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Editorials

The most influential people in your anime fandom

The ever reliable ICv2 recently posted up a list of the “ten most powerful people in the North American anime industry“. The run down makes for interesting (if a little predictable) reading and sitting at the top is Gonzo’s bestest buddy Gen Fukunaga (of FUNimation), who managed to visciously kill off any competition with his company’s swelling ranks of mediocre action anime to become “the one” (or should I say, Jyu-Oh).
This got me thinking about the people who have had the most influence on my development as an anime fan, or more specifically; which sick bastards transformed me into the hardened anime junkie I am today?
The list of shame
4. Yoko Kanno – Cowboy Bebop
Soundtracks play a great part in my love of anime and no one does it better than Yoko Kanno. I first heard her work in Cowboy Bebop and have since been totally and utterly defeated by her varied tunage and heart wrenching, nostalgic stylings.
3. Chika Umino – Honey & Clover
At a time when I was feeling seriously jaded about anime (I couldn’t even make it through the first 3 minutes of Gonzo’s Black Cat), along came a funny slice of life series called Honey & Clover that completely refreshed my enthusiasm for the genre. This was a geniuenly funny, life affirming drama with colorful, original animation and a wonderful soundtrack to boot. Chika Umino wrote this story, so deserves credit first and foremost, but irregardless of that, everything about Honey & Clover is brilliant.
2. Kentarou Miura – Berserk
Berserk was the first anime I fell head over heels in love with and Kentarou Miura is the genius behind it all. In combining though-provoking philosophy with an extremely violent, complex cast of characters, Miura will forever be the brilliant mind behind my favourite anime of all time.
1. Masashi Kishimoto – Naruto / Shonen Jump
Although it is with something of a guity conscience, I simply wouldn’t be watching anime today if it wasn’t for Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto. This was the first ever fansubbed series I got my mits on and to this very day I still remember the nerve-wracking, sweat-inducing climax of the Zabuza story arc. After sitting through around 50 episodes of Naruto, I realised I had to check out more anime. And furthermore, I realized subtitles should always be the way to go with foreign film and TV.

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Editorials

Soundtracks that stand alone

Great music and great anime usually go hand in hand, but the sign of a great song is that anyone can enjoy it, irregardless of their love (or lack there of) for anime. I remember thoroughly enjoying the music used in Honey & Clover, but on its own it is a disappointing, minimal experience I often compare with the dull instrumentation of easy listening elevator tunes. Within the context of falling in love with the Honey & Clover anime, I imagined this soundtrack would mean so much more to me.
From back to front, there are few anime soundtracks that truly transcend the chains of being locked to their respective TV series. Without stating the obvious example of Mistress Yoko Kanno, I genuinely feel Toshio Masuda’s ethereal Mushishi score is a consistently lush and driving musical master class. I can play these songs at home, in the office at work and even to my damn family- everyone (relative to their undeniably bad taste) will love it.
Of course, as is their nature, soundtracks aren’t designed to be stand alone albums anyway but it’s certainly a bonus to know that in sixth months, hell…, six years down the line, I can still enjoy listening to some of this music without having to revisit the TV series first.

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Editorials

Dr Who inspired by Naruto, eh?

Now this is something quite bizarre but looking at the evidence (images above), a recent villain from (the staple of UK sci-fi) Dr Who could well have been inspired by Sasuke’s (from Naruto) “cursed seal” form.
It’s easy to dismiss this all as a mere coincidence, but you should note the red eyes (mirroring Sasuke’s sharingan) and the fact that both characters breathe fire, and we may just have a case here! It’s just cool to think that the writers at the BBC are watching Naruto, I wonder what they think of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya?
Source:
Thanks to Necromancer for the Dr. Who screen cap and Animated FatCat for fighting his case!

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Editorials

The declining Western anime industry

The imminent bankrupsy of Central Park Media (CPM) forecasts a bleak year ahead for the US anime industry, but given there are more fans now than ever before, one would assume that the opposite should be true. The Anime Almanac has an answer, though I’m not sure whether they are right; it seems fansubs are to blame.
The internet is a great tool for sharing information and this is especially true for the anime community. People are now able to watch new series months (sometimes years) ahead of their local releases and later even share opinions with other like-minded fans (e.g. the anime blogsphere). From the fans’ perspective, this is great, though looking out from say ADV’s base in Houston, it must be frustrating.
ADV US recently licensed “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World” – a 13 episode TV series from none other than Neon Genesis Evangelion and FLCL maestro’s GAINAX. Coming from GAINAX, it should be a license to print money, but “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World” is actually a complete load of rubbish, and there-in lays the problem. Suffice to say had I not watched this show fansubbed a few years back, I would be a lot more interested in it than I am today.
For many of us newer fans, simply being anime is no longer good enough; in this rapidly maturing community, companies can not just go out and license everything under the sun because now the fans won’t have it; we now know what is good from what is bad.
The boom of the early 2000s has led to another problem too. The Japanese companies noticed how successful their anime was becoming in the international markets and decided to bump up the cost of licensing. Now we are in a situation where the US companies are less than willing to throw around their money and the Japanese are asking for too much anyway. Stalemate.
Fansubs are still at the forefront of a newer generation of fandom, while the DVD industry is stuck years behind floundering in the past. The music industry recovered from the MP3 revolution by embracing it; and if it wants to survive, sooner or later the anime industry will have to do the same thing.

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Editorials

Reigniting the flames of fansubs

In an interview with ActiveAnime, Viz Media’s director of PR Evelyn Dubocq slammed all forms of internet piracy. Despite the generic corporate style of her responses (which show little-to-no knowledge of the anime community as a whole), Dubocq’s remarks have inevitably reignited the flames of debate within the anime community.
On one side we have the hippy-like fansubbers who feel like everything should be free and on the other, there are the hard-line DVD fans, their motto is that “anime is a luxury, not a right”.
Now before we go any further into this entry, we may as well ascertain one simple fact; by downloading and watching anime fansubs, you are breaking the law; irregardless of if it’s “unlicensed” outside of Japan, you are infringing copyright law.
Now that you know this, whether or not you watch fansubs is, and always should be, a question of considered personal ethics. I can only speak for myself, but the reason I download anime is because I am a fan and to put it simply, I just want to watch the latest and greatest shows as soon as possible. I’m not patient enough to wait another year for the US DVD releases and heck, we live in modern times now; we shouldn’t have to wait so long anyway.
Now I’m aware no one is entitled to anime- after all, like the hardliners say, it is a luxury, but my love of anime knows no bounds. I’m not downloading fansubs because they are free, but rather, just because it is anime and I want to watch it now.
By picking up fansubs am I hurting the Western anime industries? No. Given how niche a genre this really is, anime has and always will survive through fan-driven word of mouth. Naruto is the most downloaded anime of all time; at it’s highest point over two hundred thousand people were downloading new episodes every week, has this detracted from it’s runaway success in the United States? Has it even affected DVD sales?
Of course there will always be leechers that only download anime and never buy the real thing, but then, if say fansubs magically disappeared tomorrow, would they suddenly begin investing their hard earned cash in official anime DVDs instead? Of course not, once a cheap skate, always a cheap skate. No money is lost or gained on these people.
The world of anime fansubs is not as black and white as some will have you believe; unless you are 4Kids (in which case; fuck you), they should never be considered a replacement for the official DVDs but similarly, unless a better- and legal- means of previewing subtitled anime becomes available, fansubs will always serve an absolutely vital service to anime fans, something I am very grateful for.

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Editorials

Anime Bloggers Need Excitement

The relevance (or rather, lack there of) of contemporary anime blogs has again been brought into question, this time at the core of the blogsphere itself; blogsuki.
The central theme of the discussion is an unstoppable slew of generic episode summaries, the problem being that these dozens of posts all essentially describe the same things; why recap an episode if it’s already been done elsewhere?
I’m torn between both perspectives, as pointless as it may be to reiterate the contents of an episode that has already been echoed countlessly elsewhere, blogging is and always should be a personal labour of love.
If you see an anime series that just gives you that feeling, nothing should stem the ensuing passion; you know what I mean- when you discover an anime series you love, or see an amazing episode, you’re instantly transformed from that moody old seen-it-all-before to an excited kid so full of glee and enthusiasm that you just need to tell someone…, anyone…, about what you’ve just seen. That’s basically why I’m running an anime blog, to capture and share those glimpses of euphoric emotion, and at that point I couldn’t care less whether some other bloke has already said the same things 7 days previous.
Naturally I would love to be listed on BLOGSUKI and see my readership expand. No doubt I’m one of the dozens waiting in line to be granted this “honour”, but I am not going to appease my style just to earn their favour. Writing should always be a natural exercise, free of external pressures or set formulas.
Over the past few days there has been all this talk about how bloggers can do the right things and avoiding doing wrong things, but it’s all irrelevant if you lack the passion to write about anime. That is basically all you need to succeed, for me writing here is about fulfilment. It’s great to get comments, to express and share opinions with other anime fans and that’s all there is to it. To this end, it’s disappointing to be denied entry to a website like blogsuki, but I’ll live.

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Editorials Music

Can an opening theme resurrect a series?

Is an opening theme enough to reignite interest in a series? I guess it is for me because I’ve just seen the third opening sequence for mediocre vampire slasher Blood+ and suddenly I’ve been persuaded to give this show another chance.
First time around I discovered Blood+ was terribly predictable, but if Production I.G devote as much passion to the story telling as they have this vivid opening animation, I’ll happily return.
The OP in question is a wonderful mixture of experimental, gritty gothic visuals with enough cool looking poses and sword slashing, blood dripping action scenes to convince even the most skeptical of fans this so isn’t the watered-down mainstream series it started out as; but you don’t have to take just my word for it- stream it over at YouTube now.

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Editorials

Skewed tastes of the otaku

With blogger hubs like Blogsuki and the AnimeAntenna cropping up, now is as good a time as ever to gauge how the tastes of the hardcore anime fan often differ from that of the general anime buying public.
According to the stats provided by Blogsuki, the most popular shows currently being blogged are Mai Otome, Fate/Stay Night, Shakugan no Shana, Kashimashi and Jigoku Shoujo. And judging by it’s furious debut, I expect we won’t have to wait too long for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to gatecrash that list too.
On the other hand, typical shounen adventure anime like Eureka 7, Ergo Proxy and Noein appear to be floundering. Perhaps that’s a harsh way of putting it, but these are a shows tipped for the very top, flashbang animated and designed with an obvious broad appeal. What do they lack that turns off the otaku audience?
Is it that obsessive quality that otaku are famous for; no matter how well it’s animated, you can’t very well idolize an emotionless vase of a character like Real Mayer of Ergo Proxy in the same way as the always huggable “cute hell girl” Enma Ai of Jigoku Shoujo. Plushies and wallpapers of the weird looking kids from Noein are never going to be as fluffy as the girls from Otome.
It’s not all about aethetics though- the most blogged series, like Otome, appear to invite fandom, to encourage disection of every facet of their show. Noein and the rest are great examples of story telling- but perhaps too good in that we are often left with little to discuss, such is the quality of story that watching becomes an almost one way experience, there is little to discuss when all the loose ends are everything but tied up anyway.

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Editorials

Paranoia Agent – Happy Family Planning censored in the UK

For those who aren’t aware, I’m based in the UK. Being an anime fan in England isn’t so bad, though like every country, we have to put up with the occasional scandal; and this week one such scandal has been making waves in our anime community. Basically, the BBFC have decided to censor a section of episode 8 (“Happy Family Planning”) of Paranoia Agent- and it’s not a TV broadcast that’s been cut, it’s a DVD release.
As I have the uncut DVD version of this episode to hand, I figured I would blog it and try to analyze why BBFC feel it’s dangerous for the British public to see.
Now Happy Family Planning is probably the most unsettling episode of Paranoia Agent I’ve seen so far- because not only does it depict a young girl attempting to commit suicide, it also touches on a number of other issues that we Britains are trained to fear. For one- the little girl meets her suicidal compatriots in an internet chatroom (both grown men; one is gay and the other a depressed old fogey). The British media is usually full of stories about how young children are being exposed by old perverts over the ‘net and since this episode alludes to the internet as a means of planning a young girl’s suicide (let alone the other characters involved), it immediately treds on edgy territory- a cartoon making fun of such dangerous things is a parent’s nightmare.
The episode continues and by the time we reach the now infamous attempted hanging scene (this is the section cut by the BBFC), it’s clear that Happy Family Planning is a disturbing black comedy- yes, it features responsible adults who want to die, but still, it’s a satire; an albeit close to bone comedy that really pushes the boundaries concerning the worries of a middle-class modern society.
Happy Family Planning has all of the trademarks of a Satoshi Kon anime; it’s subversive, experimental and downright brilliant, all the way through to it’s sad conclusion. The way the character’s act- all smilie faces and skipping down streets is not in tone with what you would expect of people wanting to die; it’s actually an episode full of life and humour, chillingly so. And this is probably why the BBFC decided to cut out the attempted hanging; the animation genre in the West is still one that is synomonous with young people and a sickly sweet innocence. Seeing three cartoon characters, including one child, trying to hang themselves, and laughing and joking about dying, is just too much for Britain right now. And ironically, unless in the future the BBFC let their guards down concerning these kinds of issues, we’ll never be ready either.

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Editorials

Why am I running an anime blog?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, and with the recent commentary posted over at “a fairy tale…”, I guess it’s time for me to revaluate the real reason why this place exists.
I’ve long admired anime blogs from afar, enjoyed reading their quick-fire reviews of my favourite shows and always wanted to run a blog just like these people- hence this place- but a quick look at BlogSuki reveals what is essentially a flood of others who feel the same way. I glance at my review of NANA below and feel embarrassed- not because it’s a bad post, but rather because it’s so damn generic. Everyone is watching this show, nearly everyone is blogging it, so what’s the point in me joining the crowd? Will it add anything new, of vital importance? I’ve conformed without even realizing it.
So I guess I’m selling out then; being an ambitious person, always looking at my hit counter and checking my mail for new comments, I want to attract people to this place. Sadly, this is a fruitless pursuit- and a newbie trap- a situation in which you inevitably end up droning on about shows you really couldn’t give two shits about. I’m not saying this is the case with NANA; I honestly did enjoy the first episode, but mere enjoyment is hardly the metal great blogs are made of.
For now, I’m going to try and forget about what other people may want to read here and just focus on what I want to read. I’m going to remove my hit counter and rely on “the force”, Skywalker-style, before self-destructing in a fit of referral statistics.