Azumanga Daioh: The Animation (TV DVD)

I first watched this set years ago and thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. It didn't hold up quite as well in the rewatch. Let me mention right now that I watched this in Japanese with subtitles, not because I'm some Japanophile who insists the native language is always better, but because the English voices on this particular set make me want to put my fist through the wall. Plus, it's also kinda fun to note what differences between the subtitles and literal Japanese I could.

The show lost a lot of ground with me when it finally donned on me that Tomo and Yukari aren't funny, but completely and utterly annoying. Both are weasely in a way that makes me physically ill, and there's this one dream sequence where Tomo keeps bopping Yomi on the head while saying "What the heck!" over and over and OVER, and it feels like it goes on for several minutes. This isn't the only example of the show padding itself like a menstruating flat-chested girl at the senior prom. There's another dream sequence (I think it's even in the same episode) where Osaka is watching Chiyo fly with her pigtails, and Chiyo slowly flies by no less than five times while Osaka stands there ram-rod stuff, saying nothing. I've no doubt this stuff flowed better on the page (I've misplaced my volumes of the original translation, and my read through the retranslated Omnibus stopped dead when I found they changed "Damn Van" back to "Blue Three". Maybe "Blue Three" is friggin' hilarious to the Japanese, but even after studying Japanese for six years, I still don't have a damn clue what the joke is supposed to be), but in animation it's just obnoxious.

So after all that, why three skitties? It's still legitimately funny at times, and Sakaki's adventures with the kitties is as heart-meltingly adorable as ever. It's just one of those things like Portal that's legitimately decent, but got blown way out of proportion by the Internet.


Final Fantasy VI Advance (GBA, E10+)

Much as I love Final Fantasy 6, I probably would have been content to leave this version on the shelf forever, until I found out you could get Gilgamesh as an esper in this version. The base game is there and functions properly, but the soundtrack took a major wallop in the transition to the GBA and the game's been dumbed down some. Because you can refight all four phases of the final boss as many times as you want, you can steal as many Atma/Ultima Weapons and Ragnaroks from the third phase as you want (which also means you can have both the Ragnarok esper and sword, and Illumina too for that matter, while you had to choose which of the three you wanted on the SNES). Granted, that really only affects the final dungeon, but it means you're free to get Ultima without having to worry about losing the Ragnarok sword and Illumina or waiting for the Cursed Shield to be purified, and can start tearing enemies up as soon as somebody learns the spell. I found several other parts easier than before, but I'm not sure if they were toned down or it's just how much I've played this game. This is the first time I ever beat Wrexsoul legitimately, and the samurai Monster-in-a-Box that dropped the Offering/Master Scroll was kind of a bitch before. Oh, and Gilgamesh? Not only does he render Raiden worthless, he's the only esper to teach a new spell, Valor, which has got to be the most broken spell after Ultima.

I didn't get around to the Dragon's Den. I intended to do it and beat the Ice Dragon, but all the level and spell griding to stand a chance in there was getting to me. After a while it just slipped from thought.


RiffTrax: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (DVD)

I think trying to make sense of a movie that winds up on MST3K or it successor is just asking for it, but this feature seriously confused the hell out of me. It starts out with Santa's sleigh "stuck" in some dirt. I put that in quotation makes because it's basically sitting on top of the sand with a little bit of it brushed over. He summons some kids who try to get him out with a guy in a bad gorilla costume, a sheep, and some other stuff, to no avail. The stupidest part about this for most of the attempts Santa doesn't bother to get off the sleigh, adding the weight of his fat ass to it. At first I thought it was like that episode of Real Ghostbusters with that ghost on the horse-driven carriage being chased by another on horseback and Santa couldn't leave his sleigh, but he gets out of it later, so what the hell? And the titular Ice Cream Bunny doesn't even come in until the last three minutes of the movie.

But most of the movie is a low-budget, dull as dishwater Thumbellina play, which in turn is a story being told over the speaker at an amusement park, which in turn is a story Santa is telling the kids because he has nothing better to do. It's like they had two half-finished movies, so they just shoved them together with the silky smoothness of a bowl of rocky road made from actual rocks and ground up asphalt.


The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

Most of this book is spent reading about a bunch of forest animals having delightful picnics, inviting each other for sleepovers, and talking in ways that are unintentionally hilarious today like when Mole tells Water Rat "I want you!" The only character with any personality is Toad, and that personality is "spoiled brat" which made his adventures really frustrating to read. Either Grahame is pointing out the sad law of the world that manipulative bastards always come out ahead, or he's sending the message of "lie to and use everybody you can, and they will still bend over backwards for you". And then he cleans up his act because Badger told him to. Yeah, that'll work in real life.

By the way, remember that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa didn't read this book because she was too busy playing the Crash Bandicoot parody, and cheated on the test? Well, the two questions she reads aloud are:

"Mr. Toad has a red ____."

There's two possible answers here; "mansion" or "car". I hope Ms. Hoover accepted either!

"Mr. ____ needs a ____ to ____ his ____."

Now, I'm sure this was done as a joke about how helpless Lisa is here. Except even having read the book, I have no idea it's talking about. "Mr. Toad needs a horse to draw his carriage"? "Mr. Otter needs a search party to find his baby"? "Mr. Toad needs a secret tunnel to reclaim his mansion"? Either this question is complete bullshit, or it has a dozen answers.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)

Yes, I've only just started reading Harry Potter, and truthfully I didn't even know the final movie was coming out - in fact, I was under the impression it already was. So here's the world around Hogwarts, and magic land of centaurs and dragons and talking hats, animated trading cars, giant animated chess sets, and a school that teaches magic, but works kinda like a real school. This is actually quite a fun little world Rowling made here!

Too bad she went and populated it with a bunch of two dimensional asshats. The treatment of Harry by the Dursleys and brattiness of Dudley is the kind of characterization a little kid would use, with Harry "The Chosen One Because Bite Me" Potter being their self-insertion character. If characters aren't contrived they're shallow, like Hermione who's your stock know-it-all bookworm. Probably the most likable characters are Hagrid and Neville, except my understand is Rowling herself hates the latter. Also, the final chapter is a real dick move. But for the time being, I'd like to give Rowling the benefit of the doubt that she was trying to figure out what the hell she was doing here.