Be curious, and stay that way – Hyouka Review

Produced by the legendary Kyoto Animation, heavy-weight 2012 July title Hyouka received mixed reviews despite its great voice acting and magnificent artwork. Some have raised doubts on the story, which revolves around trivial, not-terribly-abnormal events in life, but are presented with an unreserved air of mystery/detective dramas. For this apparent reason, Hyouka is actually tagged on a popular video website (I won’t tell which : ) with “Real • Approaching Science”, which is a parody reference to an infamous Chinese TV program “solving” seemingly super-natural occurrences, only to end up with annoyingly mundane explanations that runs the risk of insulting the IQ of whoever is watching. The storyline of a few episodes of Hyouka, I have to admit, does have similar effects (especially the “mystery” of the math class in ep6, quite baffling really).

However, that is not to say Hyouka has nothing to offer. As a matter of fact, Hyouka is something I would like to recommend to not just anime fans, but everybody. Aside from the superb animation (automatic quality stamp for Kyoto Animation), the story by novelist Yonezawa Honobu is a relaxing, yet thought-inspiring piece with a lingering after taste. Not a life-changing title, but a great casual watch.


Hyouka: Youth, in which color? (その青春は、何色か?)

To fully enjoy and understand the beauty of Hyouka, it is not advisable to have a set genre bias in mind. Most mentions of the title, including the Japanese Wikipedia on the original novel+anime, throws it into the detective genre. On Kyoto Animation’s official website, however, the one-liner summary for Hyouka is miles away from the detective/mystery genre: ”Youth is neither tenderness, nor pain, alone. A bittersweet drama of youth.” (青春は、やさしくだけじゃない。痛い、だけでもない。ほろ苦い青春群像劇。) After reading about the original novel, simply titled the Kodenbu series (“Classical Literature Club series”) with Hyouka being one part of it shows that Kyoani’s one-liner contains more truth. Indeed, as a novelist focused on (and supposedly invented) the so called “everyday life mystery” (日常の謎) style, Yonezawa often build the arcs around a certain detective intrigue. The main plot itself, however, still revolves around the everyday normal (like, literally, normal) high school life of Oreki Houtaro’s crowd and never ventured into the territory of a genuine crime/mystery.

The mystery-solving (rather than “detective”) arcs in Hyouka are well thought-out, and surprisingly logic-driven and full of details. Despite the lack of cliché elements like hidden corpses, thrown-away pistol, misleading footprints or whatever fanciful murdering contraptions, I believe that any fan of the detective genre would be able to enjoy the deductive reasoning (nod nod to Sherlock Homes : ) presented in Hyouka. Bottom line, the stories observe the rules of the average detective genre well, such that all critical evidence/leads are presented to the viewers under broad daylight fair and square, and there are no inconsistencies/mystery left hanging by the conclusion of each story.


Ed2 background with hundreds of well-known detective stories flashing by, source of inspiration for author Yonezawa?

Put aside the detective intrigues, the main arc of Hyouka is about how main character Houtaro got rid of his apathetic lifestyle (self-termed “energy preservation”), and put his talents in logical reasoning to use by solving not-terribly-important mysteries. The motivation, you ask? Well, Houtaro is mind-controlled by some kind of GEASS belonging to a certain Chitanda Eru, the lovable, somewhat simple-minded classmate of Houtaro (this is meant to be a cheap reference joke, btw). The daughter of a local agricultural zaibatsu (seriously, big time Japanese farmers could get filthy rich simply by producing “Made-in-Japan rice”, which is so very different from imported types, plus all the government subsidies), Eru is from time and time curious about things, I mean VERY curious about things and forces Houtaro to use his brain much more than he likes. The character development mainly happened on Houtaro, whose view towards life changed little by little and developed a feeling for Eru.


Eru using her geass… … (seriously, acting cute at the right moment to the right person goes a long way, folks)

Talking about Chitanda Eru, Eru’s curious nature often lends her the flag of an “annoyer”, as is often the case for cute-oriented female anime characters. I will be cautious to make the judgement. Besides the fact that Eru’s curiosity is literally driving the story, isn’t the spirit of “wanting to know” what’s driving our daily progress? While someone who asks questions frequently might be regarded as foolish, real fools are rarely curious. On the contrary, real fools usually have answers for practically everything that they cling to with amazing stubbornness.

Going to the real world (or going on tangent is the better word), how many of us actually raise a question when confronted with something we don’t understand, or we PERCEIVE we can’t understand. Let’s say the fiscal cliff, sure enough everyone is talking about it and are pretty excited about the issue, yet how many actually go to the length of reading about the core of the issue which is the US currency/debt system and discover the fact that such fiasco is destined to recur over and over again unless fundamental ails of the financial systems are addressed? My guess is very few, not because we don’t care – many stayed away simply considering it too complicated to be understood. Well, while many cases could indeed be daunting (much more complicated than the dodgy history of Kamiyama High’s bunkasai, which was addressed in the first couple of episodes in fast-paced drama), the truths (or the more reasonable hypotheses) are often worth the effort to find out.

And I am entirely off topic now.

In summary, Hyouka immersed us with its great art, great soundtrack, great story-telling, lovable characters and certain detective surprises under the guise of the otherwise mundane settings. It was no doubt among the most watch-worthy titles released last year: yet another addition to Kyoto Animation’s mile long winning streak.



玉響~Hitotose (Tamayura)

玉響~Hitotose (literally Sound of Jade~ One year?) has been an anticipated shin-ban anime for me since mid-year. For me, Tamayura’s main attraction is its fantastic cast including some of my favorite seiyuus: Taketatsu Ayana (who voiced Azusa in K-on!/!!), Asumi Kana, Fukui Yukari and Majima Junji. Talking about Majima Junji, for old fans of Memories Off series (originally created by the now bankrupt KID) like me, it is really nice to see him appearing in so many high-profile titles recently (Hidan no Aria and Hanasaku Iroha). Eventually, Memories Off 1 was his debut work as Minaho Shin, a character we MO fans all so dearly love and respect. Now back to Tamayura.

Here you have it, TAMAYURA!!

The Op immediately told me that Tamayura belongs to one of those “cure” animes. Though being somewhat mediocre in composition, both the Op and Ed songs are performed by high-profile J-pop artists: Op お帰りなさい (Welcome Home)by Sakamoto Maya, and Ed 神様のいたずら (The Trick of Fate) by Nakashima Ai. The story so far follows the life of Sawatari Fuu (nicknamed and called throughout the anime as ぼって Botte) on her moving back to the town of Takehara, where her deceased cameraman father used to run a photo shop (yes, a dying business along with Kodak in the digital age I guess). The first episode mainly covered Botte’s decision to move out from her mom’s, face up the death of her father, pack along the Rollei camera and return to Takehara where her childhood friends are waiting. Sounds somewhat familiar? Well we’ve all had our shares of Japanese drama don’t we… Story wise, the show sets “photography” as its main topic (like “music” in K-on!, per se). I would expect later episodes to dig a little on the techniques and insights on photography, as Botte retraces the photos her father took, which have documented the precious moments of her childhood. So far, the only thing about photography mentioned is “tamayura”, or the little circle of lights that represent “happiness”. Well, I thought we’d go to that bloody Star Trek film for a lens flare fes…

The group of four friends, who are not exactly camera-shy thanks to Botte-chan

The drawing of Tamayura mostly adopts a simple, straight-forward style, which works both ways. The characters are minimal and manga like, which fits quite well with the small-town, nostalgic feeling the show attempts to deliver. However, sometimes the drawing looks a little rougher than what would have been preferred, especially for close-up shots of characters. Based on real locations, the background drawing is good and detailed. You could almost imagine how much photo-shootings and Photoshopping have been going on : D… Don’t take me wrong though, to Photoshop pictures of real locations into manga/anime background still requires a ton of work, and could easily go wrong. The team behind Tamayura is doing quality work in this respect.

Voila, 100% realistic local scenery of Seto Inland Sea guaranteed. Beautiful place indeed

Let me expand a little bit on the point of background. Just like Hanasaku Iroha earlier this year, Tamayura’s story does have a location-a very specific one. The story unfolds in the municipality of Takehara, to the east of Hiroshima City in Hiroshima Prefecture. Even in the advertisement for the show, Takehara and “the scenery of Seto Inland Sea” have been labeled as sell-points. From the travel boost to Noto Peninsula triggered by Hanasaku Iroha, we can see a flourishing scene of anime acting as advertisements for locales around Japan. The Tamayura team definitely has the goal of promoting Hiroshima Prefecture in mind. In the first episode, when Botte took the Kure-line to Takehara, and saw the big word “Okaerinasai” printed on ground at the train station, I could almost feel the tear-inspiring power of the scene as a successful tourism ad. It is a good thing though, since both Noto and Hiroshima are most definitely awesome places to visit, despite the latter being nuked around 70 years ago (it is currently one of the largest metro in West Japan, so no worries of radiation). I would also like to mention that South of Hiroshima and West of Takehara lies the famous Kure port, and the famous Etajima Naval College. Why should I mention that? Well, setting up for a Zipang review… xD. Anyways, we’ll see how much attention Tamayura will attract.

Shocking 1: This is about 2 minutes into the first episode. Almost turned my browser off at that moment... Shocking 2: This thing (actually a cat) is voiced by Fukui Yukari... kay I give in

For me, a painfully felt weakness of Tamayura is its somehow lackluster script that lacks consistency and proper pacing expected in similar titles. Judging from the first two episodes, there are numerous gags/comedy moments acted out in chibi characters, which are critical elements of Botte’s “daily happy life” I guess. However in Tamayura, weight of the story line surrounding loss of family and childhood nostalgia are so heavy, that they entirely set the pace of story-telling. The gag moments, in comparison, are either too abrupt or too weak to carry the flow. The more “serious” lines are not that satisfactory either. At the end of the second episode, for instance, there is the sudden “re-conciliation” with the teacher character voiced by Majima Junji, which is hardly anything “touching” and feels rushed and unnecessary. For an overall beautiful anime, these out of place moments and weak lines are truly regrettable. My hope is that as the drama picks up (something that Tamayura might never do, being based on a 4-coma), there will be more consistency in the flow…

Gags! Oh gags...

Despite the above mentioned flaw, I would keep on watching Tamayura, even just for the sake of its great Seiyuu cast, and Seto Inland Sea of course.

One week to go…..

… till life returns to normal.

Being “abnormal” doesn’t mean an “anime deficit”, since dinner time is always the best excuse for an episode or two… Recent watching include a promising new release (“shinban”) Tamayura (玉響 or “the sound of jade”), classics Zipang and The Story of Saiunkoku.

Another thing worth mentioning is an exploit from a visit to local Japanese book store: a hundred-page color illustration book featuring Fujishima Kousuke interviewing 6 anime/manga creator on character design (among them Maeda Jun on Angel Beats!). It costs about a week’s grocery, but worth it anyways : P

The ancient China style character design of Saiunkoku is really inspiring, respect

Is this even real????

link 1:

How much will an e-cat cost

link 2:

E-cat world, official site

link 3:

Hello Cheap Energy, Hello Brave New World (Forbes Coverage)


This E-cat thing is simply unbelievable! It is so unbelievable that I still suspect it to be a hoax of some kind… The equipments in the videos look almost too simple to be high-tech… not to mention something like Cold Fusion.

If this is true though, it will no doubt change the world, entirely. The economic and political impacts would be huge, just consider the chaos (and reshuffle) that will happen in the energy sector.

All the input needed is a little nickel and hydrogen, and of course the energy conversion mechanism. What you get is ALMOST a perpetual machine. Shocking.

Nickel is a widely available metal and the process doesn’t even require a lot of it. According to the nickelpower website the machine will bring the cost of electricity down to $0.0012/kwh. Also the process doesn’t produce any waste: totally efficient and clean.

Also the articles suggest that since E-cat produces steam, there might be a revival of Sterling Engine on automobiles, ships and even planes. That sure stirs imagination : ) (see picture below)

Andrea Rossi’s CF system is to be tested on Oct. 28th, let’s see what’s going to happen.

does it mean that things like Hal's Moving Castle will be feasible from an energy perspective? (the world's gonna change and I only care about the world of fantasy steam machines...xD)



FORBES-Will Facebook’s IPO Mark The Beginning Of The End?


article here.


Remember when Netscape went public in 1995, kicking off a torrent of investment in new Internet companies that lasted for five years? Well, now we’re waiting for another Netscape-caliber IPO: the first public stock offering by Facebook, which is expected to come sometime next year. The deal will no doubt value the company at tens of billions of dollars, or more, and make many, many people into multi-millionaires, if not billionaires.

Except this IPO will spell the end of the party, not the beginning. I’m convinced that the frothiness we’re seeing right now in Silicon Valley cannot last. And it won’t last, I believe, past the point at which Facebook finally sells shares to the public.

Why? One would have to be blind, or have no friends in New York, London or Shanghai, to not realize that Silicon Valley is currently operating in a different reality. In Silicon Valley, office space is scarce, engineering graduates are commanding record salaries and homes are being purchased before the “For Sale” sign has even gone up. The number of startups formed in the last two years dwarfs the company formation pace of the late 1990s. And high-growth companies are receiving private financings at valuations – many over $1 billion – that could only have been achieved a decade ago by going public and beating Wall Street’s estimates over several years.

But here’s the disconnect, which is obvious to everyone: We are in midst of the Great Recession, with 9% U.S. unemployment, European default risk, growth in China slowing and state governments on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet young technology companies with unproven management teams and business models are commanding nosebleed valuations. The most recent example is blogging startup Tumblr, which raised money valuing it, reportedly, at $800 million. This despite the fact that the company doesn’t have its business model figured out yet. Many of these investments are being justified by the anticipation of some highly lucrative, initial-public offerings for tech companies in the coming 12 months. If standouts like Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and Twitter are going to go public for tens of billions of dollars, the argument goes, surely lesser tech stars can command a premium in their financings as well.

Totally true, but what’s more important is that people are simply reluctant to buy any story, not with their own cash at the very least.

When was the last time…

…you click on a visual novel, 18x or not, and start reading it from a load file you don’t even remember exist on a Saturday evening?


That’s about 10 minutes ago for me… Can’t even remember the names of characters despite having went through the game once. Voice acting by Nonaka Ai is awesome, btw.


A Lie Detector Test for Online Review (repost link)

Well, the article is about online reviews for consumer electronics and the likes, which are products that could potentially inflict some serious “buyer’s remorse”.

However, it somehow reminds me of certain less-than-sincere  approaches to writing reviews on anime titles… There is no money involved for this one of course, but people sometimes seem determined to keep their true feeling to themselves. Come on, we all know you’ve shed a couple of tears watching 5cm/s, and get emotionally attached to those “cheap romantic plots” more than once!

A quote from the  article:

“At Cornell University, researchers focused on finding semantic tics unique to fake reviews. Like the Texan, they went online and hired people to write 400 fake reviews of hotels. Then they used a computer model to compare those reviews with 400 real ones. The truthful reviews tended to talk about the actual physical space, using specific nouns like “floor” and adjectives like “small.” Since spammers weren’t familiar with the look of the hotel, they spent more time talking about themselves, the reasons they went on a trip, and their traveling companions. “The word ‘husband’ is very indicative of deception,” says Myle Ott, a PhD candidate and co-author of the study. When the researchers trained a computer to look for the linguistic signs, it detected 90 percent of the fake reviews. Ott says several websites, including TripAdvisor, have inquired about the team’s findings. ”

We should totally do this for anime reviews!!!!!

Random cute Nyanko sensei ftw!!!!!!

Just finished Hanasaku Iroha

Hanasaku Iroha (花咲くいろは, or quite literally How the Flowers Bloom)is one of the best anime series I’ve seen so far this year. Despite the plot runs a little here and there from time to time, it is still a great anime title nonetheless.

Definitely needs a review.

Somehow I feel anyone with trouble finding inspiration for their jobs should watch the anime, Hanasaku just might lend some power and make things better. It is the kind of work from which everyone could learn something.

Personally, one thing I learn from Ohana-chan is to say: I am also bonboru-ing! (僕もぼんぼりまーす!)

The two op songs of Hanasaku Iroha (both by nano.RIPE) have become my “morning transit song” (aka before work song) since about a month ago. : D

Below is an awesome magazine publication page for Hanasaku Iroha, ultra high-res.