Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

Yawara! And Learning How to Watch Anime Again

3 min read

The first anime I ever binge-watched was Love Hina. I don't actually remember the series well anymore. It was when I was barely out of high school with few responsibilities, just entering the workforce, and KaZaA was the go-to source for anything worth watching. I learned the basics of Japanese etiquette (and lack thereof), honorifics, and school culture. It was also the first subtitled series I watched and I knew by the end that I wanted to learn Japanese. Still working on that.

That was almost two decades ago and the very idea of binge-watching anything was thoroughly scrubbed out of my system by the washboard of responsibility. I had actually forgotten how to watch anything for any significant length of time without darting off to the web to find trivia about the very thing I'm watching. What are the character bios, who was the orginal manga author that inspired it, who were the voice actors, are any of the people still alive etc...

The Internet had robbed me of my ability to enjoy the things it offers.

The notion of sitting down to take in the labor of the creators was slowly fading away. Even owning the DVDs didn't prevent me from grabing the laptop. I think I realized how bad things were when I couldn't sit through Spirited Away or Nausicaa again without pausing to browse.

What was I doing?

The first episode of Yawara!, by Naoki Urasawa ironically, was going the same way for me until the end credits shocked my system into stopping. Something about that last song, "Stand by Me" with vocals by Himenogi Rika, and the changing seasons in the credits really pulled me in. I was too young to remember the 80s and most of the early 90s, but here I am, bathed over with nostalgia and a strong desire to continue watching.

yawara sunny day

yawara raining while on the phone

yawara breezey

yawara leaves falling

yawara grandpa snowman

Romance has for some reason been a prerequisite for most of the series I've enjoyed. If there's nothing to love, it usually doesn't hold my interest. That's not to say I don't enjoy the occassional hack and smash as much as the next person, but there's the human connection has to be there somewhere. Yawara! has its share of over-the-top scenes typical for late 80s anime, especially for a sports and martial arts themed show, but I'm enjoying that human feeling most of all. I'm not sure how it's possible, but I feel a longing that I'm think was felt in contemporary audiences when it first aired. I think that's the hallmark of a great series; Making you feel without the wisdom of experience.

I first came across this series, which is almost unkown in the U.S., because of Naoki Urasawa's Monster. Who knew the Manga Hitchcock had romance and comedy in him. I just finished episode 12 before stopping for a snack, a bathroom break, and to write this post.

The Mysterious Appeal of 80s Anime

2 min read

Like an old blanket that I don't have the heart to throw away. Even though newer ones are less flammable.

I've been going through my "to-watch" list again, trying to find time to squeeze in an episode or two of some anime. I keep eying the older series, particularly ones like the baseball-themed Touch (1985), the romantic fantasy Anmitsu Hime (1986), and the police and mecha-focused Patlabor (1989).

I was born in the the 80s and I thought that was the reason I keep going back to these, but that explanation seems too simple. I didn't actually start seriously watching anime until the mid-to-late 90s, starting with Dragon Ball Z. Back then, my idea of anime was strongly skewed toward what was available already dubbed, tucked, pinched, and generally mutilated for Western audiences. I had no idea of the breadth of content available out there. And this was before file sharing was actually viable for me since broadband was still a luxury for my family.

That meant forking over a few bucks for a bootleg of Trigun and the like to a friend with access to faster pipes as well as to Super5, a fan-subbing group which also did Dragon Ball GT. It wasn't until the mid 2000s and Ouran High School Host Club, subbed by Lunar, that I began to broaden my horizons. Also, leaving high school gave me freedom to appreciate media beyond what was considered acceptable for younger males.

But above all of these, I keep coming back to the 80s anime. I don't seem to have a preference in genre as the above sports, romantic comedy, and mecha anime respectively was also punctuated by Sakigake!! Otokojuku. Mostly definitely not fitting into any of them. There was also Salaryman Kintaro which, despite being a 90s franchise, was endearing in its own bizarrely 80s flair.

The animation of the 80s was inferior by almost every measure compared to the 90s and 2000s releases which were steadily augmented with computer animation and 3D rendering, usually overlayed by hand.

I think I miss the "heart" the most, if there is such a quantifiable attribute to 80s anime. Since the animation was still strongly reliant on manual labor, more emphasis went to ambiance and music. That often meant panning stills, closeups of shimmering eyes or the ocean, and a City Pop soundtrack in the background. Patlabor especially had many such instances, punctuated by mecha battles and explosions.

This is some of that "heart" that I found so appealing in a lot of 80s anime.

umbrella in the snow

Dramatization of a Man and a Woman

1 min read

I've been a huge fan of the Cowboy Bebop anime since high school. The first ime I saw it was on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, here in the U.S., and I was just old enough to stay up without succumbing to sleep. It was also around the time MTV's AMP as just teetering out and I needed something else to hold my interest for an hour.

The soundtrack for the anime was amazing to say the least. One of my favorite tracks is Autumn in Ganymede. There's an audio excerpt in English mixed in at one point that only adds to the pulp ambiance.

The dramatized study of a man and a woman whose dreams and fantasies take on a life and a power of their own

I've been looking everywhere for the source for this until I finally came across it on a review for Japanese import CD on Amazon called MAX: Emotional History. The reviewer mentions the movie is from a sexploitation movie called Mondo Keyhole from 1966. The anime track also combines another quote from the movie The Brain From Planet Arous from 1957, which I found from a Reddit thread.

...impervious to our bullets. If it's blown up, its cells will regenerate and multiply and it'll still be alive!

For some reason, this combination of samples go so well together over the bass.