Television: Persona 4 (2011)

Started watching this on Hulu and (if you'll excuse the pun) got sucked in. I haven't watched anime in a really long time, but hey, this one has Tarot cards! And like so many anime, it has a convoluted plot that still somehow manages to be highly entertaining.

The story, best as I can follow, goes something like this: Narukami Yu (I'm doing this in the Japanese style with surname first) moves out of the big city to live with his uncle and cousin for a year while his parents are abroad. The town he moves to is sometimes covered in fog, and this usually coincides with some kind of death or murder. There's also something called "Midnight TV," where if you watch at midnight on a rainy night, you will supposedly see your soul mate. Narukami tries this one night and nearly gets sucked into the television set, but (luckily?) the set is too small for him to fit through.

When he mentions as much to the two classmates who have more or less adopted him as a new friend, they suggest going to the Junes—basically their version of a Wal-Mart—and trying one of the big-screen TVs on display. And so all three promptly get sucked in. Well, in Fushigi Yuugi it was an ancient book or scroll or whatever, so . . . ::shrug::

Shadow creatures attack. Tarot cards begin turning up to lend their "personas" to our adventurous heroes. And Narukami realizes the girl he saw on the television was the next to die; turns out, the person you see is not your soul mate so much as the next victim.

Has all the markings of a Japanese horror movie, really. But with a fantasy/anime twist.

The anime is based on a video game, but since I don't play video games, I can't really say much about the connection(s) between the two. I only know I find the anime very good, and am grateful Hulu offers it subtitled because I hate dubs.

I'm already sad thinking I'll eventually catch up and won't have any more episodes to watch . . .

Television: Doctor Who, "Listen"

Only a few minutes into this episode it became patently clear that either (a) we were going to have a re-tread of a Silence-like entity, or (b) this hypothesis the Doctor was working from was really all in his head. And so what we were really left with was another episode that pretended to be cleverer than it actually was.

Which isn't to say it was bad. It wasn't, not entirely. The stuff between Clara and Pink was pretty good. In fact, I found myself thinking that of all the people on the screen, Samuel Anderson has decent potential for a big screen career. I can definitely picture him there.

And the Doctor had some good lines, particularly about Clara's mirror and her eyes.

"Listen" was also designed, I suspect, to give hints about Pink's past, Clara's future, and the Doctor's upbringing, if not about the possible end of the Universe. Because it definitely hinted at there being something out there, unseen, the Doctor's childhood influences notwithstanding.

The Doctor also once again displayed a certain lack of empathy in manipulating the situation even at the expense of others' comforts. I'm starting to think Moffatt is poaching Sherlock for this version of the Doctor: more interested in ideas than feelings, except when the feelings are part of the experiment.

Still, never having had a nightmare about someone under my bed grabbing my leg, or even just a nightmare about someone under my bed at all, I found it hard to relate. I have many vivid dreams and remember most of them. But I think I'm more likely to be the thing others dream of having under their beds . . . That's just more my style.

Book Review: Everyone Loves Clowns by Thomas Cranham

This collection of stories (and illustrations by various artists) has potential but could do with some solid editing. Admittedly, I was reading on my computer, so some of the formatting problems might not appear in a hard copy of the book. But there are some punctuation issues, some places where the tenses change . . . Little things that an old hand like me find difficult to overlook. The errors pull me out of the stories.

And a tendency toward a love of too many typefaces, which is often taken as the sign of an amateur. (I know because I did the same thing when I was starting out and have learned enough since to cringe when faced with the flowery fonts of my older works.) Rule of thumb: Choose ONE title typeface and stick with it throughout. I know! There are so many good ones it's difficult to choose! But choose one must.

The anthology itself is squarely set in the horror genre and each tale takes place in the town of Matlock (England). And the stories themselves are often good ideas that need a bit more work. Tightening here and there, for example. I really enjoyed "The Ghost of Bone Mill Road and the Infinite Man"—which included some lovely photographs—but felt there wasn't enough distinction between the voices of the two letter writers, and also found the letters to be too story-like and not, well, like real letters.

The idea behind "Oh, to Be Alive," is again a cute one—a zombie trying to make a case for his kind and their rights.

Sort of a hit-and-miss mixture here.  Reading Everyone Loves Clowns (and even the title feels a bit generic) gave me the sense I was seeing the dawning of a potentially strong writing talent. But it's still clearly in the early stages. I hope Cranham keeps at it and continues to develop his craft.