Avalon: illusions of the higher order


You might say that Avalon is about addiction to MMO games which forces people to get lost in virtual reality because they are dissatisfied with their lives, and there is no principal difference between the perception of reality and illusion. But author's name (Mamoru Oshii) tells us that the movie should be a little bit deeper, and it indeed is. The guide to its depths is the legend of Avalon, a mysterious island where king Arthur had found his final resting place. It leads us through the chain of illusions which goes beyond the virtual reality and touches themes of some fatal flaws of certain social orders along with the place of art in them. But let's look at the virtual reality first.

Ghost in the Shell: only diversity wins in the game of evolution


The new GitS OVA (Arise) and the adventures of Edward Snowden is a good opportunity to dip the probe into holy cow of the cyberpunk genre: the "Ghost in the Shell" franchise. The franchise includes the following most notable works:
  1. [1] Angel's Egg by Mamoru Oshii (1985)
  2. [2] The original manga by Masamune Shirow (1989)
  3. [1] The original movie by Mamoru Oshii (1995)
  4. [3] The Standalone Complex TV by Kenji Kamiyama (2002)
  5. [3] The Standalone Complex TV 2nd GIG by Kenji Kamiyama (2004)
  6. [1] GitS Innocence movie by Mamoru Oshii (2004)
  7. [3] GitS SAC: Solid State Society movie by Kenji Kamiyama (2006)
  8. [1] GitS 2.0 (renewal of the original movie) by Mamoru Oshii (2008)
  9. [3] Arise OVA by Kazuchika Kise (2013)
The number in square braces is the "lineage". Although the lineages incorporate common setting and characters, they are diverse by offering totally different stories, so each lineage is a totally different work disconnected from the others. You may wonder, why I've included the "Angel's Egg" movie into the franchise, but it may be clear from the feathers at the image above. Basically, the both Oshii's GitS movies being taken together is "Ange's Egg" staged in the world of GitS, the other lineages are not connected to Angel's Egg in any way. Since the lineage #3 is made by the authors (including Dai Sato) who tend to use the straightforward filming language, there is almost nothing to discuss because everything is clear. Below I'll try to discuss mostly only Oshii's works, because Oshii prefers a complex figurative manner of expression. A lot of spoilers, of course. If you are not familiar with GitS, it's better to follow the lineage order.

Suisei no Gargantia:'(


Having yummy graphics and authentic mechanical/character designs Gargantia still leaves the sense of a failed project. This is a bright example of inconsistent directing and how everything was relegated to the background for the central idea, but the idea does not worth it. Even the 13-episode show looks too roomy for it and, moreover, it has no clear conclusion. Or may it be that Gargantia have some conclusion actually?

Aku no Hana: to make a right choice


If not so annoying main character, this probably would be not bad show in the terms of screenplay. And it even would be possible to enjoy it despite of, hmm, roto peculiar graphics. But it's a mystery, was the excessive doubtfulness of the main character director's choice, or it's an inherent part of actor's personality. May be all this was needed to add a sense of cold "hyperrealism" into the cozy upcountry atmosphere to make it look boring and annoying? It seems, that this "hyperrealism" shown up in the characters' characters and the ways how they estimate each other is the thing which makes this controversial show interesting.

The Last of Us: to make a right choice


The hardest puzzle in this beautiful and touching story is the words Joel said Ellie at the very end. There are at least two ways to treat them: this may be the truth or this may be a lie. But this may be the truth and a lie at the same time. Let's see, how this can be. [spoilers]

Psycho Pass & Shinsekai Yori: a just social order is possible. Somewhere at Lothlorien. Probably.



It's hard to reason about the social justice, and it's even harder to put it into practice. The general formula is that someone's freedom should be limited to achieve some kind of equality or order. Probably, a story about an absolutely fair society would be boring, and no one would author such stories, even if a way to build a utopian society would be known. Undoubtedly, the authors of the both stories discussed below tried to show us what a society may appear from particular limitations of freedom, and in the both cases the result is hardly fair. Let's try to sort out the details [spoiler warning].

A Short Vision of the Sky Crawlers


Like most of the other works of Mamoru Oshii the Sky Crawlers give you a feeling of dissonance at first, and you're wondering what these guys are doing, why they are doing this, and what the hell they are talking about. But the more times you watch it, the more beautiful it gets, and finally you understand why that girl moves her face so strange or why this guy smiles so bittersweet. "Every day could be your last. Live life like there's no tomorrow.", says the slogan. One of the last moments of the movie raises a question, though, whether or not you should do so. Below is the answer I've got [spoiler warning].

The world as a cellular automaton or a simple definiton of consciousness


The question about what the consciousness is is probably as old as time, and the time itself somehow should be related to this phenomenon. Among the others, the religious tradition of Zen Buddhism contains probably the most profound insights on this account claiming that the consciousness is a some fundamental process of nature, but it does not answer the question itself. On the other hand, Roger Penrose offers the hypothesis that the consciousness may be a result of some non-computational physical processes in the depth of our neurons, because brain is somehow able to solve problems which are proven to be not solvable algorithmically (e.g. the halting problem). But actually, it may be a very simple process which differs from understanding and reasoning, and it closely related to the question about how our universe is constructed and what the time is. Let's see how Zen teaching combined with some scientific views of the universe may give an answer to this question and produce an interesting picture of the world.

Imageboard aggregator: an interesting application for a URL-embedded text command interface


Damn imageboards... There may be a way to operate them a little bit more wisely. How about an idea for a tool which preloads the whole content of a board (let's say, all 10 pages of 4chan.org/c) and compactifies the presentation to make it look like a RSS stream? No problems, we need to download and parse the specified amount of pages and use the URL 4chan.org/c:10p to tell the tool which number of pages to grab. Having all the data available we also can easily reverse the thread order and display the oldest threads first with the URL 4chan.org/c:10p:rev or sort them by id with  4chan.org/c:10p:sortd (if the highest id is stored in a database it's also possible to visually mark new threads). Need to search for all the K-ON related threads? The following URL would help: 4chan.org/c:10p:search{k-on}. Need to display only new threads or the threads with new posts from the last visit? Not a problem again, the 'new' switch rescues: 4chan.org/c:10p:new. It's even possible to display threads from several boards in the same stream using, for example, the 4chan.org/[a:10p,m:5p] URL.

It may be not wisely to specify the page number each time, so we may save the default page amount for this board somewhere in the preferences and use just 4chan.org/c:new. Because we have all the available data parsed and structured, it's possible to make other interesting things, for example, save a thread OP-post in the database and pin it to the top of the thread stream or extract all visible images with 4chan.org/c:img. There is one little problem though, a way to distinguish these URLs from the regular ones is necessary. The two most obvious solutions of this problem are: a browser extension which would listen for some protocol scheme (for example, chan://) or a web-application which includes these URLs as a part of its own one.

The both solutions are implemented by the Dark Flow aggregator. The application listens for the URLs with the chan:// scheme and tries to transform the requested resource according to the options specified in the URL (only Wakaba-derived boards are supported currently). The following video demonstrates the basic functionality of an old experimental version of the application in action.