I went to see Studio Ghibli’s latest, The Secret World of Arrietty, in theaters this week. It follows a family of very tiny people known as The Borrowers because they take just what they need from the humans’ houses they live in. Borrowers move to a new location if they are seen by humans because it becomes too dangerous. Arrietty has just turned fourteen and will be doing her first “borrowing” with her father that very night. At the same time, a new human boy has come to live at the house. It is a fairly simple story of friendship and fantasy and therefore charming from beginning to end. There is a timeless quality to the country (thanks in no small part to Ghibli’s art style) and with the exception of one appearance of a cell phone it gives no hint of the broader world. The exploration of the house from the view of Borrowers is well-crafted and alive making the ordinary noteworthy. This is especially true for green Arrietty who has never ventured into its walls before but possesses all the youthful courage and curiosity you might imagine. The final resolution is possibly the most adventurous of all and made me sad that I could not see where it will lead. In a quite positive way, it breaks the spell of it being a small world and opens it up to thousands of possibilities. My only complaint is the English voice acting was not very good, there were a lot of times the voices sounded completely disconnected and disembodied. The only exception was Arrietty thank goodness. So I look forward to picking this up on DVD and hope the Japanese does it a bit more justice.
I might just stop watching Bodacious Space Pirates not because it is a bad show but because everyone loves it so much I think it is beginning to make me hate the show. When I originally watched the first episode I thought it was serviceable if a bit forgettable. But more and more I just heard people praising the show like it was the second coming of Fullmetal Alchemist. Narutaki and I joked that we must have accidentally watched Totally Tubular Space Pirates which must have been the inferior knock off show. It seems like the one show that is able to get the jaded old school fans and the young moe fans to sit down at the table and agree to enjoy something together. This keeps me watching the anime while trying to discover what I am missing that everyone else is in love with. But the more I watch the more flaws I see with the show. I feel more and more these are flaws I would normally forgive if it were watching this in a vacuum but are unmistakable when I examine the show so minutely. Plus being a Space Pirate seems to be more like a glorified Sea World stage show than the brave adventures of Captain Harlock. Maybe if I come back to this show a year from now I can give it a fair shake. Right now I feel like those people who picked apart Summer Wars until it was devoid of any fun because it got all the hype that it did and I don’t want to be that guy.
I finally finished up Professor Layton and the Last Specter. What I found most surprising about the ending is that our big villain still remains incredibly mysterious and not nearly all is revealed. We sort out things in the town, the specter, and people’s family problems but it is the first game that really says you haven’t gotten all the answers yet. And because this is a prequel trilogy there is a lot of wonder about what happened to characters because of their roles or lack thereof in the other games.
To write my recent little article I caught up with Chihayafuru by watching episodes 9 through 20. Chihayafuru has remained a solid sports show with a josei twist. It has been nice to see the Karuta team comes together while growing as characters as well as winning over their facility adviser. The show has a good balance of having the team get better and win significant victories while still getting spanked as a team and as individuals. They win enough that you understand why they all stay with the sport but lose enough in reflection of how new some of them are to the sport and how good their competition is. I will say that the thing that made me raise my eyebrow the most was Taichi breaking up with his girlfriend. She was mainly a non-entity that existed only to explain why Taichi never hooked up with Chihaya. The second that Arata is really back in the picture as a valid romantic choice Taichi’s girlfriend disappears just a quickly. It is not anything that really ruins my enjoyment of the show but I amused how mechanical this barely seen character’s role was if you noticed that is what she was there for.
Since I recently finished up the TV series, it was perfect timing for the release of Avatar The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 1 a new graphic novel from Dark Horse. After the events of the original. This takes place a year later as the rest of the world is still adjusting to change. Zuko is attempting to move all of the Fire Nation’s people back home but realizes after 100 years this might not be the best idea. This brings new tension between Aang and crew. I really enjoyed this sequel so far as it highlights the problems of ruling people as well as tensions between colonized nations. I’m also enjoying the bigger focus on Zuko since I always liked hi story most of all. In many ways, this is a much more complicated and delicate manner than the original story.
I borrowed Narutaki’s copy of The Promise for two reasons. One was the fact that for one reason or another parts of the Avatar fandom were greatly displeased with ending leaving certain plot threads hanging in the ending. Carl from Ogiue Maniax wrote a simple post that exploded into a storm of controversy. Some of that was just because it wound up devolving into shipping wars but that is the nature of Avatar fandom. This series is a good opportunity to address those unresolved plot threads that seemed to greatly annoy the fans of the series. The other reason was I was interested in the upcoming Legend of Korra. Since it is set 70 years after the end of the TV series is was curious to see how the events in the graphic novel series lead into the new TV series. So far the series has been cater to both reasons fairly well. We are getting a bit of resolution to what happens to the world after Aang fulfills his destiny and how dealing with the obvious threat lead to dozen of smaller problems that are not anywhere near as straight forward. Also now people can finally be quiet about the fate of Zuko’s mother. I am pleased with the series so far and am very curious to see how all of the events in the book lead into the very different political climate in the sequel series.