Category Archives: Manabi Straight

Manabi Straight Press

Does the role of Momoha Otori in Manabi Straight reflect a particular philosophy about press and its place in self-regulating societies?

I don’t think I can jump and say that the specific circumstances reflected by Manabi Straight Episodes 8-10 parallels some larger, real-world political situation. Maybe it is similar to some real-world student movements within the confine of schools, I don’t know. At any rate that is not what I want to discuss. It is more relevant from looking at how Momo is written to be this detached, aloof individual who records the actions of the student government and understand the plight of those girls first-hand. She reports that, the plight. That is exactly where Momo plays her role in the show–to show the viewer, what she reports is the truth, albeit re-arranged in her own ways.

In a sense, this is very different than the typical view of the press in the typical student council-type anime. Pretty much the view of the press in the school setting is the opposite–some self-motivated go-getter whose objective is to sensationalize by characterization to troll viewership. Even in the latest Hyouka episodes, the relationship between people and press comes out a little closer to a classified service. Which is, coincidentally, how the press is for a lot of people who have to directly work with the people behind mainstream press orgs, in the real world. It’s better than zero-sum, but invariably it feels a degree removed from what the audience understands as truth. Perhaps both ways of viewing the press understand that ultimately the press, still, functions as a narrator or a storyteller. There’s some kind of narrative which invariably spins in some way. It’s really just if this spin reflects some acceptable version of what we feel is truthful.

Of course, the truth is not so simple. The great thing (perhaps the one of many concepts that played out in the show which earns its self-titled moniker “utopia”) about Momoha in that story is that despite the truth isn’t a very complicated thing (eg., they need % support to make the festival happen), how the people understood even such a simple situation varied greatly, and reacted to it very differently. While ultimately Momo is appealing to emotion for Mutsuki and Mei, when she hijacked the broadcast, the effect of something relatively simple becomes profound because people understood it very differently, and now they get to see something they couldn’t (ie., why the student council desperately wanted the festival to happen). It’s the kind of activist behavior that we typically do not associate “real” press with. It’s different than, for example, the promotion video, which is suppose to impress, even if it also is informational.

In essence, that is the role of the press. Or rather, it’s what happens after just the facts. There is a lot of space in which the press re-arrange and re-mix something simple and give it depth to tell something that is beyond the surface. Say politician wants policy X to happen, the press’s job is to tell the world why the politician wants it to pass, etc. To an extent, that is exactly what the public needs to know to make informed decisions in a democratic society. I think that’s kind of at the heart of the way Manabi Straight depicts Momo’s role.

Of course, what passes for moving and amusing montages of cute girls doing cute things in one place is sappy political propaganda of opposition party platform at the other place, in another world. Once we go beyond the facts, it might be fair game for anything and everything. But blah, that’s no good. It’s important to recognize that understanding the perspective of an other is actually the ultimate calling in interpersonal communication and one of the greatest achievement for journalism in my mind.

Manabi Straight Blu-ray Versus the Most Worthless PQ Test

As I slowly work my way through the Manabi Straight Blu-ray box, you probably should expect a series of Manabi Straight blog posts. I think the show earned a spot on my list of favorites precisely because it evokes so much thought on watching it. And I really didn’t write all that much about it the first time around, just … a lot of posts “around” it. There are a lot of heavy themes and concepts thrown around in that show. Anyway, here are some more tl;dr about the Blu-ray release itself first.

My friend is a quality whore and he rigged his MPC-HC to whatever nonsense that these guys are saying. It makes some sense, when you own a Dell U3011, but to me the notion of “best” is kind of a lamer marketing term as PQ is to an extent subjective. When you start adding filters you are playing with fire. But I’m a live and let live sort of person, so it doesn’t bother me until the sharpening filter is depixelating grains or computer-generated visual effects from the video itself (which it invariably does with a show like this).

But man, my friend’s Dell U3011 is very nice. So we ended up watching some Manabi Straight side-by-side with whatever he found on BakaBT on his 27″ Dell monitor, whose model I forget (one of those 1440-line displays). We didn’t touch the BD video stream (played from a PS3) but he did (or whoever encoded it did) for the downloaded version of whatever it was. The results are pretty much what you’d expect. We also found how the home video went back and corrected some animation errors, mostly continuity sort of stuff.

We specifically checked out episodes 1 and 2 and I alone checked the last episode. We watched the first two because my friend actually never watched Manabi Straight beyond the first episode (his meticulous logging noted that he watched episode 1 in Jan 2007 at around 3:30 AM), and he didn’t quite remember what happened in the show besides Manabi’s “landing.” Olympics, right. The first two episodes make up a pretty solid pilot, if you recall.

To the meat of the post: the interesting revelation was that the last episode actually doesn’t look that much better, compared to the previous BD episodes. There were specific places where it did, but overall it feels mostly like just any other episode. The lines looked sharper than DVD, but compared it to a HD-broadcasted TV rip, there wasn’t really that much more details in the BD version. What survived largely were special effects and digital effects which died horribly on the TV rip both because of post-processing on my friend’s end or simply because the encode’s bitrate is just too low to capture everything. Like their later works, ufotable’s approach to composition is somewhat cinematic, featuring a lot of effects that create intentional blurring or things that look foreshortened. There is also a good deal of digital effects too, that as we know that tend not to survive upscaling well.

I guess the conclusion on this stuff is that the BDs are definitely the best version of Manabi Straight you will be able to find. But the TV rips were pretty good, if you can live with it. It’s not a night-and-day kind of a difference as with, say, episode 5 of Kara no Kyoukai. It’s probably less drastic than watching the DVDs (I guess I owe you guys that at some point) side-by-side to the BD. Of course this is also ignoring that the content is slightly different. The animation is patched up a little on the home video release. But with enough post-processing crap laid on top of it, the TV rips are passable, if that’s your sort of thing.

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Manabi Straight on Blu-ray

It’s always kind of a gamble to buy a BD release of a show created during the post-digital, pre-high-def era of TV anime. That’s pretty much any show created between like 1998 and 2008 or so, which includes Manabi Straight. Manabi Straight is one of the last TV anime that was created for the 4:3 format and watching it gave my plasma temporary burn-in. LOL for cheap TV I guess.

That unfortunate circumstance aside, I lament that I just don’t have all the time in the world to rewatch this gem. I managed to just catch the last episode, the OVA episode (now slotted chronologically onto disc 3 of 4) and the Machiasobi event from last November (also on disc 3). It’s a little odd to see Nonaka on stage again, after just seeing her not too long ago in person. Equally odd was how the event is about showing the audience the PQ difference for the Manabi BD box, and get everyone to sing the Seiou Gakuen Kouka. I mean, a sing-along event with a video of Horie Yui teaching you (well, it’s a joke) how to emote it? Okay.

The oddness of the event bleeds into the home video version. At the event, they have this kind of small screen on stage where they showed you side-by-side between DVD and BD of episode 11 (and some other clips). It looks great on home video because, well, you see the actual video. I just don’t know if anyone present at the actual event can tell from that distance.

I haven’t taken a close look at anything other than disc 3 and disc 4. Disc 4 contains the final 4 episodes of the series, plus all the TV spots (TV ads and DVD ads), trailers, and the karaoke video for the five image songs for the main characters. But what’s probably more of interest to perspective buyers and Viewers Like Myself is the last episode and how it’s “reshot” or whatever ANN uses to describe the work ufotable put in. To make it clear, episodes 1-11 + OVA episodes have had their composition redone for the BD release, but they went out and redid episode 12 by recreating the CG effects. If I know Japanese I probably could tell you, because they talked about this at the Machiasobi event. Yeah, I think it’s odd to have Nonaka and the King Record producer guy tell you how good this transfer is, in the thing you just bought.

If composition is what I think it is, redoing it means now the scenes are rendered at a higher resolution as it is being composed by whatever software they use. This is drastically different than doing an upscale because the software that spits out the re-composed scenes are working from the original property, rather than the end result video that gets interpolated by the upscale software. I guess you can think of it as being one step closer (in reality, probably more than one step). And I think given the way anime is put together these days,  that might be the best thing you can do for a TV anime of that vintage. What is amusing is I can totally see someone do this to 2k or 4k, give them another 10 years.

Anyway, this is also why the CG, which is sometimes generated dynamically at composition, need to be re-done. Because it would look like ass otherwise. Since I don’t have a BD drive I can’t cap them for you, but let’s just say the cherry blossom scene at the beginning of episode 12 (this is the naming convention used by the BD box; OAV episode is labeled as such, not 6.5 or whatever) looked reminiscent of 5cm/s. There are a lot of pans and sky cuts in episode 12 and they look gorgeous. When Mikan popped out in the epilogue by herself I thought “only if Evangelion TV on Blu-ray would look this good.” There’s just all this detail in the scene when Mei was driving to the airport with the crew.

However, when you just look at the normal foreground animation, they don’t look too different than the previous episodes. It looks better than upscaled; the lines are well-defined, if a bit rough. The show has its share of derpy faces, after all.

The other notable thing about Manabi BD in terms of PQ is the stop motion ending. It looks great, and that should be the case because I’m going to assume they shot the whole thing using some DSLR, and that means it was put together using whatever-megapixel photographs. 1080 is only 2 megapixels; 4k is only 9.4 megapixels.

The intangible details aside, here are the stats [Amazon, King Records, ufotable]:

  • 4 BD discs, 1 DVD disc (materials for your PC…?)
  • contains episodes 1-12 plus OVA episode (on disc 3)
  • Discs 1, 2 are single layer, discs 3 and 4 are dual layer.
  • Comes with a slip case with a huge obi-thing that covers the bottom and the back of the packaging.
  • Also has a 108-page book containing all sorts of supplementary material, fits in the slip case.
  • Discs sit inside of a 5-part digipak that holds all 5.
  • First week sales: below reporting threshold

You can get more nitty gritty if you see the listing on Amazon and the like. There was a contest where people can vote for the cover image on the BD BOX, on ufotable’s website. It ran for about a month and you can get all the non-winner pictures as A4 postcard-things if you buy the BD BOX direct from ufotable.

Rewatching the series is definitely on my to-do list. I’m due one anyway.

Momotato Updates, Omo Cheers

And there was order in the world yet again. Peace be with blog-kind and may we wish good will to all in this now-annual tradition.

And I really don’t have much more to say about that. What you could do, however, is to help me help all of us by goading Momotato back into blogging. Since all he does is watch anime off nico^2 (we really could use a blogger who tackles stuff from that perspective, but that’s for another day) anyways, it’s definitely easier for him to, I dunno, write stuff and put it on the internet instead of downloading stuff then watch it. Goad him, how? You can just send an encouraging message either using his email (which is momotato -> google mail) or write embarrassing but flattering things about him in the comments of blogs he reads.

Why? It’s fun and he’s a jolly fella. And I think there’s something we all gain when we bother him, especially those of you who used to read his blog but have since moved on. You guys are really something special and you should let him know, one way or another. Even if it’s just a “happy new year” thing.

And lol what Michael Bay? I guess Manabi’s skateboard does transform…

Random off-off-topic note: I just want to highlight this blog post. In Search of Number Nine is pretty solid of a blog, but purely speaking as a blog. It’s always good to see what some light-weight fans have to say about something you’ve taken for granted years ago, but better.

Year in Review: United and Live

So why am I talking about Manabi Straight besides I like it a lot? I don’t know.

Manabi Straight is a subtle thing. Sometimes I fear that the more I talk about it, the more it gets cheapened. And a good joke explained is rarely funny anymore.

Maybe I can say something about UFOTable. Manabi Straight is an interesting organism in that it is not produced by the same process your typical TV animation is. For starters, it is something conceived by some folks at UFOTable and serialized as manga at first. It also utilizes a team of directors that rotate on working on each episode, breathing life into the work but also mirroring that team spirit told within the show.

But like other UFOTable works, Manabi Straight shares some similar shortfalls. Or perhaps, it salvages itself from them? I’m not sure. One example that comes to mind is the realization of Manabi Straight’s inter-character dramatic potential. In just 12 episodes there have been a lot of character development and realization. Episode 4 and Mei showed how it was possible, but unexpectedly we didn’t really do a round robin of character expose. In fact we started at Mei, then Mikan…and stopped at Mikan, at least formally. Even if we take into account of the OAV episode we’ve only scratched the surface of the massive potential. If you look at Futakoi Alternative or Coyote Ragtime Show, there are a lot of subtle stuff they play with but also hide. In fact in FutaAlt that’s part of how it drags the series down–UFOTable spent way too much time trying to show you something subtle without telling you what it was.

Back in Manabi Straight, Mucchi especially was a subtle character that glowed with realism and its matching subtlety that made her easily my favorite out of the 5 if not for Mikan’s overpowering cuteness and Momo’s equally subtle but totally unreal characterization.

Being the fanboy that I am, I am probably a little too much to ask for to review the ins and outs of an UFOTable title. Also I just think a lot about these kinds of stupid things, the things just out of reach but not out of sight. In a pastel-color world with gradient hair and happy-go-lucky carebears, subtlety can only be detected as far as it is put out there to be seen. It could be a criticism or a praise, but it’s irony either way.

Irony. Yes, that was what I was thinking, about Mucchi, while she was eating her ice pop in that summertime episode. (And also “just how much lolicon pandering was this suppose to be?”) But that’s a prime example of a very real moment. Sometimes, when you are with friends, it’s just silence. Some of my friends talk about themselves, others don’t. Sometimes you have to pry, other times you’re just being annoying. It’s totally cool when you drop by, with a pretext of checking out some harmless video game, and drop a line that you know will do something to poke a friend who’s down. Or maybe it will not do something, but you’ve done what you think works the best.

And that’s Momo’s entire basket of gags in all of Manabi Straight. You know how Kyousuke said about observing wild animals and the camera not interfering? Well I think Ms. Odori will take that and shove it up someone’s behind while screaming some dadaist reference to off-the-air sitcoms. (Imagine if Momo shot a documentary about penguins…well I guess you can do that with Hatsune Miku now?) That’s journalism (and, oddly enough, film making) in a nutshell, the power to change the viewers by giving us the right perspective, even if they’re all reinventing that perspective. In the anime she’s a bit of a deus ex machina, but at the same time she’s the punchline. Plus cockroach-tan is just pure awesomeness all around, of course.

In retrospect, Manabi Straight is an incredibly subtle series. Or rather, in good anime form, it makes an exaggeration of a lot of subtle things (or at least as much exaggeration as you can get with them). My favorite example is where we see what Manabi sees when she shows Taka-chan her vision of the future. Maybe that’s why Manabi Straight had such a big impact on me. When I saw her in that scene, I think “vision” rather than “hallucination” or “plan.” But that’s the only way to explain why she acted as if things have already came to being. It is a prophecy, but not really so pre-ordin-ary? LOL. She’s just working to fulfill her dream, I guess. But I like my interpretation, because it would explain why UFOTable gone the distance to stretch that simple scene for, like, 4 minutes. And with the softball, and water dripping, and of course, those ominous clouds. They were being subtle at being not so subtle to point out a subtle concept. What the hell, right? In real life, those moments come at us at light speed. You blink and it’s gone!

And in some ways 2007 ended at light speed too. Personally I’ve gone through a lot this year, some good, some bad. One really great moment was when I went to this rock concert and jumped around a lot (tip: see blog title). What was good at the show was not just the music and performance, but it was also fun jumping around with a few thousand other people (…and a lot of other things). The same feeling is the summit of the “Year in Review” serialization I’ve been posting–I want to share it with you why anime and all this related stuff like blogging or fandom or cons or music, and hopefully some of you will also share with us the same.

Speaking of jumping around, Jeff Lawson may not be a religious man, but I am not one either at least by the Christian sense. Or maybe I am, just one in disguise as your prototypical Asian-American anime fanboy blogger. But I am religious in the sense that I know to cross reference his ending comment with the parable of the mustard seed. Jesus is subversive, oh yes. And even if you are somewhat versed in the allegory, I recommend you to check out that Wikipedia link for the full picture of what it means.

In other words, what’s inside Manabi Straight is an authentic slice of life. It describes a simple but profound concept, that those who are fortunate enough to experience it in their own lives will likely to recognize it when they look for it in Manabi Straight. It’s not just a rainy afternoon or “going to high school.” It’s subversive, it’s not something you can bottle and sell, or teach and follow from a plan. It’s the fundamental essence of happy living. That’d make Manabi Straight the ultimate iyashikei anime–it not only makes you feel good, it gives you a road map to achieve happiness.

This is the 8th entry about 2007 highlights and awesomeness. まっすぐ Go!! And remember folks, even if my favorite anime is better than your favorite anime, you can まっすぐ Go!! too!