Some reactions to commentary on Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars
Now that I've actually watched Shingu I've been going back and reading commentary on it that I skipped over before in order to avoid spoilers, and of course I have some reactions to various bits of it. There are spoilers here, along with possibly too many words.
On one of Shingu's mysteries
Note: contents contain spoilers for Shingu.
Linux DVD players for anime
For my future reference if nothing else, based purely on watching Shingu on DVD:
Xine on Fedora 8 has much better handling of DVDs than even a bleeding edge mplayer, but mplayer has better deinterlacing and keyboard controls for pausing and so on so I used mplayer. Mplayer did turn the subtitles to mush in a few places so I went back and re-read them with xine. More modern versions of Xine may have better deinterlacing, which would probably make it almost completely superior.
Different players have somewhat different renditions of subtitles. My Xine shows them as solid yellow text; mplayer shows them as semi-transparent white text. Most of the time I prefer mplayer's style, at least when it's not garbling the subtitles.
(The Fedora 8 xine also has the irritating habit of leveling the left and right audio channels when it starts. I deliberately have mine slightly off balance because that's what it takes to sound right in my setup.)
gmplayer -nocache -vf yadif dvd://N, where N is the
episode/title on disk; at least for Shingu,
yadif was the best option
for deinterlacing out of the ones that my old computer could do in real
time. Occasionally I needed '
-aid ID' as well to make mplayer use the
Japanese audio track (by default I believe mplayer picks the first audio
track; on most of the Shingu DVDs this was Japanese, but on one it was
English). You want to stop and start gmplayer to change between titles
or otherwise change parameters; when I did it from the gmplayer menus,
the very bottom bit of the picture got this shifting green cast. I could
not get mplayer's DVD menu support to work at all well, so I did not
attempt to use it.
(I suspect that live action may call for quite different deinterlacing options than anime.)
I admit that it was periodically tempting to give in and download a fansub for Shingu, despite having the DVDs. I suspect I would have had somewhat better visual quality (since someone who knew what they were doing would have deinterlaced it well) and a better rendition of the subtitles.
(As I mentioned in my reactions, modern softsubs are clearly better than DVD subtitles. This should be unsurprising; among other things, modern subtitles are higher resolution.)
PS: the sign that one's anime DVD needs deinterlacing is that things moving sideways get this comb effect at the edges, as half the pixel lines are displaced relative to the other half. It's very visible.
PPS: if people have opinions on the best Linux DVD player for anime and the best settings for this, I'd love to hear them. I can't say I've done extensive experiments here.
Reactions to Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars
(It amuses me that the shipping to Canada was almost as expensive as the DVD release itself.)
So here, have some reactions and notes:
- everyone who has praised this has done so for a good reason. It is
totally worth your time (and your $20).
I'm pretty sure that this will make my best N of 2011 when I write it. It easily would have made my best N of 2010 if I had seen it last year.
(If you want to have a completely unsullied and un-influenced viewing of the show, stop reading now.)
- Nayuta is great. It's a good thing, because she is at the heart of
(You can tell that she is the real protagonist because she is the character who gets the real emotional development over the course of the series. By contrast, Hajime barely changes.)
- Someone should do a 'many faces of Nayuta' page, if it hasn't
already been done somewhere (this
and this give you
a taste of what it would be like). It doesn't need to be distorted
faces, because the animators give Nayuta so many normal expressions
too. Even her eyebrows are expressive.
(There's one scene where she goes through about three or four emotions in a row, and it's all done through the eyebrows.)
- I think Romi Park's voice
acting for Nayuta is the first time I've been conscious of how good a
job a seiyuu was doing. It's not that it's
showy (in fact it's basically invisible), but her delivery completely
supports Nayuta's various emotional shifts that result in all of those
expressions. Without such a convincing emotional delivery, the rest
of it would fall flat; instead, it's so well done that I didn't even
notice, it was just perfectly real.
(Yes, I'm being neurotic in writing her name as 'Romi Park' instead of the more common 'Romi Paku' or 'Paku Romi'.)
- I like how Hajime's room is realistically messy. Shingu is full of
little details like that.
- like other people, I did not find the OP or ED to be particularly
impressive. Neither song particularly grabbed me, and only the OP
is animated (the ED is scrolling text).
- it's interesting how fast the look of animation gets dated. Shingu
was made in 2001, but it looks very different from recent animation
and comes across as seeming fairly old-fashioned. One of the things
I particularly noticed is that static shots shake very slightly, I
suspect from cell alignment not being completely precise from photo
to photo, whereas I'm now used to shots being absolutely rock-solid
(because they are at least computer composited if not entirely digital).
Also, I'm spoiled; DVD resolution now looks dowdy compared to the routine use of 720P in fansubs. And I maintain that modern fansub subtitles really do look much better than DVD subtitles.
- I think it's best to carefully ignore what the show tells you about how Hajime's mother does her work. The work is fine and realistic; the details of how it's done, not so much (if nothing else, the memorization bit). Even given that this was made in 2001, I have no idea what the staff were thinking.
Vague spoiler warnings for the following:
- I'm happy that the show did not attempt to explain the situation
with Muryou. Some things are fine to remain mysterious because
they ultimately don't matter to what the show is about.
- the more I think about it, the more I can understand the emotional
logic of why Nayuta winds up making a connection to Hajime. Out of
all of the people around her, Hajime is both an outsider (and so not
influenced by the baggage of who and what she) and someone who is
in on the secrets so she can be open around him.
(Muryou does not count as an outsider, not in this way.)
- given that Momoe Sanemori (the Sanemori matriarch) is around 113
years old, she may not literally be Nayuta's grandmother but a
step or two further away. On the other hand, who knows; Nayuta
does specifically call her 'grandmother', and Japanese does have
a specific term for great-grandmother.
(We know Momoe's age from the rediscovered old school movie. It was explicitly made exactly 100 years ago, and in it Momoe is a middle schooler just like Nayuta is now.)
I have other things to say about Shingu, but they're going to wind up in separate entries because this got long.