Thursday, December 30, 2010

WO's Best of 2010 Anime & Manga

I'm not going to get all sentimental about the titles that I'm going to list here; I'm just going to offer my opinion as to which ones seemed to make a more lasting and well delivered impression on the rest of us. Those titles this year new from Japan that are more of a "cut above" the rest.

I'm not doing a one through ten list either, since this isn't a "Top 10", so you won't find me trying to put one show over another. You'll just find some of my favorites, and those that for reasons I can only try to explain, made me think twice.

Anyway... It has been a very interesting and entertaining year for anime and manga, one of the best in a long time personally. I've been moved to tears, reduced to a jiggly pile of laughing jello, and have shaken my fist more times at the heavens than I can remember ever doing. So all in all, it's been a pretty good time to be a fan.

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Maid-sama
 
One of the titles that easily comes to mind is the romantic comedy Maid-sama.

For all the other romantic titles that have come and gone, and those that offer interesting and likable characters, there have been few — if any — that I can honestly say I liked the main male character.

Most of the time, they are seen as a dork, or a lamo that just happens to be surrounded by a select few babes, and they have one or two that like him, and ... you get the picture. It's pretty standard anime staple.

But Maid-sama didn't do any of that stuff. It had both an equally likable main lady, and leading guy; and enough antics from the side characters that I was never once through the 26 episode run bored, or yawning, or looking for something else to watch.

Usui and Misaki are the best most enjoyable couple I've seen in a long time. They compliment each other, know each other's strengths, and weaknesses; and unlike most shows that offer a flat note ending to a symphonic masterpiece, this show did not fail to deliver an ending that left me happy, in tears, and genuinely moved.

Now, despite the fact that it seemed it was not the year for new manga, did not mean that there wasn't any at all that was being made. Just more of the titles that are already underway, and of course those ones that seem to be going on longer than the energizer bunny.

Fractale
One great new manga that started in September and was published in the Square Enix Gangan online magazine was Fractale, a new shonen title that features a very cool and interesting take on the future of humanity; as it follows the adventures of Clain and his discovery of the truth about the Fractale System, and the mysterious girl named Phryne who we see fleeing from pursuers in the beginning (but of course, what would any good shonen manga be like without one).

Clain's world is very similar to the future world of Surrogates as people have begun to rely more and more on the massive computer network and have abandoned their bodies for dopples, often times weird and silly looking robotic forms.

I can't say much as far as story goes, as only a few monthly chapter have been published so far, but the direction of Fractale is one that has already caught the eye of A-1 Pictures, and is slated to be a new anime title for 2011.

It's also proof positive that good manga doesn't have to include the typical stuff, and while it has a moody and bizarre undertone, it doesn't fail to deliver the humorous goods either; a definite good read that drags you in and makes you want, and beg for more.


Fullmetal Alchemist

It's a proven fact that at some point, all good things must eventually come to an end, and even though the series isn't new by a long shot, the anime in question is something of a new spin. The manga having already ran for several years in Japan had finally saw its conclusion, and just so happened to coincide with the finale of the anime.


I'm talking about Fullmetal Alchemist of course. The show that has been the subject of a lot of my rantings over last year, due in part to the Bones revision, but there is no denying the ending of the manga.

Truly in all the time I have been a fan, I have never seen or read an ending that so perfectly closes the final act of a great series, it left nothing un-answered, it made no apologies, and it fulfilled the wishes of the fans in almost all ways.

Sure it means that one of the greatest series will now be over, but I think any other ending would have been less, and it would have incited the rage and fury of the fans. A truly memorable achievement of the industry, and standard that may never be matched.

Some shows this past year have seen a lot of flame and fire from the fans in regard to, shall we say, some over exposure of the characters, and I'm not talking about endless seasons and spin-offs; I'm talking about actual exposure.


Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls

It seemed for a while there that as a fan I couldn't turn around without seeing some form of sexuality bursting from the seams on screen, and blocked by a veil of steam or re-drawn animation. And while the girls of Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls are not really any different, it is a show that manages to transcend the over-use of nudity as an element of the story, and not for the sake of just blatant nudity... well almost.

Sure the characters are forever exposing their chests, and sure there are a lot of naked back-sides, but the surrounding artwork of the anime actually does a great job of taking one's eyes off of that as the whole show is a visual feat of broad drawn animation.

Never have I seen anything that remotely comes close to the lush vibrant colors, and scenery, the scroll style elements of the backgrounds, and the masterful craftsmanship of the character designs. It's enough to distract and compel all in the same vein.

Not to mention the story of Samurai Girls features a classic "what if" scenario of modern Japan, mingled with old world style clothes and environment, and modern technology. Along with famous Japanese characters from the past; Jubei and Honzo, the ressurrection of a long defeated evil, and even dare I say it — a classic French favorite... D'artagnon!

Now tell me that doesn't kick all sorts of ass, one hand tied behind your back style!


Shinriyaku! Ika Musume

Not all cute anime girls have to come from the big city, or even the discrete countryside, sometimes the cutest cuddliest anime characters are found under the sea. And not since Cardcaptor Sakura has a character won my heart over like Ika from Shinryaku! Ika Musume.

The blue haired (tentacles for hair), plain gown wearing novice from below the waves made such a huge splash that it's quite possible she'll be an all new fan favorite, and the popularity may grow out of control; at least that's what I'm hoping for.

The cute Squid Girl's determined drive to en-slave humanity for their crimes of pollution and desecration of the ocean is just the starting point for a very casual and funny look at the everyday antics of a true fish... er, squid, out of water story.

Her infatuation with everyday things, and her wonderment and excitement at human life is a well deserved departure from shows that are fuelled by sexuality, moe, and complexes and replaced with a huge helping of "geso".

Both heartwarming, sometimes a little thought provoking and always a humorous treat, Ika Musume has certainly made a great impression on me for the future of the anime industry.


Occult Academy

There aren't that many supernatural thrillers that have really impressed me much. Most are just vehicles for the macabre and the strange, but this year saw a relatively new concept of supernatural, sci-fi and comedy in the form of A-1 Pictures' series Occult Academy.

It isn't just good writing, good animation and good character work, it is also a very tickling and tongue-in-cheek look at the end of the world.

So where is the catch?

The catch is that it is complicated, and extremely interwoven; in what seems like casual mundane everyday excursions into the supernatural, and their either proof or disproof, and the complexity of the plot.

So let's see. You have a guy, Abe Minoru, who is a time traveler from the year 2012 to early 1999; his goal is to come back in time and find an unknown object referred to as "Nostradamus's Key", an artifact or object which will open a dimensional rift in space and allow an invading force of Aliens to enter and destroy the Earth on July 21, 1999.

Abe arrives at Walstein Academy, a private school that focuses heavily on the occult and supernatural, and is dubbed by the locals as "Occult Academy", which only makes sense that the object of supernatural power that is responsible for destroying the world is there.

The daughter of the now deceased headmaster, has also arrived to attend her father's funeral ceremony and take over as Headmaster of the school, and ultimately to destroy the school for her own harbored and personal reasons; and in the midst of all this, you have various supernatural encounters, comedic side characters, and Abe Minoru posing as a teacher as he searches for the key.

It seems less confusing when I write this now, but the first episode was so mind-blowing that I had to seriously consider whether or not it was going to be something I was going to keep up with, and, I am very glad that I did. The characters are memorable, smart and witty, and everyone loves a good show where saving the planet from alien invaders is the ultimate goal.


Dance in the Vampire Bund

Sometimes a show comes along that is good and bad at the same time, one that is good because it's executed well, and has a good story, and great animation and fun characters, and bad because it manages to spark a firey controversy with after-shocks months and months later.

Dance In The Vampire Bund is one such show. Based on Nozomu Tamaki's seinen manga, and made into an animated by SHAFT it didn't take long for the buzz surrounding this vampire tale to turn into a hornets nest of hatred or praise.

The biggest issues with the show is that it focuses on two very unlikely protagonists; a young adolescent vampire princess named Mina Tepes, and her childhood friend and bodyguard Akira. The issue is not the fact that Mina as a "Pure Blood" vampire doesn't seem to age and her werewolf bodyguard does; it's the fact that she has a habit of being indecently presented.

Early in the series, as a test of loyalty and to jog the teenage Akira's memory lapse, she makes him apply sun-gel designed by the vampires as a means to block the suns rays for limited exposure, and thus removes her clothes to just her panties... and the fanbase and American industries flew into a rage.

Some hailed this as a tue to the story adaptation and made various arguments that it was acceptable, others argued it was perverse, and filled with underage sexuality, and still yet the licence holder FUNimation Entertainment went so far as to censor the streams, causing more uproar and rioting with-in the community.

Despite the controversy, and the often displays of nudity, it is still a very well executed anime, not exactly on par with the manga on all turns and accounts, but it does reveal the true nature of Mina, her relationship with Akira, her personal drive to make a habitat for the vampires in centuries of hiding, and tell the story of unlikely love.

For many fans against the series, I am reminded that they are not judging with open eyes, and are biased based on here-say, rumors and one or two episodes; which any good critic will tell you is not a foundation for a sound judgement.

I'm glad that Dance In The Vampire Bund was animated, and that it shows both the brutality and the humor and the affection of the manga in most respects. It's an un-apologetic shock to the senses, and like a lot of good titles of the past will eventually overcome its stigma, by its own power.



Sora no Woto
 
I started this blog with one of my absolute favorite titles this year, and I am going to end it with the other one.


Sora no Woto was A-1 Pictures first joint effort with Aniplex and TV Tokyo known as Anime no Chikara (The Power of Anime). An effort on the part of TV Tokyo to produce original anime series not based on previous material, such as Manga, Visual Novels, or Video Games.

This first endeavor was such a major triumph that I was hooked from the opening of the very first episode.

Sora no Woto is the story of Kanata Sorami, who is a new private in the Helvetian Army with the role of bugler and with the uncanny gift of "absolute pitch". Her inspiration for joining the army and learning music attributed to an early memorable encounter with a solder playing a melody on the trumpet, and leaving a lasting impression on her.

She is assigned to the 1121st platoon in the town of Sieze, a castle stronghold on the last boarder of the terminus of Helvetia and the infamous "no man's land" wasteland, the remnants of the last great war of humanity so strong it reduced the futuristic advancements of the world back to early 20th century industry and technology standards.

The castle fortress garrison, is comprised of an all female platoon commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Filicia Heideman, and her second in command Master Sergeant Rio Kazumiya.

The story revolves around life in the castle, Kanata's learning of the bugle, and antics of the townspeople of Seize. Late into the series is when hostilities and the capture of a spy from the Roman Empire (modern day Germany) the series becomes more serious minded and eventually culminates into a climactic ending that left me emotionally drained, excited and moved.

The characters are all memorable, lovable, and endearing; the story while relatively simple is laid back and relaxed, and at no point does this Sora no Woto attempt to take itself too seriously, and offers a dramatic comedy that is nothing short of a touching masterpiece of fine storytelling.

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All of the titles that I've mentioned here in my favorites of the year, are of course open to subjective criticism, I like each of them for my own reasons, others I just don't have time to go too in depth with.

All of these shows represent the best parts of my viewing experiences over this past year; they are the very reasons that I am a fan and why I support the anime industry both here in North America, and in Japan.

Most of these series were viewed either streamed online or through means of distribution of unlicensed titles. But as a fan; as a true anime fan I support my fandom by supporting the industry that makes it. I buy my anime where-ever and when-ever I can, as often as I can, and I want to encourage you to do the same.

It's only through the support of us as fans that these great titles, like the ones I've given mention of can be made and produced. Please take the time to find your anime and purchase it legally, and from legitimate sources, don't give in to the temptation of bootlegs for the sake of convenience or need, and do not make and distribute illegal copies of licensed anime for circulation across the internet.

In so doing you are shaming both yourself, and the people like me that spend our hard earned money to give back to the community so that moochers can enjoy the benefits of other people's hard work.

Educate yourself before you blindly buy from un-affiliated websites and anime & manga providers, think before you act, and remember that for every dollar you don't spend, is one less dollar the industry has to license the very shows you are crying about getting licensed.

I trust you all have a safe and happy holidays, a fantastic new year, and that you will keep reading my blog. I enjoy hearing your feedback, and I look forward to bringing you more angry anime nerd rants and raves in the next year and hopefully for many more.

God Bless.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Heart of Stone - World of Thorn

King of Thorn 
In May of this year Japanese cinema unveiled the full-length motion picture adaption of Yuji Iwahara's bestselling manga King of Thorn, which not only saw popularity in Japan, but went international over the summer.


The film, directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama (Appleseed and Big O), and co-scripted by Katayama and Hiroshi Yamaguchi took the basic story of the manga and adapted it brilliantly and with deliberate pace to fit into the time constraints of the full-length picture to some mixed anticipation.

Character designs for the film are provided courtesy of Hidenori Matsubara (Ah! My Goddess!, Sakura Wars, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo), with Kenji Andou (Brigadoon, Karas, Origin ~Spirits of the Past~) providing the monster design.




The plot of King of Thorn begins simple enough, but gradually builds upon itself, as it develops the survival aspects of the characters and the horror and bizarre of the unknown.

In the year 2012 a strange virus known as Medusa has reached pandemic levels with a death ratio of 100%. The virus kills its victims by eventually turning their bodies into a stone-like substance, hence the name Medusa.



Taking action, an organization with a laboratory in Scotland offers the option of "Cold Sleep" to a select few persons, in the hopes that while they are under, a cure can be found for the illness. The story focuses primarily on the events of 7 people prior the cold sleep, and after.

In what seems like a matter of minutes since they were placed in deep sleep, the less than 200 participants are awakened to find the entire facility covered in huge thorned vines, and to also frighteningly discover that they are no longer alone; as the entire complex is now crawling with prehistoric type monsters bent on hunting them down.



Now, surrounded by the thick maze of thorns and the onset of the violent and strange creatures, the survivors make their way from the bowels of the facility, to the outside world; with more mysteries and complexities emerging as the minutes pass.

From an outsider looking in, it is easy to say that this is a treat for the eyes, the ears, and overall an instant masterpiece in anime film-making. I can say this because I didn't read the manga, and therefore have no silly bias with regards to story accuracy.



I can also say that despite my being glued to my seat, hanging on to every subtle sound that emerged, and feasting on the magnificent artwork, I was rather perplexed at the end. Which isn't all that difficult for me, as I've got quite a lot of stuff rolling around inside my noggin. But there are subtle clues and eye-catches throughout the film that one will only really understand during a second viewing.

After all of that I'm not at all saying that the end of the movie is bad; it's a very satisfying conclusion, and it even managed to throw a curve-ball at me from orbit, that I am still scratching my head over. But you'd best be prepared for some investment if you want to figure everything out the first time around.



If I had one minor issue with the movie, is that it seemed as if toward the last quarter of it, it would have been better if there was a more smoother and finely crafted delivery. I for one felt like I was being force-fed a lot all at once, and some of the key revelations to the plot were crammed at me with a lot of dialogue and imagery, and flashbacks.

I felt a little like I was watching a complicated version of a Christopher Nolan film, and if anyone who's seen one knows, that is kind of an irony.



With all the moe and fan-service being pumped out of Japan these past few years, and the recent turmoil that the industry has been in from one side to the other; it seems like this film is a breath of fresh air. It reminds me of why I started watching anime to begin with, and it does something that I wish every anime and film made would do. Leave me feeling entertained.

I'd recommend this film to anyone that likes a good thriller, and psychological adventure through a parallel narrative of Sleeping Beauty. King of Thorn is Surreal, sublime, and a surefire winner.

Monday, December 20, 2010

WO's December Top 10: Confusing Things

Wow, I feel like I've abandoned my blog for a while here, but not to fear, I've returned with another entry; granted it isn't the big one I've been working on, since that one will take a lot of research, but anyway, here it is.

I figured it was time to make another WO's Ten, and see what's on the menu for this month.

I chose Confusing things, not because I really need an explanation as to why there are there, but because, for what ever reason, these top ten things just irk the hell out of me.

So, without further ado, I present you with Western Otaku's Top Ten for December.

10. The Main Character Is Always In School
It isn't bad enough that most of the Manga and Anime features a High School setting, or a Middle School environment, or at best a College scene; but after so many series using the same settings, it seems that there is absolutely nothing to do in Japan EXCEPT go to school!

Now I'm all for education, but seriously, why not break the mould every once in a while and introduce us to a character that is maybe an adult, and does something besides interact with kids. There are a few good shows and manga out there, like Black Lagoon and Kiddy Grade to name a couple, that are both highly entertaining, and edge of your seat, and do not over use the cliche of school as a backdrop for the story.


09. They'll Never Be Forgiven!
It never fails, you have a scene in a story where the main bad guy, and we're talking a real doozy of a bad guy does something appropriately evil and bad, and the only thing that our valiant hero can come up with is... "I'LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU!!!"

I shiver with fear at that every time! It's like the ultimate comeback to his dastardly deed, it's the epitome of retorts, the crowning jewel of counters, the Ernest Hemingway of rebuttals!!! NOT!

I mean honestly. What the crap does that have to do with anything? He/She is the BAD GUY! Unless this was all just some sort of terrible misunderstanding, then I doubt you really have to worry about forgiving them. Or were we planning on going out later and having a coffee, and chuckling about how we almost took over the world?

What a load of garbage!


08. Southern Discomfort
It's true that Japanese people from Osaka have an interesting way of speaking, and in fact have something of their own dialect, much like the difference between regions of North America, where we from the South call thing by one name, and those in the North call it by a totally different thing altogether.

It's always been interesting and confusing as to why every character from Osaka is either represented by a Southern American accent when dubbed, or portrayed as a hillbilly hick that stumbled out of the thickest part of the forest and into civilization.

Don't people from Osaka care that they are portrayed like back-woods ignorants? I mean, just because I'm from Texas doesn't mean I go around spouting "Yup" and "Y'all" every few seconds! Seriously people!


07. Hammer Time!
So you're watching an anime or reading a manga, and one of the characters, most likely a main character — a girl — pulls a giant paper fan, or a toy hammer from nowhere, and commences to thwack the living crap out of the immediate nuisance.

Now, it's not that I don't know about "Hammer Space", but typically that has always been something of an American cartoon thing; and it isn't that it isn't appreciated when I see it in a popular series, but every once in a while, it seems sort of out of place.

One has to wonder why it's used as a gag in more serious titles, but then gags in anime and manga don't always have to make sense logically. The real fact that we are still laughing at this stuff is a testament to our nerdism.


06. That One Tooth Is Showing
Okay, so in even some of the most popular shows, there are some characters that have that one tooth showing when ever they are doing something sort of either devious, dastardly, defiant, or a little obtuse. But at what point has that one tooth become the standard for the idiot block-head girl... notice I didn't say boy; because most often this is gonna be a somewhat hot girl that is way beyond ditz, or one or two french fries short of a Happy Meal.

So, I guess at some point we should start looking for real life girls that have a giant ignorant tooth showing when ever they do something sort of crazy. Also, does it help that a few of these giant toothed girls have an obsession for big boobies? Maybe boobs and teeth go together.

Regardless, it's one of those things that I know has a gag point, but the origins of which I can't even begin to fathom. Oh, well moving on.


05. Their Appreciation Is A Little Too Obvious
Sometimes you watch a show, and there is this character that is beyond cool, we're talking massively awesome in almost every way, and despite our impression of their awesomeness, it seems that some of the characters in the show feel the same way.

Well they don't just feel the same way, they manage to take it to all new heights of appreciation all together, which seems to borderline on erotic lust rather than mere hero worship.

It's possible that the lines of reality for the Japanese have blurred badly regarding hero appreciation, and just down-right wanting to do the nasty with them — seriously wow! I know I have a few heroes and icons that I look up to, but if they were around, or still alive I wouldn't be all hot and bothered and wanting to get it on with them.

You can see this sort of thing in popular shows like Shinryaku Ika Musume and Azumanga Daioh and there is even two examples of it in the classic Cardcaptor Sakura!


04. Bento Paradise
Maybe this is another example of culture clash, and I really hope that is the case. But at what point is it commonplace for a girl to provide all this food to a guy, just because she likes him? I know that my fiancee likes to cook for me, but for this sort of thing to start so early in people's lives.

First of all, wouldn't the girl's parents be a little miffed that she's using up their family's food supplies to make an extra bento box-lunch for a boy? And what about the guy? Why the heck doesn't he get his lazy ass up early and make his own damn lunch?

No, we have to see that love and affection and hard work went into every single bite of that acursed bento, as he salivates over scrambled egg omelette and sausages that are sliced to look like little squid.

I'm think that this sort of thing might not fly to well in America. For one thing, we have this whole prohibition of PDA. Which makes it a miracle for two kids to ever date to begin with. Let along make lunch for each other.

I don't exactly know how I would have handled a girl making me lunch in school. I might have been offended, thinking she figured I was poor or something and couldn't afford a proper lunch. Oh well, it would have probably tasted like crap anyway, knowing my luck.


03. Manga Piffle
Depending on the artist determines on the amount of chatter they manage to put in their manga. For those of you unfamiliar with manga piffle, or Mangaka Banter, let me explain.

In most manga that have been collected together into tankobon (volumes) and published as a book, there are usually some select pages here and there that have the mangaka's scribbles and commentary entries. Sometimes these are interesting, and sometimes they are a complete waste of page, expecially considering they take up a side of the page! Or the entire bottom half!

Often you get very smart mangaka that have been in the biz for a while and don't like compromising the page space for running commentary and trivialities, and save all that nonsense for the end of the volume. But the fact that it exists in the chapters, and clouds up my view of an already tiny amount of letters, art, and action makes me wonder who the heck started this. They really need to be slapped like crazy!


02. Beware of Somy!
Sometimes in American movies and television you might see what is called product placement, and to the casual untrained eye, it's just everyday things used in the film, or show. But not true, companies often will not let a product be used without their direct approval, and even then, they are pretty picky about this product placement.

Well, apparently product placement in Japan is harder to do, because out of over two hundred anime titles, and hours of viewing, I've only seen one show that has actual brand products. Of course I'm talking about K-On, they managed to get permission to use the real names and images of all the instruments the girls in the music club use.

Now aside from this anomaly, what we usually see when we watch an anime or read a manga is the most famous brand of TV in the world of Japan. Somy!

No, you will not be seeing this brand at Wal-Mart, or Target, or even Best Buy... this brand is exclusive to the fictional worlds of anime and manga. Which begs me to ask the question... Why?

Is it such a cultural taboo for a show to get permission to use a product? I mean if they did, then maybe they could get some more money from this advertising to make a better quality anime or manga.


01. Get Wardrobe STAT!
The biggest thing that confuses me, is that now with the progress that anime and manga has made, it seems there are still a few titles out there that are stubborn with regards to clothing for their characters.

What I mean, is that despite how long the series lasts, the character wears the exact same ****ing thing every single day! I don't know how it works in most manga and anime fantasy lands, but the rules in real life say, that if I wore a garment that much I would either be one smelly dude, or I'd get my ass kicked over and over again for being a retard!

Is it that the artist can't draw any other clothes? or that they just look cool only in that particular set? Please! Give me some variety here! First of all, it's not believable, and it detracts from the titles credibility.

Possibly my greatest disappointment with the series Black Lagoon was that Revy didn't change clothes until about a handful or so episodes from the end of the whole series, and that was only because her character left Japan and went somewhere cold.

I know it may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it's these little things that irk me to no end, and make me want to tear some hair out.


So all in all, there are always going to be some really confusing things in anime and manga I imagine, and even though they we may never fully understand their necessity, it certainly is part of what makes this entertainment medium what it is.

If we were to remove the giant tooth from the ditz girl, or axe the whole school scene from teenage comedy and drama, then we've pretty much tore everything we love about anime and manga out, and leave only sifted crap.

Personally, even if they get on my nerves, I wouldn't want my anime and manga any other way.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Girls, Girls, Girls! - A Not-So-Quiet Obsession

Oh my, it's been a while since I've last made an entry in the blog; for that I'll have to apologize, I've been busy with a lot of Non-Anime related things for the most of November, and what with the holiday season upon us, I've found my time stretched pretty thin.

Anyway, despite that, I figured it was about time to compose a good old fashioned Angry Anime Nerd rant, and poke some fun at the fan-boys of the medium. Yeah, you know who you are, there is no sense running away from the light! You get back here and stand in line and expose yourself to the harsh reality of what you are!

This time I want to point out all the so-called dream girls of the otaku anime fan-boys. We have all seen them, and we all read about them in their posts on forums, or see their less-than-masterfully created tribute videos on YouTube, or even get bombarded with their anime girl's image from one end of the internet to the other. But I don't just want to point them out, I want to dig deep and try and figure out why they are so obsessed with each of these characters.

Bear in mind, that this is a partial list, and with each new anime that Japan floats our way, we get more of these fap-inducing drool-evoking fan-boy fantasies.

So what it is exactly about these characters that makes the average fan-boy of anime turn into a virtual character stalker? Makes them download hundreds of their images, and go on and on about them as if they were the one girl in life that gives it all meaning, and would probably sell their souls to Satan himself just to meet them in person?

Well, first we have to consider a few possibilities.

Possibility 1.

All these fan-boys are between the ages of 16 and 30, have never kissed a girl, and are in all probability; still single. So they fantasise about these characters as a release to their solitary boredom.


Possibility 2.
They are all pseudo-pervs that find a specific common attribute of each of these characters sexually exhilarating, and lust after them like any normal real life sexual deviant.

Possibility 3.
They are both single and they are pseudo-perverts.

Regardless of why they lust after these specific types of characters is a quandary that I seriously doubt anyone will find the answer to anytime soon.

So let's look at the girls in question, and see if perhaps they themselves can reveal the cause of the mass-orgy of lust and desire that runs rampant in the threads of Forums and Message boards, and compells people to collect every image form for safe keeping on their 1 TB hard drive.

First up we have the Quiet Silver Haired girl character that has caused more fapping and fan-boy lust in recent years than when they first discovered their uncle's Playboy in the garage behind that stack of shop towels.

Yuki Nagato
It is quite often that when a popular show emerges that it isn't the main charatcer that everyone is going to fan-gush and fan-gasm over. It's most likely the one character that sits in the corner of the room quietly reading and making pipping soft vocalizations when asked to speak. Of all the stereotypical Quiet Silver Haired type characters in past years it is Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that has stolen the hearts, and possibly palms of the fan-boys the most.

In reality she isn't really attractive. She's a nerd, she doesn't talk at all, she sits in the same spot day after friggin' day, and it's only when she is taking on a deadly enemy that she actually moves an inch or two. Very sloth-like if you ask me.

Her breast size is practically non-existent, which is another trait that attracts the fan-boys; and her stature is akin to a 6th graders, also a trait of mass preference. The glasses are just frosting on the fap-cake.

So why is she so lusted over? Maybe it's the fact that she presents a delicate "I can't fight back if you decide to molest me" quality. Maybe it's because, these particular fan-boys don't like a girl that can talk during sex, or talks at all. Maybe then they can insert what ever words they want her to say. It's a complete and utter mystery.

Aono Morimiya
Now if being quiet and shy and immobilized to a single spot wasn't enough to get the fan-boys blood stirring, then imagine a girl that is also quiet, shy, and sickly in bed.

Wow... talk about a fan-boy molester's dream come true. If you thought that a quiet shy girl couldn't stop you from fondling her, then imagine how little resistance there is to a sick girl confined to her bed. And Aono Morimiya from the anime Sola is just the type that has the pout and the silent frustration to drive all you fan-boys crazy. Sadly, as far as silver haired girls go, she is far outshined by Yuki Nagato, but still manages to have the same body traits and figure; no breasts, no hips, most likely no puberty.

Sanya V. Litvyak
Oh they just get younger don't they?

Now I've seen and read a lot of the topics on Strike Witches, and there are two primary characters that always come up in heated fan-boy discussion, one is usually always Sanya. The now common-place silver haired girl that is quiet, shy, total lack of breasts, and instead of being bedfast like Aono from Sola, is just a great big sleepy head.

She is also 14 years old, which makes any of the fan-boys fapping to her image a little on the distured side. But oh well, she at least has more of a fighting chance with resisting their sexual assaults since she is a trained combat fighter, and like most fighter pilots in WWII they did at least have some hand to hand combat training as well, along with basic self defence. The only real hope for a lustful fan-boy is to catch her while she is sleeping. Good luck though, she has a habit of sharing her bed with her roommate, and even though she is always sleepy, she isn't that heavy of a sleeper.

Noël Kannagi
Another similar sleepy-head silver haired shy, can barely talk and is no doubt the rave of the fan-boys is none other than Noel Kannagi. The Tank pilot and mechanic of the 1121st platoon in the anime Sora no Woto.

The only thing that really seperates her from the other characters is her background story. Otherwise she would probably be seen as a carbon copy silver-haired chick with nothing going for her except her stereotypical persona.

Unlike Sanya from Strike Witches, Noel is at least 15 years old, so the fan-boys stroking themselves to her bashful and mediocre demeaner don't have to feel too bad about themselves. Like the others however, she has no breasts to speak of, no real talent for speaking, and is always more or less a lawn and garden object than a real placed character.


Shinobu Maehara
If the girl in question isn't one incapable of holding a steady conversation, then it's going to be the shy cute little girl that usually comes along a few episodes in to the series. Like Shinobu from Love Hina who is most likely the only character that you will honestly remember with any sort of kawaii fondness. 

It isn't to say that she is the sole focus of the lustful lechers, but there is no denying that in their secret places, that only the fan-boys go to; they have a little place set aside just for her.

Never mind that she is 12, and in middle school. Never mind that she does practically nothing in the show except state the obvious; it's the persona that she embodies that captivates the fan-boys. 

Flat chest. Check!
Shy. Check!
School girl uniform. Double Check!
Might call you Big Brother... You wish!


Azusa Nakano
Once again, it isn't a lead character that all the fan-boys crush on, or even remember over all the other more deserving characters, it's the tiny petite flat-chest that has twin pig-tails and a guitar that is bigger than she is.

I've seen a lot of K-On love in my time, but nothing like the love and attention that Azusa gets. From gifs to tribute videos and even ignorant Azunyan wallpaper where she's posed like a kitty cat, it's a clear indicator that the fan-boys again, only see the stereotypical girls that are more or less easy targets for those with a lolita complex or a little sister fetish.

It's almost a curse of the anime industry, because at some point, it becomes blatantly obvious which girls are gonna get the fan-boy slobber, and which ones are not. And from what I've seen Azusa gets a ton of slobber.

Flat chest. Check!
Shy. Check Check!
School Girl Uniform. Heck Yeah!
Inability to resist the horny fan-base. Check and Check!
Nyaa? Who Cares... as long as the fan-boys can daydream about ****ing her!

Yue Ayase
From a show of over 30 girls, that's right I said THIRTY! The fan-gasms are more or less tied with two characters. Yue Ayase, and Nodoka Miyazaki (no relation to Hayao Miyazaki); but of those two, the most aggressive form of fan-gushing and fan-gasming has been mostly directed toward Yue Ayase from the hit anime Negima! and the disputed thought of better re-make Negima!?.

She really is a mystery of the fan-base. She has no definitive characteristics aside from being stereotypically petite, somewhat aloof, and sporting a forehead that could pass for a Airport tarmac.

She's a slacker, mediocre, droll, has no ambition about school, career or much of anything; and this is the palm-pilot flavor of the past four and a half years!

It's easy to imagine fantasizing about a character that has something in common with oneself, but aside from the sheer slacker mentality, she is just a face in amongst the crowd of others.

Sure she has a homely cuteness to her, but what exactly is it about her character that would make the fan-boys swear un-dying loyalty and devotion to her? What about her retarded hair-style is so maddeningly attractive? And you can't deny that the fan-boys are attracted to her. I've gone toe to toe against a throng of Yue fan-boys, and have always walked away scratching my head, saying... "I just don't get it!"

I mean, aside from carnal feelings of wanting to bang her to death, I see no real justification for even liking her all that much. Which makes me wonder why they would even want to bang her to begin with.

Well, aside from the deviation in personality, she does still fit the criteria for their daydreams.

Flat Chest. Almost... probably still in a training bra.
Petite Body. Double Check!
Shy. Check... but barely.
School Girl Uniform. Can I get an AMEN!
Can easily fight off the horde of horny fan-boys. I'm gonna say... not.

So, after all this is said and done; sadly I have no more clue as to the blind infatuation some fan-boys in the fan-base have with these characters, or their character types. It may always be a mystery, and we may never know.

I know that crushing on a character isn't news by a long shot, and despite that real life isn't made up of a single one of these underage girls to which we can lavish with complex after complex; it's still just entertainment after all.

So regardless of the epic fail that some of the fan-boys manifest time and time again, it's clear that their failure is what keeps the industry from failing. Because without their fetishes, complexes, and sexual fantasies we might not have half the titles we see now.

As an after thought though, I would warn those of you too deluded to breathe outside air any longer to really take a step back and reflect. Otherwise we might all end up like this dude here. Old, and bald... clutching a naughty body pillow in broad daylight.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So You Wanna Speak Japanese

Chances are that after several years of watching anime, and/or reading manga you have gotten to the point that you can easily understand a few Japanese slang words and phrases as you most likely hear them repeatedly in the medium. Words like "Ohayou Gozaimasu" and "Ja ne" and "Moshi Moshi" and even "Doku desu ka" are some fine examples of everyday language that one will pick up on when watching their anime subbed, and listening with the Japanese audio enabled.

Learning a new language is a great achievement, and one that takes a lot of hard work, and much practice. This isn't at all like riding a bicycle, because if you DON'T use it, you will LOSE it.

Learning to speak Japanese is one thing, but learning to read Japanese is a totally different monster. Much like English has Upper Case letter and Lower Case letters Japanese has something almost similar, but used often-times in a different contrast.

Then to complicate matters further, there are the ported Chinese Kanji that are whole words represented by a symbol or symbols. To further complicate the language there are these particles that are used to string the words into a sentence that define the flow of the conversation into something more than just base words and subjects.

It's easy in the American fandom for fans to get a sense of what sounds right and what isn't right when they've listened to a language enough, but the real trick is in the translation.

Many fans assume that there is only one literal translation for a word, and this couldn't be further from the truth. In the sense that we have words like "See" and "Sea" that obviously mean two totally different things but are pronounced the same.

Or take "No" and "Know" also to similar sounding words that have completely different functions.

To complicate the learning of Japanese, their alphabet does not contain some letters that are more prevalent in English, such as "L" and "Q". Because the Japanese language is a phonetic language that does not change the way a letter is pronounced it isn't difficult to learn pronunciation, an "A" will always sound the same no matter where it is placed in a word, and a "O" will always sound like an "Oh" and not a "Uu" when there are two of them placed side by side as in "Soon".

Probably the three most difficult things to learn about Japanese is:
1) The Alphabet
2) Sentence Structure
3) The various Forms of Speech (Polite, Proper, Casual)

Also it's good to remember that instead of there being multiple similar sounding words that have different meanings, there are multiple words that sound nothing alike, that have the same meaning.

Now for those of you that think you can learn to speak Japanese simply by watching imported anime, and Japanese Cinema, well you are sadly mistaken. First of all, much of the dialog in a film or TV show is going to use a more general form of the language, unless the characters are using a specific type of language, or honorific direction.

This means that there are totally different ways of speaking and addressing people given the social encounter. Much of the language in an anime is between two or more friends that toss around silly nick-names and childish honorifics, that if were used in a public forum, or Professional institution would result in much offence and probably some insults.

Another thing to remember is the "Ga" "Wa" "No" "Ka" of most sentences. These are like verbal punctuation and subject indicators. "Wa" usually indicates the topic, and "Ga" is the subject. Not to mention "Wa" and "Ga" are some of the hardest things to grasp about the Japanese language.

Where one describes something, the other specifies what or who.

I am reminded of something I mentioned yesterday about the new anime Kuroshitsuji and that the English title is Black Butler. The question was why did they use the name Black Butler for this anime and manga, and I explained, because THAT was the actual name of the series.

In its most simplest definition "Kuroshitsuji" means Kuro (Black) and Shitsuji (Butler). Now instead of running both words together, why didn't they just do the normal thing and perhaps use "Kuro wa Shitsuji' well that wouldn't make much sense, since the Black is not a Butler. Also "Shitsuji wa kuro" wouldn't work since the Butler isn't really the color black. so then it's more of an expression, that means the Butler is dark, black, sinister, severe, or other. And thus the name is devoid of subject indicator and topic marker.

Just like making sense of the English language, there is a good chance that if you do not take your study of Japanese seriously, you will fail to comprehend anything, or even worse, make yourself look like a moron in front of someone.

You cannot learn everything there is to learn about Japanese by online translation pages, or from watching anime. It is a good start, but it isn't a reliable resource. To really learn a language it takes patience, time, and dedication. Study manuals that offer multiple lessons, and don't just stop at basic greetings. It will do you no good to learn how to say hello and where is the bus station, if you can't hold a conversation. Or answer about yourself when asked what you do for a living, and where you are from, and what sort of work your family does.

There are some online tutoring places that offer people a chance to meet-up and learn from one another, but be careful as there are also a lot of places that just want to have you spinning your wheels endlessly.

A good balance of reading and speaking is the best solution to learning a new language. Because aside from finding out where the Supermarket is, what good will it do you to ask for directions, if you can read the product to buy something?

Start with learning to read and comprehend hiragana and katakana... these are the two basic alphabets of the language, and then try your hand at learning kanji.

Friday, November 5, 2010

WO's November Top 10: Annoying Things

So, I was walking through my local retailer a few Sundays ago, looking through anime for my girlfriend — yes, I actually have one of those — and while perusing through the titles of anime I was going to get her for her birthday, I noticed that one had a loose disc in the box. Wouldn't you know it, it was the only copy of that title available too.

Well, it wasn't as if that was going to be the anime that I bought her, but still, one copy, and it was the one with the loose disc in the box. That is so annoying!

So I got to thinking about all the things that annoy me, and I decided to make a list of all the stuff in the fandom that really grinds my gears.


10. Discs That Are Junk!
So we've all opened them up, a brand new box, only to find that the DVD disc or Blu-ray disc has a nice pretty scuff or scratch, and my favorite... a finger print! Who put these in there?

It isn't enough that it's the only copy, or that I ordered this a week ago, and it arrives in the mail in this condition; but to be loose or scratched is a slap in the face. I blame the makers of the boxes just as much as I blame the parcel service with which it was delivered.

09. Loaning Out Stuff
I don't know about other people, but I tend to get a little stingy with my stuff. I often judge a good fan and Otaku by how well they preserve their anime and manga. When I go to their house and I see a few DVDs out of their protective cases, and laying around either face down, or worse face up; then I know they are a bad, very bad fan.

I've seen it so bad that there were smears and fingerprints and goo all over the DVDs as if they used the same hands they were eating banana pudding with and then started changing discs. Not to mention the condition of the their manga also determines if they get to borrow anything from me. If the cover is bent, torn, looks like signs of slobber or drool, then I know NOT to be letting this stuff out.

08. Hearing Your Friends Say Something Is "Awesome"
Believe it or not, I'm a pretty good judge of whether or not something is awesome. In fact, chances are I may agree with you to a certain extent; but saying that something is awesome is a big generalization. And just because you fan-girl/fan-boy squee and pee your pants everytime you see this awesomeness is no reason that I have to have soggy pants with you!

Take Death Note for example, it's a pretty popular show, but really what about it is pee-my-pants-in excitement worthy? Same goes for shows like One Piece and Panty & Stocking. Is it because you felt a quiver, or a surge in blood pressure in your nether regions that it has become awesome?

Phem!

07. Fanboys and Their Dream Girls
Oh boy... I hardly know where to start with this one. I've been around the anime block enough to know by now that there are three things that most fanboys always go after.

A silver haired girl that speaks so softly you want to yell "Speak up DAMMIT!!", or an almost loli-girl that they can stuff down the front of their pants a-la White Goodman style. Or they have a crush on any girl that is a loud mouthed little bitch that just wants to beat their ass.

I mean don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the same characters, but the trend is becoming ridiculous as I have to hear about them all the time.

I go to a post and it's about some loud obnoxious girl from some hot new anime. I see a sig, it's full of hard-core character love and it's got every silver-haired girl imaginable in it.break the trends people! Seriously!

06. Karaoke Fan Subs
Okay, so I thought the idea was for the fan-subbers to try and be professional. But in the end it's just a measuring contest to see whose fan-sub is longest!

I find that if I go to the trouble of watching your interpretation of the Japanese dialect, that I want a show with a clean opening. I don't need the English translation, followed by the Japanese words, and a bounce along color coded sing-along-line of dialogue.

By the time they've crammed not only that, but managed to squeeze their egos on the screen by listing everyone's stupid username and pet, and family member, and shout-out there is nothing left on the screen to see!

Please, why can't they be more professional, and just do a clean slate on the openings? Save the crap for last.

05. Manga With no Talk Direction
Everyone knows by now that I have issues with reading manga anyway, but if you want to get my blood boiling, just have me read a manga that has no point-marks for who the heck said what. Just a circle of dialog that could belong to anyone! Is it that hard to draw a little arrow on the bubble and let us know who the crap said what?

I get that the square boxes are for narration, but really, a talk bubble that is vague and belongs to any of the five characters in the group is annoying.

05. Anime Music Videos Done Badly
Aside from getting Rickrolled a thousand times on YouTube, you spend hours looking for a great music video made from your favorite anime, to find that, not only did they use the lowest quality possible, but that they managed to leave the sub-titles in the video. So while they may be sort of in sync with the music, what's appearing on the screen is dialog from the anime, and throws your brain into some sort of visually induced epileptic fit!

Not to mention fans that make an Anime Music Video JUST for the sake of making a video. As if we really want to hear "My Immortal" ONE MORE TIME to another stupid FANGIRL gushing pile of crap!

Somebody's been smoking something, if they really think that Evanescence is that user friendly!

04. The Annoying Friends In Anime/Manga
So this annoyance is more with the industry than with the fandom; but anyway, you'll be reading a great manga or anime, and you know the boy and the girl are somehow supposed to get together, but here comes a wrench into the mechanics of the story to foul that up, with the goody-goody girl that just will not let the guy get a relationship going!

There's one in every romance/comedy. The cute brutal girl that beats the guy in the face, everytime he tries to get close to the girl of his dreams. A situation comes up, and he has a moment, out from nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE the childhood girl or best friend bully girl comes in, punches him in the face, screams "PERVERT!!!!!" at him, and sends him flying through a wall, and he did NOTHING!

It's like the creators just really want to ruin their own story, maybe they've been drinking something before they thought it up, because, if you want to annoy me to no end with an anime, then let there be a hot-headed loud-mouth snook of a girl that does nothing but get in the way.

03. Fans That Don't Know How To Cosplay
So I typically do not visit conventions, simply because I will most likely be too busy laughing my ass off at all the idiots that try to look like a character that their age and their body size clearly defy.

It's one thing to dress as a character that fits your look, for me it would probably be Jet from Cowboy Bebop or Mister Chang from Black Lagoon; but there is no way in the name of blue hell that I could possibly pull off cosplaying as Kotobuki from Chobits or Watanuki from xxxHolic. Not to mention trying out for one of the girls from Negima!.

You would think that a fan would more sense than that, then to squeeze their grown adult body — often a little on the hefty side — into a costume reserved for a junior high or high school character. I'm sorry, the last time I checked Naruto wasn't 280lbs and six and a half feet tall.

02. All The Experts
It never fails, a nerd or fan gets hooked on a show, and after successfully watching it all the way to the end (hurray for them), they RSS feed to Anime News Network or Mania or some other information site; maybe check out a few wiki pages, and suddenly they are an anime expert. They know everything about every anime ever made, and when the next release is going to hit the shelves, and what was in the mind of the industry experts.

Well, I think not.

Re-posting someone else's article is like me working for a news paper and copy and pasting something from the New York Times and trying to scoop everyone else on it. It's retarded!

I know you are all excited when you find out that there is a rumor of some crappy anime movie made, but really, slow the hell down, and realize that you aren't some industry anime expert guru, you are just a twerp that didn't forget how to use his computer.

01. Fans That Keep Asking The Same Stupid Questions
Well you've finally made it onto the internet, your parents must be proud! But you are really making them look pretty stupid by being so dumb, and asking the same stupid things over and over again!

You finished watching xxxHolic or Case Closed and you want to know if there is more to be released in North America, or if FUNimation is going to dub the rest. Well, let me tell you; if you would take half the time it took to sign up to the FUNimation Forum, or some other site, and would do a search, you would see about five thousand similar posts and comments exactly like the one you are about to stupidly make.

The question has been answered every way known to man, short of a FUNimation executive coming to your house in the middle of the night, sneaking into your room, and beating you with a pillowcase that has a few bars of soap in it, while screaming "WE ARE NOT... GOING TO DUB... ANYMORE F**KING CASE CLOSED!!!"

But I'm sure even if they did this, you would be under the misguided impression that magically, if you go ahead and make that post, or leave that comment, that your question will be the one that gets to them, and makes the executives cry, and say "Oh My GOSH! What were we thinking?! We HAVE TO DUB MOAR!!!"

Get real. Got a clue, and learn to read the comments before you take it upon yourself to junk up my internet with more of your crappy sobbing and crying.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WO's Honorable Mention: Strawberry Marshmallow


Miu & Chika

While I'm gathering my thoughts today, and getting my brain psyched up for some serious reviewing, I thought I would give out a nice honorable mention to both an anime and a manga that has entertained me on numerous levels.

Now, I know I've dogged the hell out of manga in the Gentleman's Alliance Cross post I made, but come on, I was having a bad day. You try reading through a manga that takes four passes a page, and listen to "It's not a hard read at all." talk.

So, putting that aside, I thought I would just give a brief run-down of what this series is about.

It's comedy slice of life, and while it isn't a 4-panel comic, it certainly has the look and feel of something very similar to one. It's a brisk read, and there are few parts that will bog down for very long before a great big chuckle escapes your face.

The plot is pretty much non-existent, as it focuses on the lives of five girls, Miu, Chika, Anna, Masturi, and Nobue. When they aren't briefly depicted in school or outside, they are up in Chika's room gathered around her table -- drawing, laughing, arguing, or being typical kids.

The anime does a great job of translating the humor of the manga, even if there are serious liberties taken with much of the content. And while the manga chapters are not really in any particular chronology per se, the anime goes to the point of jumbling them up a little and, those that have read the manga will see things that happen later on, happening right away, and vice versa.

My favorite character is Nobue, and not just because she's the closest to a legal age, and listens to all the same music I do. I just like her extreme apathy, and carefree attitude. She has a stern older sister mentality around the other girls, and yet has a real weakness for cute girls, and gushes randomly, especially over Anna, and Matsuri.

Miu is best compared to the character of Dennis the Menace. She is loud, violent, and a hyperactive ticking time-bomb. She lives next door to Chika and Nobue, and crosses roofs to climb in through Chika's bedroom window, any time she feel likes it. Much of the laughter and hysterics that I get from reading the manga, are usually derived from her unexpected antics; whether it be dressing up like a ninja and doing something stupid, or roundhouse kicking Nobue in the ribs for no reason at all.


Anna & Matsuri
 Anna the British child that has lived in Japan for so long she's forgotten how to speak English, which is a great laugh as well, as she struggles to re-assert her English manners and speech, despite constantly falling back into her new familiar Japanese habits.

Matsuri is the cry-baby girl, that is so kind hearted and incapable of misdeed, that you find yourself wanting a plushie of her character so you can squeeze it till your arms fall off. Which if I had one, I would so do.

Chika is the more the straight man character in the series. Not only is she the opposite spectrum of the humor, she is the only seeming voice of reason and logic, aside from brief moments of clarity from her older sister Nobue. Chika isn't without her charms, and while she does her best to ignore her sister's indifference, and Miu's shenanigans, she inexplicably laughs at the jokes, despite herself.

From a casual look at both the anime and the manga, I would say that they could seem a little boring, and without much strength at all, but unless you are just after mighty explosions and graphic innuendo, which I'm sure most of you are gunning for, then this is not going to be your thing.

What it is, is a laid back casual read, and some interestingly funny everyday moments. If I had to recommend one over the other, I would say to probably read the manga, since it does cover much more character development. Both are good, but the manga on this one is a must.

I think the look of the characters is good, they have a real deliberate design to them, and the anime doesn't seem to muck that up like a lot of shows, where they try to improve upon the look of the mangaka artist.

There are a few times when the manga drags a little but not that much. All in all I'd say its crap factor is the lowest I've seen in a long time. Compared to other shows that just have a huge following because they wanna get it on with the characters, or because they think Lucky Star -- also another slice of life comedy -- is so awesome because they can totally relate to Konata, or one of the twins. Yeah, your ability to relate just went right out the window the minute you fondled yourself during the credit opening, and peeked to the left and right, and let out a sigh.

Tisk! Tisk!

It's doubtful that the average reader will have much in common with the characters, since we are talking about children here; and those of us that have any sort of fond memories of our youth will, no doubt look on it with a certain sense of disgust and embarrassment.


Anna & Miu
 Now, I'm not gonna say that the characters of Strawberry Marshmallow don't each have their own distinctive charm, and even a little bit of forced sex appeal, brought about by the fact that Barasui used to draw lolicon doujinshi pages. And for those of you that have to ask what that is, then get off this blog, you are not ready to be an Otaku!

Anyway, the series -- both manga and anime -- cover a lot of everyday moments brought into the realm of laughter by the extra-ordinary personalities of the characters. From watching as Nobue tries to sucker Chika into giving her money for cigarettes, to the group homework study sessions that end in Miu getting punched to the floor face down for being a brat.

So there you have it, a little look at one of my favorites. So go out there and get your strawberry on! I mean it! Or I'll will rip the cover off of this DVD copy I have of the Incredible Hulk TV Series from the 80s, and cram it up your nose until you read this stuff!

Go on, get out of here! I don't want to see you back until you've at least figured out which character started out with long hair in the manga and then cut it off.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go get some ice cream, because that last image I posted is making my sweet tooth act up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Re-Enter The Samurai!

Hyakkan Ryouran: Samurai Girls
I'm not going to say that it is impossible to go through and list every single anime or manga that comes out each season and month, but it's just not practical; and I for one don't always feel like waiting around for the opportunity to have all the shows already out and airing before I start writing and blogging about them.

That said, I can honestly say that even though this show didn't make it into  my recent Fall Anime 2010 lists, this is certainly a show that has grabbed my attention, and managed to gleefully slip past my rants and raves. And while it is certainly a show of deliberate extremes, and no-holds-barred avant animation it is fast setting itself up as the new look of the way of the Samurai.

I'm of course talking about Hyakkan Ryouran: Samurai Girls, that "Not just another fighting anime" that focuses on busty and/or barely clad girls with swords, and other various fighting weapons. But wait, could it be that while this is a heavy handed fan-service driven vehicle, it actually has some of the best looking animation this season?

Well, don't just take my word for it. Go out and find some and see it for yourself!

No your eyes do not deceive you, I am actually recommending a show!

What if the Sengoku Period (warring states period) of Japan (1400 - 1500) didn't end and still continues to present day? A time when the Takugawa Shogunate was never abolished, and Japan is isolated from the whole world to develop apart? What would happen it be like with Samurai and Ninja warriors still going to a fro?

Well, This is the setting of Hyakkan Ryouran: Samurai Girls, only it goes beyond just another fighting anime that seems to have infested the airwaves over the past few years, featuring scantily clad girls with swords. This show actually unfolds methodically and with a deliberate intensity. While similar in feel to shows like Koihime Musou this story actually goes above and beyond with just re-writing history, it presents a look at the world that could be. 

It goes without saying that the animation and visuals of Samurai Girls is some of the best animation produced by any studio in a long time, especially any that are worth noting, using a flat almost broad canvas stroke look to the animation, and giving off a visual element like that of A Scanner Darkly.

Ironically this isn't ARMS first attempt at fan-service anime, as they are no stranger to mature themed anime, having worked on various titles ranging from Body Transfer, Elfen Lied, and I"s Pure. Yet despite the clear strong heavy eechi moments, this show manages to captivate by an almost force of self possessed will power.

The show begins with Muneakira, a seemingly average man arriving at the request of the Student Council to take on a position at a local school. While doing the tourist thing, he encounters two girls Yukimura and Matabei hiding out in the school's abandoned dojo, and soon finds himself caught up as their accomplice. While attempting to make his escape from the enforcers of the school discipline, a strange orb of light appears from the sky and a mysterious girl named Jubei Yagyu descends with the near unlimited ability of a true Master Samurai. 

Amidst the madness that ensues the girl is only able to be stopped by Muneakira, and the group is arrested for violation of laws seemingly intended to run the education system.

Complicated? Yes. Confusing? Without a doubt. But there is something that seems to force the viewer to watch, to see how this show is going to unfold. The episodes seem to go by with little accomplished, and before you know, the episode has ended and you instantly want more, questions that were not answered, now will only be revealed in the next. And this is the hook of the show, a slow deliberate pace that seems hypnotically timed against the animation, and the curious Mystery girl from the heavens that goes from being a legendary untouchable warrior to a below average girl with seemingly no abilities what-so-ever.

While the show does sport quite a few nude moments, the editing and censoring takes advantage of the unique ink effects that sporadically splatter the screen, especially during moments of emphasis, and intensity; and uses these very dramatic elements as a blur tool to hide a few rather embarrassing shots of our heroines in the buff.

If you are looking for a show that has something of substance to offer, in addition to the usual boobs, panties, and fighting girls then really you should look no further. While the plot seems to be taking a while to get where it's going, there really does seem to be a rather interesting balance, and in all truth it can't come soon enough. Considering some of the mindless and pointless shows premiering this season, I can honestly say that I am taking a bit of a sigh of relief here.

In addition to some familiar modern things combined and meshed with this unchanged Shogunate world, you will no doubt hear familiar names from actual historical figures from time to time. The most significant early name dropped being that of Hattori Honzo.

I am sadly like the rest of the fans, waiting to see what becomes of this show. The direction, and the characters. I can't say I see any that just jump out at me, but I'm sure there will be a few that leave memorable impression. Including that of Princess Sen, and her near masochistic leverage over her servant Honzo.

This show is a feast for the eyes, in more ways than one. Beautifully rendered, and calmly serene, it makes history seem to come and touch the very screen with every ink blotch that is dropped.