June 18, 2008
You know, there must be something seriously wrong with me. One of the most pleasant surprises among my recent purchases has been Kirameki Project, which has become a regular rewatch.
That's not the problem; it's a good show and I'm not ashamed to say that I like it. But it's a fluffy fan service show from the studio that gave us Aika R-16 and Najica Blitz Tactics.
The problem is that I've started noticing things and saying, "That makes sense. It's how it would really be." Like the fact that Junerin's eyes glow when she receives an order from Kana via her cell phone. It makes sense that Kana would include something to indicate that the order had been received and processed, don't you think? Especially since Junerin's face doesn't change and she doesn't have a voice?
Or when Junerin is under attack by electronic warfare, the way she recovers rapidly after the attack is lifted. Kana must have implemented a watchdog, and for a while there Junerin was stuck in a reset loop because the electronic attack was preventing her neural net from operating properly. Once the attack was lifted, she was able to reboot and proceed with the battle.
Another thing is to see the way that Junerin's AI develops over the course of the show, so that at a critical point she spontaneously makes an important decision without receiving orders from Kana. It surprised Kana, but it probably shouldn't have; it means Junerin's neural net was developing. (It took Rincle to explain it to Kana, which is rather nice.) It would seem that the kind of AI that Kana used in Rincle and again in Junerin develops slowly as it's exposed to people and experiences -- which makes sense.
Junerin has 360 degree awareness; she isn't limited to her eyes, which is why she could dodge an attack coming from here rear. Why? Among other things, I bet the top of her head is a radome.
...I'm just too much of a geek, I guess.
November 28, 2007
Ubu Roi's got a beautiful explanation of why Coyote Ragtime Show ended up being a near incoherent mess:
August 20, 2007
August 17, 2007
"Engineer's disease" is where the viewer can't stop thinking while watching a mindless show. Like Tenchi Muyo.
This picture has always bothered me. If the the main cables of a suspension bridge are severed in the middle, the towers will lean out, not in.
Why are Saturn's rings and Saturn's stripes not in the same plane?
NO, no, no... It's not Ryu-oh's key, it's Ryu-oh's ki. As in 気, which means "spirit, life force".
UPDATE: One thing that isn't wrong with that second picture is how dark it is. Saturn's orbital radius is between 9 and 10 AU, which means it receives about 1% of the sunlight that Earth does. If one of us was on one of Saturn's icy moons in full sunlight, it would look like night with a full moon. We could see, but we probably could not see color.
All probes intended for the outer solar system (defined as "everything outside of Mars") have to carry nuclear thermal generators for power, because solar cells don't cut it.
Which is kind of a problem for Heinlein's book "Farmer in the Sky". I love that book, but there are a large number of reasons why it isn't practical. (Which I'm sure Heinlein knew, too; he was telling a story, not doing an engineering design.) There's no way you could do open-air farming at that distance from the sun. Jupiter varies between 4.9 and 5.2 AU, which means on average it gets about 4% of the sunlight Earth gets. That would be less bright than deep shade here, and most crops will wither and die in deep shade. If you wanted to grow plants on a terraformed Ganymede, you'd have to use greenhouses and artificial lighting.
What am I doing posting at 3:00 AM? I get punchy and start free-associating.
A different problem with terraforming Ganymede, leaving aside the sheer difficulty of it, is that after you melted all the ice and released all the gas, you'd end up with one hell of a lot of ocean. If you could somehow raise the temperature of Ganymede to Earth normal and keep it there, there would be no dry land anywhere. The now-complete and much-recommended web comic "A Miracle of Science" handled that correctly. All cities would have to be floating.
And now I'm going to bed.
August 10, 2007
I'm rewatching Petite Princess Yucie, and thought again about the question of the way that architecture is strongly driven not just by our materials and our building techniques, but also by our physical abilities.
For instance, we build stairs because we have legs. Stairs are far apart because our legs are long. What if we rolled instead of walked? Then we'd be using ramps instead of stairs, right? but what of the problem of rolling out of control? They couldn't be simple slopes, so what would they be?
In PPY the inhabitants of Tenkai live in unusual cities. It seems that the direction of gravity in Tenkai is a local matter, because the cities look like they were designed by Escher. There are stairs, oddly enough. You have to wonder why they use them, though.
Arthur C. Clarke considered this a bit in his book Childhood's End. Without getting too deeply into what the story is about, at one point a human visits the home world of an alien race, all of whom have wings and can fly in the atmosphere and gravity of the planet. And their cities are a lot different than ours, because they fly from place to place where we'd expect to walk. He sometimes found himself walking down a corridor only to encouter an opening and a sheer drop of a hundred feet. For one of the natives, that would be a place to take off from. For a human, it was a risk of death.
In a flying world there would be no handrails. No one would need them.
No one? How about kids? How old do kids have to be before they gain the ability to fly? Would they walk and run until then? Perhaps that's the situation in Tenkai, given that Elmina has legs and does walk without difficulty. And perhaps that's the reason there are stairs in Tenkai: they're for pre-flight children.
How about the spirit world? Cocoloo can dematerialize and can walk through walls, and so can Chawoo. Presumably that's a common ability of spirits.
Why would houses in the spirit world have any doors? Perhaps there would be reasons to divide a house into multiple rooms, but why bother with doors when you can walk through walls?
I think the answer is that if you can walk through the walls of your own home, so can anyone else. That means you have no security. The presumption is that in the spirit world they've figured out how to make walls that spirits themselves cannot walk through -- for security reasons -- and that means that even spirits would need doors in their houses.
There are a lot of other things in our society which rely on specific characteristics of our lives. What if they changed? Chawoo, Cocoloo's steward, is a shape changer. He only attempts to use that ability once to try to fool someone -- and fails miserably -- but if you have a society in which there were lots of adept shape changers, or perhaps in which everyone was a shape changer, then how do you confirm identity? How do you know whether you're really talking to who you think you are talking to?
Presumably it would be considered rude to try to fool someone like that, but surely it would happen. Harry and Ron do it by magic in the second Harry Potter book, but that took an elaborate spell and physical contact with the two guys they ended up impersonating. What if it was a natural ability, requiring nothing more than will and experience? It seems like that would have very widespread effects.
As I watch PPY, it sometimes seems to me that the world I'm viewing really doesn't make much sense as a recreation of Europe in the middle ages. In particular, the city there is much too clean and everything seems to work much too well.
Then it occurred to me that I am not really seeing that. What I'm seeing is a middle ages European town where magic works really well and is common -- and that changes everything. Streets paved with cobble stones? Sure, especially if you can contract with dwarven engineers to build everything for you.
How about running an elite academy to teach the daughters of every monarch in the world?
In 1320, say, the people of Europe didn't even know about most of the rest of the world. Much of what they did know was just rumor and myth; much of it was completely unknown. But magic is a great time saver; people can travel great distances easily with magic, and sending messages is even easier. The world of PPY is fully explored and the academy run by Queen Ercell does indeed draw from every kingdom on the planet -- and a few other realms, as well.
Some kinds of magic could make economic activity very problematic. Duplication magic, for instance: what if magicians could create things out of nothing? Could be really valuable, don't you think?
What if they produce currency? That could destabilize the economy of the nation. (Someday's Dreamers dealt with that one in the second episode.) And in general, if magic is too easy, what happens to the work ethic? (Kamichu taked about that one.)
Actually, if magic is really easy, would you even need a work ethic?
Oddly enough, that one comes up in PPY, too. The inhabitants of the fairy world don't seem to have a work ethic, a fact which becomes a major plot point (for reasons I won't go into). The fairy world is something like the legendary Garden of Eden, so when it eventually becomes necessary for the inhabitants to come together to work for the common good, they don't know how to do it.
The inhabitants of each of the five worlds are different, and it turns out that the cultures of each place are different too.
But I have to confess that I was a bit surprised by the way that the Spirit World looked. Except for the inhabitants, it looked just like the human word. The houses were normal and everything had doors.
Maybe another reason for doors in the spirit word is hospitality, in case someone from one of the other realms comes to visit.
UPDATE: Actually, in episode 13 of PPY we get to see both magical long distance communication and magical long distance travel.
If you think about it, the flower farm in episode 5 wouldn't be economically viable without the ability to ship the flowers long distance. When the flowers bloom, there'd just be too many to sell on a local market. The price would collapse. The only way he could make a decent income would be by shipping his flowers to a very large number of destinations, so that he didn't send very many to any of them.
I wonder if there are magical shipping firms in the business of moving bulk cargo around? Must be.
I just wrote a long answer over at Metafilter to this question: Why are we wasting lots of money on space research and astronomy which could be better spent on other things? Here's my answer:
If history has shown us anything, it is that "pure research" doesn't exist. Everything we learn eventually becomes useful to us, but...
...but it's nearly impossible to predict when or how it will do so.
That said, it turns out that there are significant practical applications of astronomical data. The first major confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity was through telescope observation, for example, and the General Theory is the only theory of gravity we have which has stood the test of time. (In the mid 19th century astronomical observations had already demonstrated that Newton's theory of gravity didn't correctly predict the orbit of Mercury. That was part of the impetus leading to the development of the General Theory.)
Several predictions made by physics researchers working on new theories in subatomic physics could only be tested through astronomical observations.
"Yeah, but what good are those theories?" Well, they're not ready to be turned into engineering practice yet, so we can't really tell. But the last major revolution in physics, the hat trick of the Special Theory of Relativity, the General Theory of Relativity, and the Quantum Theory, gave us atomic weapons and atomic power, modern plastics, and semiconductors among other things.
Take modern polymer chemistry as an example. In the 19th Century chemists did some amazing things, but most of it was the result of brute force experimentation. They didn't understand what they were doing. The Quantum Theory gave them the tools to really explain what was happening, and once they began to utilize that knowledge, they stopped groping around in a fog and began to march in useful directions. The result was things like mylar and kevlar and cyanoacrylate and synthetic ceramics. Not to mention gallium arsenide.
The Special Theory told us that mass and energy were the same thing and that each could be converted into the other. The research going on now is attempting to explain how that is the case, and if it succeeds, it could be just as revolutionary as the Quantum theory was. For instance, we could learn how to directly convert mass into energy without having to muck around with indirect approaches like fusion and fission.
What use was the Galileo probe? One thing it did was to give us a good long look at the weather on Jupiter. All those cloud bands moving at different speeds relative to one another? Well, we've got those here on Earth, too. They're called the "trade winds". Seeing another, larger, more well defined example of that may teach us things about weather here.
Cassini? Saturn is like a great laboratory experiment for gravity. The grooves in the rings are the gravitational equivalent of the trails of smoke in a wind tunnel. No one can explain the grooves right now, and part of the problem is that the Voyager probes didn't really return enough data about that. Cassini will give us years of data about the rings, and if someone eventually figures out a way to explain where the grooves are (and where they aren't) that could begin the process of developing a replacement for the General Theory. (Which is known to need a replacement, by the way.)
But utilitarian explanations like that miss the real point: When a culture stops dreaming, it starts dying. When it stops looking to the future, it becomes part of the past. If we concentrate entirely on utilitarian aspects of "taking care of things here, now" then we lose something precious that we cannot spare.
The most important result of astronomy and space? It's the pictures that kids look at and go "Oooh! I want more of that!" It challenges our children, gives them something to dream about. That alone is sufficient to justify it.
We aren't doing these things for ourselves. We're doing them for our grandchildren.
July 06, 2007
Author asks why the liquid-metal android in Figure 17 eats food. Actually, it's the norm in anime for androids to consume food, even if it makes no sense. All the androids in Hand Maid May eat, for instance, and Mahoro loves food. Chobits is one of the few series to get it right; Chi doesn't eat and doesn't have a sense of taste either, which is why she has to rely on the landlady to learn how to cook for Hibiki.
The idea of androids eating never made much sense. In the case of HMM, the excuse is that they were designed to be good companions for their human masters, and taking meals together is part of that.
But the real reason was so that the other androids could complain about May's uninspired cooking, so that Mami could take over and do really well, leaving May feeling inadequate. (Sob)
By the way, Commander Data also has the ability to eat, and for him too it was included in his design for social reasons. He has a hatch on his chest that can be opened, and food he consumes collects in a bag inside which can be removed and discarded when he's alone.
DBZ's Android 18 is an interesting case. She's a cyborg. Dr. Gero kidnapped a pair of fraternal twins and modified them heavily, a process which included adding an eternal power source. "Eternal" is a relative term; it's possible it's good for a hundred years, but we really don't know.
What we do know is that Android 18 never gets tired. It's one of her biggest advantages in combat against a flesh-and-blood. If she's fighting someone stronger than her, all she has to do is maintain stalemate until her opponent gets weary, and then beat the crap out of them. Even if it takes a week of 24-hour days, she can do it.
Dr. Gero designed her to hunt down and kill Goku, and he gave her a power source that would last long enough to make sure she could do it. Anything beyond that wasn't important. The only thing we know for sure is that it lasts 20 years in at least one timeline, and there's no indication that she was beginning to run down. (That version of 18 never got the chance; Trunks killed her.)
There's no indication that she ever eats or sleeps, either. Presumably it's necessary for her to consume at least a little bit of food, in order to properly maintain muscle and skin, but she doesn't use food for energy and she is never shown eating in the series. (One would presume that she did have to eat quite a lot during her pregnancy, of course.)
Of course, physics in that realm is different. Piccolo never eats either, so perhaps 18 doesn't need to on an ongoing basis. And Piccolo can regenerate lost body parts, with mass coming from no-where obvious, so maybe 18 didn't need to eat during her pregnancy. (Sometimes DBZ makes my head hurt.)
Moving right along, Lila in Najica Blitz Tactics doesn't eat on a regular basis, but she can do so socially. When the two of them are at home, Lila cooks for Najica but doesn't eat herself. When they're out in public, Lila does eat (e.g. ice cream, in the second episode).
Instead, Lila and the other humaritts have to soak in a special solution on a regular basis. That seems to perform several functions, and one of those may well be to recharge their power source. It's interesting that when Lila is doing that, she also submerges her head. Apparently she doesn't need to breathe, either. Which makes sense if her power isn't coming from combustion of carbon.
Anyway, I would say that the vast majority of androids in anime do eat. No, it doesn't really make sense -- but that's how it goes.
July 03, 2007
It's been said that Puritans are people who constantly obsess over the fact that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time.
The old Puritans were religious fundamentalists who objected to drink, dancing, celebrating, bowling, gambling, or pretty much anything that was fun. They worried that such things were the road to Hell.
Modern Puritans are leftist atheists. Not being concerned about souls (since they don't believe in such things) their concern is health and well-being -- of people's bodies, and of the body of the holy mother Gaia. These days it seems that if there's anything you enjoy doing, you can find someone who says that it's bad for you. The top excuse is that it causes cancer.
Here in the US, tomorrow is July 4, Independence Day. Traditionally it's a day for garden parties, and a lot of meat is going to get grilled over charcoal tomorrow. People will enjoy themselves. Oh, no!
The shrieks of despair from the new Puritans rise up: barbecued meat contains carcinogens! Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons! Heterocyclic Amines!
Of course, it's bunk. So pile up that charcoal, release lots of greenhouse gases, char the outside of that meat good, and have yourselves a hell of a time!
(It's fortunate that no one has figured out a way to blame anime DVDs for cancer. Yet.)
June 28, 2007
"OP" refers to the opening credits sequence. Sometimes the term is used to refer to the music, and sometimes to the whole thing.
I've noticed that there's little correlation between whether the OP for a series is good and whether the series itself is good. The situation is complicated further by series where they change the OP once or twice during the run.
So what makes a good OP? (My opinions! Mine! Mine!)
First, it's OK if the music is an earbug, but it has to be interesting music that's appropriate to the show. The lyrics should be relevant, and possibly be explicative.
Second, the OP should be a bit of an intro to the show itself. Certainly we don't want it giving away any spoilers, but it should be representative of the series art, and it ought to show us many or most of the main characters, and give us a brief idea of what they're like.
Third, it ought to give us a look at typical background art.
Finally, it ought to intrigue us.
In otherwords, if the OP was distributed separately, it ought to make a pretty good advertisement for the series, conveying to us a decent idea of what the series is going to be like if we watch it.
So some examples:
UFO Princess Valkyrie 3: show is mediocre, OP is good. Music is nice and fun. It shows Valkyrie's transformation. It gives us a look at Akina and Hydra together, and Chorus and Raine together. It shows us the town with the two crashed spaceships. There's a look at the three remaining princesses who make their first appearances in this series. And the three little guys show up at the end.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi: show is very good, OP is mixed. The music is really good; very interesting. (And a special treat for hardcore fans, because it's sung by Hayashibara Megumi.) The images are clips from the first show, which show us all the characters, especially different scenes of the two kids. But it's nearly all placed in Tokyo, in the shopping arcade -- and the series doesn't spend much time there. So the OP doesn't show us backgrounds or art style from the majority of the show. It doesn't really show us any of the weirdness. As such it isn't a good advertisement because it isn't representative. (And the biggest drawback: Munemune isn't in the OP at all.)
Ninja Nonsense: show is OK, OP is excellent. The music isn't the most inspired but it's decent, and the lyrics are both funny and quite relevant. The video shows us a lot of things from the show -- but also a lot of things that never occur in the show. But that's part of the joke, and it's legit. From the OP we can tell that Shinobu is perky, bouncy, shapely, and absurdly enthusiastic -- and gullible, and innocent. We can tell that Kaede is cute and has a temper. We can tell that they're friends. We are shown that Onsokumaru is obnoxious, and that Kaede tends to abuse him. We get to see the girls from the competing academy, and the other students (all guys) at Shinobu's own school. We also see Miyabi using her magic. It's a very good advertisement for the series, and though some of it is deceptive, it isn't a fraud.
Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (careful, Steve, you're treading on hallowed ground here): show is massively overrated among fanboys, the OP is good but flawed. A substantial flaw in the music is that the vocalist sings flat. (This may bother some people less than it does me.) Most of the important characters in the cast are shown but there's not really any indication of what they're like. The one thing it does convey, which is important, is that Haruhi is the most important character in the series and that she's manic. The OP doesn't show us much of the setting, but since the setting is prosaic that's not really a drawback. As an advertisement the main thing the OP sells is Haruhi and Mikuru as fan-service attractions, which isn't really what the show is about.
Ichigo Mashimaro: show is good, OP is excellent. The music is bouncy J-pop, and the lyrics get right to the point with the very first words: "You mustn't call us cute." Which is impossible because they are, which is the point. In the first ten seconds we see all five major characters plus the ferret. Through-out the entire OP, Miu stands out as an oddball. And Matsuri's nearly-unbearable cuteness is also well established. It gives you a good idea of what to expect from the series.
Kamichu: Show is very uneven, OP is outstanding. The music isn't particularly noteworthy but the visuals do everything they need to. All the major characters are shown, as well as numerous locations critical to the series, and throughout the OP we see various kami in places we wouldn't ordinarily expect, making clear that this otherwise unremarkable town is very different from our own reality. We see enough of Yurie to learn that she's a bit lazy and a rather unremarkable little girl, as indeed she was before she became a kami.
Shakugan no Shana: show is decent, OP is OK but really could have been better. I don't think the music is very good, but I thought all the series music was substandard. The visuals show us all the important characters from the series, and primarily emphasize Shana. We see magic being used, and see torches, but it doesn't actually tell us anything. This is a case where it was a mistake to pack in every single character from the series, because it didn't leave any time for anything else like giving us an indication of what the primary characters are like. In particular, the OP neglects Yuji, who is the protagonist. I think that this could have been a lot better.
Ah! My Goddess! TV: Show is very good, OP is outstanding. The music is magnificent, though it doesn't really have much to do with the show. The lyrics get across that it's a love story, which is the main point. The visuals spend the majority of the time on Keiichi, Beldandy, and Urd, as does the show itself. Beldandy, Urd, and Skuld are all shown with wings, so we know they're not human. Keiichi's motorcycle is featured, and Keiichi and Beldandy are clearly a couple who are deeply in love. Urd is shown to be a meddler. Secondary characters are shown but not dwelt on. There is one CGI shot of the temple and town that is utterly shitty looking, almost like it was a test render, but after watching the OP you'll have a pretty good idea of what's coming.
Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite: show is decent (and better than it seems), the OP is very good. The big flaw is that Tanaka Rie is a great seiyuu but not so good as a vocalist, and she sings the OP. But the visuals are everything they should be. It concentrates primarily on Mariel and Taro and shows us that there's something going on between them. It shows us the mansion. It also lets us see that Ikuyo is nuts, that Yashima has the hots for Konoe, and that the triplets are sexy and seductive. We see Grace with her computer, and we see Ryuka's airship. There are enough quick images of other maids to make clear that there's really quite a lot of them. It doesn't tell us about Cynthia, or show that Ryuka is a gun freak, but that's OK.
Bottle Fairy: Show is good but with a strange ending (that ruined it for me). The OP is excellent. The music is good and the lyrics nicely summarize the show concept. The fairies are shown wearing lots of different costumes, and we see them with Sensei-san so that we can tell how small they are. Kururu and Hororo's characters come out a bit, and Chiriri always wears a hat. We also get to see Oborochan and Tamachan, the other major characters in the series.
Azumanga Daioh (Careful, Steve, more hallowed ground): The show is uneven and something of an acquired taste. The OP is legendary. The music for it is unusual but works well, especially since the visuals coordinate particularly well with the music. The visuals take something of a stylistic cue from the music, and are rather abstract. No scenery from the show is shown, but that's not a problem because the setting is a normal one. The characters are all given time to show what they're like. There's even time spent cueing the audience in to certain running gags (e.g. Yukari-sensei's mad driving). There may not be a better or more memorable OP in anime.
Divergence Eve: Show is excellent, the OP is serviceable. I like the music, and the OP shows us all the characters and gives us a good view of Watcher's Nest and the equipment used there. While not the best ever, it does the job.
Misaki Chronicles: show is excellent, the OP is not good at all. The problem with it is that it's totally deceptive. Once you've seen the series, the OP does make sense -- but as an advertisement for the series it completely misrepresents what you're going to see. It's not the worst OP ever but it's down near the bottom.
Vandread: The show is good, the OP is excellent. I like the music a lot. The visuals show us the ship, and the vandreads, and all the major characters in ways which give us an idea of what they're like. Each episode's OP is different; there's a spot in the middle in which they include scenes from that episode. I don't think that was really needed but it doesn't hurt anything because they were careful not to include spoilers.
Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars: the show is outstanding, and the OP is simply dreadful. I can't think of a worse one. The music is dull and the visuals are worse. If you were shown the OP as an advertisement for the series, you'd instantly write it off. How can a series which is otherwise so good have an OP which sucks so badly?
That's the mystery for me. That's what got me thinking about this. How did they botch up the Shingu OP so badly?
It spends its first 20 seconds showing us clouds drifting in a blue sky. Then we get ten seconds for two leisurely shots of Muryou, and then 45 seconds of badly animated images of kids walking around the town and the school. They're not drawn in the art style of the series. None of them are recognizable characters from the series. Then we see Hajime standing next to Muryou for five seconds or so, and then a long shot of the town and the ocean. And that's it. None of the other characters from the series are shown at all, nor any indication of alien activity, nor the white giant, and from what we see of Muryou and Hajime we can't tell a damned thing about what either of them are like. It's appallingly inept. What were they thinking?
A good OP is a good advertisement for the show. With Shingu they had 90 seconds to sell us on the series, and used it to do everything possible to convince us it wasn't worth our while.
June 24, 2007
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