You Should Celebrate Leap Year by Enrapturing Your Mind with Milky Holmes

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Feb 292012
 

Over the last three episodes, Milky Holmes has continued its descent into utter chaos, and it’s been beautiful.

EPISODE SIX

The series finally gets around to something resembling a mystery. Since, y’know, the fucking title is DETECTIVE OPERA Milky Holmes. With this episode effectively being the midpoint of the season, you’d think this might be a turning point. Maybe the girls will finally pull off a case and put themselves back on track to become real detectives, save their school, and regain their Toys.

Nope. Milky Holmes ain’t about triumphing over adversity. Milky Holmes is about failure.

The episode begins with the aftermath of the episode’s “mystery.” Everyone is in a slovenly, defeated state. People are either missing their clothing or wearing something out of character. Kokoro is in a catatonic state. One of her subordinates has a Facehugger latched onto her face. Motherfucking Duke Togo is standing in the background, the only one looking remotely triumphant because he’s fucking Golgo 13.

This isn’t the afterglow of a case closed– this is the stench of defeat. We don’t even get to see Milky Holmes try before we see them fail. At this point, their failure is a given. Failure is their natural state of being. God wants to see Milky Holmes wallow in despair.

The actual gags in this episode are pretty great, but the crux of it all is that the mid-season turning point is having the girls lose before they even get a chance to win. And to make matters worse, once everything’s said and done, it turns out that Milky Holmes is the true culprit. While it was some obsessive fanboy who set up the bomb, it was Sherlock who accidentally set it off. Not only did they fail to reveal the criminal (he turned himself in), they managed to turn that victory into an even worse defeat.

Milky Holmes suck, and that’s why they rock.

EPISODE SEVEN

The way I see it, the villains in this series are audience surrogates. But they aren’t us watching Milky Holmes, they’re us watching anime as a whole. They don’t mind Milky Holmes being all cute and shit, but they want them to stay on target. Arsène especially wants the girls to return to their former detective glory in order for her to have a true rival. Milky Holmes at full strength is the only opponent that makes her blood boil, much in the same way that so many of us anime watching nerds need a series to go full-out and not hold back to really capture our imagination.

But the Milky Holmes girls aren’t doing that. Despite what they say, the girls don’t even want to be detectives. They’re easily distracted by food and trinkets and giving meaningless messages about friendship and hope. Like I’ve said before, the Milky Holmes girls are a reflection of moe tropes, and the way they drift away from their initial purpose (being badass detectives) is wearing away at the Gentlemen Thieves.

But with this episode, Arsène snaps. She can’t take this shit anymore. She’s done everything she can to help the girls in her own way, and all they do is turn right back around and do the exact opposite of what should be done.

There’s no hope left for Arsène. She’s beyond the point where she wants to see things fixed. This whole series– and thus anime as a whole– is beyond redemption. She’s no longer the God who “works in mysterious ways,” doing odd things to bring about good in Milky Holmes’ lives. She’s the angry god Samuel L Jackson rants about in Pulp Fiction. She’s the fucking Joker in The Dark Knight. Arsène’s going to destroy everything.

The resulting battle is a thing of beauty. It’s one of those escalating battles where things start off relatively mundane and reaches near-cosmic heights. Characters pull out attacks and tricks that you’ve never seen them do but make perfect sense given the context. It’s the sort of escalation we saw in Gurren Lagann, except it all happens over the course of a single episode rather than 27.

And in the end, Arsène wins. She defeats Milky Holmes. She defeats the police. She defeats her former allies. She destroys the school with a magical punch that looms over earth like fucking Galactus. And then she walks away– triumphant yet defeated, because she knows that even this assault won’t bring Milky Holmes back to their former glory– just like how we know there’s no turning back from the malaise that is current anime trends.

EPISODE EIGHT

OK. I kinda wish this episode didn’t exist. I would have been perfectly happy with episode seven being the series finale. End it right there and it nails all of my thoughts about the series. That episode would have gone down as one of my all-time favorite finales.

Instead, we get an episode that manages to crush Milky Holmes harder than the assault in the previous episode.

All of the students receive transfers to other schools all across the globe. Everyone except for Milky Holmes. They get jack shit– a blank letter mocking their state of affairs. And they descend into madness. Cordelia’s Toys come back, but only at the moment of her greatest despair. The only way any of them are able to regain their Toys at this point in time is by reaching rock bottom. These girls are incapable of becoming true heroes again because heroism is no longer a motivation. And when Cordelia’s Toys come back, she’s only able to use them to create an illusionary world where the girls and the thieves are able to molest a camel in place of their beloved Henriette/Arsène.

Yeah. Everyone’s been reduced to borderline bestiality because of their failures.

Everything sorta resolves in the end. Their cat, the only character in the series who seems to have something resembling common sense (other than Arsene, and she lost that last episode), is able to snap everyone out of Cordelia’s illusion, but where do they go from here? They may have resolved to rebuild the school, but can we really trust the girls to do this? Do we really believe that they can triumph when they’ve failed every fucking time?

And what’s this? Moriarty finally appeared? Like, out of nowhere? And Milky Holmes just acknowledge her as if she’s been there all along? That little bit of dream logic was awesome. Maybe all of this is just some fever dream? Maybe the girls are huddled together, still raping that camel and sharing in Cordelia’s delusion? Maybe they’ve descended so far into madness that they’re creating a new mental world where they’re able to live out their victory?

If Milky Holmes manages to “win” in the end, that’s the logic I’ll be following based on how this episode ends. It’s kinda like the ending to Observe and Protect. Seth Rogan’s character in that movie was a mentally unbalanced dude who failed at everything he did, but the last five minutes or so show all of his dreams coming true. He kills the flasher that’s been plaguing him the whole movie. He gets the girl. He gets all of the praise he always wanted. But right before all of this takes place, his mom gives him a new pill and she takes it as well. Way I saw things, she was putting her son down and taking herself with  him. Murder-Suicide. That ending was Rogan’s character’s final dreams as he lay dying.

And yeah, if we get a happy ending in Milky Holmes, I’m making the call now. It’s all an illusion created by Cordelia’s Toys to allow Milky Holmes to avoid the utter failure that is their lives.

Damn, I love Milky Holmes.

Self-Indulgence 12: One Million Total

 A Certain Magical Index, Anime, Astro Fighter Sunred, Azumanga Daioh  Comments Off on Self-Indulgence 12: One Million Total
Feb 282012
 

Mecha Guignol hit one million hits earlier today.

Goal achieved. The End. Adios. Etc.

Also, I lied. About the “The End” part, that is.

I’ve talked about this before, but I may as well talk about it again now that I have a few more regular peeps at this place. I originally started this blog as a way to get my creative juices going again. Before I started blogging, my main online activities revolved around a fiction writing website. But when I started Mecha Guignol in 2009, my drive to write was waning hardcore. I hadn’t written anything of substance in, like, a year. I needed some project that’d force me to write on something resembling a regular basis so I’d get into some kind of rhythm. Since I had the idea of doing an anime blog running in the back of my head for a while (despite never having read an actual anime blog up to that point), I decided to use that as the “spark” to get my writing mojo back.

I figured I’d do this for a bit, get used to writing again, and re-channel that energy into one of my other projects. I never intended to, like, be an anime blogger. I like anime, but at the time I wasn’t really watching that much shit. I’d check out one or two new series a season and rarely finished them. When I started this thing up, the only series I had finished from 2009 was Canaan, and the only reason why I picked up things like the second season of Darker than Black and Trapeze was for something to write about when I first started my blog.

Fast forward a few months from then. I’m watching more anime at that moment than I had at any given point prior. I was writing a couple of times a week. I had my mojo back. But what do I do? I don’t work my magic and funnel that enthusiasm into something else. Sure, I’d write something non-blog-related every now and then, but my focus was on Mecha Guignol. Fast forward another two years or so, and here I am bragging about how this blog that I never intended to keep has reached one million hits.

Yeah, I got into this shit purely by accident. It’s an experiment gone awry, like some otaku Frankenstein rampaging across the Balkan Mountains or whatever.

Anyway, here’s some photographic proof that I’ve hit this point, to prove to y’all heathen skeptics that this shit is real. The first pic shows my stats from my wordpress.com days while the second is what I’ve gathered since switching over to self-hosting.

And that’s pretty much it. Mecha Guignol is one of those happy accidents that parents talk about when they refer to that kid they never really wanted but love regardless.

Also, since I talked about my fiction writing and shit, here’s an example. It’s called Celestial Cleaner Celeste (with Pussycat). It’s a little something I wrote inspired by the pic I used at the start of this post.

Revisionist (2008)

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Feb 242012
 

Alright, here’s the second of my historical revisionist posts, where I go back and revise my past top whatever lists so they match up with the ones I’ve done the past couple of years.

This time, it’s 2008. I think I said something about doing 2007 first. Guess I lied. Maybe I’ll do 2007 next. Maybe I’ll do, like, 2002. Who knows. I sure don’t.

I Finished Another Series I Thought I’d Never Finish and that Series was Michiko e Hatchin

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Feb 222012
 

I finally got around to finishing Michiko e Hatchin over the past couple of nights. I lost track of the series back when it was first airing. I think the subs fell behind a bit or something, and by the time they caught up I’d lost interest in the series. It wasn’t that it was bad or anything, it’s just that those first few episodes didn’t really grab my attention enough to keep it on my mind for such long breaks between episodes.

Now that I’ve gone back and finished it, yeah, it’s a little better than I remember. Just not significantly so.

The main problem with the series is that there isn’t a lot going on despite it lasting 22 episodes. It isn’t even a matter of “OMG FILLER” or some asinine faux-criticism like that. The actual storyline is “chick grabs daughter of ex-boyfriend, runs from cops so she can find ex-boyfriend.” There’s some stuff in there about a cop that’s also an old friend of Michiko’s and some gang dudes that know her as well, but it’s a pretty damn simple plot.

This’d be fine if the series were a movie. It’d probably be a pretty badass movie if it were forced to condense the story into a two-hour thing. Even if it was trimmed down to 12 or 13 episodes it’d probably be a bit tighter and more cohesive and the leaps in logic and coincidences wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

But as a 22 episode series, it starts to suffer from a good deal of sameness. Atsuko can only let Michiko go so many times before it starts to feel like a lame, humorless riff on Lupin the 3rd. Like, I really dig that aspect of it, but since this series wants us to take its personal drama pretty seriously I just can’t buy into “I want to arrest you/I want to help you” happening with such frequency. It started to feel like it was an obstacle, writing-wise, rather than an actual plot device. Like, the writers regretted ever having Atsuko be chasing Michiko and had to write themselves out of that corner whenever her poorly conceived character required her to pull that act.

And the whole gang thing kinda felt tacked on. Satoshi is a pretty cool villain in his own right, since he’s a genuinely rotten guy whose motivations never seem really clear. He’s one of those “what the fuck is he playing at” sort of guys. Not nearly Anton Chigurh level, but along those lines kinda. But he’s just sorta tossed into the mix. His presence just doesn’t mesh with everything else that’s going down in the series, as if they felt they needed a villain and had to write on in halfway through the series.

And that’s kinda how the whole series plays out. It’s a lot of cool concepts loosely strung together that never quite gel into an actual experience. It’s spiritual predecessors, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, had a similar make-up, but they both managed to attain that sort of cohesiveness despite being proverbial melting pots. Michiko e Hatchin has a cool world (a fusion of Latin American culture and 70s exploitation movies). The characters, by themselves, are pretty interesting and divergent from current trends (Gasp! Hatchin is a little girl and she’s more than moe bait?). The music is awesome. There’s some genuinely good action scenes (although they tend to end too soon). It just can’t bring all that greatness together.

There’s one particular episode that sold me on the whole experience, though. It played like some sort of “lost” Bebop script. Satoshi hires some bounty hunters to take down his enemies. The primary assassin was a little old man who looked like Spike Lee if he were 80 years old or some shit. He was one of those “so badass I can taunt you and toy with you” types who enjoys his job way more than any human should. The games he plays with Michiko, and the resulting showdown between the two of them and the other assassin (a guy who looks like he could be Machete’s grandson), was probably the best thing to come out of the series. It had the pulpy, American action movie vibe I initially expected when I heard about the series. Shame the series didn’t have more bits on that scale, but it was awesome while it lasted.

So I’m glad I went back and finished up the series. It ain’t great, but I’ll take it over most stuff currently airing.

The Origin of Species 2: Running Shark Boogaloo

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Feb 222012
 

You know what scares the shit out of me? The ocean.

It isn’t the fear of drowning or the concept of being isolated from land, and it isn’t the fear of being eaten by a shark or some shit like that. What freaks me out is “the unknown.” Who knows what the fuck is lurking down there in the depths of the ocean. Scientists are discovering new species all the time, most of which are pretty damn scary looking. You have giant pillbugs and snake-like fish 20 feet long and massive worms that grow out of the ground, as if the Earth itself was a fucking tentacle monster.

That’s what makes Gyo creepy on some primordial level for me. It takes that uneasiness I feel about “the deep” and amps it up to the most terrifyingly logical end.

It ain’t the walking fish that’s freaky about Gyo. That’s damn cool on a SyFy movie Sharktopus vs Alliraptorwhale level– one of those cool visuals that acts as the building block of a good monster movie. Genuinely good monster movies start with that core element of “cool monster” and then use it as a jumping point to play off of a fear that’s far more inborn to the human psyche. Vampires are all about the fear of human sexuality and shit like that. Zombies are about the fear of losing one’s individuality and becoming something completely inhuman. Frankenstein and the Cthulhu mythos are all about man fucking with forces beyond his comprehension and control.

The bit that makes Gyo scary doesn’t come until the end of the movie. I had some ideas running through my head about what I thought was up with this shit, but those ideas were cemented with the scene at the circus. We find that the gas that the infected fish and humans are spewing may be alive. Like, this gas is a sentient collective or some shit. The dude running this circus claims that it may be some alien life form that’s clearly superior to humanity. That’s one way to have things play out, and it could be the initial source of this life force, but I think there’s more to it.

This “virus” is probably the proverbial “primordial ooze.” Yeah, the initial building blocks of life on Earth. This shit’s been hidden in the depths of the ocean, with trace amounts of it circulating through aquatic life. That’s how those Japanese scientists came across it during WWII. They were able to refine it and boil it down to its base components, and when the US bombed the ships carrying it, it was released back into the ocean– the starting point of life on Earth.

Basically, life is “beginning” on Earth all over again. Except life is already present.

Way I see it, this “ooze” gave birth to and then assembled the single-cell life forms already existing on Earth into the earliest multicellular life. As life expanded and diversified, this sentient force likely lost a lot of its power, as this new life developed wills of their own.

The way the humans were starting to coalesce into larger forms, it’s as if this “gas” is trying to create new creatures from it’s “building blocks.” It thinks that all of the humans and other animals are the same as the single-celled creatures it used during the primordial days of Earth. And the way all of the other creatures pounced on and devoured Tadashi, it’s as if the “gas” refuses to acknowledge a will that isn’t its own. It’s likely that a similar struggle began during the early days of life, and this gaseous force lost as more life was created– unable to control the multitude of beings it created.

So, the horror presented in Gyo isn’t just the annihilation of life as we know it, it’s the replacement of life as we know it. That’s some scary shit, scarier than the initial fears that made zombies popular. It isn’t just a matter of your loved ones turning into some decaying, unfeeling vessel of hunger– zombies are still innately human despite that shift in “lifestyle.” In Gyo, we’re being transmuted into something wholly inhuman, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Yet, ironically, it was this very force that led to our creation.

Despite the goofiness of the walking fish, this is real fucking horror.