Japanese of the Week

This week's Japanese is:

責任 (sekinin) n. - duty; responsibility

Very useful as an exhortation: 責任を執りなさいよ (Sekinin wo torinasai yo - "Take responsibility!")

Geoff Reviews - Kare Kano (v.1-4)

Title: Kare Kano (volumes 1-4) (also known as Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou, or His and Her Circumstances)
Media: Manga
Text: English
Story: Tsuda Masami
Art: Tsuda Masami
Publisher: TokyoPop (originally Hakusensha)

It's been years since I had contact with Kare Kano, and that was in the anime form. Going back and actually reading the manga, it's interesting to see the differences that Gainax added in. Yes, added in. The story is exactly the same, at least as far as my admittedly shoddy memory is concerned... It just lacks all of the references to previous Gainax works (primarily Shinseiki Evangelion) that the anime had.

Anyway, as to the manga itself, Kare Kano is pretty typical shoujo fare. That is, girl meets boy, girl falls for boy (after a bit), new couple faces trials. Of course, the trick to the genre is not so much in the premise as it is in the characterization and execution, both of which are done quite well.

The main character for the story is Miyazawa Yukino, and she's perfect. Okay, well, that's a blatant lie, but you'd never convince her classmates of that. Top of the class, pretty, good at sports... If the character were written today, rather than twelve years ago, the entire school would be her onee-sama following. Instead, for the first time in her life, she has competition for the top spot in everything: Arima Souichirou. And so, completely undeclared, the war for the number one spot is on.

Another Encroachment Against Freedom

The obligatory link: France Bans Laypeople from Reporting Violence

Ouch. So, if you're not a journalist, you face jail time if you happen to catch real violence on film? Besides being ridiculous, it's a dangerous precedent to set.

"The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday."
Now, if you have a dark sense of humor, you may find the next bit here amusing. What date did the French Constitutional Council choose to unveil this law? None other than the 16th anniversary of the Rodney King beating (captured, of course, on film by an amateur with a video camera).

What are they actually trying to target with this law, though?

During parliamentary debate of the law, government representatives said the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of "happy slapping," in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker's friends.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call swatting a fly with a nuclear warhead.


Ban Legos For Great Justice!

Welcome, new readers from Adventure Rider's forums!

The obligatory link: L'Eggo My Lego

Honestly, I can't say that I'm surprised by this. Saddened, sure, but not surprised.

The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."
That's certainly the meat of it. Is anybody else downright sick of the constant stories of teachers at various levels of education heading for indoctrination long before they'll actually head for teaching? We're not talking about college students here, who should be capable of discernment on their own, or even high school students, who we would hope would be capable of the same. No, these teachers are busily trying to strike down the notion of private property in kids aged 5-9. (Scroll down to the section titled "The Investigation Begins" for that information.)

We haven't gotten to the really sickening part, though. After quite some time, the teachers did allow Legos back into the classroom. However, now the kids are talking about them in these glowingly communistic terms:

"A house is good because it is a community house."

"We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes."

"It's important to have the same amount of power as other people over your building."

Somebody pass the barf bag, please. I have a sudden desire to be exceptionally ill.

Anti-Americanism In Comics, Cap, And Escaping To Manga

As many people have already covered, including Brainster (and he's got links to several of the others), Marvel has finally gone and done it. They've killed off Captain America.

I'll admit from the start that I wasn't much of a comics junkie as a kid. Not from any dislike of the medium mind you. It was more of a matter of what was around to read, which was generally more along the lines of Tolkien and Lewis. Still, a friend of mine was, so I eventually got to go through significant portions of his collection.

It's a strange thing, to be at a point in your life where you're just forming your political opinions. It becomes exceptionally clear when people are disagreeing with those views, and what I was seeing in comics certainly counted. Now, it wasn't that I hadn't heard ideas like those voiced before, but I'd always considered fiction, with pictures or without, to be a realm unto itself, and the sanctity that I'd ascribed to it was being violated to an impressive degree.

Simply put, I don't get it. I'm not about to claim that America is perfect, but we've still got the best thing going in the world by such a long shot that it's not really arguable. I can put myself into a mindset where the problems that people like many comic writers exist, but I can't see how they get there from here. The view that this country is bad, evil, and the scum of the earth is so antithetical to reality that the disconnect can only be bridged by a suspension of disbelief more rigid than the one required for reading Crossroad.

Now, I haven't given up on comics wholly, but it's a near thing. Most of the particularly egregious examples that I can recall, and it's tough, since I have read much outside of 100 Bullets and Y: The Last Man in about three years now, are coming out of Marvel's comics lines.

Meanwhile, I've found my own alternative. While Brainster has mentioned that he's gone back to the golden and silver ages of comics (when heroes were heroes, villains were villains, and heroes thumped villains because it was the right thing to do, darn it), I've gone across the Pacific for my fix. Personally, I'm pleased with the results, though your mileage may vary. To me, it's going back to the day when a story was a story, rather than old favorite characters slapped on top of a political diatribe.

There may be something to be said here for the fact that characters in manga aren't forever, like they are in American comics. As I see it, there are only so many times the X-Men can fight off Magneto before a change of pace is needed. Rather than having a distinct starting point, a defined story, and a distinct end, the arcs simply blend and continue. And while there is something nice about having characters with a long history, having that long, involved history makes getting into some characters and stories more difficult. (Hence a lot of the re-launches of characters in the past few years.) So, instead of getting new characters, new villains, and new storylines, we get old characters, old villains, and old storylines, with a couple scoops of the political cause du jour on top to make it look different.

Well, if it sells, it sells, I suppose. Meanwhile, I'll just stick to stories for their own sake, and get my politics from the news sites.

P.S. - In the interest of fairness, there are questions about the presence of anti-Americanism in manga and anime. The best work I've read on the topic is here, at Hontou ni Sou Omou.

At Least Someone's Still Working For Us

The obligatory link: Bill would block credit cards for illegals

Three cheers for Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. It's nice to see at least one member of Congress standing up for what's right, even though it may cost them politically in the future. She's introduced a bill which, as the above link states, would prohibit Bank of America's asinine plan to offer credit cards to people without acceptable forms of identification.

For those who didn't catch the beginning of the story, click here for a refresher.

Yesteryear's Sci-Fi Is... (#3)

The obligatory link: Israel unveils portable hunter-killer robot

For your peace of mind, just assume I offered up a Terminator reference here, and that it was either exceptionally funny or not depending on your preferences. Now that that's out of the way, let's see what nifty stuff the article says this little machine can do:

  • It can move "undeterred by stairs, rubble, dark alleys, caves or narrow tunnels"
  • It can act "as bomb-sniffing and bomb disposal equipment"
  • And, it can "carry an Uzi machine-pistol or plant a grenade"

Whatever Happened To Spiral, part 2

Google Alerts are a wonderful thing, aren't they? They'll keep an eye on certain keywords for you, and if they happen to pop up, the system will fire you an e-mail to let you know.

Anyway, setting aside the how, apparently a brand new manga publisher is going to publish Spiral ~Suiri no Kizuna~, along with three other Square/Enix titles (one of which is Zombie Loan, by the mangaka of Rozen Maiden). The company in question is Yen Press.

Unfortunately, it's not possible to know what quality of a job they're going to do, since they haven't released anything yet, and the word that's going around is that their first releases will be well down the year. However, we can fervently hope that they will take after the Go! Comi/Del Rey Manga school, with quality translation, intact honorifics, and explanations of cultural references in the back of the volume. Time will tell, though.


Campaign Fatigue?

The obligatory link: Will Campaign Fatigue Set In Early?

The link this time is really just for another opinion on the matter. Here we go, by the numbers: Some politicians have been campaigning since late last year. Let's call it four months, for the sake of convenience. We now have approximately twenty months left until the election. So, when this finally winds down to a close, unless every single announced candidate at this point has dropped out by then, we'll have been hearing from some of these people on the same topic (vote for me) for two years.

Now, I can be fairly said to be a political junkie. I pay reasonably close attention to what our elected officials say and do outside of election time, at least, as such things are reckoned now... I can even search up the text of a house or senate resolution, if I really need to. ... ... ... So, having established those credentials, let me say that I'm quickly reaching saturation on this campaign. None of the candidates are telling me anything I didn't already know about them, nor are they saying these things in particularly interesting ways. Instead of the continuous pounding of a hammer, which is (usually) accomplishing something, this seems more like the continuous pounding of a headache. Is there a doctor in the house? Or at least someone with a couple of aspirin I can bum?

This isn't entirely negative, of course. Well, it is in a way, but what campaigning this long does is it gives everyone who jumped out of the gate so early plenty of time to come up lame. Also, it should help anyone who has patience, and who can wait for people to get tired of hearing the same things from the current crop... provided, of course, that this patient person or persons can come out with a strong, articulate message and vision. (It's a bit outside the scope of this commentary, but could it be what's really been missing is a candidate with a grand vision of America as it should be?)

Anyway, wake me up when they start saying interesting things, instead of reading the same old bedtime stories.

Hiss! Boo!

The obligatory link: Ban on booing at local high school games considered

This is just ridiculous on the face of it. While I'm not quite sure if it can be said that booing has been going on since time immemorial, Wiki thinks it may date as far back as ancient Greece. In any event, booing is certainly a time-honored tradition.

I don't think it's going too far to say that this is another of those attempts to wrangle good feelings out of legality. I mean, seriously, they use the term "crack down on negative conduct" in here. When I hear that, you know what comes to mind? Murder, rape, theft, physical assault... that kind of stuff. There's a level of difference here between, "Hey Ref, get some glasses!" and "Hey Ref, I'm'a kill you and eat your children!" Taking issue with the second, given the current state of our culture, is understandable. Taking issue with the first, meanwhile, is just another example of the expanding pusillanimity of Americans.

March Reading Challenge

So, I found out today, six days late, that the local library is holding a reading challenge for adults. It's a fairly ordinary library event, really... Just read ten books, or for fifty hours, between March 1st and March 31st. Now, done officially, there's some log that they'll give you to record your progress, but I figure, that's what I have a blog for.

Anyone who wants to participate is certainly welcome. Anyone who wants to grab my review style to post each completed book is welcome to do that as well.


Yesteryear's Sci-Fi Is... (#2)

The obligatory link: A missile punch at bullet prices

Yes, I know, from the dateline on the article, I got to this one late. Still, it is an interesting little article. Starting from the chatroom for Constitutional Public Radio, we got on the topic of various rotary cannons last Thursday. Naturally, that got the Wiki juices flowing freely, and several clicks down the line from vulcan cannons, I ended up with this.

Essentially, the Navy is working on a railgun. To put it in easier terms, it's a gun that fires bullets using magnets instead of gunpowder. Of course, being the Navy, they're doing things big. What we're talking about here is a ship-based weapon capable, according to the article, of Tomahawk cruise missile ranges, with about two minutes faster time-to-target, for $1000 a shot (as opposed to the approximately $1000000 per shot for the Tomahawk), and approximately the same amount of destructive force.

From the article: "Garnett compared that force to hitting a target with a Ford Taurus at 380 mph. "It will take out a building," he said. Warheads aren't needed because of the massive force of impact."

Of course, they're talking about 2020 or so on this project, so we're certainly not there yet. Still, it's cool all the same.

Tokei Muyou - No Need For Clocks

The obligatory link: Postal Service fixes long waits by removing clocks

Is anyone surprised that a government entity came up with removing clocks from an area to try to cut down on people complaining about the amount of time they have to spend waiting? Setting aside my normal dislike of the Postal Service for a moment, can you conceive of a private company even thinking about doing something like this? "Well, our service is about as slow as molasses... What do we do about it?" "I know! We take down the clocks to distort our customers' sense of time, and thus get away with it! This has the added bonus of not having to maintain and upkeep the clocks, too."

No, it seems fairly obvious that a private company would either hire more staff to cover the amount of work, or find some way to streamline the operation to cut the service time down. Unfortunately, obvious rarely happens when government is involved.

Kyle at Lone Star Pundit has another take on this story.

The title, 時計無用 (tokei muyou, or "no need for clocks"), is a play off of the title of 天地無用 (tenchi muyou, "No Need For Tenchi"), a mid-90's adventure/comedy anime.

Another Body Blow For Personal Responsibility

The obligatory link: Poll: The Politics Of Health Care

You can click over and there's a PDF with the full results, but let me just hit the highlights so you can tear your hair out now...

Most Americans believe government can play a role in fixing the health care system. Two-thirds say the federal government should guarantee that all Americans have health insurance.

I don't even need to finish that series I've been doing on the constitution to know that this one is none of the federal government's business.

Eighty-four percent of Americans favor expanding government programs in order to give health insurance to all uninsured children.

Again, no real surprise. We could probably even get some of the regulations out of the way of nuclear power if we could convince enough people that it was "for the children".

Still, there is a minimal bright spot in all of this:

Less than one in three, however, say the government would do a better job than private insurance companies at actually providing medical coverage. Forty-four percent said the government would be worse as a health care provider than private companies.

Someone Get Roswell On The Line

The obligatory link: UFO science key to halting climate change: former Canadian defense minister

The title really does say it all here. A former government official who is calling on the governments of the world to take the covers off all that alien technology they've been holding back from the UFO crashes... to help stop global warming.

No, it's not scientific. The only value is that it's worth a laugh. At least he's got his science fiction down, to an extent:

"Alien spacecrafts would have traveled vast distances to reach Earth, and so must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems or used exceptional fuels"