Wednesday, January 02, 2013

:anime: Ani-Journal - For January 02, 2013

Last year, we kicked off 2012 with an Ani-Journal entry and concluded it with one (which was, um, a day ago). So, I figured, hey, why not kick off 2013 (and a new year again) with yet another installment of Ani-Journal, now out of its beta phase! I mean, when you've barely had the chance to post anything the past year, you've got a lot of things left to say!

--In early June, I finally was able to purchase a PlayStation 3 (320 GB Slim w/ Move bundle). While, yes, you can play video games on it, I primarily bought it for its Blu-ray functionality, as well as its streaming video services. The latter was rather slim at first for anime (Hulu Plus, Amazon, and Netflix), but the timing couldn't have been more apropos, as the options exploded soon after with Crunchyroll, Neon Alley, Crackle, and YouTube.

CR's was pretty wonky at first, but some updating and reencoding on their part and an upgrade to 720p has made it more stable and plenty more pleasing to the eyes when watching on a big screen HDTV (the 420p res videos don't look too bad, either). An improved version is still necessary, though, as it looks like too many people are still having trouble with the finicky app. I like Hulu Plus, too, and the video quality looks great, but not every anime is in HD (CR has them beat there, hands down), and not every show that is viewable on the site via PC is viewable beyond that (I'm looking at you, FUNimation, on both accounts…). On top of that, you still get quite a few commercials you have to sit through, which makes one question the actual value they get out of their $7.99 /month, past the HD and streaming to other devices…

Neon Alley was already reviewed in November and I am still very much enjoying the service, which is aiming for an Xbox debut later this year. The video quality looks to have improved, too, and the commercial breaks, in comparison, are mercifully short (though I wish there was more variety/sponsors to break the monotony). Crackle's not so bad, but the video quality's rather poor (and in SD). YouTube's got fine sound, but content is sometimes restricted to the site and the app is woefully buggy. Netflix, meanwhile, is decent, but their otherwise sharp video looks a few shades darker than most. Additionally, the bulk of their anime hails from FUNimation and is dubbed (that goes for other providers, as well, such as Manga Ent. and Viz Media). I have my reservation on the company's dubs, but considering Netflix and Neon Alley are the only real places offering dubbed anime and FUNi does have a few good dubs and titles, it isn't all terrible. It still could use more titles, though, and a more navigable app.

--Anime (natively) in high-def and on BD = pure bliss. If it is available on BD, it's the only way to go…

--Of course, you can't watch anime in its highest quality without a HDMI cable. But do you really need those expensive ones? That was the question I sought an answer to as I bought a $99 Monster cable along with the PS3. I did so because I wanted to see if they were really as good as their reputation suggests (and because I could actually afford one at the time…), not to mention that some technophiles have claimed that there is no difference between the fancy, pricey cables and the cheapy kind that you can find online for infinitely less. I was leaning towards the skeptical side, though, and thought there would be no real distinction.

I initially hooked up the PS3 with the Monster cable and had used it for a couple of months. Then I decided/remembered to replace it with a cheapy one I had around, and when I did, I was floored. The expensive cable really was better, as the other one didn't render the video as crisply nor was the picture as close to pixel-perfect as the other. There was also noticeable interference, which was never present with the Monster cable (that may explain what I saw whenever I used it with the DVD player and laptop). The quality gap wasn't like "SD vs. HD", but it was more than enough to make it hard to ignore. The Monster cable certainly lived up to its billing and that's why I still have it plugged in.

In short, do you really need a $99 cable to enjoy your favorite shows to their fullest? Not quite. The likely key to the Monster's success was that it was thicker (better data transfer) and better shielded (less interference). I think you could get comparable results on a less expensive, $30-$45 cable with similar attributes, but that's not to say that Monster stuffed their proverbial pants or bra. It's a genuine, well-made piece of quality equipment, so if you have money and the gumption, by all means get one (and even Monster has cheaper ones. I just wanted to get the highest quality one I could get at a reasonable price, up to $100…).

--One of the greatest things about having the PS3 has been that I've been able to watch streamed shows on the television. It's helped increased my time of being able to watch shows whenever, plus I don't have to sit down in front of my laptop to watch them. Undoubtedly, it also has helped free up time to write, which used to take up most of the time I had to watch them. Even though my laptop is 1080p capable, there is no matching watching something on a nice big screen when you can. Even in 720p, shows like From the New World, Accel World, Lagrange - The Flower of Rin-ne, Blast of Tempest, and Humanity Has Declined can be real treats to watch on a 60", as opposed to 15.5"…

--(Shh, laptop, I still love you…)

--Ah yes, Humanity Has Declined, another incredible good show from Seiji Kishi and his cohorts. He is master at the absurdist comedy and that expertise was well at play with this darkly comic entry (with a heart). And much like in My Bride is a Mermaid, the second episode had me absolutely rolling. It was probably the hardest I've laughed since watching the former's Ep. 2, maybe even more so. Although the series dragged at times, it was never wont for creativity, sometimes in very surprising ways.

The fairy tale-like trappings were great in serving as a juxtaposition to the stark cynicism of the show and Kou Otani broke from his usual style once again (as he last did in Another) with a score that bears some of this trademark accents, but is ultimately different. It's a wholly appropriate one, but also contains a number of pieces you normally would not hear from him. As a whole, HHD can be downright mean-spirited at times, but simultaneously sweet and tender, as well. That's one thin tightrope to walk, but the series--and its staff--does it so well, which was encapsulated by its final arc. A continuation was left open and it appears to have done well enough in sales, so hopefully there is a follow-through.

--So, Katanagatari--a 2010 series based on a novel by eclectic star writer NisiOisin (the unrelated Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari), will be rerun as a noitaminA series this spring. That is "rerun", not "remake" or "sequel" (though a showing on the block may preclude one if possible…). Fuji TV produced and showed the series on its airwaves and the block's their baby, plus with NisiOsin's popularity and his style of storytelling making a prime fit on noitaminA, it makes some sense. But, the fact of the matter is that it already aired and given that each episode requires roughly an hour's worth of airtime--the same allotment given noitaminA per week--that would mean a whole cour will be taken up by a reran series. That is not to say that there is no honor in being actively-retroactively fitted into the lofty ranks of other noitaminA series, but it feels kind of cheap both in practice and at the expense of an entire season, otherwise.

--Since that is the case, why not "upgrade" Ristorante Paradiso from Fuji TV's short-lived noitiaminA-ish NOISE programming block to the "real thing"? If there was any one series that screamed the block's name, it was that one…

Thanks for taking the time to read, again. Until next time!


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