April 2015 news

N/A (newsletter)
created: 31 March 2015; modified: 15 Sep 2017; status: finished; confidence: log; importance: 0

This is the April 2015 edition of the gwern.net newsletter; previous, March 2015. This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with Changelog & Google+ & LW media threads; brought to you by my donors on Gratipay.

Writings

  • Nothing finished

Media

Books

Fiction:

  • The Sagas of Icelanders

Nonfiction:

  • The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays, Simon Leys (review)

Manga:

  • Tsutomu Nihei: Blame!, Blame! Academy, Noise!: beautiful nonsense. Nihei cannot write plots, coherently world-build, or do dialogue, and I find myself regretting the commonness of manga written by mangaka whose strengths lie almost entirely in one domain (writing vs art); if he had been yoked to the same plow as a writer like Gen Urobuchi or Ryukishi07, what could they have created? As it is, Nihei remains a visual stylist only. Probably not good works to marathon, because after a few chapters in a row, the visual enjoyability of the architecture and the skulls starts to pall - he uses the same motifs over and over.

Film/TV

Live-action:

  • Cinderella 2015: this was more interesting than I had expected. What it seems to be aiming at is a polished, straight/non-revisionist telling of the classic Cinderella story (without the narcissism of Frozen and its instantly-dated tone-deaf snark), but with a minimalist approach to magic and comedy (the animals are only minor elements) with all the romanticism and exaltation of traditionally feminine virtues implied, and a low-key but consistent effort at rationalizing and embedding the fairy-tale into a plausible world (a sort of 1700s England/Italy/France-hybrid small kingdom). For example, the wicked stepmother is indeed wicked and enjoys her small cruelties, but has motives beyond pure malevolence for the mistreatment (aware of her daughters’ fecklessness, if she doesn’t find them a match, they’re doomed); or while Cinderella is escaping from the palace, the prince plausibly orders a pursuit and the coachmen trip a portcullis on their way out to block pursuit, resolving a common objection. The rest of the movie is executed as competently as one expects of a top-tier Disney live-action film: the dresses are naturally almost hyperreal, the settings are overstuffed pastoral of almost Thomas Kinkade-caliber, and Cate Blanchett & Lily James hold down their parts well (the former to simmer and emote, and the latter to be brainless & beautiful - although I will never understand why they did not dye her eyebrows blond as well, a contrast which distracted me in almost every scene). All in all, pretty good and has probably cemented Cinderella’s status as a major part of the Disney princess-industry for another generation.
  • Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014); an attempt to do a little worldbuilding in providing a backstory for all the antics, and close the franchise (temporarily?) with a theme of maturing and passing on the baton, closing the loop with the first movie; unfortunately it comes off as completely stale, with no gags we didn’t get tired of in the first two movies.

Anime:

  • Atama Yama: curious short story about a greedy miser who grows a small sprout on his head apparently as punishment, is annoyed by the even smaller visitors to the tree, and then apparently drowns while trying to get rid of it. The story isn’t much, but it’s much more interesting to listen to the narrator recite it to the traditional music and watch the eccentric animation.
  • Ben-to: waste of time. Interesting concept which doesn’t go anywhere, on top of which the fights are repetitive and unimaginative (if you’ve seen one you’ve seen all, as they are all lazy battle-royales and punches which could be, and probably were, clip-arts), they are entertaining neither as realistic nor shonen-superpowered nor parodies, and the series winds up spending most of its time, apparently, on mean-spirited mockery of fujoshi, yuri fanservice, and twincest. Only 2 positive aspects come to mind: the character Sen Yarizui is not, surprisingly, yet another Rei/Yuki-doll-knockoff character; and the final arc is a little more insightful about the nature of competition than expected.

Music

Doujin:

Touhou:

Kantai Collection:

Vocaloid:

  • Yume Rockets (Miku; OKUMEIKIBOUNOTOKYOTOZAIJYUU; Virtual Songs {2009}) [electronic/Jpop]