There was an older kid at the playground once who asked my son if he watches Avatar -- my son said "huh?" and I told the older boy that we didn't have cable, which is code for, "I don't let my child watch crap." But then I thought later on, "hey, wait a second, of course I let my child watch crap!" And proceeded to put the first season of Avatar in the ol' Netflix queue. I'm not going to go all out and say that this show is awful, anime-wannabe pap, but it does rip off from Miyazaki a lot, and doesn't even do it right. Where Miyazaki was trying to convey the idea that wild animals are not for the amusement of humans, Aang seems to think that all these exotic animals in the four kingdoms are part of some x-treme sporting ritual. And Aapa, his flying bison? Totally the catbus! But with less legs.
"Snuffy Smith no longer makes moonshine," my husband lamented this morning on the way to work. "Huh?" was my puzzled, initial response and then recovered with, "oh, that's too bad?" Which of course peaked our son's curiosity -- "Daddy, what's moonshine?" We spent almost the rest of my part of the ride to work discussing the ins and outs of making illegal liquor and who Snuffy Smith was/is, that effervescent Appalachian American. Here is Dan Markstein's Toonpedia entry on Snuffy Smith. I never knew about the Barney Google/Snuffy Smith connection!
First of all, these two are not something I would let my son watch -- both are way too violent and at least Saiyuke had way too many cuss-words to make it even palatable for me. However, I got to view both almost side-by-side and my vote is with Samurai Champloo.
Saiyuke, based on the popular manga by Kazuya Minekura, tells a reconstituted tale of the Monkey King saga but puts more emphasis on a journey to defeat the demon controlling all of the other demons in the alternate-earth that this story inhabits. In the story humans and demons have lived together in harmony for generations but suddenly the demons have decided to revolt and try to take over the world. The main character is Genjo Sanzo, a priest, who sets out to India to stop the resurrection of Gyumaoh, a demon bad-ass who is apparently behind the demon revolt. He is aided by three demons who have kept their cool and are allied with the humans.
It is an interesting story line that incorporates elements of the Monkey King story (priest on a quest, staff-wielding "Monkey Boy") but ultimately is its own creation. I got kind of bored because it seems like the same demon attacks take place over and over and the plot seems to bog down in the endless fighting. Maybe I'll try again -- why not? I've got mucho animeo in the Netflix queue, already.
Samurai Champloo, however, I took an immediate liking to even though I was skeptical about the hip-hop and pop influences. Also, the main girl character in the movie, Fuu, is running a close second in my list of favorite shojo (let's not forget Misty!). It's another "alternate Japan" story and takes its cues from the Samurai slice-and-dice films. I like the fact that it takes a lot of scenes from historic Japan (primarily the Edo period) and plays around with concepts of Japanese culture and takes a few swipes at American culture, as well. The only thing that gets my paranoid up is that I like this anime too much, which makes me suspect that it's being marketed to my western sensibilities. Ah well -- Feed me, Seymour!
Sadly, I haven't seen Cowboy Bebop, which is the first break-through hit for director Shinichiro Watanabe, but have it in the Netflix queue. Thank you, Netflix, and thank you Wikipedia, for without you both I would be sadly in the dark and this blog would probably not exist.
SMC is a very, very neglected blog so don't expect many posts constantly. I mostly use this as a venue to talk about cartoons I'm watching with my son or my growing obsession with current and old anime. For more blog posts on what I'm doing, please see The Accidental Environmentalist, my less-neglected blog about living environmentally.