can’t discern what is real and what isn’t.  Which is fine for a movie of this type to do, but at the same time to me it didn’t work all that well.

Furthermore the revelation wasn’t much of a revelation.  I am still not entirely sure what I just watched in all actuality even knowing what I do about folklore, psychology, the occult, and that sort of thing.  It sort of clambered and hiccupped along to finish in anti-climax.

So yeah I was underwhelmed.  Then maybe if I watched it another day I might have liked it better.  There is a lot in this movie, and tonight my heads sort of foggy, so maybe if I watched it on a better night it would have sunk in a bit better.  Even on a good night I think Cure is a movie that needs to be watched twice at least to fully appreciate.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers or murder mysteries like Shutter Island or Se7en (both of which I really liked by the way), give Cure a shot.

Just make sure you pay close attention, or you’ll wind up completely lost.

Hatsune Miku – Vocaloid

Hatsune Miku is computer software made in Japan that can produce singing by just typing in lyrics and a melody. Technically the backbone of the Hatsune Miku is Yamaha’s vocaloid software. Vocaloid even has released albums. The singer is known as Hatsune Miku and is an anime girl around the age of 16. Yeah, that is her in the image. Now what is interesting about “her” is the fact she goes on music tours. It is a computer singing and dancing live…as a 3d hologram. No joke here. The “band” actually has fully dancing and singing 3d holograms that put on shows in Japan. The computer sings and dances along with a live band in real time to a full crowd. Here are a pair of high definition music videos:

[flv]http://media.japanpowered.com/videos/music/vocaloid/world-is-mine-live.flv[/flv]

“World is Mine” was performed live in front of the audience. There is no post process work on this video. Everything you see is going on live. It is impressive.

[flv]http://media.japanpowered.com/videos/music/vocaloid/alice.flv[/flv]

“Alice” was also performed live by the computer and Hatsune Miku hologram.

What makes Vocaloid interesting is how the computer ranks high on Japanese music charts and record sales. Yes, the computer is actually singing on its own. Notice how the backlight shines through Hatsune Miku despite how solid she looks. He is dancing on a screen of sorts if you look closely, but the lighting and how she moves about the stage hides this cube of a screen. The animation quality is motion captured and scripted, but looks excellent. It is strange how a character so exaggerated in features can look alive. Japanese robotic technology and artificial intelligence is quite simply amazing. They have also developed touchable holograms. These holograms actually allow you to interact with them and provide pressure resistance as you press or bounce them, but this is rather old news (Reuters). Looks like the Star Trek ideas of a holodeck are not that far away in Japan.