Monthly Archives: April 2006

New Season Checklist 3

And 40 days after the flood of new anime had stopped, The Bad Guy opened a window and let loose a pair of CRV7 70mm rockets.
Black Lagoon 1

I think the winners, barring the remaining contestants, are clear.

Notice how each of those are spearheaded by a different significant production studio. Deen, for example, has their lovely Simoun flying machines complete with sound effects akin of Vader’s Custom TIE. It’s a war out there. Well, with exception of Bones and Madhouse, who also manages to hit really, really hard with Juuousei, the Lord-of-the-Flies tale of survival and becoming something more; and Black Lagoon, probably my #1 selection for the masses this season. Sucks to be Gonzo right now, though…wait a few months? This season, it seems, the studios have taken cues from 1-2 years ago and suddenly every one of them produced shows that started at around the same time, all very appealing.

And they fight like as if it’s a war–in the flea market of our minds. Some of the arsenals include kiss. Lots of kisses–girl-girl, girl-boy, boy-girl, boy-boy (well, we tried to avoid this one). Lots of blood, even more action (some involving kissing); comedy shoujo-style, comedy-no-style, no-comedy. No romance, lots of romance, mostly in-between. Low blows. Guns; lots of guns. Hot moms, lots of sisters; bunny girls? CG, fake CG, CG-looking-like-it’s-not, REALLY BAD CG. Snail-pace, non-linear storytelling, action-packed. And of course, fanservice; the shoujo/josei crowd is still at the lead of that (so much sex in Nana, so little time), of course, closely followed by the snuffy Tokko (funded by Manga Entertainment???). Can maid boys beat out magical girls from the 90s? Only if you’re a dream user…

The casualties are lost in the mindshare bloodbath, deemed to wander in the obscurity known as “faint recollections” when one browses through a list of anime at their favorite torrent site or wallpaper listing. Who the hell cares if your close friends are gargoyles or a badass tank AI?

It’s fierce, and as well it should be. That said I am not holding my breath; the second half of this year has some of the more exciting titles coming out. UFOTable’s newest project and more KyoAni in the form of Kanon are just some rememberable teasers waiting to happen.

Conventional Wisdom

Collage of Con Pics

The annual Summer Convention Season is almost upon us. First glances:

Otakon. This is my bread & butter summer escape. Baltimore wins for its location and cost associated, plus I’ve done this for so many years. The only complaint I have is how it is kind of in the middle of summer and it takes a concerted effort to go to it. A rumormongering little bird of viral marketing told me this year, unlike last, will be very cool. Reading the Otakon boards seems to confirm.

Anime Expo. I went last year and it was lots of fun. I don’t like SoCal but it’s a fun place to visit every now and then. This year their guest list is flowing out just now, considering only three months are left it’s a bit of a pinch. I suppose both this and Otakon are mainly mired by the locals and those dedicated enough to make it there on purpose. That said I’m pretty sure I will skip it this year.

A-Kon. It’s only on my radar for being one of the oldest con and KOTOKO. Never been there, so it’s pretty exciting. Right now, 50% of going; pending time and monetary issues.

Anime North. KOTOKO, again, but it’s not super far, and it might be fun to actually go to Toronto for, well, fun. Somehow Dallas just doesn’t seem that way. It’s also cheaper than Dallas. It takes place over memorial weekend, so that means I’ll miss out on some good BBQ opportunities if I do go.

Normally Anime Central would show up on my radar too, but this year (and last year) they’ve been pretty weak with the guests. The two years I’ve been to Acen things were already pretty rough, even if they did hit the spot in 2004 and 2003.

In retrospect, if I stuck to Otakon every year and went to nothing else, I probably would have saved a few thousand dollars. It comes both in terms of mere expenses of traveling, but also in splurging and what not. The hurt in the wallet makes me ask why if it’s worth it.

Alas, however, like community service, I tell myself every year how it is really all about, being a fan. It is one thing to look at the masses at the con, to soak in the cosplayers, to revel in the hustle of the dealer’s room… but it’s another to realize how happy it can make you feel, and how happy others are in the middle of their metaphysical orgy. They’re geeking out. It’s a little sad to see people go crazy over such little things, on the other hand, it just makes me more apperciative the goodness that’s left in this world. Our freedom to geek out, to express ourselves. It’s priceless.

Suzumiya Mania – Examining HARUHI ISM

Isle Haruhi

This past semester I’ve taken some classes about the power of an idea–in the context of intellectual property and mass media branding. More than just a couple times Key the Metal Idol came to mind while sitting in class. The worth of a brand and the legal protections ideas have when they come into play commercially–clasically and in today’s mass media market–can be in the billions of USDs just for a single brand.

It’s just a matter of time until that train of thought crashes into Haruhi. “How?” One might ask. Legal education is the short (and probably true) answer, but bear with me for a moment as we look into the “why?” (Which is, really, why I’m interested in the question at all.)

In some ways Haruhi is categorically a “High School Girl Idol” show. A powerful, influential, eccentric character takes the lead in the narrative. A slew of side shows play off to mirror the construct of this main character. It’s different than, say, School Rumble, as a pulp romantic comedy; different than a high school harem (of any kind of gender combination); and probably different than the hybrid (slice of lifes, for instance). Perhaps it is cousin to Gokujo Seitokai, and daughter of Yamamoto Yohko?

The story about an idol-like character is just that. My interest is in my own (and like myself, a good amount of others) facination with this idol. It’s one thing to just tell a story but harder to tell it well. But is that it? What is special with this girl? That she is a girl? That she’s a creative literary concept? I think while for many we’re still stuck at the “who is she?” stage of the game, the general topic is probably more interesting: what would an anime look like if it was to make you a fan of one of its character? Is that the same as how it would look if it was to make you a fan of itself? Are the two the same?

Idol culture ultimately hangs on that question. Building an anime that’s great to watch is well and good; but building a character means you are building a franchise that transcends the medium it first existed. Do we like Lara Croft rather than Tomb Raider? I think most of us are like that today.

To answer the “why” question more directly, yes, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu is well-directed, written, produced, animated, and pitched after a year of rather mediocre TV animation offering. It’s exciting and fun to watch beyond its abstraction. It’s not so crude as slapstick but mysteriously unidentifiable upon first look. I can go on about it but I think that’s answering the “why” question superficially.

The next level of abstraction is a little less exciting; after all, it’s the story about an extraordinary high school girl, mired in her own genius and unteathered to this world’s mindsets. A mania in her own right, the little bit of spark of extraordinary in her ordinary world brings out the little girl unobservable otherwise from her otherworldly shell. I suppose all of that is not uncommon in anime and the art of reciting stories for escapist young adults.

Is there more to it? Do we want to care about Haruhi beyond that point? Maybe–at least by this stage of the game (episode 2), we know no metaphysical genius is an island. Haruhi will not be the Haruhi we know and we will not see an end to her meloncholy without Kyon. SOS-dan recreates a context for our hero and heroine not unlike that of an alternate world. Maybe an analogy is Otakon to Baltimore? The analysis has to end at this point, though, because I don’t have enough to go on.

But do you? I think the concept is wildly interesting when you bring idol-ism into this context. Part of why, at least for me, is my sensitivity to general idol worshipping; but otherwise in the art of manipulating people’s will, mind, emotion, and spending habits, it’s pretty cool.

Law of the Blog?

Do you think, for us American bloggers with our sites hosted in the US, with an English, non-discriminating (aside from subject matter) audience, are we entitled to our First Amendment rights? Do we violate copyrights by including caps, lyrics, quotes from other texts (commonly other blogs, news, wikis, etc)? How about music? Designs (like a WP theme)? How about flaming and things like that?

IMO they’re all valid questions–just where the line is drawn? Obviously there’s little in terms of previous instances where a court said something. Blogging is generally new. We all know the Internet is the super copyright infringement machine, and even in that area of law the dust is far from settling. The niche that bloggers belong to seems like the least of all worries. Just how marketable are blogs? I guess they are as long as you’re not comparing them to selling CDs and DVDs.

I don’t have any real answers. What I’m trying to get at is that are two opposite but converging perspectives to look at the issue: free speech versus copyright. At times these two views are in conflict, but that’s rare; usually they mind themselves. But just when should good faith and interest in free expression overcome commercial interests?

After all, ultimately as long as you’re not just doing detail summaries with screen caps, you are probably putting a lot of copyright-able material into your blog. That’s good. It’s important to cite back either with a simple text saying where, or a trackback, or whatever, when you cop something. It is good to avoid plagerism. But neither is the case we worry about usually; or rather, it’s the opposite. We don’t want to be just merely pawning off pretty pictures from anime to “generate a lot of site traffic” or merely retelling a textual by-the-book synopsis as a public resource. There may be places for that, but are those uses “fair”? Is the world a better place without blogs telling you what’s hot in Japan so you can infringe copyright in a smart and efficient manner?

I don’t know. But it’s good to look on the other side of the coin every now and then.

Philly Film Fest Shakedown

Chilling rain and wind did not deter me and my MT folks (plus an old friend) to show for the 15th Philadelphia Film Festival this year, running for the past two weeks and ending on Tuesday. We caught 3 films…

Hell – This Thai slash film details the torment of hell in a Tao/Buddhist perspective. For a Thai film it’s rather well done, IMO, but it’s holey and not to be taken seriously. I thought it was amusing in exposing a western audience (at the showing, anyways) to a rather classical Tao/Buddhist perspective to afterlife. I suppose you could take it seriously and it would have the right effect too. Mostly good for the laughable moments but otherwise eh.

American Dreamz – An Universal film, so it’s got some stars like Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore. Aside from the political jabs, it’s really entertaining and I felt it didn’t come off as preachy or too tongue in cheek. Well acted satire where the various actors put in a good balance of “the camp” and “the serious” to give us the semi-soft look at, first and foremost, the American Idol situation.

Tokyo Zombies – A 2005 Japanese film, but amongst the Zombie Genre meta remakes, this is possibly the best lampoon yet. Simply put, the first half of the film deals with the chaos when “Black Fuji”–a Mt. Fuji-sized landfill turned its ill-buried corpses and chemicals–erupted with armies of zombies which can only be killed by decapitation. Our heroes enjoyed a relationship similar that of a master and apprentice, which turned south when the master lost his fleeting life while saving a (random) girl from the undead horde. It’s sublime humor mixed with the style of movie storytelling that Japan is best known for. The second half of the film is just OUT THERE and it completes the circle of lampooning.

This year’s offering of comedy is superb. I was impressed by American Dreamz and even if TZ didn’t cater to me, it was great. If you want to know more about the films please visit the Film Fest site for more details.