Monthly Archives: May 2011

Anime That Doesn’t Suck…Next Installment Preview…

This is the intro to Bleach, another awesome animated series that is also, like Black Butler, based on a manga series of the same name.  I just wanted to give you a sneak peek of the next installment by clueing you in to the, arguably, pretty awesome theme by Orange Range.   This song has been in my head for a week.  The sorta rap-py, bouncy lyrics make me happy.  The animation plays well with it, too.  That was extremely well thought out.  I love the early 90s-ish scene of people leaving different-coloured footprints.  Fun.  Anyway… hope you dig it!


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Anime that doesn’t suck…First installment

I am all over the place in this blog!  I just wanted to share something that I have learned and in which the internets have been of little value…

Usually if I am interested in finding out about something that I am not familiar with, I go to google and I type the subject in and I find someone who knows something about it and lots of information as to how they came to their conclusions.  Usually.  Unfortunately there is not really a firm guide for folks who consider themselves mature, functioning adults who just happen to also like anime. 

Firstly, I want to reassure you that, yes, you can be an adult and like animated shows.  I am not stating this just because I and nerd-kind embrace you and love you for who you are but SOCIETY, though they may try to hide it, also encourages you to enjoy that which you love: animated shows. 

Exhibit A: The Simpsons.  It’s one of the longest running shows in the world.  Seriously it just keeps coming and coming.  And why?  Because millions of people watch it. 

Exhibit B: Family Guy.  It’s one of the the most popular shows in Primetime, as noted by this article on Wikipedia:

            “Family Guy has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards and 11 Annie Awards, and has won three of each. It has garnered three Golden Reel Award nominations, winning once. In 2009, it was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, the first time an animated series was nominated for the award since The Flintstones in 1961.”

I can’t make this stuff up, folks…

Exhibit C: Adult Swim.  After a certain time in the evening, there is a whole channel devoted to animated shows for adults.  Ever seen the Venture Brothers?  It is probably one of the funniest shows on TV and, while animated, it is very obviously created for and by adults. 

So now you know it’s not just you, coming home from your office in your suit and tie, closing the blinds and switching on the Venture Brothers.  It’s the majority of America.  We don’t have to hide in shame!  Open those blinds!  Let everyone see you in your wife-beatered-boxered-chip-eating-cartoon-watching glory!

Anyway, I am done justifying my lifestyle for now and I will climb off of my soap box to tell you what I have learned…  This will be the first installment of a series as I find more anime that I enjoy!  May as well add another layer of information to the blog…

Black Butler

Firstly, the theme for this show is unexpectedly catchy.  I find myself humming it a lot, especially the last 20 seconds or so.  This is the full song.  The theme for the show begins at 1:20 (then they take out 1:24-1:31, but you get the gist).  The pictures on the video are, I think, from the manga the show is based on.  The illustrations in the show are a little less compact, the lines are lighter, and Sebastian has a slightly different facial structure.  Wow, nerdy much?  Anyway…

Well, the chorus is anyway…

This show debuted in 2008, but wasn’t released here until last year.  It is based on a manga series of the same name.  Okay, so the plot is just, well, odd… The show is set in Victorian England, mainly at a sprawling estate called the Phantomhive manor.  The main character is the 12 year-old master of the estate, Ciel, who was  orphaned at a young age after the murder of his parents.  He is heir to Phantomhive Toys (the presumed source of his fortune) and serves as the “young” Queen Victoria’s “dog,” enforcing order and investigating paranormal “cases,” Gothic-animated-X Files style.  To further the already twisted narrative: after the death of his parents, Ciel forges a Faustian-style contract with a demon to be always at his side and to help him in his quest for vengeance for the death of his parents in exchange for his soul.  The demon, Sebastian, becomes his “butler” at the estate and, to all intents and purposes, serves in that position in every aspect, but also helps him solve England’s problems one step at a time.   He wears an eye patch to cover the mark which seals their agreement.

This show is, at times, cheesy.  For instance, the punch line that is in every episode after a seemingly impossible task is accomplished by Sebastian and an onlooker (there is always some “bystander,” like an aunt, or cousin, or visitor who isn’t clued in to the unusual arrangement between Ciel and his “butler”) asks how he accomplished such a thing.  He turns to the camera and says “Because, madame, I am one hell of a butler.  If I couldn’t do something so small for my master, what kind of butler would I be?”  Or something very close to that.  Hell.  Of a butler.  Because he’s a demon.  Butler.  Cheese to the nth.  Also, until the last few episodes, the four members of the house staff are the quintessential exaggerated anime characters.  They spend most of their time being extremely clumsy and destroying things in the house but are always forgiven.  The characters, which provide the slap-stick comic relief, so you can see my point, are…

Mey-Rin: a maid in her mid 20s whose thick glasses do nothing to prevent her clumsiness.  She refuses to take them off or change them because they were the first gift Ciel gave her when she moved into the manor.  She has a strong British-ish accent that doesn’t follow any particular dialect, but seems to suggest that she is from a poor background.  It’s not until the end of season one that you see that she is much more than a clumsy maid.

Bardroy: the American cook, also in his mid 20s, who rarely cooks anything, but rather destroys things by trying to cook with flamethrowers and participating in other ridiculous shenanigans.  You also find out that his purpose in being at the estate is much more than it seems at the end of the season.

Finnian: is the gardener who you would assume was in the same age range, but looks like he is a pre-teen.  It’s never stated how old he is, but he seems young and innocent.  He tends to break things with super-human feats of strength.  At first, it seems this is just part of the exaggeration of his character as an air-headed lummox, but soon seems to be one of his actual qualities. (On a side note, what’s with the token “mentally challenged” character in animes?  Bleach, anybody?  You have no idea what I’m talking about…) Anyway, he is the bleeding heart of the group.  He over-emotes anytime something sad happens which, in this show, is basically all the time.  His purpose, like the others, also becomes clear at the end of the show.

Tanaka: Tanaka is the house manager who, for some reason, is miniature and can’t talk unless he has a burst of energy.  Then he becomes a sophisticated, intelligent house manager who is extremely loquacious and helpful.  He tends to be deflated and can only make laughing sounds 90% of the time, but always seems to expand to his full potential when his advice is needed the most. 

Then there are the side characters, a towering “demon hound” named Pluto, the “young” Queen Victoria and her assistant, a young lady named Angela who first tamed Pluto, Ciel’s aunt-Lady Red, a cache of rogue-ish grim reapers, Ciel’s pre-arranged fiancee, Elizabeth, and so on and so forth.

It’s just a mish mash of paranormal stuff.  And by now, I am certain you are thinking, “How is this good?  It just sounds utterly bizarre.”  And you are partially right!  It is outright bizarre!  It still, somehow, manages to be one of the most compelling shows I have ever watched. 

It is fantasy/paranormal/historical fiction at its most strange, but brightest.  The first few episodes are light and silly and fun to watch just for their novelty but then the show takes a serious turn and becomes this nightmarish, apocalyptic, dystopian phantasm.   You watch as the “arrangement” between Sebastian and Ciel, characters both cold and seemingly devoid of emotion, seems to become a mutual trust in and care for each other and then seems to flip back to strictly business.  You never know how to feel for either character or how to read their intentions and it makes the experience so rich as you can’t help but feel torn yourself.

There are so many facets to the story, but I don’t want to give anything, not a single thing, away.  It is so much better to discover each for yourself.  I can’t remember a time I have watched something so vivid and imaginative as this.  It is bizarre, unmistakably Japanese, and unforgettable.  The characters are simultaneously ridiculous and impossibly engaging.  It is rare that I find anime that I like because I have very specific standards, but this is one of the more surreal and indelible shows I have seen of any genre, and while its just fantastical presentation and singular components make it a strange thing to approach, it is worth every second spent watching it.

     “If it’s your wish, I will follow you everywhere.  Even if your throne crumbles and your shiny crown truns to rust.  Even if the bodies pile up endlessly.  Above the bottomless pile of corpses, beside you as you lie, softly, down, I will be until I hear the words “Check.  Mate.”

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Nescafe Taster’s Choice

Hey, ya’all.  I know I told you recently about some opportunities to be “testers” for certain products…

Here’s where it gets real, yo.  I am a Taster for Nescafe Taster’s Choice and the perks are unreal.  I just wanted to re-iterate how awesome it is to be a part of the community and that you should join as well! 

They just updated their website and it’s super user friendly.  The game section is fun.  There is an old-school Snake game where you catch coffee beans without eating your tail.  It wasted some time for me and if, like me, your work blocks most games, you will take what you can get.  In this case, I actually had a lot of fun.  I haven’t played Snake since I got a cell phone that wasn’t the size of a 2 liter of Pepsi.  Remember when that’s the only game that came on your cell phone?  Man, I do.  The phone that I shared with my sister… That was bigger than my hands, easily…it had a cover with foreign stamps on it that you had to remove the face plate and click onto the back part to use… and it had horrible midi ringtones that sort of sounded like songs that you dig… and the cover had a fake flip part that covered the keys but otherwise served no function… Ah, the 90s…

You know, mother, this phone isn't as convenient as I thought it would be... I used to be able to ignore you when you called and asked me if I have a girlfriend yet... No, mother, I am not "the gay." Don't call me back at this number.

Anyway, I got some pleasant childhood-type nostalgia playing.

If you want to become a member, like myself, and get some sweet perks (I’m talking gift certificates for engaging in the community) go here.  It’s fun, inclusive, feels like a community, and you earn rewards for your participation pretty fast!  I dig it.

Definitely check out their new website, because it is a great time spender when you are sipping on a cup of coffee, playing with your phone when your boss isn’t looking, bored of Minesweeper, tired of fluorescent lights and needing something to get your mind back up and running, or however you roll.

The coffee break section is a much needed departure from listening to my cube-mates talking about any inane thing that comes to mind…

Also, as a side note, I generally don’t like instant coffee, but since I tried the Hazelnut version of this stuff, I am hooked.  It is so smooth and delicious…tastes like coffee, not chemicals, and there’s no mealy coffee bits in the bottom of my cup when I’m done.   Yum.  Usually, I feel kind of cheap trying to sell people on a product, but this stuff is truly an easy, cheap fix and it beats the stale coffee in the coffee pot which has never been washed, in the kitchen which is suspended in a wafting perma-funk of dead mouse smell and in which I have personally seen live mice…
No thanks, work coffee, I don’t need to wake up that desperately… I keep Nescafe Taster’s choice packets in my desk and grab some hot water from the Keurig machine up front that’s for “customers.”  No one will begrudge me some water, yes? 

Get back to memories of your first cell phone with the Nescafe Snake game…


Super fun…

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Quasi-Raw: 3 Bean Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa and Avocado Mousse

I have not posted here in over a MONTH!  Have you missed me?  I have missed you, my two readers.  Anyway… On to business and blogging!  Pictures are coming tomorrow… I forgot to bring my camera with me to work 😦  where I am currently blogging… and sipping coffee…and surfing the internet… I love my job.

My absolutely nutty parents watched a documentary about 5 days ago about the benefits of raw food.  Since watching this (where a man stated that eating over 50% of your food cooked can cause auto-immune diseases and so on and so forth), they have decided to only eat about 20% of their food cooked, so it has been a week of museli, salad, and tomato and avocado cubes…

Mostly delicious!  The real highlight so far, though, has been last night’s meal.  My mom was ill, so I sort of grabbed the reins and made dinner for the fam.  Since we are going by the 20% rule, dinner is the only meal in which we eat cooked items. 

For the main course, I used store-bought corn tortillas and made the filling a cooked bean mixture.  Other than that, I topped it with fresh shredded romaine, cilantro, and home-made tomatillo salsa.  The tomatillos lend a crisp sweetness to the mix and also have a lot of naturally-occurring pectin in them.  They will keep your salsa tasting like it was just made. 

It’s a very bright and fresh spring dish.  You should definitely try it at home.  I would order this meal even if I weren’t eating raw.  It was filling, flavourful, and hearty.

Tomatillo Salsa
makes about 2 cups

1 tomatillo, quartered
5 tomatoes, quartered
1 large shallot (about 1/2 cup of diced product)
1 jalapeno with seeds removed
large handful of cilantro

Place ingredients in blender.  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

3 Bean Tacos
makes about 12 tacos

For this recipe, you can use any beans or lentils that you would like.  I just used what I had on hand.

1/2 onion, diced
1/2 14 oz. can Rotel tomatoes (or any blend that has tomatoes and green chiles)
1 15 0z. can Pinto Beans
1 15 oz. can Black Beans
1 15 oz. can Red Kidney Beans
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano (preferably Mexican oregano, but the Italian kind works just as well…)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Store-bought corn tortillas

Start by sauteeing the onions in a little bit of cooking spray.  When the onions are golden brown, drain and add the beans and tomatoes.  Add the seasonings and combine.  The spices soak up a lot of moisture, so if the mixture looks dry, add a little water. 
Simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Top corn tortillas with bean mixture, fresh lettuce, cilantro, and salsa. 

I know this sounds totally weird, but avocados are delicious for desserts!  Since their flavour is so subdued, they lend a creamy base for any fruits you want to add to create either a raw fruit pudding or sorbet.  Since it is so creamy and has healthy fats in it, it has the texture of pudding when it first comes together and, when frozen, comes out like silky ice cream.  Yummy.

Avocado Mousse
4 servings, about 1/2 cup each

1 avocado, quartered
2 kiwis, cut into thirds
1 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
1 mango, quartered
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
(If you are keeping the mixture overnight-add 1/2 tsp fruit pectin to keep it bright green)

Blend the ingredients together until smooth.  For mousse, spoon mixture into cups (if you’re not too strictly raw, a little bit of graham cracker crumbs in the bottom makes for a delicious textural contrast) and serve.  For “ice cream”: Pour mixture into bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.  Freeze for 2 hours.  To keep the mixture from getting rock hard, you should drag a fork through it to “fluff” it every fifteen to twenty minutes.

Delectable, light, filling, and refreshing, this makes for the perfect spring-time meal… 

SERIOUSLY.  EAT THIS SHIT.  Your body will love you…

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