Archive for March, 2012



(n.) A long poem about the actions of great men and women or about a nation’s history
(adj.) Heroic; majestic; impressively great; of unusually great size or extent

Over the last several years, the Internet community has subjected the word epic to all kinds of cruel torture, giving it a meaning close to cool when the word cool itself just wasn’t cool enough. In a few years, the adjective epic may grow stale, sapped of all its strength, and we might see it replaced by yet another emphatic successor. But it is high praise indeed to call a show or scene epic: when the Greeks of ancient times listened to Homer’s epics, they experienced the true weight of history – the death of one world and the birth of another. People who often had never once ventured outside their hometown were shown the vast world surrounding them as something that could be changed through the actions of the seemingly insignificant human beings.

Certainly, most of us have at least some shows we consider deserving that level of praise. Even a single scene can be called epic if it allows somebody to redefine and rediscover the medium along with its boundaries and potential. In this sense, there are almost limitless ways in which a scene or show can be epic – a never before seen plot twist, an innovative quirk in character design, unexpected animation techniques… anime is an amalgamation of numerous modes of artistic expression, and you never know which part of the package will define the whole experience. As a personal example, I was stunned by how camera angles can completely change the meaning of a scene when watching KyoAni’s Kanon back in 2006.

On the other hand, there are also series that come close to the ancient epics in the original sense of the word. Spanning many cours, featuring dozens of named characters and countless interweaving plotlines, those works introduce us to completely new worlds and show us how those places evolve. From recent fan-favorites like the new Fullmetal Alchemist to older series like the Legend of the Galactic Heroes, those series require much commitment but reward the viewer with an unforgettable existence.

With the final chapter of its story now closed, the story of the Flame Haze called Shana now joins the ranks of those epic tales. For those wondering if the long series is worth a shot, here are a few things you can look forward to in the anime:

  • four, and ultimately five different species struggling in a fight for their own place in the world, all with their own history, politics and internal strife
  • generations of conflict culminating in an all out war
  • lovers reunited after hundreds of years and those facing millennia of solitude yet to come
  • heroes carving their name into history with their own blood; martyrs and saviors taking on the burden of the future and hopes of their people
  • the beginning of a new world order

What makes for an epic series? Which of those titles are worth recommending? I’m waiting for your comments and suggestions.

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This will become the world's most powerful army...

Mahou Sensei Negima, the epic battle manga (sometimes dressing up us a love comedy) written by Love Hina author Akamatsu Ken has recently finished it’s nine-year-long run. The series got two separate anime series and a movie… but all of those have little to do with the manga, both in terms of story and quality. If you want to know what Negima is all about, the best way is to check out the source material, now that’s it’s all ready and just waiting to be read. If you need some incentive, here’s a small preview of what Negima has on offer:

  1. Do no evil.
    Cliche: No taking the wrong path for shounen main characters. It seems that whenever they are put in a situation where their only option is to choose the lesser evil, they will freeze up and do nothing or get a deus ex machina power up to solve the problem instead.
    Negima: A ten year old boy openly declares that he will get his hands dirty to save those he cares for, and has no qualms following through with his words.

  2. Know no evil.
    Cliche: To make characters easy to empathize with and prevent them from making the difficult choices mentioned above, it’s best to avoid having them think too much. The most common way to do that is just to make them stupid…
    Negima: By the time the story ends, the characters will have dabbled in everything from philosophy to politics. They might not be happy to learn that nothing is ever as clear-cut as it seems, but that’s also something they need to accept to make the right choices.

  3. Cause no evil.
    Cliche: Evil people don’t have families that will mourn after them. The main character’s building-smashing technique will never cause serious inconvenience to any innocent passers-by.
    Negima: If saving the world means starting a civil war, then so be it.

  4. Beat up the bad guy to save the world.
    Beating up the bad guys causes candy to fall from the sky and flowers to bloom.
    Negima: Beating people up acts as a nice warm-up excercise. “Saving the world” is done through years of effort of thousands of people and some brilliant minds supporting it all from behind their desks.

  5. Line up according to power level, please.
    Out of common courtesy, bad guys only pop out when the good guys are within a power-up of being powerful enough to beat them.
    Negima: Someone please tell me how Negi survived the first few arcs 0_0…

  6. A threat today, jobbing tommorow.
    Power inflation. Expect most characters to become irrelevant an arc or two after they are introduced.
    Negima: We-can’t-even-scratch-him-let’s-drop-a-satellite-bomb-on-him-instead.

  7. Stay in the kitchen.
    Women can be medics. Or they can make lunch.
    Negima: Don’t give up hope, guys! Your time to shine will come… someday.

  8. Stay at home.
    If you want sceentime, learn how to punch first.
    Negima: Sometimes there’s nothing scarier than a non-combatant with a broken ability and enough guts to abuse it.

  9. Moral high ground.
    See the cowardly bastard laughing evilly with a nasty grin on his face? That’s the enemy.
    Negima: You know there’s something going on when half the good guys willingly defect to the enemy’s side…

  10. ???
    Cliche: Hikikomori NEETs don’t appear.
    Negima: Hikikomori NEETs kick ass.

You’re sure to find more, so why not give it a try?

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Most anime fans have no doubt heard about the Japanese White Day, what is sometimes called a reverse-Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those occasions just made for social mishaps to occur.

A department store in Osaka decided to hand out how-to White Day (3.14) pamphlets for males in need of assistance choosing return gifts for the ladies who gave them chocolate a month before. Admittedly, the tongue-in-cheek pamphlet might also be a good way for women to subtly remind their male partners that such a gift is indeed necessary.

What women really think!

  • It’s much more exciting to get sweets from a shop with a long queue lined up. You would never line up for them yourself, it’s too cold…

  • Of course, there’s no hiding the fact that the more expensive the present the better.

  • A handkerchief or a hand towel are A-OK too! At least as long as the design is good.

  • It feels really weird if you get a return gift from somebody you didn’t give anything in the first place.

  • It’s no better if you get nothing in return!

  • I got exercise equipment as a gift. I’m not on a diet or anything…

  • You’re gravely mistaken if you think a teddy-bear will always do the trick.

  • My superior gave me a whole cake “for everyone”. How do I divide that?

  • Getting lingerie back for an obligatory chocolate is messed up. I get the creeps just by thinking about the guy fantasizing.

  • Quantity over quality is just a nuisance. Gets you fat, too.

  • The guy I gave department store chocolate just had to go and prepare handmade chocolate in return…

  • Heartfelt letters make things difficult!

  • I got a pair of S-size stockings. Was he trying to be considerate, or simply didn’t bother thinking at all?

  • From the moment he got me some lipstick, I feel him constantly staring at my lips.

  • No leaving presents secretly on the desk. How do you eat something if you don’t know who left it there?

Internet users have shown particular interest in the first point, with some asking for a survey of the worst-tasting sweets you have to line up for, and yet others suggesting using “anonymous powers” to simply line up in front of some horrible store…

That aside, there is probably only one lesson to keep in mind here – don’t forget about the person you’re giving the gift to. The presents we give might sometimes say too much about ourselves, our intentions and expectations. Keeping things simple and pleasant for the receiving side should remain the priority here, right?

…this coming from somebody who’s made the “wrong size” mistake once, among a fair share of other slip-ups.

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