I can’t tell if this is working

mplayer2 works in the version of SMplayer I’m using. This was easy in Windows because I just downloaded the precompiled build from the site linked to at the mplayer2 website.

Doing stuff in *nix is hard though, especially since, despite the fact that I’ve used *nix operating systems for many years, I’m the worst type of noob; one who’s too lazy to learn. On Debian I had some trouble but I think I eventually got it working by using the latest version from here and trying various things until it seemed to be working.

But the fact of the matter is that I know so little about these things that I can’t tell if it’s playing the Hi10P files that I’m trying to open with it properly or not. For all I know, they’re being decoded improperly and I just can’t tell. I think everything is working fine though because when I used a version of mplayer that I knew for certain didn’t support 10 bit encodes I got the following error message and the video wouldn’t load at all (unlike in Windows with ffdshow and MPC-HC which wouldn’t complain at all but would play the file with various artifacts here and there that were pretty obvious):

Unsupported PixelFormat 72

But when I used the latest mplayer2 version the file did play and I didn’t see the obvious weirdness like I did when I used a version of MPC-HC and ffdshow that I knew wouldn’t play the file properly (I had done this intentionally so that I would know what it would look like when it wasn’t working, to help me be certain that I had gotten it working). But I’m really not so sure…just because there aren’t any error messages doesn’t mean things are hunky-dory.

Is this what things are supposed to look like? I really don’t know. It looks all right to me, I suppose, but I don’t have an eye for this kind of thing. The second Yuru Yuri one has some obvious banding by the lower left star, but this was apparent in 2 other versions of this episode that I’ve looked at as well and it’s a black background so it may not necessarily mean that I”m doing something wrong.

Actually, the thing that annoys me even more than being too dense to be able to tell if these files are playing properly is that I can’t figure out how to play files from SMB shares using mplayer2. I have nearly all of my video files on hard drives in a computer running Windows XP and I access them via the network from my TV with DLNA support as well as various other computers. If I try to open a video file from an SMB share in mplayer I get an error like this when I click Options->View Logs in SMplayer:

Playing smb://server/Video/filename.mkv.
No stream found to handle url smb://server/Video/filename.mkv

Exiting... (End of file)

I tried KMplayer too and got the same results. So I got Smb4K and mounted the shares and then tried playing some files again. It still didn’t work. I compiled mplayer with the –enable-smb option too. So I’m giving up for now and just copying whatever file(s) I want to play to the local drive and playing them that way. The irritating thing is that Totem Movie Player has no problem playing files from the SMB shares, whether they’re mounted or not. I want to use mplayer2 and SMPlayer though, not Totem.

Mawaru Penguin Drum: The curry of fate!

Looks yummy

Apparently Himari and I have one thing in common: we’re both allergic to milk. She’s so cute.

This outfit had the unfortunate side effect of reminding me of a cow-girl character in Toppara: Zashikiwarashi no Hanashi, by which I mean the bovine variety, not the Western cattle herder variety.

I like the part where the brothers break into Ringo’s room for good and noble reasons.

Ringo is still pretty scary though.

There are limits to how far the adage "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" can be strained and still be valid

I like Ringo’s little fantasy scene at Tabuki’s doorstep.

Noooo! Don't eat the Penguin Drum!

Unfortunately she runs into his real girlfriend and the connection between her curry and her fate is made clear as her curry comes into direct conflict with the non-fatal curry Tabuki’s girlfriend made in an unmistakable attempt to ruin Ringo’s life and destroy her very much not imagined relationship with Tabuki.


This episode made me very hungry. I just bought Fantasia on Blu Ray and watched some of it a few hours before watching this episode of Mawaru Penguin Drum. Perhaps for that reason I was specifically impressed by the mushrooom things in the house, which reminded me of the dancing amanitas in the movie, pictures of which I’m not brave enough to post and risk angering Disney.

There are lots of neat decorations like that in the show. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much. The environments aren’t bare and sterile like so many other programs in which the homes of the characters don’t look as though anybody really lives there.

I’m conflicted about which media player to use

But first some background information.

I acquired an iMac G5 this week for no cost. It’s got a 1.6 GHz PPC processor and it came with 512MB of PC3200 DDR RAM. At some point a year or more ago I was successfully running OS X Leopard on my AMD-based PC with an A8N5X motherboard. The HDD in that machine which had OS X on it failed and I never bothered reinstalling it, since it was so much trouble getting it working in the first place. As a result, I had nothing running OS X at all except for my G4 iBook and G4 snowball iMac, neither of which are the most practical of devices to use. In other words, I was very happy to have a machine that could run OS X that, though undeniably dated, is still useful.

I wish I had a Mighty Mouse to go with it

I looked around on search engines and found a PDF of the instruction manual. It says that this computer takes PC3200 DDR RAM, that it has 2 memory bays and, the best news contained in the manual, that it’s expandable up to 2GB. I said to myself, “I have all these computer parts lying about. I simply must have some unused PC3200 RAM that I can put into this G5″.

Unfortunately, I looked through all the Dell Optiplexes and similar that I have in my closet, and Yune, who I also keep in there, popped out and informed me that the closest thing I have are two 512 MB PC2700 modules. “2700 and 3200 are close enough to each other, right? That’s only a difference of 500”. Such thoughts drifted through my unsophisticated mind. I looked around on some more search engines to see if I could find out if this PC2700 RAM would work in the G5. I found mixed answers online so I decided to give it a try. In so doing I found out that it’s very easy to open these iMacs and you can’t lose the screws that hold the white outer shell together since they’re not actually completely removable. The RAM works fine. I tried putting in two sticks of 512MB PC2700 and it worked. It also worked when I mixed the 512MB PC3200 module with one 512MB PC2700 module. I did go ahead and buy some PC3200 since I feel odd about using the wrong type of RAM indefinitely, but it’s been working fine like this with one module of each type for two days.

The point of all that is to emphasize that my results are not at all scientific since I neither made actual measurements nor am I even using the type of RAM meant to be installed in this computer. With two PC3200 modules I would assume things would go 500 mystery units faster than they’re going right now.

So after installing Leopard on the machine and updating to 10.5.8 I went ahead and downloaded Mplayer OS X Extended, which is the media player I always use on OS X. I used it on my A8N5X setup and watched lots of 720p videos with it.

The conventional wisdom seems to be to use ffdshow-tryouts on Windows and mplayer on *nix and OS X. That’s fine by me. I’ve used xine and gstreamer on *nix but since I’m stupid and don’t like to read instructions I failed to figure out how to configure them to do what I wanted and ended up in a pattern according to which I always use mplayer frontends on *nix. So that’s more or less why I also use Mplayer OS X Extended on the rare occasions when I have a chance to play around in Mac OS X.

But when I tried using it on this G5 I was a little bit disappointed by the results. I first tried playing SD H.264 videos and had bad results in which the audio would play just fine but the video was decoded so slowly that it’d get stuck on a single frame for over 30 seconds at a time, while the audio, meanwhile, chugged away smoothly, ignoring the dilly-dallying video.

I checked the option in the Preferences menu to drop however the hell many frames are necessary but it still was no use; the playback was so slow it was unwatchable. Not that it’s surprising, but I got the same results with 720p material as well.

So I installed Perian and tried watching some SD material in Quicktime. I had similarly bad results. It would drop frames like crazy. It dropped frames to the extent that I would sometimes stop and wonder if it was even playing at all, seeming as it did that it had frozen on one frame. But sure enough, it was playing, just ridiculously slowly.

I was going to give up and conclude that this computer would be useful for word processing, web browsing and email and not much else when I remembered that troglodytes like me who cannot be bothered to properly configure things are often recommended VLC.

Ordinarily, I would not use VLC unless I had a video encoded with an extremely arcane codec that I could not play in any other player. I also use it sometimes to make Firewire video captures from my STB, because, unlike CAPDVHS, you can set it to play the material while it records. I wouldn’t actually watch a completed recording with it though. But I tried VLC on the G5 here and not only did it play my SD H.264 files perfectly, it surprised me and also played 720p material almost perfectly even with some really fancy karaoke (at least 3 lines of stylised karaoke: Japanese, romaji, and translated English lyrics). Artifacts like in the above image only actually occurred two or three times per 24-minute episode and even so, only for a second or two each time. The audio sync is also perfect, as far as I can tell. The video doesn’t look jerky either, which would have been an indication that at least some frames were being dropped to maintain speed. 720p plays with VLC on this G5 almost as well as it plays on my Phenom X4 9950 2.6GHz system with MPC-HC. It’s more than completely watchable.

I’m conflicted though. Cool people aren’t supposed to use VLC to actually watch videos. At least, that’s the impression I get. Maybe if I were more patient and willing to actually read documentation I could get Mplayer OS X Extended to play 720p or merely 480p as well as VLC does. It’s just that VLC accomplished all of this out of the box without any configuration by me at all. Like I always say, I suppose I should just enjoy this without complaining, but as usual when something nice happens, I’ve found something to be unsettled about in this otherwise fortuitous turn of events.

Summer 2011: There’s a lot of surveillance going on in Mawaru Penguin Drum

Once upon a time...

I’m glad that I’m still enjoying this show. Sometimes I’ll look forward to a show too much and it ends up being really devastating when it doesn’t live up to my high expectations that I groundlessly built up. Some shows have a spectacular first episode that grabs my attention immediately but then promptly loses my interest on the second episode. I’m also happy that this a 24-episode series, which I didn’t realise last week. The pantsu and oppai bits are a bit distracting though and frankly, something of a surprise. They’re not showbreaking though; just a bit out of character, perhaps.

The penguins sure do suffer a lot of abuse in this show. They should form a union or something; they’re working far too hard and in such dangerous conditions that they should be entitled to better compensation for their efforts. In this episode the theme is spying. The space penguin hat tells the brothers to get the Penguin Drum from this Ringo character, so all sorts of zany mishaps occur as they pursue her in secret. The penguins get lots of screentime in this episode to showcase their blunders, which I certainly enjoyed. There’s a funny scene in which Shouma is mistaken for a chikan and has to be saved by Kanba and his radiance.

Meanwhile, the penguins engage in various cute antics, including extensive elastic deformation and being put to work as Silly Putty.

But with all the silliness aside, it’s nice how the story had such an explicitly unifying theme to it; in order to get the Penguin Drum, the brothers are basically stalking Ringo, going so far as following her into an underwear shop. She in, turn, is stalking Tabuki. This is pointed out explicitly to the viewer through dialogue, but it’s still a satisfying revelation at the end of the episode. Kind of like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which all the little hints dropped throughout the episode come together to cause some extravagant culmination for Larry David where everything that has been building up comes crashing down from above all at once in the form of some crushing misfortune or injustice. It’s not quite as fulfilling as all that, since, unlike a sitcom, this show does have to have plot continuity, after all, so it’s not as though the whole deal can be resolved in a single episode, but the circularity of this episode did have a similar effect on me, nonetheless.

Hello? Operator? Get me the President of Television. I have a winning combination!

I liked seeing the penguins put to work. Penguin # 3 got to hang around the apartment though and generally be lazy. That wasn’t fair.

That Ringo girl sure is creepy though. I mean, a few loose screws or not, who in the world steps out on the ledge of a tall building just to photograph of a bird nest? Who hides in the space beneath a home to listen in on her unwitting crush?

I like more or less everything about this show and I’m fairly certain that, unless I get really, really distracted, I won’t drop it. I might stall eventually, as nearly always ends up happening to me, but I’ll probably watch the entire series with minimal delay between airtime and actually watching the episode. The only thing that bothered me about this episode is that it wasn’t until now that I realised that the penguins, though much cuter and obviously more likeable, nonetheless remind me of Beelzebub from Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. You know, he’s that annoying fly that actually eats shit.

Summer 2011: Still enjoying Usagi Drop

No, this isn't Rou Kyu Bu!

Now that the question of which shows are being simulcasted, which are unlicensed in U.S., and which are being oversubbed is more or less answered, I can enjoy these shows without worry because I now know that even the shows that are being simulcasted have groups working on them other than HorribleSubs. It does make me feel slightly guilty about downloading licensed shows, but meh, I’d even prefer to watch raws, pausing every few sentences to look words up in the dictionary rather than pay for legal anime that’s been professionally translated…if it comes down to that. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this peculiar situation that’s been going on for the last year or more where few people seem to care if shows are licensed in R1, since it sure seems unlikely to last more than two to three years before some Kazaa-esque debacle goes down and some 12 years old boy gets sued for downloading Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (I wonder if this sounds as stupid in Japanese as it does in English…).


But Usagi Drop is still great. It doesn’t make me less of a man that the shows I enjoy most are primarily mushy, touchy feely shows where characters grow, learn, and forge strong bonds with friends or family and learn the value of the intangibles in life. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that the fact that I watch shows targeted at little girls and women just shows how unshakably confident I am in my manliness, that it is not reduced an iota by biting at all the old tricks used to garner emotional investment from viewers is a testament to its might. It would be more correct to say that it’s actually increased by such willingness to easily succumb to more or less entirely visceral appeals for my sympathy.

I love how the viewer gets the feeling that Rin is the one acting as the parent, at times leading Daikichi both literally and figuratively, rather than the other way around. Simultaneously, we're shown just how much of a kid she really is, despite her hardiness and maturity for her age, when she becomes too embarrassed to be seen being carried on his shoulders in front of other children.

That’s not to say that there’s not good reason for the viewer to feel sympathy for Rin. Putting aside for a moment the fact that she’s completely adorable, the figure who has acted as her parent for most of her life is gone, she’s thrust into an unfamiliar environment in which it’s made quite obvious to her that she’s an undesired intruder, and, to top it off, Daikichi is not the most traditional of parental figures one can imagine. Lots of terrible, tragic things have happened to her so my urge to kidnap her and keep her here in my home so that I can hug her any time I want to is not entirely unreasonable, even without the cuteness.

Widdle win is sweepy...

Too cute...no comment necessary.

But all thought of the plot aside, she’s very cute. This is good. I like it. It could have been annoying, but the repetition of Rin waking Daikichi up, instead of the other way around, as we would expect to be the case with a responsible parent, was effective. When Daikichi reverses that pattern by waking her up at the end of this episode, the viewer is supposed to get this rising feeling in his or her chest, like “Awwww…ickle Daikichi’s growing up. Maybe things will be okay now”. That didn’t quite happen to me, but it worked well enough. It’s a gutsy move doing repeated scenes like that, since it could fail horribly and simply prove irritating and heavy-handed. This did feel a bit immoderate, but not so much that it felt unwatchably clichéd.

Awww; the phone is as big as her face!

The best part of the episode was while Daikichi was at work and Rin was at school and the scene kept switching between the two. The sense of sameness between Daikichi, working hard at his job, and Rin, working hard at nursery school and just being a kid in the face of all the horribleness that follows her about, is expressed without words, a good example of not laying it on too thick, as it were. At least I didn’t think it was too sickeningly blunt. It’s not too subtle though and you can’t really miss the big blinking sign that goes off and reads “Hey viewer! Look! They’re both growing!” but it’s still a reasonably reserved episode, maintaining the mellow pace that I found so attractive in the first one. It’s good to see Rin making friends, but then sad as their parents pick them up, one by one, leaving Rin alone eventually as she waits for her workaholic guardian.

I was often in Rin's situation in preschool, stuck spending time alone with teacher, waiting for someone to pick me up. Having a nice teacher helps.

Finally, I like the nocturnal enuresis thing. It’s not often that the topic is broached on TV. During the first episode I thought of the sleeping arrangements and said to myself, “Oh boy! There’s bound to be some urine jokes in this show”. Well not only was I right, but I didn’t even have to wait very long! A urine scene in the second episode! For Kiss x Sis we had to wait five whole episodes for this.

I'm OK with this.

This ranks up there with Mitsudomoe and Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! in terms of how prompt the onset of pee jokes is (episode 2 for all three shows).

Ah yes, no matter how old I get, pee never stops being funny.

Summer 2011: Usagi Drop

I don’t know how many more shows I’ll be watching this season, but this one will probably be on the list. In a rare deviation from my norm, I actually knew the basic premise of the show before watching it, unlike my usual practice according to which I watch shows based on how eye-catching the promotional artwork is. For this reason and this reason only, I was not disappointed by the conspicuous absence of bunny rabbits.

As with all high class art, the show begins with a funeral. Things can only get more upbeat from here, right? I hope not actually. The slowish pace and low key atmosphere established by the first episode work really well. This jives well with how little dialogue there is. The protagonist’s interest in Rin is conveyed through meaningful glances and changes in music and subtle shit like that.

I'm sick of characters gazing off into the distance like this, head filled with complicated thoughts. For all we know, Rin could be watching two squirrels fighting right here rather than having some convoluted internal dialogue about her uncertain future.

There’s a lot of contemplating going on here and rustling of bushes and wind. The imagery changes to suit the mood. Prior to the intro everything is all flowery and springtimey and idyllic:

This bloomy vaseline on the lens thing stops as soon as the funeral begins. Then there’s some neat use of lighting and framing to make the viewer feel the same mushy way about Rin that Daikichi does. Despite what a downer the guy seems to be, Rin takes a shine to him and they do some wordless bonding.

I’ve got to watch the next episode to see how I feel about the show. It may become clichéd and uninteresting. It somehow reminded me of Koi Kaze. I’m not entirely sure why, but perhaps it’s the pacing and mellowness of the first episode; it certainly wasn’t because my lolicon senses were tingling. There’s no hint of that here at all and I don’t say that sarcastically. If there were, it’d just ruin everything the show has going for it.

To restate my complaint from the other day though, why couldn’t Rin be ugly? She’s already unwanted. It’s not too much of a leap to make her ugly and fat or something. There are lots of people who think eyepatch girls, pegleg girls and even dialysis girls are moe, so don’t underestimate the ability of the audience to love a character. They don’t all have to be so damned adorable in an obvious way.

Summer 2011: Mawaru Penguin Drum

This is an interesting show. At the least, it’s quite beautiful. I will certainly keep watching it. I still don’t know what it’s all about, but at least I get the penguin bit now. It’s certainly good looking so far, with lots of bright, pretty colours and even some flowery iconography. Maybe that’s obligatory, I dunno.

I love how the place really looks lived-in

The viewer immediately notices that, in a way very similar to Utena, there are scenes in which all of the characters other than those in the main cast are drawn as simplified, anonymous figures, apparently close relations of the man on the men’s room door:

Not that I’m complaining, but I’d once like to see an anime in which the protagonist has a really ugly imouto who the viewer is supposed to love. That’d be a challenge for the viewer. I guess Kuragehime was a bit like that, though Tsukimi wasn’t anybody’s sister. Nonetheless she was supposed to be “ugly” or at least not “pretty” in a conventional way and still succeeded to be moe. Regardless, Himari is undeniably cute as a button:

There’s a little bit of a fairy tale vibe to the show. The three main characters are siblings, but the sister, who fulfills the Ill Girl trope, is a little bit princessy in that the doctors all said long ago that there’s nothing they can do for her and she has little time left to live, as so often seems to happen on TV. Every day is precious, or something like that, so the three value every day they have together. Anyway, that’s how they end up at the aquarium to see these fucking adorable penguins:

M-M-Moar cute penguins!

But oh noes! My favourite imouto dies!

I never saw this coming!

But it’s okay ‘cuz she has a special souvenir hat that revives her, albeit possessed by some spirit that says something or other about fate and the like. We’re warned that her life is prolonged only temporarily so we should be prepared to see this again:

So the cool part here is that once she’s revived using the power of this fate thing and the penguin hat, these penguins start helping out everywhere, finding the protagonist’s train pass, umbrella, killing roaches, sewing, and so forth.

So this is all pretty cool, so much so that I’d like some penguin helpers of my own, even if it means exceeding the 78 degree voluntary limit on air conditioning suggested by Mayor Bloomberg. The only problem is that only the three of them can see the penguins, despite how industrious and adorable they may be. What follows is a henshin scene for the ages. There’s no use taking screen captures of it (and besides, this page already probably takes 9001 minutes to load). There’s some great music in this scene too.

Is Himari being controlled by the hat? What is this about obtaining the Penguin Drum? Of course, the viewer is meant to be confused, but there is also the right amount of humour in here so that I’m genuinely eager to see the next episode. It’s also good that it’s nowhere near as experimental as it could have been. I love shows like Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei as much as the next guy and cannot really criticise it, but I can at least complain that it’s a lot of work to watch. The same is true for masterpieces like Ghost in the Shell; they require some effort on the part of the viewer to appreciate. While I’m not saying by any means that this was superficial, what I think I am saying is that it’s relatively easy to become immersed in the very first episode. It’s not so challenging in the beginning so as to be off-putting to viewers who aren’t interested in something that requires intent focus.

I suppose it’s required that I confirm that I didn’t miss this visual nod (or perhaps I’m imagining it):

No matter how many times you see it, pulling a sword out of somebody’s chest is really neat. I like this show and will continue to watch it. I will also continue to watch Yuru Yuri and Ikoku Meiro Croisee. I don’t know who’s cuter: Yune or Hinata