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Aug. 2nd, 2015 11:41 am
[personal profile] jtniehof
Neverwhere, The Odyssey, Runner's World Guide to Cross-Training, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Amagi Brilliant Park, Classroom Crisis, Myself; Yourself, Rokka -Braves of the Six Flowers-, Monster Musume, Actually I Am, Jinsei - Life Consulting, Bikini Warriors, Chaos Dragon, Snow White With the Red Hair, Sabagebu, Megazone 23, Charlotte.

Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) (reread): Flows really well, partly because there's a Red Herring of a plot that's obviously a distraction but sufficient to keep one engaged until the real plot fires up. And it's an early, but excellent, expression of Gaiman's signature collision between modernity and mythology (which was writ particularly large in American Gods). This time around, it hit me that there's a lot in the denouement, after the Big Battle, perhaps not surprising given the book was setting up the final decisions all along. Also irritating, as the grand action (and it is pretty cool) just served to help our White Male Hero Find Himself. Related, does somebody want to do a study of female sexuality in Neverwhere and how the only expression that isn't condemned (of five or so obvious ones) is the waifish underage girl? You can write the obviously-soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend as fundamentally incompatible with the protagonist, but Obliviously, Irredeemably Self-Centered is rather weaksauce.

The Odyssey (Mandelbaum translation) (reread): Haven't read since it was assigned in high school, and it holds up well. (Yes, after about 3000 years, another 20 doesn't age it much.) Mandelbaum's translation is nicely done; smooth-reading whlie still rhythmic and beautiful in the language itself. I had forgotten that nearly half the plot is cleaning up at the end of the journey. Also amusing: all the iconic scenes are told in flashback by Odysseus, who, "man of many wiles," then proceeds to lie through his teeth about who he is and where he's been for the rest of the book. Entirely possible he just shacked up with Calypso until he got bored, then sailed home. The framing is brilliantly done -- we get the concern on the homefront first so we care about this guy hauling himself across the seas.

Runner's World Guide to Cross-Training (Matt Fitzgerald): A mixed bag. As with all of Fitzgerald's work, clear and straightforward writing that's easy to read and digest. The strength and flexibility chapters are the meatiest and worthwhile; the strength material in Racing Weight is a refinement (and abridgement). The chapter on endurance cross-training to improve running performance is sadly lacking: the structure of those workouts is not really discussed. It comes down to the usual "go light for active recovery or just do it for an endurance benefit". But when you're working in any discipline, the workouts should be structured towards a particular goal, and there's no help here in figuring out a structure that best supports running.

The Hundred-Foot Journey (movie): Pleasant, sweet, well-executed, funny movie. A touch trite and predictable, certainly not Great Cinema. There's still an easily-overlooked sophistication: the trials of the Kadams have obvious, specific relation to contemporary Indian and European politics, even if they're presented as faceless forces (may be how they feel to the victims.) For instance, I'd put money on their religion. If you're into food comedies, worth a watch.

Amagi Brilliant Park: Hard to say what makes this work. It leads with just enough of, in combination: interesting premise, comedy, mysteries about the characters. That's enough to keep things going until you care about the characters. The regular jokes (Isuzu's gun, the park mascots being drunk and lecherous) get pulled out rarely enough to stay funny. And the whole thing is topped off by being completely ridiculous. It takes some time, and if it's no fun for the first couple of episodes I wouldn't keep going, but it does get under the skin.

Classroom Crisis: Axed after one episode where we predicted every plot point in advance. It felt so rote, so by-the-numbers that we were just bored.

Myself; Yourself: Definitely a slow build. Eventually every character gets a little bit of (mostly tragic, or horrifying) backstory; in that sense, like many "goes away and returns some years later" anime, it's more about how characters got to the present than where they're going in the future. It's probably not a good sign that there were two characters I thought were the same until the last few episodes. I probably could have skipped this one, but I don't regret watching it.

Rokka -Braves of the Six Flowers-: Gave this two episodes despite the problems apparent in the first because I read something about the premise that seems really cool. That tidbit still hasn't shown up, the premise seems attractive although a bit derivative, and something about the execution leaves me annoyed. Partly it's that the two main characters are self-centered without any sort of redeeming qualities or background; partly it's being able to predict plot points five to ten minutes in advance that go exactly to type.

Monster Musume: First episode was hilarious, second fell flat. The shrill and whiny voices on the female characters didn't help. I do find it amusing the cultural overlap between Japan and the US: if somebody's in an improbable and difficult situation, a paperwork messup is the most likely explanation!

Actually, I am: Premise was promising, first episode so-so, got bored halfway through second ep. Something about the art was also a bit off-putting, including (but not limited to) the pink glowy patches that seem to be the norm for female characters now.

Jinsei - Life Consulting: People sitting in a room arguing. I think it's supposed to be funny. Didn't last the first episode.

Bikini Warriors: Although the second episode had a joke, I was mostly bored. The fanservice was what it was, not much of a reason to stay around but no more offensive than I expected. Even at four minutes an episode, not worth it.

Chaos Dragon: "Why should I take the [very fancily named] sword?" "To introduce the MacGuffin to the audience." The central argument of the episode (for one episode was all it lasted) felt passionless, rote, read rather than acted, and written in passionless summary.

Snow White With the Red Hair: After two episodes, this wasn't bad, but also didn't feel like there was much reason to keep going. There was little to connect the episodes, as the plot basically got completely tied up at the end of each.

Sabagebu: First episode was pretty funny (I loved Momoka's sweet and innocent ruthlessness), second didn't hit as hard, and by the third I was really sick of the narrator explaining the jokes.

Megazone 23: Part one is awesome 80's fast motorcycles and style, piling on the revelations and plot twists before unravelling a bit towards the end (and the end, not a conclusion). Part two, in addition to arbitrarily completely changing the character designs, continues the unravelling and reaches an ending if not exactly a resolution. Part 3 is really incoherent for the first episode, pulling together a bit in the last episode where it makes a stronger connection with (and completely retcons) the first two.

Charlotte: After four episodes, this, too, fell victim to "giving us no reason to care about annoying characters". It's a cool set-up. No, it's not original (X-Men, Psi Corps) but it's been done repeatedly because it's cool and a way to talk about people who are different. Doing basically nothing with the premise kills it.
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