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First published: 12/1/01

It's all about stuff

Lain merchandise update

The lain fan guide by Guardians of Order was originally set to be released on October 31, 2001. Unfortunately, the release date has been pushed back to sometime early in 2002. Here's a picture of the cover from (where the book is available for pre-order). I'm personally very excited to see what the book will be like. Expect a review from me as soon as it comes out.

Only indirectly lain-related, I recently bought the Naomi Armitage figure released by Mcfarlane Toys. It's very cool-looking on top of my desk, and joins the few other pre-made figures and models I own: (SD) Naru from Sailor Moon, Emeraldas (2 figures) from Queen Emeraldas, Ri Kouran from Sakura Taisen, and a Dom from Mobile Suit Gundam (winner of the Best Mecha award at the Otakon 2001 art show).

Armitage III is one of my favorite anime. Unfortunately, it's also vastly underrated. I prefer Armitage III:Polymatrix (the movie version) over the OAVs in terms of pacing. If you haven't seen it, it may be of interest for two reasons:

1. It's a stylish action-packed cyberpunk anime with a provocative and interesting female lead character.
2. The screenplay was written by Chiaki Konaka, who wrote the screenplay of lain.

Having written the screenplays for Armitage III, serial experiments lain, and Bubblegum Crisis 2040 (which I haven't finished yet), Chiaki Konaka might very well be considered Japan's most progressive and popular writer of cyberpunk anime.

What I want for X-mas

I thought I might as well use this space to put up my fantasy Christmas wishlist. I say "fantasy" because I don't expect anyone to actually get me these things, which is fine for a number of reasons: 1)Said item is not easily available or 2)It's not really worth the price or 3)I'm going to get it myself anyway sometime in the future. When reading this, don't get the impression that I don't appreciate more conventional gifts. (What graduate student doesn't need a microwave, extra socks, and more money to spend on books?) As with many webpages, this is really just my chance to talk about stuff. You know the drill. ^_^

The list:

1. Battle Royale DVD

Battle Royale logo

(Granted, this does not quite jive with the holiday spirit)

Battle Royale (Japan, 2000), directed by Kinji Fukasaku and based on a novel by the same name, is perhaps the most compelling film I've seen in years, or I should say, partially seen. Truth be told, I haven't seen the whole movie yet, but I made it a point to read about the movie as much as I could despite not having finished it. Having recently been released on DVD, Battle Royale is certainly something I want to add to my collection.

I became aware of Battle Royale at Otakon 2001 (in Baltimore, Maryland), and I attended that convention's screening of the movie. Although the showing was after midnight (or perhaps because it was after midnight), the viewing room was jam-packed. I only stayed through about 30 minutes of the movie, and I felt I had to leave for two reasons. First of all, a poorly ventilated room full of con-goers after a long day of activity quickly becomes unpleasant for all involved. Secondly, I just couldn't take what I was watching anymore. I left the room with a distinctly empty feeling in my stomach, but maybe not for the reasons one would immediately suspect.

It's true that the film was violent (even gory at times) and shocking--though not in the same vein and magnitude as traditional Hollywood horror movies. Something about the violence in Battle Royale was different. It seemed realistic and unglorified, brutal, and most of all, sad. That empty feeling I had upon leaving the room was mostly one of sadness. Whereas senseless violence in films can sometimes be dismissed as pure fantasy, the violence portrayed in Battle Royale, while certainly pathological, was frightening in just how much it actually made sense, how easy it was to relate to the young protagonists and their terrifying situation, and how that dark world is not so far removed from our own.

For those who don't know anything about the film, the basic premise is that in a near future Japan, economic collapse has occurred and the educational system is failing, with youth violence and other disobedience on the rise. To counter the trend of increasing youth rebellion, the Millenium Educational Reform Act is passed, permitting the government to randomly select and abduct a class of 9th graders each year and place them on an island, forcing them to kill each other in a free-for-all until there is only one survivor left after 3 days. The film shows the fate of one such class.

Unlike more flawed teen movies, the students in Battle Royale behave and think like teenagers. Although some viewers will surely get their kicks from watching children murder each other, Battle Royale is not quite, or at least not completely, an exploitation film. Both the normal craziness and strange wisdom of adolescence are emphasized in the film, not glossed over. Emotional responses are realistic and varied. Collectively, the students display shock, horror, resolve, resourcefulness, sadness, brutality, stoicism, pettiness, sadism, jealousy, loyalty, hate, and love. The strategies employed by the students are also varied. Some of them merely want to survive, whereas others enthusiastically accept the opportunity to kill. I found all of this uncomfortable but fascinating to watch. It was the film's most basic concept, however, that intrigued me the most: youth being forced against their will to play an unsavory game imposed upon them by mainstream adult society which, ironically, has come to fear and blame them.

As many commentators have pointed out, this movie (which was very controversial in Japan, and is now beginning to make waves internationally) could never be made in post-Columbine America. Furthermore, a US video release seems unlikely, which is unfortunate because the movie is quite insightful in its probing of the social nature of youth violence.

If you want to see the movie, the best way (supposedly) to see it with an English translation is to purchase the Hong Kong produced DVD which has optional English subtitles. People enjoy the DVD format for numerous reasons. Personally, for this movie, I'll be thankful for the ability to fast forward through particularly gruesome scenes (and there are plenty).

If you are looking for incisive and hard-hitting social commentary on youth violence, this film is worth investigating.

Related links:

Battle Royale info on the IMDB
Battle Royale - English Website (official site)
Battle Royale (comprehensive fan site)
Guaridan Unlimited Film | Reviews | Battle Royale
Battle Royale movie review at The Z Review

Sony Aibo

2. Sony's new Aibo

Now, I'm not generally a fan of robots, robotic pets, or even pets in general, but this new version of the Sony Aibo really caught my eye. With a price tag of $1,500, it's significantly out of reach and really only a luxury item, but at least nobody can say it's cheap. The look of this beast is main reason I'm attracted to it. Designed by famed anime mecha designer Shoji Kawamori, the new Aibo looks like a million bucks--powerful and untoylike--far surpassing its previous incarnations. Even if I can't afford one of these, I'll happily settle for a poster.

Check out Sony's official Aibo site for more pictures and other details:

3. More Lain fanart to feature on TEL

I like fanart, and it always makes me happy when someone sends me gift fanart. Say, does anyone have any unofficial remixes of the lain music?

4. An anorak

Actually, I'm actively looking for one. They're not so hard to find, but I tend to do a lot of research before I buy anything. If you know me well and have exceptional knowledge regarding what I'm interested in, you'll understand why I want an anorak.

Finally, I'll end this installment of lainspotting by showcasing the new Lain cel I got. I collect all kinds of stuff, especially lain-related, but I've never owned a cel before. I figured that I ought to acquire at least one Lain cel, you know? So here's a picture of the one I bought (included pencil sketch not shown here):

Lain cel

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Last updated on January 29th, 2002
Lawrence Eng