Anime Guide 2014

After many repeated requests (which was kind of surprising), here is my overview of the 2014 anime I watched. I am told that I was too negative in previous lists and I want to avoid that this time… probably not going to happen!

This year had a LOT of sequels. I prefer to watch something new unless the original was outstanding, so I ignored some of these (how can Fate/Stay have so many spin-offs?). And for some reason, many ~22 episode series were split in half and had a break in the middle. I am counting those as one series. Speaking of both sequels and split anime…

Anime of the Year

Mushi-Shi: Next Passage
(TV Series, 11+10 episodes + special)

This is how you do a sequel! And it came out of nowhere about 10 years after the original. The stunning visuals remain and are improved on as we expect in the HD era. The atmospheric soundtrack sits very well with the stories, with the intro “Shiver” by Lucy Rose fitting in perfectly. As with the original series, the story is largely episodic but there is a subtle underlying flow brings it together. Not only do I consider this the anime of 2014, it would be a strong contender for anime of the year in any year. Look out for the movie in 2015.


Kill la Kill
(TV Series, 24 episodes)

Half naked girls fighting while being manipulated by clothing… This is made by the same people as “Gurren Lagann”, and it is just as insane, just with less robots and more fan-service. And there is a lot of fan-service, to the point where it would have been awkward if I watched this when taking public transport to work! That also caused some controversy around the internet. I watched this for the craziness and enjoyed it for that – the fan-service seemed to fit in to that insanity. This is not an anime that needs watched with extensive thought. (The uproar about the nudity makes it awkward to justify enjoying this series. But I am sure that if I only wanted to see naked people, I could just find some somewhere in the dark recesses of the internet…)

Ping Pong the Animation
(TV Series, 11 episodes)

I only watched this after it being repeatedly recommended to me, because I do not enjoy sport anime. It turns out, Ping Pong is not really a sport anime… despite being about ping pong. This is a show about the growth of the main characters, their friendships and rivalries develop while revolving around the game. Saying that, I saw some ping pong on TV the other day and I was now an expert on it, so there was some sport there. I found the distinctive art style aided in skimming over the actual games without losing the main focus of the show.

Samurai Flamenco
(TV Series, 22 episodes)

This is a series that people I have talked to either love or hate. I think it is because the series starts out reasonably serious and realistic before going off on wild tangents. I am still not sure if the script was planned, or if the writers genuinely went crazy (although I may lean towards planned after completing the series). But you can not go past this if you want a fun superhero story that has the ability to go from low-tech and gritty to the other extreme. I watch anime for fun, and not to search for some higher meaning, so this was a close contender for anime of the year!

Silver Spoon 2
(TV Series, 11 episodes)

Much like my comments on the first series, there is nothing individually outstanding about the sequel. It is just consistently good. The second season does well in moving on from the issues dealt with during the first (far less “this is where my food comes from” jokes) and focusing on new challenges. You know, exactly what a good sequel should do…


Akame ga Kill!
(TV Series, 24 episodes)

This was one hyped anime for some reason. But there was nothing outstanding in it (some would call it “average” even…). The animation and music during the action sequences was well done, and that makes this fun to watch. However, it goes from dramatic battle to light-hearted romp with the flick of a switch, which ruins both.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise
(OVA, 4 episodes)

Sort of a prequel to Stand Alone Complex, but the backstories have changed… so not a prequel. But there is enough familiarity with the characters that it feels like a prequel (is any of this making sense?). The result is something neither better or worse than the original series.

Psycho Pass 2
(TV Series, 11 episodes)

Not how to do a sequel! I really enjoyed the darkness and mystery of the first series, but that had been mostly resolved and that left not a lot to add. The sequel proceeded to add that not a lot (or even just blatantly rip-off ideas from the first series), resulting in something that was both mildly entertaining and unnecessary at the same time.

Space Brothers
(TV Series, 99 episodes)

I usually check how many episodes a series has before I start watching it – I forgot for this one! Saying that, I watched each episode of this immediately as it broadcast. I would say this is highly recommended apart from the episodes being a bit slow at times and a bit predictable. Also, there was a trend to a substantial recap at the start of episodes. If they fixed that by reducing the series by ~20 episodes, this would be a great(er) anime.

Space Dandy
(TV Series, 13+13 episodes)

After picking a cow for Silver Spoon, I knew what picture I needed here too! I had great hope for this anime – it is by the makers of some of my favourites. However… I never got caught up in this series. Everything about it is simple, right down to the “comedy” which has none of the unexpected surprise needed to be funny. For example the “Boobies” restaurant, which is Hooters in space – oh, it is also shaped like boobs. That is the joke… There is also nothing riding on the outcome of an episode (spoiler follows). The entire cast die at the end of the first episode and are back as if nothing happened in episode two. So who cares what happens?

Tiger and Bunny the Movie: The Rising
(Movie, 100 minutes)

The second part of a two movie series that may or may not be a recap of the TV series (I can not be bothered checking…). If they were not a recap, it added very little beyond what the TV series did in terms of actual development of the storyline. Still enjoyable.

Tokyo Ghoul
(TV Series, 12 episodes)

I usually like short series (good risk/reward investment ratio), but I think being too short was the failure here. There was character development, building a world where ghouls have their own society, and then someone asked “how many episodes do we have left?”. Queue the final three episodes being packed with action and not a lot else. I realize there is a second series, but why would you watch it after what they did to the first?


A Certain Magical Index The Movie: The Miracle of Endymion
(Movie, 90 minutes)

This was the final straw in me watching “A Certain …” series. I really liked the first Scientific Railgun series (I think everyday superpowers is still a great concept), but this took much of what I did not enjoy about that series and added it to Magical Index (which was never as good), and come up with something that I really did not enjoy. Maybe this will serve as a reminder to me and I will not watch the next one (maybe).

Hozuki no Reitetsu
(TV Series, 13 episodes)

A slice-of-life anime set in Japanese Hell. It gets some points for being fairly original… However, I found the jokes fell flat more often than not, and that can leave a big gap when there is nothing else going on. With two stories per show (that is 10 minutes a plot line), nothing really caught my interest and I took a long time to finish watching this.

Log Horizon
(TV Series, 25 episodes)

Another “stuck in a game” anime, with the twist that there seems to be the lack of motivation to leave. Too much filler (especially near the end), forgettable action scenes, and a storyline that resembled a poor version of Spice and Wolf. The most entertained I was in this series was when other people started mocking the main character for always touching his glasses…

(TV Series, 12 episodes)

I think this series was not particular bad in itself, but I think it could have been good and failed. I am still not sure what it was missing, but I find the whole thing completely forgettable (which may be why this “review” is so vague).

Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror)
(TV Series, 11 episodes)

The initial build-up is OK – good even – but everything becomes overly contrived in the second half. Overall, this is probably a reasonable watch if you are not hoping for greatness, but I rate those series that screw up their potential harshly. And I just noticed the director was Shinichiro Watanabe, who has been involved in many of my favourite series. He did not have a great year according to this blog post!

Rolling Release Pizza


/u/XSSpants on reddit:

There’s a lot to be said for rolling release pizza. (without going hardcore “pizza fountain” like Arch)

Posted in Tweet on by Allan Comments Off on Rolling Release Pizza

The Case of GCC-5.1 and the Two C++ ABIs

Recently, Arch Linux updated to gcc-5.1. This brought a lot of new features, but the one that I am focusing on today is the new C++ ABI that appears when the compiler is built using default option.

Supporting the C++11 standard required incompatible changes to libstdc++ ABI. Instead of bumping the library soname (I still do not understand why that was not done…), the GCC developers decided to have a dual ABI. This is achieved using C++11 inlined namespaces which will give a different mangled name allowing types that differ across the two ABIs to coexist. When that is insufficient, a new abi_tag attribute is used which adds [abi:cxx11] to the mangled name.

With the initial upload of gcc-5.1 to the Arch repos, we configured GCC to use the old ABI by default. Now the initial slew of bugs have been dealt with (or mostly dealt with…), we want to switch to the new ABI. Because this was going to be a much larger rebuild than usual, one of the Arch developers (Evangelos Foutras) developed a server that automatically orders the rebuilds, and provides the next rebuild when a client requests it (this may be the future of rebuild automation in Arch).

This discovered an issue when building software using the new C++ ABI with clang, which builds against the new ABI (as instructed in the GCC header file), but does not know about the abi_tag attribute. This results in problems such as (for example) any function in a library with a std::string return type will be mangled with a [abi:cxx11] ABI tag. Clang does not handle these ABI tags, so will not add the tag to the mangled name and then linking will fail.

This issue was pointed out on a GCC mailing list in April, and a bug was filed independently for LLVM/clang. Until it is fixed, Arch Linux will not be able to switch to the new ABI. Note, this also has consequences for all older versions of GCC wanting to compile C++ software against system libraries…

What Is It?!

[allan@server]$ rm sample-apps/
rm: cannot remove `sample-apps/': Is a directory
[allan@server]$ rmdir sample-apps/
rmdir: failed to remove `sample-apps/': Not a directory

Edit: it was a symlink to a directory. The error messages could be improved!

Keeping Packages Vanilla – 2. Configuration

Normally when you write an article and label it with part one, it is followed soon after with a part two. Well, a lot more than two years later, I discovered this draft…. So this is part two of me rambling about what I think it means to keep packages “vanilla”. See here for the first part in which I discussed patching. Looking at configure options and dependencies is probably less clear than patching, but lets see if I come to a conclusion in this wall of text!

As I said in the previous post, in an ideal world we could just do “./configure; make; make install” and all packages would build perfectly and interact with each other the way they are supposed to. I will attempt to categorize the various options that can be added to configure and by how they change the package. This will be mostly done by looking at examples from the packages I maintain (or now, packages that I used to maintain) for Arch Linux.

The first type of configure option that will (almost) always be used is setting paths for where various files are located. Most Linux distributions will build their packages with “--prefix=/usr” and perhaps several other configuration options to set file paths. Arch Linux is not a fan of the /libexec directory so uses --libexecdir=/usr/lib where needed. (It appears that moving away from that directory is becoming widespread these days, right after the draft FHS added it…) There used to be a lot of moving of man and info pages to the “right place”, but that is automatically done in most packages these days. I doubt that anyone would consider these types of configuration options to make a package non-vanilla, unless they were set to very extreme values.

The second set of configure flags are those that enable additional features. For example, GMP can be built using the configure flag --enable-cxx to enable C++ support. That builds an additional library and adds an extra header to the package, but does not alter the primary library. Similarly, using --enable-pcre16 and --enable-pcre32 when configuring PCRE adds 16 and 32 bit character support libraries. Given these options have no effect on the primary part of the software and just add completely separate parts to it, it would be hard to argue that such configuration options are not vanilla.

So lets move onto configuration options that actually alter the software. Lets start with glibc, binutils and gcc which all have


set in the Arch Linux packages. Is that vanilla? It can be argued that I am setting a value not considered by upstream, but clearly upstream thought allowing the package to set such a value was a good idea given there is a configuration option. So I’d say that is still vanilla.

How about Less which is configured with --with-regex=pcre and adds a dependency to the software. There is actually quite a number of possible values for this configuration option:


Looking at that list, I would suppose auto is the most vanilla, as that is what happens if you do not specify the option. But it is also the least deterministic, in that it will pick a different option based on what is installed on your system. In fact, on my system it picks “posix” by default, which was a moderate surprise to me. Given that these options are all provided by the software developer (and so should all be supported), I think you could make the case they all are vanilla. But I would be surprised to see (at least) the last five options used on any Linux system, so calling them vanilla is a stretch.

What is the conclusion? I suppose that configuration options are mostly put there to be used by the upstream developers so any use of them would be considered vanilla. But keep in mind what a software developer would expect. Picking strange configurations compared to what is usual for your operating system is likely to get you (virtual) weird looks from upstream, so that can not be considered a vanilla configuration.

Perhaps this part is more boring than the discussion of patching. But the second part of a trilogy is rarely the greatest. Part 3 should appear soon…

Help Me Out By Sending A Postcard

I am teaching my daughter about the world and all the different countries there are. She also likes receiving mail, so we came up with the idea of collecting postcards from all over the world.

If you would like to help me out by sending her a post card, all the details are on her website. Thanks!

Updating Arch Kernel On Digital Ocean

I have not bothered updating my Linux kernel package here since my VPS provider – Digital Ocean – went crazy and deprecated Arch Linux as an install option. That is obviously a bad thing…

This backfired on me today. It turns out that systemd-218 does not like an old i686 kernels (I had 3.13.7) and I could not log in. I am not the only one to notice this, so there may be a genuine bug there. It also seems that DO recovery console is a bit useless if you have a problem other than a network issue. Good thing I have DO system backups set to run every week (in a completely unrelated incident… I think one comment on one of my posts got lost and restoring from my more regular WordPress backup is too much effort).

So how to run a newer kernel – I have no idea what DO do in the background, but your installed kernel needs to match the one you select in the DO control panel. I think the kernel and initrd are stored externally and if this does not match the installed version, your system’s modules fail to load. This is how I know the rescue console is good when networking fails!

Kexec to the rescue! You can do a fancy systemd type thing (see Arch wiki page), but I just provided a script in /usr/bin/init. To do this, install kexec-tools and remove systemd-sysvcompat. Then paste this into /usr/bin/init:

kexec --load /boot/vmlinuz-linux --initrd=/boot/initramfs-linux.img --append="root=LABEL=DOROOT init=/usr/lib/systemd/systemd" &&
mount -o ro,remount / &&
kexec -e
exec /usr/lib/systemd/systemd

Give that file 755 permissions, and all is done.

Now if all that does not put you off, and you really want to install Arch Linux on DO, here is a script that coverts a Debain droplet to an Arch one! You can also use my referral link

Edit: when checking this article before posting I found this and this. I’m not as clever as I thought, or these people are at least equally clever.

Improvements on Manjaro Security Updates

I’ll give credit where it is due. I had previously criticized Manjaro for holding back all package updates as this ignored security issues. But it appears that Manjaro has a new security policy, which means that packages that are rated as “Critical” or “High” in the Arch Security Advisories get pushed through their “quality assurance” process more quickly.


Posting so more people can get entertainment value from this email.

From: Daniel Skowroński <>
Subject: –asroot

Hi Allan,
I’d like to say you are moron if you were thinking that commiting 61ba5c961e4a3536c4bbf41edb348987a9993fdb to pacman was good idea!
I am Arch Linux user becouse it allows me to do virtually anything so I manage some of my arch-based servers from root account. I also have netbook with root account only for my own reasons. And you’ve destroyed not only my routine but also several programs that were depending on that. Screw you with reverting package version or using patch from aur – it’s supposed to work out-of-the-box even on Arch.

No greetings,
Daniel Skowroński

PS. You could have at least let anybody else sign-off that imbecile commit…