Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kobato Episode 2

Episode 2 is about as sweet as the first episode. I didn't really notice the background music in the first episode but this time around, I remember being pleasantly surprised by some of the bgm numbers. I'm not sure if the OST would become as iconic as the Card Captor Sakura bgms (which I think represents a series where the bgm itself embodies the series) or as in Tsbasa Reservoir Chronicle, which I think the soundtrack MAKES the anime.

Kobato is so adorable, I can't help loving her despite her ditziness and lack of common sense. Which is rare. CLAMP's heroes and heroines are usually a hit or miss for me ie. Hikaru from Magic Knight Rayearth may be one of my least favorite characters, though I have no idea why. I think she is so bright and optimistic, it grates my nerves. Then again, I adore Fuu and Umi is one of my favorite female CLAMP characters (mainly because she is pretty). CCS Sakura inevitably has become my favorite female CLAMP character and is probably one of the most iconic female majou shoujo heroines in the history of anime. Now, Kobato is a little bit older but probably has the mental capacity of someone younger than Sakura. She is loveable nonetheless because rather than being plain stupid, I find that she is just genuinely childlike and naive in an alienesque sort of way. And she's adorable. In a 'I want to pull her hair and pinch her cheeks sort of way.' I know, it's horrible. I want a younger sister like Sakura-chan that I would squeeze into a tight hug, but with Kobato, I want to tease her or something. Yes, I am very much sympathetic to Ioryogi-san.

I like how CLAMP made Sakura and Syaoran's character design reflected each other, like how Kobato and Fujimoto's designs reflect each other (with their layered hairstyle and long hair). Their colorings are even sort of similiar, but Fujimoto's eyes seem a little greener while Kobato's is a bit more hazel (I find the anime made her eyes greener than I anticipated). I find Fujimoto's character design really appealing because it's very unique for a CLAMP character to have the perfect balance between "tough cool guy" and "bishounen," and I dig his glasses and piercings juxtaposed to his gentle occupation.
The most nostalgic part about the series though is the way Madhouse did the eyes of the characters so much like they did Card Captor Sakura eyes. Especially the kids looked like they would pop up in CCS.

The encounters between Fujimoto and Kobato this episode reminded me of Sakura and Syaoran's relationship in the beginning. Kobato's indignant reactions to Fujimoto's crassness was very reminiscent of Sakura's reactions to Syaoran when he was being mean. Fujimoto playing the organ reminded me of Kinomoto Touya, as well. I find Fujimoto's personality a cross between Syaoran and Touya (their love child?), while Ioryogi makes me think that Tomoyo-hime one day decided to punish Kurogane and turn him into a blue plush dog doll. They sound the same and they act the same). I adore Ioryogi-san and think he's the most badass "magical animal" sidekick any shoujo heroine has had.

Fumiko Orikasa is wonderful as usual as Sayaka and never fails to impress me with her versatility. I swear, she never sounds the same. Kobato's seiyuu is perfect for the part, albeit sounding sort of like a Clannad girl, as is Inada Tetsu as Ioryogi.

It's been a while since I've seen a "magical girl" theme anime, and forgot the doki doki sense of anticipation waiting for the potential hero to appear at the opportunate moment and the fact that they don't appear all the time. I remember going through episodes of CCS where Syaoran barely showed up or did not show up at all. And in those days, I judged how good an episode was by the role Syaoran played in it. The only episode I really enjoyed without Syaoran in it was Sakura and the Calendar of Memories, the episode about Touya and Nadeshiko and the organ. Anyhow, Fujimoto might make it to my list of top 3 favorite CLAMP males. I've only read the manga on and off, but I'm looking forward to some character development and the appearance of Okiura (Shinichiro Miki).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles Epilogue and AMV: This is my Road

CLAMP's Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles manga has finally come to an end. Unlike the final chapter, the epilogue is very much in line with the kind of ending I had envisaged for TRC, along the lines of "and the journey will continue on." I have a feeling we'll be seeing Syaoran/Tsubasa and crew again in the future.

My favorite part of the epilogue was seeing Nadeshiko and Fujitaka again, happy and loving. At least in the Clow universe, they are alive and together (though pretty much everybody else seems to be suffering, except Touya and Yukito who are always the same, what ever world they're in). I also liked the idea of Syaoran and Watanuki's sacrifice, Syaoran to keep moving on, whereas Watanuki to stay in one place for ever. I like the simple equilibrium created. Unfortunately, something about the ending reminded me of Pirates of the Carribbean 3: At the World's End, where Will is bound to sail The Flying Dutchman as captain, which can surface only every ten years, hence he can see Elizabeth only every ten years. It's one of those cases where we already had a good ending, like the first movie which was the best of the bunch, and then everything just became messed up because of sequels. Lol. No, but I really appreciate the ending of TRC because while the previous chapter ended with a sense of bittersweet nostalgia, the epilogue at least gave us a forward-looking sense of anticipation. Almost to the point where I feel like there could sucessfully be a whole new series on the adventures of Syaoran finding Clone!Syaoran.

We finally learn Sakura and Syaoran's real names. Surprise, they have identical names as if we already do not have enough clones and Freudian warpedness running amock. But I like the thought that the name "Tsubasa" connects the two individuals and furthermore, brings new meaning to the title. I am curious what Sakura saw in her dream that makes her decide to stay in Clow (that could be any worse than anything that has already happened), but I hope it's something related to a means of getting Yuuko back.
Because R!Sakura and R!Syaoran's given names are something else, somehow, I have even stronger a feeling that to me, the Clones were actually the "real" Sakura and Syaoran, especially because reincarnated C!Syaoran was alternate-universe Hong Kong Li Syaoran. Yes, it is confusing. I am going to save further analysis on the series until xxxHolic unveils some lingering questions.

Meanwhile, to celebrate (mourn?) TRC coming to an end, I have made an AMV with one my favorite new songs from the ending of the anime Guin Saga. (Many thanks to Tragrendd for introducing me!) The first time I heard the song "Saga~This is My Road," I immediately thought it fit with TRC. Hence, this came about.

The AMV is made with Sony Vega 8.0 Pro and Adobe Photoshop CS3. I didn't realize how much less painful it was editing videos with a faster processor speed. It makes me cry thinking about how long everything used to take and how many times the program crashed on my old computer and how long everything took to render. Some AMVs make good use of putting random clips together to music, but for me, I like AMVs that tell a story. I put lots of effort into the "epilogue" of the video, which are actually scenes from TRC chapter 222 and 232, one of the most beautiful chapters of the series, IMO. The lyrics of this song and the ambiance, I thought, fits TRC very well. Kanon is a very talented singer/songwriter, and this song is absolutely beautiful and haunting. There are two versions of Saga~This is My Road, Japanese and English. I prefer the Japanese version because it is more fluid and Kanon's voice really soars in that version. But I had to add in a verse from the English version because the lyrics were so resonant with TRC, especially if you read to the ending. You can find Japanese lyrics at this blog. Check out this blog for English lyrics. Because I could not find raw videos, I had a hard time clipping all the subtitles out of the episodes of TRC, Tokyo Revelations and Tsubasa Shunraiki, but I really didn't want subtitles flying about this AMV. My favorite part of the video is probably the last clip after credits, just because I like how it turned out. I colored the manga picture and animated the text, and I thought it came out nicely, and I will keep hoping that the later volumes get OVAs or TRC season 3 or something.

On a side note, I saw the premier episode of Kobato. Isn't Kobato just cute or, what? It reminds me of a good, old-school shoujo anime with a CLAMP flavor.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yui Makino Concert at the New York Anime Festival 2009

As we all know, Yui Makino is the voice of our beloved Princess Sakura in the Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles anime. Thus, when I heard she was going to be at the New York Anime Festival, I had to go just to see her. She held an hour-long concert on Saturday 26 and also did a Q&A session on Sunday, along with an autograph session.

Yui Makino's debut role as a seiyuu was Princess Sakura from Tsubasa, though she had done several anime songs before, namely Omna Magni from Sousei no Aquarion by Yoko Kanno. She said there were at least 200 people auditioning for the role of Sakura-hime. The first impression I got of her voice was perhaps childlike, pure and very pretty. I think they did a good job casting the seiyuu for Tsubasa and loved Irino Miyu as (older) Syaoran(s).

(Sakura poster signed for girl (cosplaying Vocaloid Miku) standing in front of me. Yui even drew her a picture! Cute!)

After seeing Yui Makino perform live, however, my respect for her totally skyrocketed to a different level. Whoever said that she is not strong live was completely mistaken. Yui Makino was amazing during the one-hour concert. I was thrilled with that Yui Makino played the keyboard while singing her first song, "Yunagi Loop," the ending theme of Tsubasa. She also played a couple songs from her new single, which has not been released in Japan, but we were able to purchase at the NYAF. I got my copy autographed by her (see picture above).

The best song of the day was the piano version of "Amrita." I was hoping that she would play it and it was by far her strongest performance and also my own favorite Yui Makino song. Her voice was strong, sweet and emotional, as she self-accompanied herself on the keyboard. Yui Makino has been trained on the piano since age 5 and you can tell that she has a very strong classical music background. When asked what her favorite music was, she replied "Debussey and Chopin" rather than contemporary artists. I was actually able to ask her during her Q&A session what her favorite song out of her own albums was and she say "Amrita" as well. I was happy. ^_^ She mentioned her favorite American singers were the Beatles and Vanessa Carlton. (I knew she had good taste in music.)

I was a little disappointed that she didn't perform "Synchonicity" but other than that, I was left impressed by Yui Makino's concert and began looking at her more of a "musician" than a "seiyuu," someone who I think really has a bright future ahead of her. Unfortunately, I think half the audience didn't really know her songs too well. The theme song from Aria is one of her more famous songs, and I don't think people even knew that one. Either way, Yui's strongest performances were the ones where she was accompanying herself on the keyboard. But she did such a cute dance move to one of her new songs. She has a serious side and an adorable side, so I see her appealing to the popular "idol" image and also appealing to more classical music scene and continuing to collaborate with famous composers (having worked with Yuki Kajiura and Yoko Kanno is already an impressive resume).

Yui Makino is very pretty in person (prettier than photos, in my opinion) and more petite than you can imagine. She mentioned that the animal she would most be like is a cat (just like Sakura-chan in Tsubasa)! The sense I got from her is that she is quite introverted (her favorite activity is sleeping), and also that she is a serious musician rather than an "idol." She said that in the future, she would love to perform in Suntory Hall which is a concert hall in Japan that holds over 2000 seats and it is considered one of the pinnacles of a musicians career to perform there.

My favorite part about the Q&A session is when Yui Makino was asked if she enjoyed karaoke, and she replied that the CLAMP-sensei-tachi took her to karaoke and made her sing her own songs. It was very cute. And she mentioned that the kimono she wore the the Paris Anime Expo was borrowed from Mokona-sensei (famous for her large collection of beautiful kimono.) It made me sort of fangirl squeal thinking how wonderful it would be to be so close with CLAMP (and how like them to make Yui Makino sing her own songs as karaoke). She also went to watch the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. This made me sort of nostalgic for the "New York Arc" of the New Trials of Card Captor Sakura.

Over all, I felt that seeing Yuki Makino was almost like seeing Sakura-hime in person. Or at least hearing her voice a whole lot, anyhow. (Her real voice is not as high and childish but once in a while she would say cute phrases which made her sound a bit like Sakura). I would say the New York Comic Con is a stronger convention on the whole, but my first time at New York Anime Fest was a good experience (because of Yui Makino being the guest of honor); the crowd was younger in general, a bit more rambunctious, and I was impressed by the high quality of the cosplayers. I even saw a Sakura and Syaoran (Card Captor Sakura version). I had several people ask to take pictures of/with me as well. FYI, I wasn't dressed up like any character but was going for a schoolgirl look my first day and a sort of dark Misa-Misa inspired version of that look the second day. There were less Bleach and Naruto cosplays than I expected (not saying there weren't a lot anyway), and lots of Vocaloids, namely Miku and the Kagamine twins. Lots of Yoko cosplays from Guuren Lagen, L from Death Note and many many maids and lolitas everywhere. I was impressed how in character some people were. Oh, and I even met for the first time a CCS fanfiction reader who's heard of my penname. Lol.

Picture I sketched on the spot of Sakura on a thank you note to Yui Makino that I gave to her for the CD signing:

Check out Yui Makino's new single (my autographed copy pictured above!) Check out outtakes from her interview that I recorded for your viewing pleasure so that we can share more of her quirky cuteness with everyone!