English: Example canon/common law relationship chart showing the relation between a grandson (blue) and a great-great-great-great grandson (red) is first cousins, removed 4 times (purple diamond). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here in our house, we tend to open our Xmas gifts to each other on Xmas eve. We used to have presents from "Santa" that I would wait until Xmas day to open. Back when both sets of grandparents were alive in the 1980s, and living only a few hours apart in Missouri, we'd spend Xmas Eve with the maternal grandparents, then drive up to the paternal grandparents to spend Xmas Day with them and meet the extended relatives from that side of the family. Alas, all of that generation in our family have passed on, and now that it has fallen to the aunts and uncles and cousins, we have adjusted our family rituals and meet the weekend after Thanksgiving for a combination celebration that is part Thanksgiving and part early Xmas. This year was no different. In past years, even post 2000, when we started doing this, it got cold enough to snow in Sikeston, MO, yes, 2 days after Thanksgiving even. Not this year, however. This year it was a rainy, dreary mess. It rained the whole time, so we were stuck indoors, unable to take walks around the old neighborhood, etc. Since I'm an only child, I don't have nieces or nephews to dote on, but what I do have are the children of my first cousins, which are technically known by the cumbersome title of "First Cousin, Once Removed". They are not "Second Cousins", that describes their relationship to each other among their peer group in the family. Anyway, I have a grand total of 3 "First Cousins, Once Removed" at this point and being the good FCOR that I am myself, it being the best I can do as a kind of surrogate uncle, I have decided to dote on them the way most uncles and aunts do for their nieces and nephews. I am also planting seeds, trying to grow the next generation of Anime & Manga fans. For my FCOR from South Carolina, a bright young 3rd grader named True (it's a Southern thing), I gave him copies on DVD of volume 1 of original NARUTO and FUNimation's volume 1 of One Piece, i.e. starting with Episode 1. He's only nine, so he might as well get started on One Piece now, if he develops an interest in it. For my other pair of FCOR's, a pair of sisters, Maddy and Finley, I gave them a joint gift of Season 1, Parts 1 & 2, of the Blu-Ray/DVD BangZoom! re-dub of the original series of Sailor Moon, put out by VIZ and featuring the voice talents of Stephanie Sheh as Usagi/Sailor Moon, Michelle Ruff as wise cat Luna, and Cristina Vee as Sailor Mars, among others. Since Maddy has a birthday close to Christmas, I also got her a white and pink baseball hat from our local minor league sports team, the Sugar Land Skeeters, and a white and pink baseball with the team logo on it as a keepsake. I genuinely hope my FCsOR grow to love anime through these gifts. Maybe they will, maybe they won't, all I can do is plant some seeds. It's kinda funny, but I did actually watch all their copies of Sailor Moon all the way through for myself before finally gifting it to them. I liked the series so much, I went ahead and got myself Part 1 of Season Two, a.k.a. "Sailor Moon R", also the Blu-Ray/DVD combo put out by VIZ. Speaking of VIZ, I also took in and watched Ep.1-6 of Sailor Moon Crystal on their Neon Alley website. It was interesting, and has a more "modern" look in terms of animation, and is tonally more serious and with tighter storytelling. The various Sailor Scouts are introduced in very short order, one after the other, and most strikingly different is Sailor Mars, who seemed gruff and independent and took a long time to warm up to Usagi in the original series. In Crystal, Rei/Sailor Mars has felt like kind of a freak and and outcast her whole life, always knowing she was "different" somehow...so she expresses almost a sense of relief when Usagi and Ami turn up at her grandfather's Shrine.
With NARUTO and One Piece, I did sample both Episode Ones from both shows, just to get a "feel" for them and to see if they would be age appropriate for a 3rd grader. They passed muster, I felt, and upon actually meeting and interacting with True for the first time, who has an impressive vocabulary for his age, I think he can handle these shows just fine. He sent me a nice "Thank you" note, even. I also threw around a football with him in my aunt's basement. We had to do so very carefully so as to not knock over anything valuable. Luckily we didn't. He got to see that I am clueless when it comes to properly throwing a football; He said humbly that he wasn't very good, but I pointed out he was way better than me. Though I did manage to catch nearly every single throw he sent my way, though it was a Nerf ball so that helped. We also played pool on the billiards table, or at least his abridged understanding of the game as taught to him by my uncle (his great uncle). I continued to play the game as it's supposed to be played, but let him play his version on his turn. I still beat him (I think our Uncle had let him win when they played) but we still had fun, and True needed a check on his cockiness after "beating" my uncle at the game. We also played a long hand of UNO to pass the rainy afternoon. It was a 3 person game including True's mom, my first cousin. He was more fixated on dealing out punishment to his mother in-game in revenge for making him play this stupid card game in the first place such that I managed to win by dealing out my "punishments" in a more even-handed manner and with some deliberate strategy.
Christmas proper this year was fun, too, I guess. Though the weather in Texas is crazy warm this year...humid, reaching the 80s for a high, muggy and unpleasant and partly cloudy. Hardly feels like Christmas at all. My parents and I exchanged our minor gifts last night. I got a rad book-themed neck tie that I look forward to wearing to work at the library, and a nice new pair of sensible black dress shoes, to augment and replace the Rockports that I've been using as part of my Star Trek cosplay ensemble, which got severely water-damaged in Galveston this year at Oni-Con XII, where it also rained nearly all the time, too. All that rainfall takes a psychological toll. It killed my enthusiasm for Sunday panels at Oni-Con, it put my dad into a depressive funk in Missouri this year, too. I also got in my latest Megatokyo poster on Christmas Eve in a shipping tube, and I look forward to putting it up in my cubicle at work. It's the one that features all of the major characters lined up in tall thin panels, back to back to back.
I was considering maybe going to Star Wars today, but since Christmas is a popular day for movies, and since there's still the weekend ahead of us, I think I shall wait until Saturday or Sunday before trying to squeeze in a matinee screening of the new Star Wars movie. Today I'm just going to read, go for another long walk listening to J-Rock/J-Pop tunes, and maybe go work out at my gym (which re-opens at 3pm today).
My biggest Xmas present to myself was moving the Roku3 back up to my TV finally and staying up really really late watching the hell out of many many shows on The Anime Network, after having neglected The Anime Network for far too long. It was such a blast, and I'm surprised how many sub-only shows I indulged myself with, too. Not normally my thing, but I allowed myself to partake....Space Brothers, Reideen, Stella Women's Academy, et. al. Many many continuations consisting of 5th episodes to shows I'd seen Episodes 1-4 of at Alamo Drafthouse but never followed up on until now. I spend a large chunk of the evening filling up my to-watch queue that was empty when I started, though I have to admit I find FUNimation's queue system superior, since it saves entries at the show-level rather than all-the-episodes-of-a-show the way The Anime Network seems to do.
Speaking of FUNimation, I'm having issues with their payment system, I'd hoped that switching back from a gift card subscription to regular CC deductions would go smoothly but alas, no. Owing to complications, the details of which are unimportant, my FUNimation account is currently inactive and I'm in "non-subscriber" status, which I discovered by accident only last night, when my FUNimation players started acting screwy, only giving me access to 2 to 4 episodes per show, etc. When I logged on via their website, I saw what the problem was and groaned. Anyway, I resolved to address it only after the New Year. It's not like I'm hurting for anime to watch right now....from exploring and deeply indulging in The Anime Network (aka all those Sentai Filmworks shows and old ADV films rescues), to exploring more of ad-supported Crunchyroll's offerings, to Neon Alley on occasion, to all of my Hoopla shows I've yet to finish (I'm a maniac completionist when it comes to that), to all the new Netflix anime I'm working my way through, to holy fuck all the shows I have left unstarted on unfinished on physical media that I still need to get around to, including Book Four of The Legend of Korra (deeply embarrassed I still haven't finished it)....all if which is a long-winded way of saying I'm not exactly in any particular hurry to re-subscribe to FUNimation anytime soon. I'm super incredibly grateful I was able to power through and finish all of the extant season of The Slayers, having finished Slayers: Evolution-R only recently. I'd be way more upset if my FUNimation woes had started before I'd finished that final season. I'm now hoping for Sentai Filmworks to maybe license rescue and release and DUB the rest of the Slayers movies. Cynthia Martinez replaced Lisa Ortiz as Lina Inverse for the first movie put out by then ADV Films. I suspect ADV Films would've continued licensing and releasing the subsequent movies had they not gone bankrupt. I would love it if Sentai Filmworks circled back around to rescue these movies for future release. Speaking of license rescues, it was interesting to browse The Anime Network's full catalog of shows, and spot those older shows. Some are really weird, like having the rights to the original ADV Films release of Divergence Eve with English dub but NOT the subtitled version. Other shows where I know an English dub exists but Sentai Filmworks only bought the rights to the original Japanese sub version. I actually had managed to watch Season 2 of Divergence Eve: The Misaki Chronicles first, before ever watching Divergence Eve the original series. I rectified that last night by watching Episode 1 of the original show and found it just as bizarre and confusing as the 2nd season. Mainly watched it for Kira Vincent Davis's performance as lead character Misaki. So many anime I've got on my to-watch list, really. I will only really miss my FUNimation subscription again once the next batch of Fairy Tail dubbed episodes drop, which might be awhile yet. I was enjoying Free! and also slowly getting into Rolling Girls, but really, those shows can wait. Since FUNimation has dropped out of regular participation in Anime at the Alamo nights, they've got their work cut out for them in reaching me with new information about upcoming releases, etc. If I don't see it in Otaku USA online or Anime News Network, or from friends on Facebook, I'm probably not going to be fully aware of it right away. In this sense, Sentai Filmworks starts 2016 with a distinct advantage competing for my eyeballs over FUNimation. I still adore FUNimation and especially Fairy Tail, but damn yo. I can quit you for now and still be okay until those new Fairy Tail episodes come out. I'm also continuing to test the waters of Crunchyroll for certain specific shows that I know by reputation or by virtue of having read the manga that's out for it so far....Nisekoi, Bakemonogatari, et. al. On Hoopla, I'm determined to go and finish all the episodes of Super Robot Wars Original Generation: Divine Wars (スーパーロボット大戦OG -ディバイン・ウォーズ- Sūpā Robotto Taisen Ōjī Dibain Wōzu?) that Hoopla is currently hosting in their anime section. It's a sub-only sci-fi mecha show; it's not especially good but I'm still enjoying it as popcorn entertainment. I recently finished Antique Bakery and Ristorante Paradiso, two short sub-only shows featured on Hoopla as well. More long term on Hoopla's offerings, I'm determined to watch and finish classic shows like The Rose of Versailles, and multi-season shows like Emma: A Victorian Romance, and Aria: The Animation. Mainly because they're there and because I've finished all the English-dubbed shows that Hoopla has to offer, or if I haven't finished I own on physical media and don't have to burn a library check-out to watch, like Fruits Basket. I would like to watch all of Level E before Vic Mignogna visits the next Anime Matsuri, which is coming soon, at the end of February 2016. Goddamn, so many good shows, so little time, am I right?
Quick shout out to Space Brothers episode 5, which has a startlingly accurate portrayal of Houston, Texas, right down to the color schemes of our METRO buses. They do take a few minor liberties, depicting Hermann Park as "Houston Sun Park", complete with Spaceship mock-ups that are actually at NASA/Space Center Houston down I-45 at Nasa Road 1, not inside the loop downtown. Also, it's The Houston Chronicle, not The Houston Journal. But other than those minor quibbles, I was delighted to see my hometown in an anime drawn so lovingly with attention to detail. Contrasted with the depiction of Houston in the Eyeshield 21 manga, which is so fanciful and wrong I laughed out loud looking at it. But the older brother does look at a map of downtown and "Houston Sun Park" is laid out exactly as Hermann Park actually is, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) is depicted in its accurate location, etc. I was really impressed.
Anyway, enough holiday blogging for now. I may write another entry soon but right now I feel the need to get in some reading, futz around on Facebook, etc. Happy Holidays from Texas, Y'all!