Category: Commentary

Essay: Examination of Tsugumi Ohba’s Portrayal of Women in Bakuman

Bakuman is often criticized for its misogynist undertones and from the first episode it was clear that the show’s portrayal of women was odd. But what is the source of Tsugumi Ohba’s low opinion of women? I believed that the Misogynist vibe in Bakuman is rooted in the Japanese work ethic and comes from the intense pressure to succeed. The success of Mashiro and Miho’s relationship in Bakuman is dependent on their individual career success. In essence, Bakuman is removing the emotional element from relationships and basing them on status alone. While that is true at the core of the problem it seems that the blame may rest directly on the author.

Women are portrayed as obstacles in the path of men who are trying to reach their goals. In the most direct sense, Moritaka’s mother refused to allow him access to his Uncle’s studio and refused to accept his dream of becoming a Mangaka. It was his Father and Grandfather who stepped in and insisted that he be allowed to pursue his dream, telling the mother that some things “men have to do that woman can’t understand”. This applies also to romantic relationships and why Miho is set up as the ideal woman. Miho also has a goal she is trying to accomplish, and no other woman in the series seems to share her values. She wants to put off their relationship knowing that it would get in the way of her dream of becoming a voice actress. The “normal” girl is shown during a scene when a young girl chases her boyfriend to the roof chastising him the entire way for changing his High School of choice. She is upset because they won’t be together. This is what Ohba sees as the normal girl, chasing after a boy and having no goals of her own. The action of the young man is what the author acknowledges as the correct choice, personal progress over romance.

What becomes the enemy in Bakuman are laziness, sloth, and complacency. Relationships are portrayed as wastes of time and energy. Moritaka doesn’t have time to go see a movie because he uses every bit of his free time perfecting his skill as a mangaka. Akito’s relationship with Miyoshi becomes the model for what relationships can do to one’s time, energy, and goals. At the start of their relationship she constantly tries to take Akito away from his work in order to go to spend time with her. Most of the time Akito refuses and Miyoshi is left upset, but slowly she begins to understand what Akito and Moritaka are trying to do. Unfortunately, this leads to the most condescending portion of the series.

Miyoshi becomes jealous of all her friend having goals except for her, so she decides one day she is going to be a writer. Her decision comes from the desire to fit in; the group has Mangaka and a voice actress but no prose writer; not from the desire to actually become a successful writer. She decides to write Miho and Moritaka’s story instead of coming up with an original idea and not knowing where to begin she enlists Akito for help. Instead of Akito working on his own story, he ends up helping Miyoshi with her romance novel and, in fact, writes the whole thing. She becomes excited for herself when the first part of the novel becomes a success and takes all the credit. Miyoshi displays no personal motivation; she enjoys the end result of hard work. She is the antithesis of Miho, Moritaka, and Akito. The dream ends when Akito refuses to write the next part of ‘her’ successful cellphone novel. She tries but quickly gives up writing it herself, changing her dream to be the same as Akito’s dream. Her ‘goal’ in life becomes that Akito and Moritaka become famous Mangaka, showing she has no aspirations of her own and has to live in the shadow of her boyfriend. After Miyoshi realizes she almost broke up her boyfriend’s team she goes from being bitter that Akito doesn’t have time to spend with her and jealous of Moritaka and Miho’s dream, she gives up and becomes a cheerleader for them. She is content to be in the background getting tea and making meals for the hard-working Mangaka. She is happy to fall into a domestic role after Akito promises to marry her, which reveals her only true aspiration to be marriage, everything else being a method of getting Akito to notice her.

Miyoshi’s role in the story says a lot about Ohba’s view towards women. It is comparable to his Death Note character Misa. Misa initially begins her own Death Note fueled rampage in order to get Kira’s attention, but once Kira pretends to be in a relationship with her she becomes completely obedient to him. Akito’s mother also follows this pattern, while she is a successful school teacher her husband losing her job breaks her, almost cripples her emotionally. She decides to channel the disappointment in her husband into her children, pushing them hard so they don’t fail. Instead of picking herself up and focusing on her career, she relied on her husband to create a stable household. It seems that Ohba’s view on women is that they only show initiative to attract men. The obvious way this is portrayed in both Death Note and Bakuman suggests this might be a conscious bit of social criticism; however it is more likely that he just can’t write female characters in any other way. Nothing is known about the Mangaka’s personal life, if he is married or in a relationship, the most the public knows is that he collects teacups and “develops manga plots while holding his knees on a chair.” Whether his opinions on women come from bitterness or ignorance may never be answered definitively but the blankly negative female character he has written makes the answer a bit obvious. There is, of course, one exception to his negative female characters. The heroine of Bakuman, Miho, is written as the ideal woman.

I’ve already stated some reasons why Miho is the ideal woman in the series. I will restate some of that and build on top of it here, because Miho is the antithesis of every other woman in Bakuman, for positive and negative reasons. Unlike the other women in Bakuman Miho actually has a personal goal, she wants to become a voice actress and even though she is meek and shy she is pushing forward with that dream no matter what it takes. In that respect she is equal to Moritaka and superior to any other woman in the show. She is the ideal girlfriend in that she stays out of the way, she doesn’t ask to be taken out, and she doesn’t get involved with Moritaka’s business. She remains on the sidelines as a silent cheerleader. She only contacts Moritaka when she actually has something to say, mostly congratulate him, and she never brags about her own accomplishments. She is also extremely loyal and in love with Moritaka without any real reason to be loyal or in love with him. She is his fantasy girl and all he has to do is become a Mangaka, which was his childhood fantasy, and she will marry him.

Bakuman is about a Mangaka, and in order to be happy the Mangaka has to create a successful manga. It is clear that Miho is the ideal woman for Ohba and that every other woman in the series represents Ohba’s narrow view of woman and that he, as a successful mangaka, should have found true love. While it is unusual to make assumptions on the author’s personality from a piece of fiction I think Bakuman is an exception. It is, after all, a story written about Ohba’s profession that combined with the consistency of his female characters. Bakuman is the result of an author constructing a fantasy in which he can be the hero and get the girl as an author. If we take the experiences of Akito and Moritaka as true reflections of Ohba’s life; working to become Mangaka to the exclusion of all else; Ohba might be the teacup collecting lonely writer that his only existing bio makes him out to be. To the end Bakuman is the fantasy of a man who has dedicated himself, with the vigor of a Japanese businessman, to his art and never had time to find someone to love.

Top 5 Anime of 2010

It is the time to reflect back on the year that has passed with a look at some of the best Anime that came out in 2010. It was a solid year even though more and more predictions of Anime’s inevitable death because of the strength of the Moe fandom. But like all years some real creativity comes out of Japan and that is the reason that most people started watching anime in the first place. That one unique moment that came at an important time in one’s life can endear a person to the medium forever, or scare them away forever. I enjoy writing this list because it reminds me of those things that keep me attached to the genre even after a strong ten years of anime fandom, and it helps me forget some backward steps that Japan has thrown at us

Same as last year I only have one rule for this list: The anime must have finished airing or being released in Japan or United States in 2010. If I have already seen the show in fansubs it becomes ineligible for the list the year it gets an R1 release. In terms of films the year it is released on theaters or screen in the US for the first time, or failing that released on DVD, becomes the year where it qualifies.

On to the List:

Honorable Mention:
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I can’t make a best of the year list without mentioning Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. As someone who hasn’t seen the original I came into it without any bias from the original series. I was immediately hooked by the characters, concept, and intensely well-choreographed action sequences. The series ramped up well throughout and all the elements, plot threads, and massive cast of characters all came together in then end in a final epic battle. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood knew how to do Shōnen perfectly not only with action and characters but by developing a plot that steadily rams up and climaxes without dragging itself out and killing its own originality.

5. Squid Girl

If I were to time travel and hand this list to myself at the start of the fall season I wouldn’t believe it. Squid Girl was the complete shock of the year coming in with a quirky concept that is executed brilliantly. The jokes fly fast and the characters are endearing enough to suck you in, once caught the charm of Squid Girl alone is enough to keep you hooked. The adorable lead and her interactions with the interesting cast of characters is a joy to watch and the concept of a Squid being anthropomorphized is played straight no matter how odd from Squid Girl’s ability to produce ink to her bioluminescence. The jokes do get a little receptive and the art is uninspired standard Moe fair but the writing is enough to make Squid Girl an excellent little show.

4. Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

Like Squid Girl, SoreMachi is a gag anime that brings some unique concepts to the genre to create something new. But, unlike Squid Girl, SoreMachi has the benefit of the art of Shaft and the directing ability of Akiyuki Shinbou in order to take this gag show up another level. The structure of the show constantly shifts and its treatment of science fiction elements create a strange entry into the comedy genre but one that will leave a profound impact on those who watched it. The best part being the bizarre Science fiction elements mixed in and played as if they were just another piece of the slice of life drama. Rarely is there an anime that is so boldly odd.

3. Durarara!!

I doubt one could find a “Best of 2010” list without Durarrara!! on it. It came out early with a force and captured the imaginations of the fandom with its style and excellent cast of characters on top of a storyline that speaks to the current generation in a profound way. The action and drama combined in a perfect blend to create a piece that drew the audience in and keep them excited with some epic moments. At its heart is the idea that all urban legends are true, which include everything from the strongest man in the district to a headless woman who rides a motorcycle (and calls it a horse!). I’m eagerly looking forward to more and desperately hope they animate the remainder of the light novels.

2. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The latest chapter in the Haruhi franchise became the most anticipated piece of the story after the troll that KyoAni tossed at us with Endless Eight. Disappearance brings the Haruhi science fiction elements to all-time high as well as developing characters far beyond what they were in the series. We finally got to see Kyon step up and play the part of protagonist without being led by the nose by Kozume or overshadowed by the flamboyant personality of Haruhi. We also get to see Nagato as if she were a human girl, a vulnerable and touching version of the normally cold and distant character. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a deep character study wrapped in a terrific science fiction story.

1. Tatami Galaxy

Tatami Galaxy succeeds on so many levels that it is difficult to list them. Thematically and visually It is beyond a masterpiece. While the narrative is geared towards students finishing or starting to finish their college career, which is why it spoke to me so profoundly, the message stands as a timeless reminder that little things we do may change our lives profoundly but the large opportunities will always be waiting for us to grab them. The art style is masterful; MadHouse and director Masaaki Yuasa create a cutout art style in 2D. The art was used effectively to visually highlight important aspects of the story and some creative pieces standout as bold attempts to delight the audience such as a seemingly random scene where Master Higuchi plays music to summon a massive golden fish from the ocean, what purpose that scene played in the narrative remains a mystery to me but it was entertaining as hell.

Set Up and Pay Off, the Problem with Bleach

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Shinji hat I’m sure every Bleach fan has had a love-hate relationship with the anime because of its long run. The majority of the hate, of course, comes from the long and tired filler arcs stuffed into the show when the anime catches up with the manga. While the length of the show is starting to annoy me I can’t help but continue to watch and be excited by the latest episodes. The main reason: The formula has never changed.

  From the start of the show we were always treated with new powers and foreshadowing at what will be coming long time down the road. Those two elements have kept the show alive and popular for years now. Back during the first season what we knew of Soul Society were the stories that Rukia told Ichigo. But in the next arc the world that Rukia only described briefly slowly gets revealed as the heroes slowly creep their way into the fortress and start to fight the Shinigami. Each new Shinigami fight brought new powers and a new interesting dynamic to the way the combat of Bleach works.

Unfortunately the discovery aspect of Bleach is mostly gone. During Hueco Mundo the feelings of suspense Kick! due to the interesting battles was still there but each fight felt like a pale shadow of one already done earlier in the show. The feeling of uncovering the universe was gone because Hueco Mundo was painfully uninteresting compared to the rich world and characters of Soul Society.

Now that we are entering what should be the final arc, the battle with Aizen, I was hoping for a speedy end with a few cool fights. But instead Shinji hollow of that I’m starting to see some part of the original Bleach returning. The arrival of the Vizzard, not a spoiler since it was established way over a year ago that they were on their way, has seen the unifying of story elements left scattered throughout the after-soul society Bleach. As all these elements fall into place I realize exactly what happened to Bleach: Tite Kubo dreamed too big.

Looking at the size of the story he created with the number of characters it is amazing he was able to pull off anything as satisfying as he did. But he did bring everything together, very much like he did at the end of the Soul Society arc; he just did it in such a large way that the audience became completely lost in minor fight after minor fight and became unable to see the bigger picture of the Bleach story.

But now what all of these side plots, character relationships, and final hidden powers of the Shinigami captains Shinji - Captain Commander are being revealed and coming to satisfying climaxes I have to say the time it took to get to this point was worth it. The filler wasn’t, but I am willing to ignore that aspect of the show for now. The length of time used to tell the story aids even the smallest of events in order to make them appear spectacular and without them those rushes of excitement when a villain reveals a new, more powerful, attack would be lost.

Were many of those small, minor fights needed for this effect? No, they were mostly a waste of time which is why I say that the weakness of the post-soul society Bleach comes from Kubo’s failing to keep the audience focused on the bigger picture. He set up plots and characters masterfully and then ignored them in order to pad the series.

Shinji The effect of the return of the Vizard and clashing of all the build up to this point would have definitely gone for nothing if Kubo didn’t take the time to set all the pieces into place. But Kudo needs to be more discerning when plotting out the story. Everything that has happened for far this season has been well worth the wait, but there is no reason why the audience was forced to wait for a satisfying resolution to these story arcs.

I look forward to the end of the Bleach anime. I’m still too stubborn to switch to the manga. Unfortunately, it seems I’ll be waiting a long time for either of them to come to their ends as Kudo doesn’t show any signs of stopping despite having Aizen take the battlefield over fifty episodes ago, not including filler! Ah well, I guess Bleach will guarantee a half hour of dumb fun every week for the next few years.

What do you say? Is the current arc in Bleach satisfying? Have you given up on Bleach altogether or just switched to the manga? I’d like to hear your opinions in the comments.

Convention Report: New York Anime Festival 2010

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Yes, this post is extremely late, almost three weeks late, but I felt other things took priority on the site. Any other excuse I won’t bore the reader with because they shouldn’t be bothered. While much of what I have to say has already been said… I hope you enjoy my Convention Report:

This is the first year that New York Anime Festival had been merged with New York Comic Con and the numbers speak for themselves. Last year around 21,000 people attended NYAF and 71,000 attended Comic Con, so the merge wasn’t exactly even. The fear before the event was that Comic Con would completely overshadow the Anime Fest and in a way, it did.

The Convention was divided into two main sections: The Comic Con section featured the massive Exhibition Hall, the Comic Con artist alley, the autograph area, the variant stage, and the Comic Con panel room. Then the Anime section which featured a modest artist alley, the maid cafe, screening rooms, panel rooms, and the massive screening room where Haruhi and other major releases were shown. While it was convenient to have all the anime events in a single area it felt like we were brushed aside, placed in a corner while the “big boy” convention was going on. I could live with that, as strange a dynamic as it was, because those fans that could care less about Comic Con could stay in the Anime section and be completely happy, right? Wrong.

P1010187.JPG.scaled500[1] The separation wasn’t complete enough to make the “two cons at the same time” scenario work. The Amine dealers and distributors were in the Exhibition hall mixed in with Comic Con. The worst part was that the anime stuff was all jammed into the back corner of the hall and due to the amount of fans that went for the Anime Festival and wanted to see Anime merchandise those two allies in the back were impossible to navigate. There was a jam of people wanting to get in and see what the dealers were selling but just by stopping and trying to look they made the jam worse. Granted, this was the first time the two conventions merged perhaps the management figured that those dealers wouldn’t be in high demand, but the management knew that at least 21,000 people wanted to see the stuff in those two isles. Had they put it more towards the middle it wouldn’t have been a problem because there is more room for the crowd to disperse, they aren’t locked against a wall on one side and could move into one of two isles around them, and the isles towards the middle felt bigger. They could have put something more niche, like the custom art toys, in that corner and not had the massive jam. Just because of the difficulty of getting near those booths I’m sure the vendors lost some serious sales over the weekend.

Comic Con did bring plenty of crossover potential to the show by attracting the large video game companies. I’m sure anime fans appreciated being able to play upcoming games from Nintendo, Rockstar, Hudson, Square Enix, and Sega. It also allowed me to discover a new aspects of the toy collector; custom art toys. There was half a row dedicated to these artistic toys specifically designed for other artists to come and customize them. It was cool to see how creative people can be on a plastic form and the ability wasn’t going unnoticed either with the custom versions having markups as high as $150.

P1010193.JPG.scaled500[1]In terms of guests, Minori Chihara in attendance was something spectacular and the big bands they got, X  Japan and Puffy AmiYumi, were a treat for fans but I doubt the merger with Comic Con affected their attendance to the convention.

If they are going to continue to have the joint convention they need to do one of two things, either completely separate them or merge them entirely. This half-separate, half-combined thing that happened over the weekend wasn’t the best solution. The anime section felt ghettoized and less respected than the large glittery booths of the Comic Con show floor. The fact that the Anime dealers booths were swarmed almost constantly means they need more space and placing the anime dealers in their own dealers room may be the only way to go considering it is impossible to make that exhibition hall any larger.

Highlights:

Exhibition Floor

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The Exhibition Floor, as I said above, was massive due to the presence of ComicCon. All the major video game companies had booths, including a massive booths for Square Enix, Sega, Nintendo, and Ubisoft. The anime presence was sparse, at best, and constantly crowded but Bandai managed to have a fantastic booth right in the front of the room where Minori Chihara and other starts signed autographs. Apparently, they also gave away free K-On! posters that I was unaware of at the time. Anger.

The second half of the Bandai booth showed off almost every model kit they had at the show. Dozens of Gundam, including the new kit from the Gundam Unicorn OVA, alongside Bandai’s other mecha properties. I picked up a Guren Mk II from Code Geass, it’ll be my first large Bandai model kit s so… hopefully everything goes well.

The hall was chaos, and looking back all I remember was chaos. The crowds were tough to manage, the most popular booths had unapproachable lines, and some obnoxious booths blasted loud music to disturb the people browsing in the Manwa booth.P1010150.JPG.scaled1000[1]

I avoided the American comic booths, having no real interest in buying classic comics. But the ComicCon artist alley was filled with a ton of interesting things. Again, because of the crowd and sheer size of the hall it was hard  to give everything as thorough a look as I would have liked. While I was mostly uninterested in the Hollywood stars giving autographs there was at least four cast members from Battlestar Galactica that I was fanboying over. I even got Nicki Clyne’s autograph! Squee!

The only other thing I purchased on the exhibition floor was a movie poster for “The girl who Leapt Through Time,” which was a great deal at $5 for the full sized poster. I might have bought I lot more if I didn’t have to take cabs and trains the whole weekend, but that is the problem with holding such a large convention in New York City.

The Exhibition hall was incredible and I wish I spend even more time there, but there should have been a little more organization to the place. Even late on Saturday I continued to discover places that I hadn’t seen before and while that was a magical feeling it doesn’t bode well for someone who sets out to see the entire convention.

Anime in Academia Panel

As someone who wants to approach anime from a more serious viewpoint that most would (hey I need to get some use out of that English Literature degree) I made it a point to check out the Anime in Academia Panel run by Alex Leavitt a stellar blogger and MIT researcher. I have approached anime from a literature studies point of view, focusing on the narrative; themes; how we as Americans are supposed to interpret those things, and reflections those ideas have on society. The panel that Alex assembled ran the gambit of areas of study that I wouldn’t have considered, most notably Sociology. The panelists were more concerned with the people who watch and make anime than the content as it exists.

The best advice they gave for anyone wishing to study anime on an academic level is that you must adapt anime into whatever interdisciplinary you wish to pursue in order to study it. So if one was a history major, they’d have to find a way to write about how Anime impacted history in a profound way, a socialist would look at Anime’s impact on society or study anime as a reflection on society. The primary topics of research that were most focused on were Toys, Collectors, Anime, Anime consumers, and Toy consumers which, when broken down, really show the varied niche topics one could study when the broader categories are broken down so finitely.

If one wanted to study anime seriously, as in any field of study, the panel suggested one to read widely and in many different media. So if your focus was manga than you should consume normal novels, American conics, ect in order to gain some perspective on what makes your media unique, what it does that sets it apart from other media. One should also experience the world and fold those experiences back into your field of study. The image of monks focusing their entire lives on study is a noble one but in order for anything to have context or to be relative to a good number of people it needs to be grounded in some real world experience.

When preparing your research there are some points to remember. The first is to always place the study in context, what does the study mean to someone outside the specific topic? Writing about anime for anime fans is great, but academia’s goal is to apply knowledge to all fields of study, so again this is where context is important to any field of study. The instinct is to write about something that is “shocking,” like an obsession with boys love manga, but focus should be on things that are genuinely good not topics that’ll draw controversy.

One drawback the panel pointed out in the academic world is the dominance of English. Japanese scholars are widely ignored by the American academic world unless they are published in English. While this is unfortunate the benefit is that being published in English is a great honor to Japanese academics so what little English language work we have from Japan is superb.

During the Q&A something was asked about the state of the industry and one of the panelists made a solid point, publishers ignore scanlators when times are good and villainize them when times are tough. Just an interesting point that reflected the recent crackdown on scanlators as the sale of manga has begun to drop.

List of suggested academic books:

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

My full review of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya should be up in the next few days.

I have never seen an anime film in theaters, for whatever reason. Watching a film with a large audience is much different than watching alone or with a small group of friends , but that much more of an experience when the audience are massive fans of what they are about to see. There is a crowd reaction that is infectious. If you have a chance to see a really great anime film with a huge group of fans, or any type of film with a group of nerds, do it. Without question.

Minori Chihara Concert

The concert experience was strange, the crowd seemed to be divided to people who were extremely into the music and those who were just there to enjoy a show. But when she played the classic Haruhi closing theme, Hare Hare Yukai, the crowd went wild. Despite the fact that filming wasn’t allowed I couldn’t help but try and get that performance.

 

Hatsune Miku screening

The Hatsune Miku “concert” was the most disappointing event at the convention , I actually believed it was going to be some sort of concert but instead it was a screening of the Miku live concert DVD. It was enjoyable, but nothing I couldn’t have watched on Youtube. I love Miku… if you haven’t watched any video of the live concert it is amazing, the way the crowd reacts to a 2D idol is unbelievable.

Posts from New York Anime Festival 2010:

The Evolution of Evangelion

Having both ADV Evangelion DVD releases, the original and the platinum release, I wanted to go back and look at how large of  a change the new films really are. It has been years since I’ve watched the original raw series so watching it after seeing the Blu-Ray version of Evangelion 1.11 was almost painful.

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The most noticeable element of this image from the original ADV release is the lack of detail on Evangelion Unit 01. The face detail is kind of blurred together and is difficult to make out. The mountain that Shinji landed on also lacks detail.

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The image quality of the remastered platinum edition is much darker. It helps the Evangelion to stand out more but the rib cage of the Angel, barely seen in the original version, is now completely hidden.  Unit 01 is much crisper and specific details stand out much more. The foreground trees, although still lacking much detail, are drawn better. The mountains in the background show no change and the shrine near the Evangelion’s arm is much easier to see in this version. The remaster seemed to focus on making the image crisper even if details were going to be lost.

How does the new movie stand up to the remastered original?

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This is the same exact scene that Anno attempted to animate fifteen years ago but using the massive budget and some modern techniques the scene appears completely different. The rib cage is back and prominent. The  mountains in the background and trees in the foreground are drawn with specific detail. The Evangelion itself suffers no loss of detail even with the distance and at the strange angle.

If anyone reading this hasn’t picked up Evangelion 1.11 yet… get to it. THAT is what you’re missing.

 

Evangelion 1.11 screenshot captured by http://autaku.com

Convention Report: ConnectiCon 2010

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I have yet to go to a convention and be disappointed and that fact continues after my weekend spent at ConnectiCon 2010. The only disappointing aspect about conventions is that there is never enough time to do everything that I want to do. ConnectiCon is unique for an Anime fan because it is not primarily an Anime convention. Anime is only one of the many subjects that convention covers. If anything, I’d call ConnectiCon a gaming convention because of the massive amount of space dedicated to games of all types: Board games, video games, Table top RPGs, LARP, Minitures, and CCGs. ConnectiCon is also unique in that it attracts a large number of webcomic guests from all over the world with names as large as Brian Clevenger , Mohammad Hawqe , Jeph Jacques, Scott Ramsoomair, and (in 2006) Greg Dean.

If you are looking for just an Anime Convention with anime programming ConnectiCon might disappoint you. Not that there is a lack of Anime programming, I’ll go into more detail about it below, but it is more of a celebration of all things geeky. It’s like a large gathering of friends where some wanted to play Magic and others just wanted to watch Anime… blown up to an impossible scale.

For more on ConnectiCon 2010 please listen to Episode 23 of the podcast

Star Wars Steampunk

This was a strange panel where a group of hardcore steampunk fans (they were all dressed in full steampunk attire) asking the question “Is Star Wars Steampunk?” approaching from the aesthetic side they had a point… but it is far more likely that the elements that are similar, like Han Solo’s outfit, were inspired by Star Wars. I was a bit irritating they didn’t mention the possibility that Steampunk took elements from Star Wars but just went with the theme “Star Wars IS steampunk.”

Anime you should watch  

I caught the tail end of the Anime You Should Watch panel but walking into a room filled with people watching Daicon IV was amazing. The list of shows, and the way the GeekNights crew sold them to the crowded, was very impressive. A few notables were Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, They were eleven, and Master Keaton. Check out the PDF of their presentation here.

 

 

Anime and Kawaii Culture

 
This panel was a big deal at the convention because former anime producer Minoru Ohno (I’m gonna be an Angel, Minky Momo in Tabidachi no Eki) and University professor Marie Aizawa Phelan set out to explore the concept of Kawaii. While the presentation was interesting I don’t know how the findings were anything new. It seemed to follow along the normal established concept of Kawaii. The presentation also jumped back and forth between Ohno’s career and the findings of the study, which became tiring as it went along. Overall it was good but nothing ground breaking was discussed. I recorded the majority of the panel and it can be viewed on the live page:

Kawaii anime and culture panel video
Kawaii anime and culture panel Q&A

Uncle Yo

For the first time I was able to catch an entire standup skit from Uncle Yo and it was surprisingly funny. I’ve heard a lot of negative things about him and I can certainly see why; he panders to the fan girl crowded. But I can’t blame him for taking advantage of such a rapid and eager group of fans, and he probably has no choice if he wants to succeed as the “Otaku Comedian”. But, despite that, he has a huge amount of talent and executed all of his material well. Check out the set on the Otaku in Review Live page, I was a able to record most of it.

Uncle Yo: Nerd Moon on the Rise

Hatsune Miku

After the Uncle Yo show I was able to catch the tail end of a panel about Hatsune Miku, the virtual idol. I’ve been a fan of Miku since her original viral video but the panel, given by GeekNights, attempted to put her in perspective with the history of animation and the conclusion that all animation has attempted to merge live action into it, and Miku is the ultimate realization of goal as she continues to break into the real world. It is pretty incredible that technology has been able to take a 2D character with a computer generated voice and place her on a live stage. It’ll be shocking what we’ll see ten years from now.

 

Update 7/18/10

Scott Rubin contacted me and wanted to make sure that I didn’t misrepresent the panel. The most interesting fact that I took from the panel was Miku seems to be the end result of a long attempt to marry live action and animation but Scott didn’t want the message of creativity to be overlooked. The reason he showed Daicon IV was in order to show what a group of geeks were capable of with inspiration and hard work. The group that made Daicon IV, who would later go on to form Gainax, didn’t even have a computer when they compiled would would become one of the most important short pieces of animation ever made. Instead of playing World of Warcraft go out and make Miku dance and sing. The power of the Volcaloid  2 software has made creation amazingly simple and with it even you can one day create a hit with Hatsune Miku leading the way.

 

Dealer’s room

The dealers room in my greatest weakness and while the ConnectiCon dealers room is nothing compared with Anime Boston (and I’m sure Otakon and AX) the vendors had some amazing things. Here are some notable items that I left with:

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I stumbled across this in the back of someone’s booth late on Sunday. It was marked as $50 but he immediately took $20 off the price. I have never seen anything quite like it before and after doing a quick google search found it sold out with a price of $120! This is such an interesting piece that after I bought it someone who walked into the booth after me and saw it offered me $50 for it. Perhaps the dealer isn’t going to hide things in his booth anymore.

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An Evangelion 2.0 era Asuka figure beautifully sculpted with an interested transparent effect on her hair. This was the most expensive figure I picked up over the weekend and well worth the price. Now if I could only see the movie…

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Minorin! I love Minorin! I love most anime girls with red hair (which will be a trend on all the figures I bought). After missing out on the Angelic Taiga figure at Anime Boston I needed to get some Toradora! love in my figure collection. Of course now I’m going to have to hunt down bunny suit Taiga in order to complete the set.

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A small, yet large headed Bunny girl Kallen which I couldn’t resist and a set of K-On! beach figures which I haven’t had a chance to put together yet.

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Yes, I know. This pretty much completes the “generic Otaku room” theme I’ve been building for the last few years. But I couldn’t resist because it is so damn comfortable! Also, Haruhi.

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Hayate the Combat Butler manga volumes 2 through 15 piled on high. Trust me, I got a great deal.

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Finally I had Applegeeks volumes 1 and 2 signed by the authors. This is a painful story but I brought both books for them to sign but with the dealers room bag policy I couldn’t bring in my messenger bag. I grabbed a plastic bag and put them in just for convenience and it turns out the inside of the bag was wet which ruined my Volume 2, forcing me to buy another one. I raged, but it was worth it.

Cosplay

 
All of the pictures I took over the weekend are up on the live page and I’ll post the links after the images. These are a few of my favorites from the weekend. There was lots of Team Fortress 2, remember there is a large gaming section at ConnectiCon, and it seems that Durarara!! is very popular among the con attending crowded with Cross play being a huge trend.

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Officer Jenny from Pokemon

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Lightening from Final Fantasy XIII
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Three Ghostbusters
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Weeping Angel from Doctor Who
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Durarara!! crossplay
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Utena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ConnectiCon in Pictures Day 1

ConnectiCon in Pictures Day 2 part 1

ConnectiCon in Pictures Day 2 part 2

ConnectiCon in Pictures Day 3

The Borg

R.I.P. BangZoom

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Yesterday the president of BangZoom entertainment posted a blog post on the future of the Anime Licensors in the United States. I encourage you to read it before being tainted with my commentary.

I’m going to break down the post but I need to say that in no way am I supporting Piracy in my attack on this document. Piracy is wrong and it does harm a lot of the people who have created the work that as Anime fans we enjoy. However, I don’t believe piracy is the cause of the death of the American Licensors or BangZoom.

The timing of this piece is completely wrong. Starting from that fact this is not a last effort by a dead company but an effort to try and prop the company up from what could be a death spiral. This is obviously influenced by the Shonen Jump letter which bluntly asked fans to stop scanning the magazine saying that it is “Hurting the Manga Culture.” 

The other factor that probably prompted Eric Sherman is the introduction of Aniplex into the American marketplace. As I discussed on Episode 11 of the podcast Aniplex is not going to be dubbing the Gurren Lagann movies. NIS America, who is entering the US Market with Toradora! in a few months, will also not be dubbing their licenses. Where does that leave BangZoom?

Onto the article

You must have noticed by now that many of the publishers that brought anime to the West have been shut down or substantially down-sized. There are only a few places left still able to bring titles to our shores.

Yes, I have noticed that these licensors have been disappearing because this is, apparently, the year 2007.

This is a critical year for anime. There’s no other way to say it. And I realized this morning that it was time for me to sound an urgent alarm.

This morning he saw that two of the biggest releases of the summer, Gurren Lagann, will not be receiving dubs.

If people don’t resist the urge to get their fix illegally, the entire industry is about to fizzle out. It won’t be a big dramatic change at this point.

So the alarm is about Piracy. He thinks that he is the first person to notice that people pirate content? He felt like he needed, personally, to raise the alarm? Come now. The first paragraph was an attempt to put himself in the righteous position before moving on with the fear that BangZoom is about to go under. Again, what is he telling us that we don’t already know?

Last year we saw Bandai fire 90% of their staff on one Monday in January, and two years ago we saw Geneon (neé Pioneer) shut their doors and auction off their wares to the highest bidder. CPM died a slow, painful death. And ADV fell hard and fast, the way mighty giants will.

Again, nothing we don’t already know and have been terrified over for years. My focus in this part is how he describes ADV. They “fell hard and fast, the way mighty giants will.” That statement is full of defeatism. It also is full of truth. Once ADVs funding was cut they couldn’t sustain their business model and simply fell apart. It’s odd that Sherman would use such elaborate language to describe the process. Perhaps he sees a bit of ADVs fate in his own future. 

But from here on, it won’t be so exciting. Japan is already suffering and struggling to bring out quality titles. They can’t rely on everything being picked up by US distributors anymore. And little by little, it just won’t be here anymore.

This is the first instance where I have to call bullshit. This statement makes it seem like Japan relies on the American market to release quality shows.  Scott VonSchilling, from Anime Almanac, was a hardcore fan of the idea and attempted to prove it  in his piece titled, “Are we Just Gravy? The Importance of the American Market to the Japanese.” Scott enters the argument with a bias, “…my answer was going to be that we weren’t just gravy to the Japanese. I believed that America anime market was actually a critical part of their business over there.” But in the end is forced to admit that that idea is simply not true, “So like I said, these answers weren’t exactly those I were looking for, but I do believe that I had found a very interesting insight into the importance of America in the global anime scene. Are we just gravy to the Japanese? Yes. Yes we are.” Nice try Mr. Sherman but that theory is long since dead.

You can’t find much anime at Best Buy now. In fact, where can you find it for sale? Think about that.  There are fewer new titles coming out, and less and less stuff will be in English, because it’s just not worth the cost of dubbing it. It’s true that entertainment distribution models are going to be changing dramatically. DVD may be on the way out forever, and online TV is becoming a reality very quickly. But so far, there are no successful ways to monetize online entertainment. Not so that creators can afford to produce and distribute quality content.

Again, all he is stating are facts. Titles are disappearing because the market that demands anime is much smaller now than it was five years ago. DVD is on a slope downward as a platform and online media distribution is the future. Why is he complaining about these things? Why not come up with an idea to fix it. Make the business models work online instead of just panicking. What he is saying is. “DVD is dying and that is our business model! We’re doomed!” Change should become your new business model.

Anime is going to die.

Unless YOU change. Right now. Stop stealing. If you have committed theft, robbery, shop-lifting, or just “downloading some stuff through torrent reactor,”  then just stop doing it — now. You probably wouldn’t go into a supermarket and put a package of swiss cheese under your shirt and walk out without paying. Nor would you walk into Best Buy and try to walk out with Guitar Hero, bypassing the cash register. Why? Is it because you might get caught? Or are there other issues, such as standards of morality, that dictate how you live your life.

Oh, I’m sorry. The reason why your business is failing is because of me? That is the same cry the music industry made when they were all but dead. Then they reformed their business model and currently enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Also, Anime is not going to die. Anime is going to change in an attempt to reach a larger market. The anime licensing business in this country is no where near dead. Funimation is licensing news titles almost every month plus Aniplex and NIS America are just coming into the market. How are these signs of a dying business?

Furthermore, I take offence at the term theft because legally that isn’t what pirates are doing. The OED defines theft very clearly, “the felonious taking away of the personal goods of another,” the definition involves property being taken away. The crime pirates are violating is called “Copyright Infringement.” Copyright is, of course, “The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc, to print, publish, and sell copies of his original work,” and infringement “breaking or breach (of a law, obligation, right, etc.)” so in essence copyright infringement is when someone violates the exclusive right of a publisher to print their own content. It is incorrect to calls pirates “thieves.” Nor is it correct to compare it to the act of physically taking something from a store. I’m not justifying anything. Copyright Infringement is illegal. However, it is no where near as illegal as theft.

The net, for all it’s charms, is also a dark and dangerous place. When you’re navigating it, you need to ask yourself this question:  Is this right, just because it is so easy

The Internet is indeed a scary place. Maybe everyone should just stay away from it because it doesn’t fit the business model of the failed Anime licensors.

You need to understand that quality entertainment costs a lot to create. And if there is no one paying for this content, it just won’t be made anymore. If no one bought tickets to a Lady Ga Ga show, she would not do the tour. That’s just how it works. For some reason, people don’t mind stealing their anime. I’m here to tell you flat out: This is wrong. You are doing something bad. And you need to stop it.

I understand. This statement is, in fact, true. If US anime fans don’t want dubs then BangZoom doesn’t have a product to sell. I’m sorry if the market has gone this way but it isn’t just the fault of the pirates. Most anime piracy is fansubs, shows that are (mostly) not licensed in the United States or dubbed. I’m sure there is piracy of dubs floating around the web but nowhere near the number of subbed releases. As a consumer while I still buy Anime DVDs most of them are from older shows when the dubs were of high quality. The one of the newer shows I have on disc, D. Gray Man, has an awful dub. I’m not going to watch it so why did I pay for it? The quality of the product is no longer there and because of that the demand for the product has gone down. If shows were getting good dubs, Toradora!! for example, I’d buy it and listen to it but that just isn’t going to happen now that NIS has the rights and if no dub brings the price of the disc down to a more tempting point that alone might curb the need for casual piracy.

I’m sure that some of you reading this will laugh, close this window, and go download some more torrents. Why not? Who’s going to know? Who’s going to catch you?

No, I’m not laughing. I’m terrified that the licensors in the states can’t come up with a business model that will give me more high quality Blu-ray releases. I’m terrified that the fandom I love is in danger of becoming more niche than it currently is. Fix it!

I think this bears repetition, so I’ll say it again:

Maybe you should have said it three years ago.

Not getting caught does not make what you are doing right. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.  What you are doing is not only illegal, it is actually hurting many people. From the artists and creators, to the voice actors in the studios — all working to put food on their tables for their families. You can’t see them, and you can’t see the immediate results of your actions. But believe me, you are hurting people.

I agree. I really do agree with this statement. I want to support the people who make the content I enjoy. I also want ease of access, high quality download to own episodes, good Blu-Ray releases. Most of all I’m willing, and I know many fans who are very willing, to pay for all of those things. But you cry that the death of DVD means the death of Anime? No, it doesn’t. Give us the product that we want and fans will pay for it. Do something! Don’t just put up a blog post condescending your fans while attempting to guilt them into buying more discs. That isn’t a business model.

If what I’m saying resonates with you, then consider this a wake up call. A call to immediate and profound action. It’s very easy to do.  You should support anime if you love it, by paying for it. Do the right thing. Plain and simple. Because if you don’t, I can guarantee you that this time next year, Bang Zoom won’t be bringing you anymore English language versions of it.

If the market is not there how do you plan to create it? There are so many variables that Eric Sherman is ignoring that it renders his entire argument nonsensical. He doesn’t factor in the shrinking market and just assumes that everyone who is not buying DVDs now just has switched to piracy. Sure, probably a decent number of them did. But more have simply aren’t fans of the medium anymore. He also doesn’t bring up the fact that Anime is no longer on television, a huge source of not only revenue but of building an audience that will go out and buy more Anime. In the early 2000s when Trigun, Tenchi, Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star, and Cowboy Bebop dominated Toonami on Cartoon Network it was a breeding ground for anime fans. Once they finished with the Toonami line up they were compelled to find more content like those shows. An outlet like that doesn’t exist anymore.

While I’m sorry that a house like BangZoom is dying a moralistic approach to reviving the industry isn’t going to work. The Shonen Jump attempt was far more effective because it was backed with legal threats and the desire to see the content creators get paid. The American licensing companies are, at best, romanticized importers. . Eric Sherman isn’t going to garner sympathy by moralizing especially in a market where he is quickly becoming obsolete.

Convention Report: Anime Boston 2010

 

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It’s tough going to an Anime convention for a single day especially one as large as Anime Boston. Describing the experience, the rush, the thrill of walking into a giant hall filled with people who you know you could connect with that, in fact, you are connecting with due to the fact that you are in the same place at the same time. It’s overwhelming and almost impossible to absorb during a single day. It maybe impossible to come to terms with if you had the entire weekend!

Here are my highlights from the convention:

Nobuo Uematsu

The main reason why I wanted to go to Anime Boston this year was to met the composer for the first ten Final Fantasy games Nobuo Uematsu . But I think it was clear that the Anime Boston organizers completely underestimated how large a draw the musician would bring. I waited in line for an hour and ten minutes before the staff finally came by and told everyone still waiting in line, and there was probably a hundred people in front of me, that there was no chance of getting an autograph. Disappointed and angry from waiting in line for so long with no result I moved on to the dealer’s room.

Later when attempting to get into the Uematsu Q&A I made the same mistake and arrived much too late. The line was far too long and one of the staff told me that I’d probably not get in. Fail.

Character design panel

I sat in on this panel, actually meant for artists, on character creation. The panelist did a good job of describing the main differences between Japanese and Western character design and then showed slides detailing what factors make up a good character design and what makes up a boring, ordinary character design.

Masquerade

Most Masquerade’s at conventions are fairly dull but the quality of the Anime Boston Masquerade was outstanding. The hosts were hilarious, the skits were creative and well executed, and the sound quality and visibility was great. They hit a home run with this event, one that I normally prefer to avoid. Out of Time Productions should have the entire show up on their Youtube channel soon if not already.

Funimation Industry Panel

Finally made it to a Funimation panel. It was fun to see the people behind the largest licencing company in the United States, get the trailers, and be on hand for the announcements. Unfortunately all the announced shows were fairly obvious. Chobits had to be rescued since that was a big money maker for Pioneer (Geneon), Spice and Wolf Season 2 was a given, and if they weren’t going to get the Eden of the East movies there was no point in releasing the series.

They also announced that they have acquired the music rights to the Eden of the East opening theme. I didn’t even know that was a problem and it highlighted my ignorance of the licensing process.

Plan ahead

Don’t be like me. I was completely unprepared for the size of this convention and lacked the skills needed to get around and make it to the panels and events that I really wanted to do. Plan ahead if you are going to any big convention. Read the schedule before you go, show up early to panels you want to see, and most importantly go all three days. The artists gallery and dealers room require so much time, especially if you are as crazy as I am, that you end up missing out on a lot. Friday should be Dealer’s room day because it’s a much slower day than Saturday and all the dealers will be fully stocked. Don’t hesitate if you really want something, like the Yoko body pillow I missed out on, because it will be gone. Remember, there are 17,000 people just like you who will swoop in and take it away.

 

Now to the best part of any convention: Merch!

Dealer’s Room

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I went nuts in the Dealer’s Room. Overwhelmed is the only word I can use to describe how I felt when I walked into the massive hall that held the seemingly endless number of vendors. Jumping from booth to booth I was absolutely frozen when I reached for my wallet. How could I buy something at this booth when there might be something I want MORE three booths down? It was incredible. Being the most indecisive person in the world I spent hours in the dealers room looking for figures, checking prices, and trying to talk myself into spending $110 on a Toradora figure.

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In the end I did walk away with some merch but no, not the $110 figure I lusted after.

Alicia from Valkyria Chronicles.

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Probably the best PS3 game before the release of Final Fantasy XIII Valkyria Chronicles is a fantastic experience and the games heroine makes a fantastic figure for sitting next to the game console.

Minorin with a flower out of her head

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The cheaper alternative to the $110 Taiga figure is this adorable little Minorin. But she still didn’t come cheap at $15. How could I resist that smile, though?

Tenchi mini figures

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This is probably the only Washu and Kagato figures I’m ever going to find so I had to pick them up at a cheap $10.

Mio plushie

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Moe moe!

Artist Alley

The artist alley was just as overwhelming as the Dealers room. There was all types of art from prints to key chains and custom made plushies. The aisles were so crowded that it was difficult to move. IT was good to see some independent artists get to sell their work. 

Art Prints

Kefka and Terra

Being a very Final Fantasy heavy year so far how could I miss this piece featuring the series greatest hero being tormented by the series greatest villain?

Karen

Karen from Code Geass looking very hot and very awesome.

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Moe Kallen and Mio

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This artist basically turns any anime character into a moe character. Mio and Karen were among my favorites but I was also very tempted by her Asuka.

 

Cosplay

I never take as many pictures as I want. After a few hours I’m normally weighted down by too many bads to handle my Camera. Here are some cosplay highlights:

Cat Bus!

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Kefka crossplay

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Kenpachi

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Kallen (Karen)

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Washu (FTW!)

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Overall

The event was a blast and highly recommended. Now that Anime Boston is the sixth largest Anime convention in the country, and growing every year, they will continue to get top guests and put on an amazing show. I suggest going for the entire weekend if you can as one day is no where near enough time to see and experience everything. Hell, one day isn’t enough to see the entire dealers room in full. The convention is well organized, the venue is next to a ton of hotels and inside a mall (cheap food is not far away), and the fans involved do a great job to put on many fantastic panels and a perfectly executed Masquerade. I look forward to next year.

Anime is about…. whatever it wants to be about

There are few things I hate more than broad generalizations. The reasons should be obvious: they are mostly vague and break down quickly when you apply them over a range of items. Unfortunately Comics, anime, and video games are some of the most common forms of media to suffer from generalizations mostly because people don’t understand them and don’t want to take the time to understand them. When one of these generalizations comes from within the community it is typically an attempt to bring people into the fandom.

But rarely have I seen a generalization used in an attempt to be profound. Nothing you say can apply to all apr_kaiba pieces of work in a given genre, let alone an entire medium. I have been a famous critic of rap music but if you question me a little bit I’ll admit that there are few, albeitvery few, rap artists who could be considered good poets. (Even if they are misdirecting their talents) But when you use a blatant generalization in an attempt to be profound it strikes me as not only ignorant but arrogant.

I’m going to have to call out Michael Pinto’s Fanboy.com for this crime. The site is a fairly good source of geek news and videos although the ad to content ratio is a bit on the ad side and the lack of comments discredits them as a modern publication. Normally I try not to speak out on the works of other bloggers because I believe most of what we write about is subjective and most readers know this when they visit a blog. I wouldn’t have called him out on this post had I not seen other bloggers quoting the headline and agreeing with the statement without really thinking about what it means.

But I can’t ignore this shameful attempt to capture what “sets anime apart” which according to Mr. Pinto is “more than just the craftsmanship but also the storytelling” in a piece titled “Anime isn’t about the Complexity but the storytelling.”

 

The article is mainly about an ad for snack food and I agree with Mr. Pinto that this ad really a triumph of visual storytelling. But to then apply the lessons learned by a thirty second ad to the entire medium of Japanese Animation is a bit grandiose. I will respond to the key lines of this post:

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People always identify the complexity of anime as a visual trademark

 

Vague statement. This actually means nothing because “complexity” isn’t defined. Later in the post Mr. Pinto talks about storytelling and the title of the post makes it seem like he is exclusively talking about storytelling. Yet complexity is a visual trademark? So which is he actually talking about? The complexity animation or the complexity of the storytelling?

 

 

but having looked at quite a few educational animated segments from NHK I can tell you that isn’t the case.

Which segments and why? No matter how intelligent or credible you may be I’m not going to take a statement like this without something to back it up. What about them makes you believe that a trait of the entire medium is it’s simplicity? Of course I’m leading the witness in this case because I know that no matter how stunning anything from NHK is it cannot be applied to the entire medium.

To me what sets anime apart is more than just the craftsmanship but also the storytelling.

What craftsmanship? The craftsmanship of the animation? I’m pretty sure that creating a good story also  jg-eva-2-0-3involves some kind of craftsmanship. Story’s just don’t appear fully formed in front of animators. Is this supposed to refer to the craftsmanship of the animation? In that case you have insulted an army of artists from all over Japan.

 

So what does the title of this post “Anime Isn’t About the Complexity but the Storytelling” mean? It means nothing. It’s a vague statement designed to appear profound.

If Mr. Pinto is claiming that anime is good because the stories are simple I think we can point to dozens of shows that are just as if not more complex than a story told in any other medium. If Mr. Pinto is claiming that anime is fantastic because the animation is simple well he just insulted an entire industry of artists and again we can all point to dozens of shows where the complexity of the art ads to its value. So I ask Mr. Pinto to please explain what I’m supposed to take away from this post other than the fact that he made a poor generalization that has no real meaning. I’ll also invite Scott VonSchilling to take a stab at it since he was so quick to agree with the statement. 

Please take this as a note of caution: Don’t believe something because it sounds good. Think about what the words mean. 

Top 5 Anime of 2009

I  know everyone is making these kind of lists and that I’ve already stated my top anime of 2009 on the podcast. But I figured this is a good way to look back at the year and maybe help readers catch a few shows they  missed before getting swamped by the upcoming Winter season. I  limited the list to five because I don’t think I have seen enough shows to warrant a top ten list. Even if I watched twenty shows, it’s probably somewhere around that, picking ten is still half the shows I happened to see. 

 

I only have one rule for this list. The anime must have finished airing or being released in Japan or United States in 2009. If I have already seen the show in fansubs it becomes ineligible for the list the year it gets an R1 release. 

 

The reason for this is because there are certain films that I have refused to see until I can get them on blu-ray. So I don’t want to exclude them from future lists. At the same time I really want this to be a list of the year the shows were originally aired in Japan. So I’m going to try the middle ground. 

 

On to the list:

 

5. Clannad After Story

 

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I wasn’t completely in love with the original Clannad. It was a nice little series but, like all the key adaptations, it had some serious problems. There are just some elements that do not translate from visual novel to anime well. Clannad, and Kannon before it, get repetitive and predicable, not to mention melodramatic. 

 

Clannad After Story was able to shed most of the limitations of an adapted light novel. The concept of a high school love story being carried on after graduation was unique and presented in a way that felt genuine. Things aren’t all roses and fireworks after high school. The real world has to be tackled. Bills have to be paid. Clannad After Story, despite the melancholy and strange plot devices, is a well executed love story about two people who just wanted to live a normal life. It also will destroy your soul and reconstruct it in its own image. Just saying. 

 

 

4. Casshern Sins

 

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 I have never seen a Casshern property before watching this latest iteration of the ancient franchise. The quality of the animation alone should earn it a place on this list. But on top of the ascetic value the show featured an incredible sound track and a solid story about the fear of death and what it means to be mortal. The dark atmosphere of the series was balanced with characters that  were able to absolutely melt your heart without being obnoxious. The action was good, if a bit repetitive, but the real value of the show comes from the well presented themes. What does it mean to be mortal? What does it mean to be immortal? What is the power of hope?

 

3. Canaan

 

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Canaan is one of the best action shows that has come out in a long time. It avoids being a stoic story of bitter revenge by giving the seemingly heartless Canaan a unbelievably cheerful foil. In fact all of the dark characters have foils which gives the show a tonal balance between light and serious. The animation is spectacularly well done and the action is fast pasted and fluid.

 

The most illustrative scene is when the President of the United States proclaims “LOVE AND PEACE” to a gathering of diplomats before being subjected to a deadly virus. Yes, it goes back and forth like that throughout the entire 12 episode run.  

 

2. Ride Back

 

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Ride Back finally blends normal animation with CG mechs that enhances, not distracts, from the overall quality of a show. From the first scene, which features the heroine doing ballet, the audience is given some of the most beautiful art and animation I have ever seen in a television show. The story doesn’t disappoint either, bringing into question the nature of advancing military technology in civilian hands, the question of unlocking ones talent, and a frightening look into a powerful government based on fear of terrorism make this one hell of a loaded 12 episode near-masterpiece. The only factor holding the show back from gaining the number 1 stop is an abrupt ending that was obviously rushed due to time constraints. One more episode and this show could have been flawless. 

 

1. Toradora!  

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Nothing beats a good love story. Except a good love triangle and the only thing that beats that is a love square. Toradora! is the show that I watched the second it came out and immediately demanded more. The characters were deep, including the background characters, lead by the growing friendship come relationship of Taiga and Ruiji, the two social rejects of the school who help each other to grow together to become part of the class. 

The best aspect of Toradora! is that the audience is unsure which of the three female characters to root for because each has their advantages and failings. You want to love them all. The dynamic love story, the excellent sound track, and beautiful art rank this show above all others this year because it was able to balance humor and drama, elation and disappointment, love and hate with a masterful command of character. 

 

 

 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch everything that came out this year. Shows that I’ve seen rated very highly like Bakemonogatari or Eden of the East could have made this list. But at this point I don’t know. If only I could devote all my time to anime. 

 

It is interesting to note that I mainly focus on shows that have a balanced tone. I didn’t realize it at the time but each of these shows, with the exception of Casshern Sins which is 80% “I wanna cut myself” depressing, balances serious themes with periods of light hearted fun. Those are qualities to look for in any good story not limit to just Anime.