Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Anime On the Big Screen: “Children of the Sea”

Venue: Dendy Cinemas, Level 2, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City, ACT
Date: Sunday 22 December 2019
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 111 minutes
Production Date: 2019
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No

A couple of weeks on from my last outing in the cinema and another anime film from Madman is here. Admittedly I delayed going to see this film because in the previous week I really felt I wasn’t in the mood for it. The weather hasn't been all that great for venturing outside anyway. Over the last couple of weeks, Canberra has been blanketed in smoke from fires east of the city. The amount of smoke as waxed and waned, but it seems that it will stick around for few more weeks unfortunately. After some really horrible smoky and hot days, today the temperature sunk to less than 24°C and the smoke had dissipated. Despite being a few days before Christmas, Canberra Centre wasn’t as crowded as I expected. The Kingpin bowling/party centre had finally opened the day before. It wasn’t that crowed from what I could see and it looks like an overblown gaming centre to be honest.

In cinemas only a week after “Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll”, this film is obviously the film Madman are banking on out of the two. As I said in my previous review, Madman has actually printed up posters for the film and in this cinema, it was placed in a very prominent position. If a limited release film stays in cinemas for week or so, it seems Dendy changes the screening times; now one session at 10am and a second around 6pm. I opted for the earlier one. The screening also took place in the newer part of the cinemas, which feels divorced from the main section. 15 people showed up for this screening including three families. One family and a person who came by themselves left cinema before the film finished. Maybe with good reason as I’ll explain;

Junior high school student Ruka Azumi lives in small seaside town where fishing seems to be the main industry. It’s summer holidays but she continues to go to school in order to practice with the handball sports club she is a member of. Ruka is extremely happy that she will get to do this every day and is looking forward to the holidays. However, on the first day of practice, Ruka is deliberately tripped by a teammate who accuses her of being too enthusiastic. Later during the match, Ruka purposely elbows her in the nose, almost breaking it. Both her teammates and the supervising teacher are of course unhappy with her. The teacher reprimands her and says if she’s not going to apologise, she shouldn’t bother coming back to training.

Pissed off and annoyed at the situation and herself, Ruka is at a complete loss as what to do for the rest of the summer. Ruka can’t really go home as her mother expects her to be training. The fact her mother is also a drunk and hard to get along with doesn't help. She hides away from the rest of her team members and frequents places where no one goes. Ruka eventually decides to go to the aquarium. When she was small, she had a strange experience where a giant whale, she refers to as the ghost, appeared in the main tank. Her father Masaaki works there and she hopes she can help him in his work over summer. While lurking around the entrance, one of the staff members recognises Ruka, gives her a visitor’s pass and leads her to the entrance to the pumps behind the main tanks of the aquarium where her father is currently working.

While searching for her father, she spots something lurking about in the shadows, then inside a wetsuit, before jumping into a small tank. Surprisingly it turns out not to be a sealion, but a mysterious boy her age who calls himself Umi. Ruka’s father explains that Umi and another boy named Sora were discovered in the wild and were apparently raised by a herd of dugongs (no, I am not making this up). Umi has become acclimatised to the ocean so much, that he can’t go long periods without his skin being wet. Still bummed out by what happened at the handball club the previous day, Ruka returns to school, but lurks about so no one can see her. Hiding in a classroom, she hears a noise and believes she has been caught by the teacher, when in fact it is Umi who has been searching for her. The pair of them escape the school and head for the ocean.

There he explains to her that he wants to show her the Will-o'-the-wisp that will appear that night. Two lights speed over the town and across the ocean. Ruka is very excited by this phenomenon, but can’t seem to get any sense out of Umi as to what she just saw. In another meeting with Umi, he heads into the ocean and Ruka meets Sora who is sitting on the shoreline. Sora is far paler than Umi and seems much less friendly. However, the pair of them become close, mainly due to Umi’s influence and the trio begin to have adventures together. Ruka soon develops a connection to what is happening in the sea. She can feel something is going on, like she has a form of ESP or psychic connection with it. It soon becomes clear to everyone that something odd is happening in the ocean. A large number of deep-sea creatures are washed up on the shoreline. Several of the local marine biologists have also been investigating Umi and Sora as well as the two meteorites that were seen crashing into the ocean. All are linked and it is clear something big is about to happen.

This film is based on a five volume manga series of the same name (though the literal title is “Marine Mammal Children”), written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi who also wrote the screenplay for the film. This adaptation was animated by Studio 4°C, a studio with a relatively low output (but generally high-quality animation), whose previous films have included “Tekkonkinkreet”, “Mind Game” and the “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc” trilogy. The director was Ayumu Watanabe who is best known as the director of “Space Brothers” TV series and follow up film and the more recent “Doraemon” movies. The score was composed by none other than Joe Hisaishi, who is best known to anime fans for his soundtrack work on many of Studio Ghibli’s films.

I might as well start off discussing the best parts of the film first. The animation is quite spectacular. One of the most impressive sequences involves Ruka running from the school and into the town’s streets in one continuous take. The backgrounds are of course CG (though look completely hand drawn), something that Studio 4°C are masters of. I have read some comments from fans and even in some film reviews that the animation is scrappy. This is utter nonsense. What people mean by this is that they don’t like the character designs, which are for the most part quite atypical of most modern character design. While the story may at first glance may look like a typical summer teen film in a stereotypical setting, this film is anything but. Apart from the mystical aspects of the film I’ll talk about later, the movie is clearly about outsiders, in particular Ruka who doesn’t seem to fit into her small community at all.

While the interactions and adventures between Ruka, Umi and Sora are fun and quite entertaining, it soon becomes quite clear that we are being primed for a reveal of the developing mysteries out in the ocean. Something is obviously wrong out there; there’s news bulletins stating whales are entering the Hudson River in New York, a large amount of sea life is congregating just off the coast and even the captive sea creatures at the aquarium take notice, with all of them looking simultaneously towards a single point somewhere out in the ocean. Couple this with the previously mentioned deep sea creatures being washed ashore and the scenes of local marine biologists and other sequences of scientists which seem to be linked to the military or some unnamed government organisation. There are also several mentions of a “festival” as well and other events and phenomena vaguely hinted at. But little of the material presented to the audience is of a scientific kind. Towards the midpoint of the film, Ruka meets a local marine biologist; a young long-haired man named Anglade. Despite being a scientist, none of what he says to Ruka is very scientific at all; it’s all rather philosophical and spiritual instead.

Later in the film Ruka meets another local marine biologist, an elderly lady only known as Dede. She is somehow even vaguer than Anglade. A third marine biologist connected to the aquarium called Jim, is at least seen to be collecting data on Umi and Sora, and the phenomena occurring in the ocean. But none of the dialogue from these characters really seems to advance the plot one iota or gives any real explanations as to what is happening on screen. Just before the mid-way point, the dialogue from these characters in particular becomes incredibly ponderous. Pretty much all of it leads nowhere and the film is filled with tantalising clues to the mysteries, but they all ultimately lead to dead ends.

At the mid-way point of the film, the plot veers quite sharply from what is a somewhat normal movie about a young teenage girl enjoying her summer break with two mysterious boys from the sea, into an incredibly abstract and quite bizarre visual representation of what seems to be the rebirth of the universe. I think. I’m still not quite too sure. I’ve read comparisons with this section of the film to the birth of the universe sequence from Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”, which is a reasonable comparison. Leading up to this part of the film, it is clear that Ruka is the catalyst to what happens at this point (Ruka has been swallowed by a large creature prior to this sequence). However, the meaning behind of this seems rather muddled. Is it the literal rebirth of the universe? Has all aquatic life been reborn? Has Ruka been given a vision in order to save the creatures of the ocean from human destruction?

Considering nothing seems to have really changed at all after this sequence, it just seems even more befuddling and odd. I began to wonder if Ruka imagined the whole thing, but that doesn’t account for the marine biologists’ odd behaviour. Why are there scenes in that sequence of the government scientists discovering what seems to be a number of abandoned boats in the middle of the ocean, with one having thousands of dollars’ worth of banknotes scattered inside? What hell does it all mean? Even leading up to that sequence, none of the actions they take, nor the dialogue contributes at all to an explanation for what is happening. For example, Jim deletes data relating to Umi and Sora suggesting that it will help them with what will happen next. However, it has already been explained that the data collected on both indicates they are normal human boys.

From what I can gather, the manga contains a fair bit of important background info about the world and characters, that is oddly not divulged in the movie. Unexplained in the film (except for a couple lines of dialogue from Dede towards the end), Umi and Sora aren’t the only “Children of the Sea”. Apparently, there have been several other “messengers of the sea” in the past. You would assume that the discovery of two boys raised by dugongs would be an extremely important scientific one, so why are they being held at some old rundown aquarium in a small Japanese fishing town? Despite the numerous scenes they have in the film, there is no real link with the mysterious government scientists to any of the other characters in the film. They feel really divorced from the film as such. As I previously mentioned, the original mangaka wrote the screenplay. I know it must be difficult to condense a five volume manga into less than two hours of film, but so much material has been cut the movie feels deliberately vague and incredibly hard to decipher.

Though I was really annoyed by the film upon first viewing it, over the last few days I have begun to really think about the imagery and what the movie means, if anything. The setting of a typical rundown and rusted Japanese fishing village, with its obligatory aquarium which most of these towns have in Japan, is really well done and looks true to life. Some the story setups, especially the fact two boys were raised by dugongs, seem really silly and laughable, as does a bunch of scientists who speak about the phenomena in the ocean in vague and spiritual language. I understand that mangaka Daisuke Igarashi has publicly stated he wants the audience to make up their own minds about what happens in the story, but I would have preferred if there was a more realistic and scientific basis to it. I also felt there were far too many red herrings in the film.

While the animation is fantastic and the relationships between Ruka, Umi and Sora are well written, the vagueness and abstract manner of the second half of the film coupled with a lack of clear answers and seemingly a sense of nothing has changed at the end of the film kind of irked me. As you can tell by how much I have written about this film, I have thought about it a lot over the last few days. So much so, that I think I’ll need to see it again before I can give it any sort of score out of ten. Note there is an extended post credits sequence at the end of the film, so don’t leave the cinema before the credits finish scrolling.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Anime On the Big Screen: “Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll”

Venue: Dendy Cinemas, Level 2, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City, ACT
Date: Thursday 5 December 2019
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 90 minutes
Production Date: 2019
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No

The latter half of the year has seen some big anime films in cinemas including “Promare” and what is easily the biggest anime film of the year, “Weathering with You”. Unsurprisingly this year's Japanese Film Festival was utterly disappointing. Though the live action fare in the line up was a great improvement on previous years, there was absolutely no anime at all. Masaaki Yuasa’s “Ride Your Wave” and the latest "Detective Conan" film screened in all capitals except Canberra, which was baffling. Dendy have settled into a pattern with anime screenings; twice a day in the evening which isn’t too bad. The Canberra Centre has cordoned off the old food court below Dendy. It’s now apparently going to become some sort of bowling/party centre. But several months on and there seems to be no firm date when it’s going to open. It looks ugly as sin and forces patrons to hunt for food at the south end of the Canberra Centre, which is OK, but I much preferred the food court below Dendy.

Next week “Children of the Sea” is screening at Dendy and I was surprised that a poster for the film was put in a very prominent place at the entrance. The film has been to several film festivals in the country, so I’m assuming that Madman think this anime film has more of chance with a general audience than their regular fare. This “Violet Evergarden” film, is the first of two scheduled for release, and of course had promotion limited to social media. I really wasn’t expecting a great deal of people at this screening, but 18 people showed up. The weird thing was initially the entire cinema audience (including me) was entirely made up of white middle-aged men. I wondered if this was the core audience Kyoto Animation were aiming for. As we got closer to screening time more patrons showed up, mostly younger men. In the end it was a very male dominated audience with only three women, most of whom came by themselves.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is set in a turn of the 20th century, post war, fictional Germanic/European-like country called Leidenschaftlich, the original TV series is centred around the titular character, a young girl around the age of 14. Violet is an orphan and former child solider, essentially used as a killing machine for the military. She has been fighting in the long war since she was 10. Severely injured at the end of the war, Violet has both of arms replaced with highly articulate metal prosthetics. A former Major in the army, Claudia Hodgins, takes in Violet after promising his friend, Major Gilbert Bougainvillea, to do so. Having a strong attachment to the missing, presumed dead, Gilbert (who gave her a name and cared for her) and being unable to adjust from the highly regimented military life, Violet finds it hard to adapt to her new chosen career, an Auto Memory Doll at Claudia’s CH Postal Company.

These are women who are essentially ghost writers for people who want to send letters to loved ones or even write manuscripts, and are especially important in an era with a high level of illiteracy. While her military training sets Violet up to a be a proficient and highly accurate typist, her experiences in childhood and as solider on the frontline have severely blunted her empathy and feelings for others. But over the course of the series she learns how to interpret and express the feelings of her clients via the letters she writes for them. In doing so she begins to regain her humanity and emotions back, becoming less machine like. After writing a series of publicly published letters for the princess of the Drossel Royal Family to her fiancé, she becomes an in-demand Auto Memory Doll who touches the lives of many the clients who request her services.

This film is based upon the second chapter of the “Violet Evergarden Gaiden” light novel. This light novel is a collection of side stories separate to the two main light novels in the series, hence the reason why this film is referred to in promotional material as a “side story”. From what I can gather, this film takes place about mid-way through the TV series, though it could easily take place directly after it. Violet has been commissioned by the Drossel Royal family to be a tutor and handmaiden for a period of three months for a young woman named Isabella York who will soon make her debut in society. Though the young woman’s family is part of the aristocracy, she certainly doesn’t act like it. Isabella is quite sickly, feels like she is trapped in her girls only boarding school and initially resents the presence of Violet. She also feels that the other girls at the school only want to be friends with her and others in order to make connections with other aristocratic families.

However, as the weeks go on as Violet trains her in etiquette and deportment, Isabella starts to bond and open up to her. Isabella later reveals that her upbringing wasn’t exactly a privileged one and that the current predicament she finds herself in was in fact a sacrifice she had to make in order to keep a loved one safe. She has come to regret the choice she has made, but felt she had no other choice. Though she has not been tasked with her usual Auto Memory Doll work, Violet helps Isabella write a letter to Isabella's loved one. The second part of the film takes place three years after Violet’s three month stay at the boarding school. A young girl named Taylor Bartlett arrives unannounced at the CH Postal Company. She announces she wishes to see Violet who had promised her in a letter several years ago to come to her if she needed anything.

It is soon relieved that Taylor has run away from the orphanage she was at and that she wants a job at the postal company. She decides to become a postman after taking a liking to the young postman Benedict Blue, whom she wants to be an apprentice to, much to his annoyance. After Violet pleads with Claudia to take her on as an apprentice, they soon discover that she is illiterate. Benedict along with Violet and the other staff develop a training schedule for Taylor who takes her work seriously. Taylor reveals that she would like to write a letter to the person who cared for her. Unfortunately, she seems to have disappeared several years ago. Benedict is tasked with the almost impossible mission of tracing her last known whereabouts and following every last possible lead to find where she is now residing.

Unlike the story arc in the original TV series where the focus was almost always solely on Violet and her development from an almost robotic child solider to a fully functioning human being (via her regaining her emotions and empathy for others), this film focuses on the client’s stories. Admittedly this was also a large focus of the TV series as well, but as Violet interacted with and preformed her writing duties for her clients, she not only changed the lives and touched others hearts, she regained her humanity and developed as a person too. The big change in this film is Violet moving away from her normal job as Auto Memory Doll and being tasked with guiding a reluctant young woman in ways of the aristocracy by teaching her etiquette and deportment. Admittedly this was hard for me to swallow. In the beginning of the TV series, Violet is rather direct and cold. I understand that she has learnt much in the time she became an Auto Memory Doll, but her extensive knowledge of etiquette amongst members of the aristocracy seems a bit implausible.

In reality the somewhat implausible set up for the first half of the film is pretty much an excuse to explore the relationship that develops between Isabella and Violet. This is probably the best part of the film. Ever so slowly the bonds develop between the two. Isabella may seem rather bratty, but we soon learn why she seems so out of place in an all-girl boarding school for the rich. While I have seen some reviews suggest the relationship is explicitly a Yuri one, I think people are projecting their wishes onto the story. Sure, there are some hints of it at various scenes but it’s not all that explicit, and even if it was it's a one way street with Violet not really reciprocating. This section of the film culminates in a dress rehearsal for the debutante’s ball with Violet playing the male role as Isabella’s dance partner, in an outfit that is half coat and tails and half dress. The dance choreography, the focus on Isabella initial nervousness, and latter joy, and the exquisite details of the ballroom easily make this sequence the highlight of the film. The section of the film does feel somewhat similar to Oscar and Marie Antoinette's relationship in “Rose of Versailles”.

The second half of the film is more subdued and light-hearted with the focus on the young girl, Taylor. I have read reviews which suggest the transition between the two halves is disjointed and doesn’t work well. Without giving away spoilers, I can only say this is complete bunkum. The second half of the film is clearly set up during the first half. The big surprise in this half of the film is the focus on mailman Benedict Blue, who rather reluctantly takes on the role of training Taylor Bartlett. While Benedict did come off as rather self-centred in the TV series, here the screenwriters make him more likeable and shows that he has far more empathy for others than he actually lets on. Taylor’s story may be too saccharine for some, especially with the tear-jerking finale, but I think the screenplay is well written enough that it doesn’t become maudlin.

Apart from an incredibly emotional climax, in which two people are destined to be apart from each other forever due to class structures and the societal mores of the time, a lot of focus of the film is how Leidenschaftlich is moving away from its militaristic past and into a new age. The city is seen to be in state of transformation with a large Eiffel Tower-like structure, that can be seen from almost everywhere in the city, under construction. As time has passed, subtle changes have been made to the main and secondary character designs. However, it is Violet’s work colleague and fellow Auto Memory Doll, Iris Cannary, who has transformed the most. So much so that I initially did not recognise her.

This film of course is the first anime to be released by Kyoto Animation after the shocking and devastating arson attack on their main studio in Fushimi ward, Kyoto. Breaking away from company practice of not crediting staffers who haven’t worked with the company for less than a year, the name of every single person who worked on the film, including those who perished in the incident, appears during the end credits. Putting aside the content of the film, having the knowledge of that by itself makes the film a very haunting experience tinged with sadness. Wrapping up, I think this movie looks fantastic and is really well produced. While it does feel like two TV episodes have been extended and edited together, both parts of the film complement each other and work well as a whole. I think to a degree Violet’s transformation as a handmaiden who schools a young woman on the etiquette of the aristocracy is a bit hard to swallow, but I could suspend my disbelief. The film fits in well with the TV series and I am looking forward to the sequel film which should appear in cinemas next year. 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Lack of Updates, Changing the Format of this Blog & Re-birthing The Anime Archivist for a Second Time

Like the previous couple of years, 2019 hasn't been a great year for me on a number of levels (both professional, health-wise and personal), hence the lack of posts this year. I have thought long and hard if I wish to continue blogging and the answer is still yes.

However after mulling over what I want to do and were I want to go with this blog I have decided to make a number changes;

The first is to separate the Anime Archivist stuff from the other (rather opinionated and maybe political) material I have written on this blog over the last decade.

The second is the renaming of this blog to The Melancholic Middle Aged Anime Fan, and reformatting it to only include stuff that doesn't come under the Anime Archivist banner, which will also now include theatrical screenings. I suspect I will now rarely, if at all, add new posts to this blog.

The third change is to have a break from writing for a while, while I work on some other projects and to concentrate on the rather large backlog of DVDs and Blu-rays I have seeming accumulated over the last 18 months or so (which oddly coincided with a noticeable shrinkage in the amount of English language anime releases in the same period, go figure).

So what I have done is created a template for the new blog for the Anime Archivist which I think will make it's permanent home on Blogger (though I have tentatively also snapped up a Wordpress site as well). I plan to commence work on the new blog at the start of October. I will republish 40 previously published Anime Archivist articles on the new blog, one a week, some with revisions or additional material. As I publish them on that blog, I will delete them from this blog, much like how I was doing when I transferred the material from the original Anime Archivist blog on Wordpress to this blog.

Material previously published on the long defunct Lost World of Anime website and blog (circa 2003 to 2010) will be rewritten and republished on the new Anime Archivist blog. The maternal planed for the new Anime Archivist blog falls into several categories; anime and some tokusatsu published in English but no longer in print or ignored by wider fandom released on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray, official anime music video compilations, defunct English language anime and some tokusatsu magazines, finishing up my Western Connection series, a new series on English language books on Japanese otaku or other subcultures, otaku or subculture documentaries, a new series on the anime films of Happy Science (aka Kofuku-no-Kagaku) and whatever else takes my interest.

To a large degree a lot of the material I write about isn't covered by anyone else. I also exclusively focus on commercial (physical) products released in English, unlike the vast majority of bloggers. Hence the reason why I want keep writing and publishing this stuff. As I said before, I'm not really concerned if I don't have a large following or no following at all for my writing. I'm just happy to write about this stuff.

To the very few people who may follow this blog, I apologise for the lack of new material for the large part for the next 12 months. In the next month or so, after I have decided on the formatting of the blog and worked out the bugs, I will publish the new Anime Archivist website address.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Anime On the Big Screen: “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection”

Venue: Dendy Cinemas, Level 2, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City, ACT
Date: Thursday 16 May 2019
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Length: 112 minutes
Production Date: 2019
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No

Between the last time I reported on the last anime film I saw in the cinema and now, there literally has been no anime in cinemas at all. Half Symbolic haven’t announced any more anime films after distributing the two recent Science Saru films and Madman has only really hinted at a number of forthcoming films but given no firm release dates. I was rather pessimistic of the future of anime in cinemas due to dwindling audiences, especially with the very poor attendance of the “Love Live! Sunshine!!” screening, but was really surprised when around 50 people showed up at this screening. Unfortunately Dendy is still scheduling anime films to be shown only once per day, now at the slightly later time of 7pm. For me this is a somewhat more convenient time to go into the city, but I still had to fight traffic on Commonwealth Avenue as I managed to get caught up the evening traffic heading home to Belconnen.

The other problem I have is everything shuts around 6pm or earlier. I still managed to get some food in the mall just before they closed and then wandered off to the supermarket to get dessert. I still had plenty of time to kill, so I just sat in the food court until 10 minutes before the film started. I sat next to this really chatty bloke whom I thought would never shut up. I think the increased audience just goes to show anime fans will turn out for the right films. I must say though that Madman’s advertising outside social media was virtually zip. No posters in the cinema as per usual and oddly the film is not even mentioned in the “In Cinemas” section on Madman's website. With that out of the way I guess it’s time to discuss the film. Please note I am going to reveal some minor spoilers in the next few paragraphs (though nothing that you possibly hadn't figured out already by watching the trailer).

Set one year after the events of the final episode in second series of “Code Geass”, we are reunited with the  Black Knights, most of whom are visiting a Zero themed café run by some of the ex-members. Generally it seems the world is at peace since Suzaku, dressed as Zero, apparently assassinated Emperor Lelouch. Nunnally, now the Empress of Britannia, has traveled with her personal bodyguard, Zero (still Suzaku in disguise), on a goodwill mission at a UN refugee camp near the nation state of Zilkhistan. A large group of enemy Knightmares appears on the horizon and eventually surround Nunnally’s security detail and abducts her and Zero.

C.C. is also wandering through the region, travelling with an unidentified male, both of them searching far and wide for something. C.C. arrives in a village and pays for a room in an inn. It is revealed that the man travelling with her is none other than Lelouch himself. However he is but a shell of his former self. Lelouch seems to be non-verbal, only takes directions from C.C. as he can’t do anything himself and has infrequent panic attacks when frightened. During the night, a team of Zilkhstani forces enters the village. Fearing that they have been tracked down, C.C. attempts to hide Lelouch and prepares to take them on. Much to her surprise she discovers that the Zilkhstani forces are actually hunting down Kallen, Lloyd and Sayoko who have infiltrated the country as Zilkhistan is the prime suspect in Nunnally's kidnapping. Shocked at the revelation that Lelouch is still alive, C.C. explains to the group that she has resurrected Lelouch against his will. However in doing so his memories are trapped amongst the collective unconscious within C's World.

As the group attempts to leave the village, they are confronted by Zilkhistan operative Swaile Qujappat and his assassins. A Geass user himself, Qujappat uses it on Sayoko who now believes her allies are her enemy. C.C. and her comrades eventually gain the upper hand, neutralise the situation and Qujappat along with his assassins retreat. It order to return Lelouch to normal, C.C. needs to enter C's World via a thought temple located in the basement of a desert prison. The group enthusiastically agree to help C.C, in order to resurrect Lelouch so he can once again lead the Black Knights. Traveling across the harsh desert country, first disguised as a food delivery truck then as a prisoner transport van, the small group manage to infiltrate the prison. They quickly subdue the guards, C.C. decides to free the prisoners and the group set about gaining access to the basement levels in order to enter the thought temple.

But C.C.’s decision to free what she believes were political prisoners was an ill-fated one as most are actual mercenaries for the Zilkhistan government. They begin to track down the group and engage in combat with them. In the midst of all of this, Suzuku is found. He was being tortured for information in the bowels of the prison. While he has been rescued and many of the mercenaries have now been killed or are out of action, the group find themselves trapped inside the prison as Zilkhistan forces gather outside with heavy machinery. C.C. enters the portal to enter the collective unconscious but is have enormous difficulty trying to reunite Lelouch’s memories with his body. She eventually exits the portal, seemingly having failed.

Back in late 2016, on the date of the 10th anniversary of the original broadcast of the first episode of “Code Geass”, Sunrise hinted at the fact they were going to resurrect the franchise. Their plan later became clear with the release of a trilogy of compilation films in 2017 and 2018, which included a fair chunk of new animation, some of which changed the motivations and fates of some characters completely. This brand new film was later announced along with the revelation that pretty much all of the staff who worked on the original series, including director Goro Taniguchi, would be working on it. Though considered to be a spoiler, it was been made pretty clear in the film’s promotional material and on Sunrise’s social media accounts that Lelouch would be making an appearance. In fact C.C. explicitly says in the film’s trailer that she has resurrected him (hence the film’s title).

Of course this just begs the question; how? Taking the final episode of the second series at face value, Lelouch's resurrection just seems absurd. I wrote nine years ago that there was no way in hell they could resurrect this series. I was dead wrong. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. “Code Geass” is an over the top, sometimes absurdly melodramatic franchise where just about anything could happen, no matter how fanciful. To be utterly honest, I still don’t quite exactly understand how Lelouch survived. I admit that I haven’t seen the series for a couple of years and quite honestly should have watched it in its entirety before seeing this film. However the film’s plot can be quite confusing and requiring an encyclopaedic knowledge of how C's World works at some stages.

The audience is also bombarded with a huge cast. The staff seem hell bent on giving every character previously seen in the two TV series some screen time regardless of the fact if the character in question is actually integral to plot or not. I do find this type of screenwriting particularly annoying. Why do we need to see these people? It’s as if the creators think that if the audience don’t see thier favourite characters (no matter how insignificant they are in the franchise) they’ll feel short changed. It’s utterly pointless and impedes the story that is being told. Its fan service at its worst in my opinion. Adding to the issues this film has is the new animation found in the compilation film trilogy which, as I said before, does change the fates and motivations of some characters. The problem here is that if you haven’t seen those films (and many western fans don’t watch or like those type of films at all), you’d be utterly confused as to why characters who were dead or who received radically different fates in the series appear in this film.

There are also a number of new characters who are quickly introduced and are integral to the story, but generally don’t have much meat to them. The key one to the plot is the queen of Zilkhstani, Shamna, who is also a priestess and a user of Geass. Though she and her power plays a central role in the movie’s climax, I did find her usage of Geass in the story to be rather tiresome and a little bit predictable. Lelouch’s ability to bypass and defeated her Geass was also rather unbelievable and predictable. The second major new character is Shalio, the very young king of Zilkhstani. He is even more short changed than Shamna in terms of development. Honestly I can’t really tell you anything about him except his appearance. There is little personality in his character except for the fact he is vaguely portrayed as someone who is “evil”. Taking away the numerous appearances of superfluous characters, the main plot, while somewhat unnecessary detailed and complex regarding the C's World, is pretty damn interesting and intriguing. The other element I liked was the action. The battle sequences with the Knightmares are really well done with all of the mecha looking as if it was hand drawn, not CG. The hand to hand combat scenes, especially those involving Sayoko were exceptionally well choreographed, if a little absurd. Most of the CG was good, but a couple of shots with helicopters looked a little shoddy.

In conclusion, I sort of couldn’t get into this movie as much as I would have liked to. I mean, I am fully aware the franchise as a whole is absurdly over the top, but I think at times it was all a bit too silly. Yes the core plot was pretty good, but the cameos of literally dozens of characters who really had little to do with the story bogged everything down. The action was pretty damn good, but in the end, the story basically comes full circle before the end credits begin. I sort of wondered what the point of it all was. This film does feel underwhelming. Some fans have made the point that the original TV series ending was perfect, so why bother with this film? A post credits sequence predictably hints at further sequels, confirmed recently by the series’ producer Kojiro Taniguchi, who says there is a decade long plan for the franchise. That news honestly fills me with dread. On balance, I can only give this film 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Documentaries on Japanese Pop Culture: “Tokyo Idols”

Publisher: KimStim (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with English Subtitles
Length: 92 minutes
Production Date: 2017
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

I was planning to do a new series on documentaries on Japanese pop culture, but realised I don’t quite have enough examples to make it ongoing. Instead of making it a regular feature, I have decided to cover them as I find them. First up is Kyoko Miyake’s recent doco on idol culture;

The bulk of this documentary, seemingly shot between 2014 and 2016, follows the then 19 year old Rio Hiiragi as she tries shooting towards her dream career of being a singer. In order to reach this goal, she has entered the world of independent, underground idols. Though she is quick to point out that she never wanted to be an idol, this part of her career is just to get her to her goal. Rio originally began her idol career as a member of an idol group in a themed café when she was 16. While she does have a manager of sorts, Rio is mostly a one woman show. She runs her own online shop selling various goods and CDs, has meet and greets after shows and does daily live streams to her fans. Over a relatively short period she has gained a small but very dedicated following.

We are then introduced to 43 year old Koji. Formerly a salary man, he discovered Rio and instantly became a fan. Fed up with the mediocrity of the salary man life, coupled with his fiancée leaving him and realising his life hadn’t turned out like he thought it would, astonishingly he quits his job and decides to help out promoting Rio via her passionate fan club the Rio Brothers. Koji is most certainly not your typical idol fan. He has spent most of his savings on idol related merchandise and went to 700 idol shows in a year. However as you’ll soon discover the only type of idol fan Miyake interviews is Koji’s type. As the film progresses, Rio’s career starts to gain traction; she does exceptionally well at an independent idol contest, lands a record deal with small label, a big time idol producer writes and produces a song for her, she has her first solo show, and goes on small nationwide promotional tour.

Miyake continues her odd focus on middle aged males in idol fandom, interviewing a guy who calls himself Mitacchi. In his late 50’s or older, Mitacchi discovered his idol obsession via a flyer handed to him by a waitress at his local pachinko parlour. The flyer was for a local idol themed café centred on indie underground idol group P.IDL. Going to the café, Mitacchi gets a crush on Yuka who is probably in her early 20’s. Amazingly Mitacchi dumps his girlfriend and begins to obsess on Yuka. He is constantly creating various bits of P.IDL and Yuka themed merchandise, some of which he gives her at the café. He later admits spending ¥200,000 a month on idol merchandise. The documentary shows him living in an old rundown apartment complex.

Two other young idols in small independent / underground idol acts are also briefly profiled. First is 14 year old Amu who is part of a group called Harajuku Story. Though bubbly and energetic, due to the large number of group members and the small stages they perform on, management practically forces her and other members to win the support of her fans who vote in a limited number of girls to perform. Again the focus here is on the fans. Miyake asks her if she feels weird that her fans are the same age as her father. Confused, Amu replies that her fans are of all ages, which bears out in the footage which does indeed show many of Harajuku Story’s fandom in their early 20’s or a little older. The final idol interviewed is 10 year old Yuzu who performs as part of the child group Amore Carina. Yet again Miyake implies to Yuzu’s mother that the fandom is made up of lecherous middle aged men, but she is just happy that her daughter enjoys what she is doing and is pleased she has gained some independence at such a young age (in regards to her traveling alone on public transport to get to shows).

In between these segments, Miyake interviews several people (I’m not going to call them experts on idols or pop culture, because they aren’t) in regards to idol culture. We are treated to some rather bizarre takes. Newspaper columnist Akio Nakamori attempts to make comparisons with modern day Japan to the depressed state of the United Kingdom's economy of the 1970’s, drawing links between the emergence of punk in the UK and the increased popularity of idol culture in Japan. While to a large degree hard core fans of idol culture are railing against society, this is a bit of a stretch. Another writer suggests the handshake events, popularised by idol group AKB48, are inherently sexual and that until recently handshaking was seen as sexual in Japan and oddly handshaking events inhabit a “legal grey zone” (I’m going to suggest that both statements are utter rubbish). One commentator flippantly suggests that idols should be banned because he has anecdotally heard collage aged men say they would rather follow idols instead of getting a girlfriend.

Unsurprisingly feminist author Minori Kitahara despises idol culture and suggests that “instead of connecting with women in their everyday life, the men choose girls they can dominate. Girls who are guaranteed not to challenge or hurt them. This society will stop at nothing to protect male fantasies and provide comfort for men”. I find this remark to quite off the mark in regards to most of the men interviewed for this film. But this is the preconceived notion Miyake pushes right from the beginning of the film. The doco starts with various pieces of footage of idol acts, mostly established ones that are on major labels. Over this footage is AKB48’s “Seijun Philosophy”, a slightly obscure B-side to their 2013 single “Heart Ereki”, with the lyrics “I want to protect my purity/Until I take off my school uniform”. Miyake's obsession with middle aged male fandom dominates much of the film. While in reality there is a sizable amount of fans who do fit this demographic, she constantly ignores the on camera presence of younger men in their early 20’s (who seem to make up the bulk of the audience) and surprisingly female fans, particularly the ones in Rio’s fanbase.

In a lot of ways I really despise these sorts of documentaries. In cases like this, the point is not to educate the audience, it’s to insert the filmmaker’s ideology or biases into the subject. I think it’s even worse when you’re dealing with a subject most westerners are completely unfamiliar with (despite the recent interest in the west of idol acts such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Babymetal). Watching this documentary alone would lead people to believe that the idol phenomenon is a relatively recent one and is entirely comprised of female only groups and soloists with an entirely male fanbase. I completely understand that there is only a limited time within the documentary format to explore the long history of idol culture, but the film outright ignores it’s origins in the 1970’s with groups like The Candies and Pink Lady becoming superstars and the formation of modern idol fandom culture in the 1980's. Male idols marketed at an adoring female fanbase such as Johnny & Associates acts like Arashi, V6, SMAP and Hey! Say! JUMP, most of whom exploded in popularity in the mid 1990’s, are also conspicuously absent, considering how they dominate the media landscape. Miyake also ignores the burgeoning alt-idol scene which includes anti-idol acts like BiS (Brand-new idol Society), crossdresser Ladybeard’s death metal inspired Ladybaby and Deadlift Lolita groups and anonymous shoegaze inspired group ・・・・・・・・・ (pronounced “Dots”).

In promotional interviews for her film, Miyake feigns ignorance to idol culture as a whole, which seems really implausible considering how ingrained idols are in the Japanese media landscape and have been so since the 1970’s. While Miyake was born in Japan in 1976, she left to live and study in England around 2002. Now I know the popularity of idols waned in the 1990’s (but did explode in popularity again in the mid 1990’s with male idol groups such as SMAP), but there is no way in the world Miyake could have not known about them. One of the biggest groups in the 1980’s was Onyanko Club, whom would later inspire their producer and lyricist, Yasushi Akimoto, to create the infamous AKB48 in the mid 2000’s. AKB48 is ripe for criticism in this type of documentary, not just for the scandals surrounding them and the poor treatment of the women in the group, but also for the way fans are exploited in terms of acquiring tokens for handshake events and the like. However apart from the song at the opening of the film (which isn’t attributed to the group) the only criticism we see of the group is in terms of the Senbatsu Election process where fans select the group’s top eighty members for that year (the 45th Senbatsu Election in 2015 is depicted in the doco).

Miyake also tars everyone in the film with the same brush; Rio is lumped in with the other idol groups, P.IDL, Harajuku Story and Amore Carina which is absurd because Rio is a free agent while those other groups are run by mostly male management and the girls in those groups are paid employees. The fans also receive the same treatment; all are male, all don’t want girlfriends, all are fanatical about young women or girls. There’s little to no nuance, no real questioning why these men have poured all their free time and money into these groups. There’s also little time or effort to explain why these fans might reject Japanese society, especially salary man culture. Instead Miyake paints the fans as strange and possibly even paedophilic. In one telling subtitle translation, a fan of Amore Carina states that he likes the group because “Their selling point is that they’re not fully developed”, implying that he likes prepubescent girls over women. However in Japanese he actually says “kansei sarete inai”, most likely meaning the girls in the group are not as polished or as developed as professional performers. In fact this is one of the key reasons why fans like amateur groups, but obviously it did not fit Miyake’s preconceived ideas on idol fandom.

As I said before, these documentaries about subcultures, especially foreign subcultures, aren’t created to educate the public about them. They generally don’t exist to empathise with those who are involved in them or to explain their motives. They exist to suggest these subcultures are odd or even flat out immoral or repulsive. And because the general public and even western based fans of these subcultures in general aren’t all that familiar with daily Japanese life or pop culture in general, viewers of these types of documentaries can come to conclusion that Japanese society is odd and impenetrable for westerners. This is of course utter nonsense. Miyake doesn’t even take the time to explain why she has filmed some of the material. For example we see several shots passing by Akihabara Sixteen, a live venue for independent and underground idol acts where Rio performs. However this is never explained in the film.

Instead it’s lumped in with other random shots of Akihabara streets and other unconnected shots of Tokyo streetscapes. I also believe much of Rio’s story is presented out of sequence on purpose for dramatic effect. For example the film ends with Rio recording a single with a famous producer; however I believe this took place well before her 21st birthday concert. Much like Vice’s “Schoolgirls for Sale in Japan”, this doco takes a pop culture oddity from Japan (in that case idol group Kamen Joshi and their fans) and presents it as sinister and commonplace. Sure “Tokyo Idols” is hardly as sensationalistic nor does it cover the sex industry, but in many ways it feels similar. Much of the controversy and issues surrounding AKB48 are downplayed or ignored in favour of criticism of lower rung idol groups and their fans. It’s odd because you’d think Miyake would want to celebrate Rio’s independence and success against the odds. Idol culture deserves to be criticised and explored in much more nuanced and thorough detail. “Tokyo Idols” fails to do that on every level.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anime On the Big Screen: “Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow”

Venue: Dendy Cinemas, Level 2, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra City, ACT
Date: Thursday 21 March 2019
Distributor: Madman Entertainment
Format: Digital Projection, Japanese dialogue with some Italian dialogue and English subtitles
Length: 100 minutes
Production Date: 2019
Currently on Home Video in English (as of writing): No

So far 2019 has been a pretty good year for anime in cinemas. Not only have several films been released by Madman, a new film distributor, Half Symbolic, distributed the two recent Science Saru films, “Lu Over the Wall” and “The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl”, to cinemas in a limited screening format. But while there may be more anime in cinemas, there seems to be a lot less patrons. Looking back though my previous reviews of theatrical anime films, there used to be around 20 to 30 people attending these films around two or three years ago. Last year it averaged 15 people per film. Today’s screening had seven people.

The lack of patrons is also reflected in the amount of screenings Dendy has for this film; one per day at the rather inconvenient time of 6:30pm. Last year Dendy scheduled anime films twice a day and in years prior three to four times a day. This trend does not bode well for theatrical anime in this town. It was an absolute pain trying to get into the city and get a parking spot. The weather was rather warm for late March, heading towards the late 20’s. It was meant to rain Thursday but held off and must have only poured down briefly when I was in the screening. I decided to get dinner before the screening (Nandos, which I rarely have) and later had difficulty getting out of the Canberra Centre as sections were blocked off sometime before I got out of the screening, but not at places which would be logical, so you’d find yourself blocked from the exit you were going to, then have to backtrack a couple hundred meters to go back to an alternate exit! Anyway, let’s talk about the film;

Taking place soon after the final episode of the TV series (see here for a rundown of the series if you’re not familiar with the franchise), the second year students, Mari Ohara, Dia Kurosawa and Kanan Matsuura, set off on a post-graduation trip. The remaining six members of Aqours (pronounced Aqua) have decided to continue on as a group. As Uranohoshi Girls' High School has been formerly closed, they decide to take a trip out to see the new school they'll be attending next term, which is on the other side of the city. When they finally reach their destination, they are horrified to discover it is a mothballed and very run down primary school. They go to a restaurant to eat away their sorrows when they discover You Watanabe has left them and is outside talking to a boy her age. Believing that You has a boyfriend, the five of them follow her. But it is soon revealed that the “boy” is actually her female cousin, Tsuki Watanabe, who has come to visit her.

Tsuki is from the high school that the remaining six members of Aqours will attend. She explains that the students from Uranohoshi Girls' High School are being forced to spend their remaining school life at the old primary school that was shut down several years ago. Both the board of their new school and the parents believe that because their school has several clubs which compete and win at a national level, the clubs from Uranohoshi Girls' High School would feel out of place. However Aqours have just won Love Live!, and the girls are determined to show the new school that they can compete like the other school clubs. But their performance at their new school doesn’t go well and the board and the parents association won’t budge on letting the Uranohoshi Girls' High School students study on the main campus grounds.

Despite this set back, the remaining six members of continue their training as part of being in the School Idol club. While training on the beach, they receive a visit from Saint Snow. Discussing their performance with them, Saint Snow asks them to perform to see where they went wrong. Sarah of Saint Snow says that because of the loss of the other three members, they seem to have forgotten who they are as a group. Her sister, the other half of Saint Snow, Leah, is quite angry at Aqours, tells them that Love Live! isn't a game and runs off. Sarah later explains that due to Saint Snow disbanding after their devastating loss at Love Live!, Leah has been trying to create a new idol group, however the new group isn’t working very well as a unit, mainly because Leah expects a very high standard from her fellow members. Suddenly a helicopter flies in quickly from the ocean and Mari Ohara’s mother hops out.

Mrs Ohara asks the remaining members of Aqours to search for Mari, Dia and Kanan who are apparently missing. She tells them she will offer a reward if they are found and flies them off Italy where the trio were last seen. The girls arrive in Venice where Tsuki offers her services as a guide as she lived there during her childhood. While Ruby is terrified at the Venetian masks and other paraphernalia on display in shop windows, the others easily manage to find the missing girls who are atop the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. There they have a joyful and somewhat tearful reunion, especially Ruby who is overjoyed to see her sister Dia again. For some reason there are posters all around Venice claiming Mari, Dia and Kanan are missing. Mari realises Aqours have been tricked by her mother into finding her. She quickly slips the girls a card which has a clue as to where they are living in Italy, as she along with Dia and Kanan make their escape.

Aqours follow the clues to Florence which eventually leads them to the mansion that the trio are staying at. Despite Mari taking extra steps to avoid her mother by staying at her friend’s family mansion instead her own family’s, her mother eventually tracks her down. Mrs Ohara is frustrated with Mari’s rebellious streak and thinks her time as a school idol was waste of time. She plans to punish Mari (trying not to give away spoilers here!), but Aqours makes a deal with her; if they can show that being a school idol can touch people’s hearts, she has to leave Mari alone. Aqours embark on creating a new performance on the Spanish Steps in Rome in order to win Mrs Ohara over.

This is the second “Love Live!” film in the franchise. Much like the first film, it follows a similar formula; the initial opening scenes concentrate on childhood versions of several characters. We are then transported to the present where the group has “broken up”, a couple of musical sequences follow, then the cast are sent to a foreign country for an adventure, return to complete some sort of task with several more musical numbers, then a grand finale with a huge musical number to send the characters off. However the story of “Love Live! Sunshine!!” is no clone of its predecessor. Sure, in the series there are nine girls who are archetypes of the original nine girls in in µ's, but unlike that group they aren’t overnight success stories. They miserably fail Love Live! the first time around. Their school is shut down despite their best efforts. And unlike µ's and A-RISE's really friendly rivalry in the original series and movie, Aqours' rival, Saint Snow, is initially their nemesis.

I think as a result, “Love Live! Sunshine!!” feels more realistic than its predecessor, or at least more believable. Sure a lot of it is rather silly, especially the plot involving Mari’s mother and whole Italian trip. The idea that Aqours members, Riko Sakurauchi and Chika Takami, could write and produce dozens of great pop tunes for the group seems somewhat implausible. As do the fantastically choreographed set pieces, though they seem more plausible than the almost high fantasy ones that appear in the original series and movie of this franchise. There’s also the cruelness of their new school practically quarantining the students from Uranohoshi Girls' High School away in some run down primary school as if they were diseased or something. And because Aqours actually won Love Live!, a highly popular school idol contest, it seems really implausible that their new school would be unaware of this and wouldn’t open their arms to them and the group in order to be seen in a positive light from the community and to bring in potential students.

But putting aside those niggling problems I have with the film and series overall, while this film uses the original movie as template, it does add a fair wack of originally, and most importantly fun. As I said previously, this film feels far more realistic and far less forced than the original. For example in “Love Live! The School Idol Movie”, the plot for µ's going to New York was pretty thin and didn’t really make a lot of sense. Here the reasons why the girls have to go to Italy are silly, but a heck of a lot more plausible. The reason behind Aqours preforming at the end of the film is also clear; they want to show the new school board and parents, they are worthy of becoming part of their school community. However that plot line at times does get lost amongst some other plot threads. One of those being the best part of the film in my opinion; the focus on Leah and Saint Snow. Early parts of the film show Leah trying to grapple with everything the wake of Saint Snow’s dissolution which is underpinned by her regret of performing badly at the Love Live! finals. This is resolved in fantastic sequence where Leah is able to get a “do over” in terms of Saint Snow’s final performance. For me it’s easily the highlight of the movie.

However the other five performances from Aqours members during the film aren’t bad either. Sure, they may not have the over the top gloss µ's performances did in the original film, but the musical sequences are really fun and engaging. Except for two of those performances, all are “real performances” in the context of the film (i.e. a planned performance for an audience on a stage). There isn’t a great deal of out of the blue song and dance musical type numbers which were common in the first movie. Like that film there is a total of seven songs performed. However one of those is not a choreographed performance but set to a montage of the girls preparing a stage for the opening of their new school. The seventh song is the previously mentioned Saint Snow performance. As per the rest of the franchise, as you'd expect, there isn’t much character development in this film. The cast reprise their character traits and catchphrases, mostly for comedic purposes. Yoshiko Tsushima’s alternate Yohane personality unsurprisingly does get a lot screen time, but not to the detriment of the other girl’s.

New characters such as You’s cousin Tsuki Watanabe and Mari’s mother are given slightly modified versions of their blood relations. I suppose this is to be expected in this franchise. Generally the selling point of this show (besides the music and dance numbers) are the characters, their personalities and wringing as many comedic moments as you can out of those characters. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. As I said previously, the song and dance routines aren’t as flashy at the first film, but they are pretty good none the less. I still have issues with the CG versions of the girls in these sequences, but they have improved greatly since the original TV series. However some of the crowd CG sequences, especially those in an early sequence outside the train station, surprisingly look bad. But overall the animation is pretty damn good. Like the first film, “Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow” is a fantastic love letter to fans of the franchise. I would also argue it also gives Aqours a far better send off than µ's got in their film. Finally just to note, there is a post credits sequence, but it appears after the copyright notice and Eirin mark, which is highly unusual for a Japanese film. 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Taking an Unscheduled Break

Unfortunately I will be taking a little bit of a forced break from this blog for a little while. My PC is on the way out (think the hard drive is just about to give up the ghost. Had this PC for 9 years, which is a decent run), so I'll be getting a new one. However no one in my local area does custom PCs (I refuse to go to Harvey Norman for an overpriced one), so I'm going to have to order one online. Been meaning to do this for a long time now, but the impending death of my current PC has finally forced my hand. As a result I won't be doing any more posts for a little while. Hope to be back within a month. It's bit of a shame as I have been on a roll for a little while and have been able to make a post almost every week for a while now.