Status report (March)

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The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… I’ve now been in self-isolation for over a week (actually for about ten days) and I am doing well. There are no signs of any symptoms so far and I am in good shape (physically and mentally) — although I still suffers from kidney stones from time to time. I try to stay fit by doing at least an hour of walking (if possible reaching ten thousand steps) and thirty minutes of cardio (by shovelling the backyard or sweeping the driveway) every day — while keeping my distance from people which is really not a problem for me. Unfortunately we had a couple of days of rain and I couldn’t reach my goals during that time. 

I also stay fit mentally by keeping busy with my blog and doing stuff around the house. First, all this reading is a great help in lowering my tsundoku pile. Second, since I am theoretically still working for the library, I try to do some reference work by writing as much reading suggestions and comments as possible. I have everything I need here to keep busy.

The moral is good — despite spending lots of time watching the news, both local and American. I really don’t mind the isolation. Now-a-day — with tons of books & Dvds, the television and the internet to make the mind travel — can we really be isolated anymore? In a way, the only apprehension is about going back to work and ending this very productive streak. However, the way things are going, I don’t think I have to worry about that for a while…

At first I was hoping to read a book and watch a movie every day, but all the walking and doing chores around the house take some time. I have not written as much as I would have liked. So far, I wrote a list of thing to do to keep busy during the isolation, my usual “Natural Friday” entries (about the dodo and the megaladapis), a comment about the second volume of Histoire en manga, a suggestion list for long series of manga in French, and a series of articles about Ghost in the shell Stand Alone Complex (manga, anime TV series, 2nd Gig, Official Log book 1, and movie) as well as the original manga. More (so much more) is in the works.

In the meantime, things are not doing so well around the world. We seem to cope well here in Quebec, but the situation looks dire in Europe and, particularly, in the U.S.. Here are some links to keep yourself informed:

Please, stay put and safe — and keep reading.

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Longues séries de manga

J’ai vu sur FB quelqu’un qui demandait quelle série de manga je voudrais avoir sous la main si j’étais en confinement sur une île déserte (ou à la maison en cas d’épidémie?)… Je n’ai évidemment pas pu résister à donner mon opinion…

J’ai répondu “Probablement “Détective Conan” (97 vol.) ou “Les gouttes de dieu” (62 vol.) parce que c’est long et c’est intéressant…” En effet, la plupart des grosses séries sont des shonen insipides mais il y a toute de même quelques séries qui sont assez intéressantes pour stimuler l’intellect.

En me basant sur une liste des longues séries de manga au Japon, j’ai concocté cette liste des vingt-cinq longues séries (de plus de quarante volumes) traduites en français (je ne garanti pas que c’est exhaustif):  

Grappler Baki 137 vol. (au Japon) Delcourt: 31 vol. (Épuisé?)
Hajime no Ippo 127 Kurokawa: 30 vol. (En cours)
Captain Tsubasa 102 Glénat: 37 vol. (En cours)
Détective Conan 97 Kana: 96 vol. (En cours)
One Piece 95 Glénat: 94 vol. (En cours)
Bleach 74 Glénat: 74 vol. 
Naruto 72 Kana: 72 vol. 
Fairy Tail 63 Pika: 63 vol.
Les gouttes de dieu /Mariage 62 Glénat: 58 vol. (En cours)
Inu Yasha  56 Kana: 56 vol.
Hana yori dango / Hana Nochi Hare 50 Glénat: 37 + 10 vol. (en cours)
Angel Heart 49 Panini: 33 + 16 vol. 
3 x 3 Eyes 48 Pika: 40 vol. (Épuisé?)
Initial D 48 Kazé: 40 vol. (En cours)
Ah! My Goddess 48 Pika: 48 vol.
Doraemon 45 Kana: 45 vol. 
Skip Beat!  44 Sakka: 40 vol. (En cours)
Zipang 43 Kana: 43 vol. (Épuisé?)
Toriko 43 Kazé: 43 vol.
Haikyū!! 42 Kazé: 36 vol. (En cours)
Chihayafuru 42 Pika: 32 vol. (En cours)
Dragon Ball 42 Glénat: 42 vol. 
Reborn! 42 Glénat: 42 vol. 
Berserk 40 Glénat: 40 vol.
Psychometrer Eiji  40 Kana: 40 vol. (Épuisé?)

Et vous, qu’est que vous aimeriez lire en de telles circonstances?

Bonne lecture!

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GITS SAC: Solid State Society

Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.—Solid State Society is the third movie since 1995’s Ghost in the Shell anime adaptation. This feature-length TV movie was broadcast on Skyperfect! in September 2006 and released on DVD by Bandai Visual in November of the same year. Fantasia 2007 treated the fans by screening this excellent cyberpunk anime on the big screen! Directed by Production I.G.’s Kenji Kamiyama, fans can enjoy yet another high-tech sci-fi story, which is set in 2034, Tokyo. The timeline is two years after the last TV series (2nd GIG), as Japan is still dealing with the Asian refugee problems. 

SolidStateSociety-image2Major Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9 — Japan’s elite anti-terrorist unit — and was missing for over two years. She left because she felt that by acting alone she could investigate more discreetly (using multiple cyber bodies), more freely (without the irritating political oversight) and therefore more efficiently. For Batou, the absence of Motoko leaves his work meaningless and he picks & chooses the case he’s working on, taking assignments only when he thinks it might bring him closer to her. With the Major’s departure and Batou refusing assignments, Togusa was forced to become the leader of the team as her successor. Togusa is, as usual, a man of justice. Married and having two children, he’s different from the other team members who are all single — including the aging Chief Aramaki who has been struggling to deal with the fact that Section 9 has to move on without the Major. Other members such as Saito and Ishikawa keep their positions as network expert or sniper. All Section 9’s characters are extremely honest and act with a sense of justice and responsibility. They’re all faithful to their convictions as they were in the TV series. 

SolidStateSociety-image1Section 9 hired 20 rookies, and their latest mission is to solve a case involving politically charged hostages. Somehow, one of the terrorist suspects committed suicide on the spot, leaving a strange message: “The Puppeteer is coming”. At the same time, many other mysterious cases keep taking place, including one where a huge amount of abused children seem to have been kidnapped by an organization of ultranationalist retirees. What links all those cases together? It seems to be the work of a super-intelligent hacker who has been manipulating all this, but to do what exactly, no one knows… 

SolidStateSociety-image4This movie is first class entertainment. Like the previous movies, it offers great music and superb animation. It has all the complex socio-political background of the previous TV series and maintains the series’ trademark cyberpunk feeling, but Director Kamiyama injected the storyline with so many themes — such as mass suicide, terrorism, biochemical weapons, kidnapping, old folks’ problems and child abuse — and subplots that the story gets confusing. It’s not easy to follow what’s happening in this extremely intricate movie. After the screening I was not quite sure of what I had just watched and who the Puppeteer really was! It’s one of those cases where you really need to purchase the DVD and watch the key scenes several time in order to be able to really enjoy the complexity of the movie. 

SolidStateSociety-image3In my humble opinion, I think that Director Kamiyama should have simplified and streamlined the storyline, maybe sticking with Togusa’s plot-line. I bet the viewers could have felt more empathy towards the movie if it was a little less complex. The animation itself has an overwhelming beauty, but, using all the great animation technology and talent of Production I.G., I think Director Kamiyama could have created a masterpiece, if he had just come up with a more coherent story. In the end, the true identity of the Puppeteer is still not very clear — but maybe Director Kamiyama kept it mysterious on purpose? 

—miyako

Kôkaku Kidôtai: Stand Alone Complex — Solid State Society. Japan, 2006, 109 min.; Dir.: Kenji Kamiyama; Scr.: Kenji Kamiyama, Shôtaro Suga, Yoshiki Sakurai; Phot.: Kôji Tanaka; Ed.: Junichi Uematsu; Art Dir.: Yusuke Takeda; Char. Des.: Hajime Shimomura, Takayuki Goto, Tetsuya Nishio; Mechan. Des.: Kenji Teraoka, Shinobu Tsuneki; Mus.: Yoko Kanno; Prod.: Production I.G.; Distr.: Bandai, Manga Entertainment; Cast: Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko Kusanagi), Akio Ohtsuka (Batou), Kouichi Yamadera (Togusa), Kazuya Tatekabe (Col. Tonoda), Masuo Amada (Col. Ka Gae-Ru), Osamu Saka (Daisuke Aramaki), Takashi Onozuka (Pazu), Tarô Yamaguchi (Boma), Toru Ohkawa (Saito), Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa), Yuya Uchida (Takaaki Koshiki), Dai Sugiyama (Proto), Nana Yamauchi (Togusa’s daughter), Yoshiko Sakakibara (Prime Minister Kayabuki). Available on R2 Dvd in Japan (BCBA-2606, 109 min., ¥9800) and on R1 Dvd in North America (Bandai/Manga Entertainment, #25176, Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US [Limited edition: $39.98 US], rated 13+). stars-4-0

• • •

SolidStateSociety-covIn 2034, two years after the departure of Major Motoko Kusanagi (after the events of the TV series, Stand Alone Complex, which starts in 2030 and before the second movie, Innocence, set in 2032), Togusa is now in charge of Section 9, which has been expanded with the addition of several new recruits. Batou, frustrated to have been left behind by the Major, is still looking for her and therefore picks & chooses only the cases that seem related to his quest. A string of strange incidents — starting with a series of suicides, followed by the kidnapping of many children, and an economical conspiracy plotted by a group of old ultra-nationalists — seem to lead to a mysterious super-hacker nicknamed the “puppeteer.” The Major is carrying her own parallel investigation — which leads Batou to suspect her of being the puppeteer. In the end, the real identity of the perpetrator is the most surprising revelation of all. 

This movie is directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the same person who directed the Stand Alone Complex TV series. It is therefore not surprising to find here the same excellent quality of production, as much in the design as in the animation. However, if the director succeeded to masterfully tie up all the elements of the story in the TV series, he seems to have difficulty to do the same in a movie format. Solid State Society feels like a long TV episode where he tries to compress the storyline of an entire series. There are too many sub-plots and the different elements of the story are mixed together in such a complex way that it sometimes lacks coherence and the viewers get confused (it took me at least two viewings to understand the complexity of the plot and even then I am not sure I understood everything correctly). 

The timeline of the various series and movies seems confusing as well. The first movie is supposed to be set in 2029, while Solid State Society is set in 2034. It is not clear exactly when Major Kusanagi left Section 9. Also, they should have encountered the Puppet Master / Puppeteer before (in the first movie), but no mention is made of a prior encounter as if the first movie never happened. In fact, it feels like Solid State Society is a retelling of the encounter between the Major and the Puppeteer. 

Despite the complex socio-political themes and the beautiful animation, Solid State Society does not have the same depth than the previous movies (directed by Mamoru Oshii) and it certainly doesn’t have the same contemplative beauty. It is a very nice movie, but it is much more demanding to the viewers than the TV series and even the previous movies — which you all need to have seen to really appreciate and understand this movie — so I would recommend it mainly to the die-hard Ghost In The Shell fans. Nevertheless, Solid State Society (and GITS in general) is the epitome of intelligent SolidStateSociety-Dvd-ratingscyberpunk anime (a genre that, unfortunately, we don’t see often). Finally, I must add that the Limited Steelbook case edition (which contains three discs: one disc with the main feature, one disc full of extras, and the Solid State Society soundtrack CD) is totally awesome. 

—clodjee

Bandai / Manga Entertainment, #25176 (ISBN 978-1-59409-831-4), Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US (Limited Edition: $39.98 US), rated 13+ (Violence). See back cover.

You can also check the trailer from Youtube:

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNBiblio • GoogleIMDbProduction I.G.Wikipedia ]

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex—Solid State Society ©2006-2007 Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kodansha. 

Those articles were first published respectively in PA #94: 76 (November-December 2007) and PA #93: 83 (September-October 2007).

Please also check the following Ghost in the shell articles:

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Amour Heuristique (IId)

2.5 AFTERMATH

Pour oublier: le travail dès que possible
Ce sont les nuits qui sont les plus pénibles
Sa présence était comme une drogue dans mon sang
Me désintoxiquer des souvenirs réminescent
La douceur de ses lèvres, sa grande tendresse
Le goût de sa sève, ses promptes caresses
Mais surtout sa sollicitude à l’égard de ma détresse

Mon destin s’est accompli et la vie doit suivre son cours
Je suis éveillé, je ne suis plus aveugle, ni sourd
J’ai besoin d’action, de présences, plus qu’avant
Et maintenant seule l’obscurité me terrifie horriblement

Jamais je n’oublierai…
Nos destins se sont rencontré…
Elle m’a grandi, a illuminé mon obscurité…
Elle est toujours là, j’espère au moins son amitié…
Et avec équilibre, espoir de continuité…

Necesito un guia
Usted es muy hermosa
Usted me gusta muchisimo
Yo te quiero

Mucha gracias por su atension, dispenseme…
Cuendo puedo volver a verle?

1988-12-10

2.6 AFTERTHOUGHT

Mais ce ne sont là que des mots, des évidences
Qui sont, quant tout est fini, bien vide de sens
Quel est le poids des impressions anarchiques
Véhiculés par des clichés pathétiques
Devant ce qui fut si magique ?

1988-12-17
Le rêveur gris
Morwajal

Note: Voici les deux derniers morceaux de ce long poème sur ce qu’un bref idylle m’a appris de la vie. Comme toujours il s’agit de vers éclectiques, sans formes précises, ni métrique. Vous noterez deux brèves strophes en espagnol (nous nous échangions parfois de petits billets dans la langue de Cervantes) [pour la traduction demandez à Mr. Google!]… Voir les parties un (IIa: 2.1-2.2), deux (IIb: 2.3) et trois (IIc: 2.4) de cet ensemble. Le poète du dimanche n’en a pas encore fini puisque j’ai toujours dans mon sac quelques fragments épars.

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GITS: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

Anime Story

2004 was a great year for theatrical anime releases in Japan. It brought us Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy and, of course, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. However, most of the Japanese anime industry’s production, and what really sustains it, remains the television series, like Gundam Seed, Fullmetal Alchemist, and yes, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 

SAC-2gig-logoGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a big hit in 2003 and Japanese DVD sales did great, so the creative team at Production I.G. decided to bring out a second season (titled “2nd Gig”). Now fans can look forward to another 26 episodes of cyber-political intrigue and action. 

Sac-2gig-illo11I can easily imagine that director Kenji Kamiyama was under a great deal of stress, with his work being compared with Mamoru Oshii’s Innocence, and to meet the fans’ expectations after the first season! Despite the high stakes, the young director was up to the task and I think he did a marvellous job. The “2nd Gig” is even better and more intriguing than the first season. He succeeded totally in creating his own world, telling the story in his own personal style, and we don’t even feel the need to compare his series with Oshii’s movie. Each has its own merit. 

Kamiyama not only respected Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but he gave it life by detailing, even more so than Oshii’s movies did, its near-futuristic setting defined by the interaction of humanity and technology in a complex Asian geo-political environment. His strong, captivating storytelling is very well supported by the superb animation, the beautiful and elaborate artwork and an enchanting soundtrack. It is so great to see that there is such a great new talent in Japan, able to create a serious and intelligent story that can both entertain our senses and stimulate our mind. It is not surprising that both seasons of the TV series have received a great deal of acclaim, not only from anime fans, but also from those who seek serious science fiction shows. 

SAC16-illoASAs the “2nd Gig” starts, Section 9, which had been dissolved at the end of the 1st season, is resuming its job as an anti-cyberterrorist mobile unit. Although the team has returned, their work isn’t easy, and many difficulties lie ahead of them. The Japanese political landscape is changing and the government is keeping a close eye on their special police. The “Laughing Man” case might be solved, but it doesn’t take long for another terrorist organization, “The Individual Eleven,” to show up. Who are they? Are they the result of another “Stand Alone Complex”? They seem to be stirring up an uprising against the Asian immigrants and refugees. Could it be that simple? But some other politically-motivated forces seem to be at work. Can Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team unravel the complex overlapping political plots before they affect the nature of the government? 

Technology might be omnipresent in Stand Alone Complex, but it is not overwhelming. In the “2nd Gig,” Director Kamiyama and Production I.G. keep an even greater focus on the human side of the story by exploring the characters’ hearts and emotions — even in the case of some of the terrorists. Each key member of Section 9 has a dedicated episode where we learn more about their past and personality. It is not done simply to paint a richer background; every single bit of information has its meaning. They also give a more humane face to the government (more likeable than the usual fat, corrupt, old minister) with the new Japanese prime minister, a young, good-looking lady who embodies the beauties (and sometime ineptitudes) of democracy. In contrast, there is the ugly face of Gohda, a shady character who embodies the threat of militarism. Also, the intelligent Tachikoma robots (their name means “standing, spinning top”) are back with a new, expanded sidekick role (definitely inspired by Motoko’s cute “helper” programs in the Man-Machine Interface manga). With their cute voices and comical comments, they give a human feel to the technology. 

SAC14-illoASThe terrorism and the Asian refugees’ problems seem to be an allusion to the Palestinian question and to some conspiracy theories that surfaced after 9/11 in Europe and in Japan (such as, American right wing groups being behind 9/11 in order to justify military action abroad and domestically limit civil liberties). But it is only used to emphasize the fact that, even in the future, terrorism — the favorite style of warfare of the 21st Century — is still omnipresent and we still haven’t found a way to deal with it. Despite all the advanced technology, humanity is still facing tremendous problems (war, pollution, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, crime). Nothing changes, and even the future’s future is still uncertain. Is there a solution to the crisis? Is there a possibility for us humans to be saved? The answer in “2nd Gig” might be in the origami cranes that appear in some episodes and that symbolize the prayers for peace and salvation. All we can do is, like Section 9, act with courage and determination (even if it means going against the rules sometimes), pray and hope for the best! 

In conclusion, “2nd GIG” is even better than the first season. While still very political, dealing with terrorism and immigration problems, it also elaborates on more of the personal history of each of the main characters, including Major Kusanagi. The cyberpunk political intrigue is at moments a little complex, but it is the most intelligent anime series I have ever seen and it is superbly animated. It’s not all action, there’s also drama — and I did cry a few times. A real masterpiece! Of course, such an exceptionally excellent anime series cannot be seen only on TV. SAC-2gig-ratingsYou have to purchase the DVD to watch it over and over again, to enjoy all the minute details of this superb animation and share the experience with your friends! And if after that you want more, the series was followed by a movie: Solid State Society. 

> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime)

Overview

GITS-SAC-logoWith the TV version of Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai) director Kenji Kamiyama (and his production team — including the full support of original creator Shirow Masamune) is bringing a new dimension to the standard police detective drama adding a techno-cyberpunk flavour. Not only is this a very high quality show visually (HD full-digital screen to satisfy even the most hard-core fan!), but it is also full of exciting, intelligent storytelling. You can see that the writers really put forward their best efforts to attract viewers. 

SAC-KusunagiCCThe story is set in a future Tokyo populated with high-tech doohickeys, and lots of cyborgs and androids. Fans of Ghost in the Shell find out immediately that this story is quite different from the manga or games. It’s a kind of alternate world created for the TV series, closer to what was already developed for the movie. The manga is funny and set in a fictitious future (lots of made-up names) where Section 9 is an international anti-terrorist unit. The TV series’ setting feels less like a militaristic anti-terrorist outfit and more like a special police force dealing with cyber crimes. It is more serious and more realistic. Nevertheless, like the movie, which was based mostly on the manga, the TV series is using bits and pieces of the manga’s story. We could consider the TV series as a prequel to the movie, whereas the new manga, Man-Machine Interface, is the direct sequel of the original manga. 

GHSill02RSo what do they mean by “Stand Alone Complex”? It could mean that the series is mostly made of stand alone episodes (self contained stories), with a few more complex episodes (the “Laughing Man” story arc). However, episode 6 also provides another explanation: it refers to the fact that Laughing Man’s imitators are independent copycats, created without an original. To me it seems that Production I.G.’s writers want to make the point that “It’s extremely difficult and almost impossible today to stand alone in this complex society of computers and networks.” Each episode throws enormous amounts of technical information and detail about computers, science and politics for the viewer to digest. At first, for an average nincompoop like myself, the contents of this show can be too much, but with a bit of patience it’s certainly educational. I think, in a way, it’s charming to see so much information on technology. Compared to ordinary anime shows, the amount of dialogue and information is quite huge. 

You really have to sit down and watch this TV show over and over again to catch the small details and to understand better. In this respect it shares much in common with its source, the manga. On the other hand, despite all this, the show can also be watched as an intelligent police/detective drama. The viewers can try to solve crimes with Section 9 members and get great satisfaction to see the conclusion of each cyber-crimes case. But don’t think that the show is as slow paced as the film — there is still a lot of action! 

SAC-illo02The characters seem to be like normal humans, but in fact most of them are cyborgs (or with some sort of cybernetic enhancement). I wonder if, in the near future, when humans begin to replace body-parts to improve their lives and live more comfortably, we’ll have different kinds of crimes? It’s the same type of premise as in Patlabor : if technology takes us there, the nature of crime will change. Of course we’re all human, but how in the world can we live and “stand” with our own personalities in this extremely complex society of the future? In this show, all criminals are making statements of a kind (politically, individually or otherwise). 

SAC01-03This is certainly a strong series evolved from speculative fiction, with excellent (and exotic Russian sounding) music by Yoko Kannno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne and Macross Plus) and viewers will enjoy this full-action crime fighting anime! In our opinion, this series clearly shows one thing: good writing and storytelling make a great difference! There are many shows with high quality visuals, but with weak stories. Ghost in the Shell is one of the best shows to come down the road in the last few years and hearkens back to a period where stories and strong characters were the main focus. I’d like to send out enthusiastic applause to the creators of this show! 

Despite its high quality animation and intelligent story, the show has a few annoying details: the original opening is much better than the 3D one which starts with episode 3 and there are some technical impossibilities (like the cloaking devices which are not consistent with those in the movie). 

SAC08-02This anime won’t disappoint you — in fact, you’ll be totally hooked! A must see show that I’d recommend to anyone. In order to understand the TV series a bit better it is recommended to have seen the movie or read the manga (you would already know the characters and technological background), but you will probably manage anyway if you just dive straight in (you’ll find some helpful information, right after the jump). The series was very well received with critics’ rating of 8.5 on IMDb and of 67% / 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Enjoy !

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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