Monday, February 28, 2011

Ah! My Goddess - 2011 OAD

Ah! My Goddess - 2011 OAD Special
The last time we saw an animated release of any kind for Ah! My Goddess was in 2008, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the manga in the form of two OVAs called Fighting Wings, taking place hot on the heels of the second season; in which Lind comes to Earth to capture an angel eater monster that has been terrorizing the goddesses.

This time however we are given a special OAD out of the blue and without much fanfare, packaged along with the 42nd and 43rd volumes of the manga roughly titled Together Forever.

As a fan of almost every form of Ah! My Goddess, I was instantly excited about getting more of what I love, and while the episode isn't canon, it is at least somewhat consistent with the latter events of the anime, and how they interconnect with one another.

This OAD is the first original anime DVD--meaning direct to DVD video--produced for the series, and not the typical OVA made available everywhere, and thus limited to manga purchases only(sorry to the North American fans, but I doubt that Dark Horse Manga will be bundling the DVD for us anytime soon).

My first reaction to seeing the new OAD is that I noted that it didn't have the usual bag-pipe music opening song that I loved hearing during the series episodes, now replaced with an opening song by FripSide; but that wasn't any real big loss, since after a few times listening to them, I just hit the skip button anyway.

I did notice that the characters are sporting new wardrobe, which while it doesn't happen all the time, does happen, and usually at the moment when you are thinking to yourself, "Don't they have any other clothes to wear?" Though personally, Urd always looks better in tight fitting side cut skirts, and not necessarily a pant-suit.

Once again however we are treated to a slightly different looking Belldandy and Urd; and for those of you that have been long time followers of the franchise in all forms know, Belldandy and Urd have seemingly gone through the most character changes imaginable. 

The new look isn't as drastic of a change as that which happened in the manga, where one volume she looks erotic and exotic, and the next she looks more refined and clearly sculpted; this change is only slightly noticeable and only due in part to drawing style of AIC. I didn't find it distracting in the least, and I hope that the fans of the series wont even be able to notice.

The plot of this OAD is more or less, Keiichi and Belldandy going on a date to visit an amusement park one last time before it is closed permanently. The twist is that during the hours leading up to the trip, Belldandy begins to exhibit stronger than normal feelings of happiness, which are so abundant and overflowing, that they threaten to nullify the need for any goddess's presence on Earth.

Without any needs, and with their hearts filled with ultimate happiness, mankind will no longer require the assistance of goddesses to grant them blessings and wishes, and the likelihood that they will be recalled back to heaven, becomes a serious danger.

Of course, it is up to Urd and Skuld to stop the happiness, or at least hinder it, without incurring the dispair of their sister Belldandy.

The episode is slightly longer than an average episode of anime, weighing in at around 28 and a half minutes, and throughout has really good pacing. The plot is sound, while still being whimsical, and the appearance of a villain to meddle with the situation allows for some excitement.

All in all, I walked away from this feeling a little saddened. Simply because I now know that any future releases of Ah! My Goddess are going to be pretty much limited to OADs and OVAs, and the chances of seeing another full season are now past.

I always want more, as a fan given a morsel of anime, it seems only fair that we should have a little something larger to gnaw on, but as a fan, I often am reminded that we have to take what we can get from time to time.

I am disappointed--like always--in Keiichi's character, as he seems to perpetually wuss out on us, when it comes to expressing himself to Belldandy. Granted it isn't as annoying this time around, but after all the time they've been together as a couple, it seems that he has gotten no closer to a physical relationship with Belldandy, choosing to be more of a boyfriend in title only.

I'm also greatly annoyed with Belldandy, but only from a critical stance, as I adore her in the series, but find her repressed desire to be with Keiichi equally frustrating.

On a whole, this is a great OAD. It gives us a good dose of the goddess goodness, and doesn't fail to entertain. I wouldn't give this one the highest of marks, simply because it felt as if it needed more, and crisis resolution in a single episode is something that shouldn't be done, lest you make it go too fast.

I would have liked more of Urd, but as an Urd fanboy I'll have to sulk about that later I suppose.

Great, but not a masterpiece; I'd definitely recommend you check this one out.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

WO's February Top 10: Interesting Things Part 2

Alright boys and girls; time to get this show back on the air. And without a moment to spare too, since February is almost over.

Yeah it's my fault that the February top 10 got split up, but I mean seriously that was one long post, and I got bogged down in real life stuff.

But now I am back for a bit to try and finish out the top ten list.

05. A Song In Their Hearts
One of the things that I find interesting is the sheer amount of energy a fan puts into learning the opening and ending songs for an anime that they really like. It seems that given enough time, their favorite show will inevitably release a vocal album, or a single and while we as American, English speaking fans don't know much about the Japanese language; we will learn every word to the songs. Or at best try to sing along with them anyway.

Have I done this?

You better believe it. And it isn't a matter of just being an obsessed fan, or going too far in my fandom, it's a matter of me liking something, and wanting to take possession of it it my own way.

04. Shave and a Haircut
We've all at one point in time while watching an anime, have observed the industry's representation of what an otaku looks like; and it usually isn't a pretty picture.

Japan's take on the average otaku fan-boy (as represented in their own shows) is of a late teen to middle twenties something male with long hair--tied into a pony--with three or four day old beard stubble.

Now this may be something to laugh about in anime and manga, but I assure you, it's a totally different reality when you encounter it first hand in the local video store; and instead of a twenty-something male otaku with dirty clothes and stains on his hands from pringles and cheese puffs, you find a smelly dirty female otaku that hadn't seen the light of day except to crawl out of the dungeon of fandom to see if Hastings had released the latest box-set of something.

I have to be amazed by that. I mean, in Japan the image is pretty bleak, and I'm sure that not all fans of anime are dirty otaku. But then not all fans of anime are otaku at all.

Being an otaku is similar to being an obsessed nerd that slacks off social duty and responsibility in favor of their fandom. And while I'm sure that the definition has become massively skewered in its transition from Japan to America, the picture they've painted for one, is dead on even here in my hometown.

03. Beyond Fiction
When was the last time you encountered a fan that told you they wrote fan-fiction? Or better yet, when was the first time you ever heard of fan-fiction?

For me, I encountered fan-fiction as far back as 1999 to 2000 when I dove into the fandom full on. There were dozens of sites featuring fan-fiction and some that went even further and offered lime and even lemon fiction.

It has always been something of an interesting thing to note that while we as fans are always somewhat satisfied with an anime or a manga; we still will find things that we wish had gone one way or another; perhaps it's just that we can't seem to let the thing end, and want there to be more so much so, that we write up our own "continued" experiences for our favorite characters.

Sometimes we dive into the reals of character pairings, and like the lemon fictions of yore, we will break canon, and combine two unwitting characters in an anime or manga just to satisfy our cravings for deviation.

I will freely admit to cutting my writing teeth on fan-fiction back in the day, as it was a somewhat easy way to write, as it didn't require character development, background, or much planning; it simply required a passing imaginatiion, and passable--barely--grammar and writing skills, and voila a fan-fiction was born.

02. All Your Sweet Are Belong To Us!
I noticed something the last time I was in Springfield, MO., when I was visiting my fiancee. We ducked into an oriental market shop and there was all this seemingly delicious food and snacks that was just waiting for me to buy and sample.

The thing that I noticed, was that some of these foods were things that I had seen in anime and manga, and most likely wouldn't have given a second thought about trying had I not seen characters munching and scarfing on them obsessively in some show or graphic novel.

As I poured over the bottles of Ramune, and cookies, and juices, and things; it occurred to me that I had no idea if any of this stuff was even any good, or if I was simply being swayed by the fact that this product was in some way tied into the fandom of which I was apart.

Sure we all have a desire to experience all the things that encompass something pertaining to our habits and passions, but I was on the brink of blindly buying a food that had traveled around the world, and put something in a clear plastic wrapper with un-known writing on it in my mouth, and eat it. All for the sake of my fandom.

I was interested in this notion, that we as fans take something as simple as food, and drink and think that just because it makes a heavy handed appearance in the world of our fantasies that it will be manna from heaven if we consume it.

01. The Winds of Change
The biggest thing that I find interesting when looking out over the fan-base of anime and manga wannabee otaku is the frequency with which they change their views and stances on things.

Fans of a particular genre are usually dead set against some other form, and will rant and rave against it, and make a general nuisance of themselves, only to change their opinion some ways down the road.

I know that what often cripples the fan-base is the misconception of the fans. Thinking that something is this way or that way, based on a few randomly read blog posts, some half-fact from A.N.N and some hostile debates in a message board thread.

It's this charging out into the fray half-cocked mentality that has seriously harmed the fans, and generated loads of confusion, hostility, and ignorance. Everything from the Moe phenomenon, to the loli driven shows has seen fans of some sort that start out hating it, only to later express some interest in some alternate form of it.

I am guilty of this as well. Don't think that I am immune to the effects of blatant stupidity and ass-foolery, just because I am well versed in anime, I too have let personal bias cloud my eyes to somethings that should have been seen more clearly, and with less taint and pomp.

I am fascinated by my own ability to shock and surprise myself from time to time, and am even more fascinated and intrigued when I see this happen throughout the fan-base as a whole.

Fans that swore before almighty God that they would never watch an anime in its original audio, have taken it upon themselves to see it as it was broadcast, or have fallen in favor of streaming content; fans that swore that moe-ism was a blight on the movement have set aside their hatred and have begun singing the praises of such shows as Lucky Star, K-On!.

I look forward to the day when we as fans can set down more of our personal bias, and hold hands and sing songs around the great campfire, and live happy and free... well, free, maybe not happy. Okay, so mostly happy, but who's taking notes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

WO's February Top 10: Interesting Things - Part 1

Yet another list, it seems as if lately my life is being reduced to lists, lists of groceries, lists of books that I have yet to read, anime that is literally piling up on the shelves, and lists of shows that I am in bad need of watching.

If one were to look close, it would seem like all I have time to do lately is make lists. Maybe I should make a list of all the lists I've made.

Anyway, as if to rub salt in the proverbial wound; I've realized that I totally forgotten to create a list for January, and since February is upon us, I thought I would consider that lack of last month's list a break from making lists. At least it seems right when I work it out in my head.

I've really been stumped as to what topic I should use for this top 10, since really, it isn't anything annoying, or confusing, and yet has to be another state of mind about the otaku phenomenon. So I randomly chose Interesting Things.

When it comes right down to it, aside from randy kids that just want to see something naked in a cartoon, and want to argue the power levels of Goku & Co., in faux makeshift versus battles, there are a lot of things about the world of anime and manga that really still do not cease to fascinate me.

I think one of the things that I find interesting about the fandom is the devotion that fans show toward their likes, and their dislikes.

10. A Truly Devoted Fan

Sometimes we are talking with a buddy, or an acquaintance and there comes a moment when we speak out either for or against a particular anime or manga, or even a specific character, and it's as if we've opened a gigantic can of whoop-ass on ourselves that we might not ever be able to close. Most surprisingly is that this high level of devotion, isn't just resounding from the newer fans, it's often most strongest from the veteran fans of the fandom.

A lot of times, it doesn't even have to be a show or manga, or character, it can be something like the stance for or against illegal downloads, or industry subs, or the quality of a specific distributor's releases, or most annoying; the quality of dubs from a specific studio.

The best thing about a market, is dedicated fans; and anime and manga certainly have no shortage in that respect. Despite the angry and hostile knee-jerk reactions from some of them, they are truly the back-bone and saviors of our fandom.

For some of us, after a while, anime and manga becomes more of a way of life than an actual hobby or past-time. It's the stage in our development as a fan that takes us beyond merely catching the latest episode of Dragon Ball Kai on the Cartoon Network, or watching a few episodes of Bebop at a friends house over the weekend.

It's the stage where we portion off a fraction of our weekly or monthly income to future purchases of anime and manga, when we painstakingly scour the release schedules of industry distributors like, Section 23, and FUNimation, in marking off the new releases that are up-coming and ripe for our collections; and this leads me to...

09. The Price We Pay

This almost obsessive attitude of spending isn't anything new to us that have been in the fandom for any length of time. Back in the early days of the movement, we actually seemed to spend a lot more money on anime, with very little "bang for our buck".

Now we have more episodes per disc, which make up a new standard of releasing shows 13 episodes at a time, if they are 26 episode series' or the whole thing if just 12 or 13. Granted we've had to sacrifice some additional content, like multiple episode commentary, and behinds the scenes footage, making of documentaries, and even insert art booklets. But we've saved a bundle on the cost of what we used to spend.

Even our manga has begun to get slightly cheaper, or rather we are starting to see more content; can't really say that it's any cheaper. But the fact remains that some of us have taken our lust for anime and manga to the level that now that we are getting more content, we should spend more money.

Before, we would spend 30 dollars for a single DVD of anime with four episodes, sometimes less, now we spend 39.98 for 13 episodes, on two DVDs. My how the times have changed. It still pisses me off when newbies cry their eyes out because they say it's so expensive. Well, all I can do is pretty much shake my head and groan a little on the inside, and forever wonder at their greed.

It isn't that greed is a bad thing, when it comes to anime or manga. Sometimes it can prevent us from loaning out that DVD of Cutie Honey or Devil Lady to one of our friends that is guaranteed to never return in the same condition we lent it to them in. Think of it like this. There used to be those stickers on VHS tapes that said "Be Kind Rewind", as a reminder for people that rented the tapes to have the courtesy of winding the tape back to its starting position, or else it would fall to the employee of the video store to do it. And if there were a crap load of tapes that weren't rewound, then it took forever.

Well, it's more or less like giving your friend a tape, and getting it back, not rewound, covered in some unknown goo-like substance that might or might not be peanut butter, a definite odor, and with the original case missing.

Greed in the life of an anime and manga nerd can often be beneficial to some of us. But it is also a very fine line between obsession, and just pure greediness, when we sometimes don't seem to know when to stop buying.

08. When The Walls Start Closing In...

So, we have a lot of stuff that we buy, but how often do we buy, how much planning goes into the next purchase?

It isn't so bad — if we can measure bad in this instance — that we have shelves and shelves of anime and manga, and J-pop stuff. No, what's bad is when we plot and scheme sometimes months in advance checking release schedules for that next volume or box-set; and then as if that isn't enough, we've taken to expanding rooms in our home to accommodate the eccentricities of our habit. A habit that knows little limitation.

No longer do we have room on the family DVD center to store them, we've already taken all our hard-bound books off the shelves and stored them in the attic for space for our manga, that in the beginning just started out as a couple of volumes of One Piece, but now threaten to be Eiffel towers of comics stacked on their side in the corners sides and middle of our dwelling.

I've seen images of fan's rooms, and let me tell you, logic, and spacial occupancy and volume are thrown right out the effing window as soon as we become crazed. Heck, crazed is the only word I know to describe it.

And still it never ends; making us, sadly so singularly driven to collect, that we have more un-opened, and un-read, and un-watched stuff than most average fans have in their standard collections alone.

In the life of your average otaku, obsessed or not, drowning in DVDs BDs, manga or not; there is this overwheling compulsion to want to do two things.

Go to a convention, and embark on a pilgrimage to see the otaku holy-land.

I'm speaking of course of anime conventions, and Japan. Fans are almost instinctively born with this desire, and yet, this urge to go to conventions, and gather at Akihabara is something that once activated within them never goes away.

7. The Living Wallflowers

There is something inherent about us otaku fans of anime and manga; when you think about it, we have a natural tendency to shy away from nearly all forms of public exposure, we drift into the background of almost any social setting, and if like a many of us are -- male -- we have nothing but awkward words and behavior, especially around the opposite sex.

So the very fact that we become obsessed with wanting to strike out and head for the far off lands of the realms of the otaku kingdom is a perplexity of enormous sums.

But never the less it happens to all of us, we get the urge to go to Japan, an ISLAND of all place teeming with people, crowded and sultry, close and fritening.

Thousands of hundreds of people, all just waiting to watch every move they make, every item they put their grubby hands on, and no doubt whispering about them when they have their backs turned. For a group of people that don't like drawing attention to themselves, and who like to more or less remain in obscurity, this sudden craving to go to Japan is contrary to all that their basic instincts are trying to tell them. As for conventions, well it's basically the same thing; just huge crowds, and lots of people. But being amidst a bunch of like minded otaku isn't really that much of an improvement, and it doesn't take that much to overcome.

It isn't hard to imagine a few fans that have overcome their basic fears and are willing to bite the bullet and face crowds and throngs, but then there are those that take their hiding into all new levels of extreme; and unless you've seen them lurking around the local anime retailer, or coffee shop, then you probably won't understand what it is that I am talking about here.

What I'm talking about, is the fan that hides away from almost any and everyone, and only comes out of their cave to buy food, or supplies, and of course any anime that they think that they can find on the shelves, to keep them from having to go to the trouble of waiting on the UPS man to bring it to them.

6. One N.E.E.T. Fan!

Of course when I say N.E.E.T., I Sure am not talking about "neat", which anyone that has been in the know or at least around the block a few times in the anime fandom will recognize as a really bad thing.

A neet is of course A Person NOT EMPLOYED or EDUCATION or TRAINING. A person that spends all their time frightened of social interaction and hidden away in their apartment, house, or best friend's dwelling.

On rare occaision this person will venture out, risking death or some other type of profundit demise as they are only seeming pressed to add more to their collection.

Most true NEETs are not really otaku, and most otaku are not really NEETs; but on occasion when their genetics converge, and you end up with a NEETO, then you have the makings of madness.

The makings of a fan that quits his/her job to devote their hours to anime; and refuses to bathe, refuses to do outside chores, refuses to find work, go to school... and just watches hours and hours of anime, and reads manga, and loses themselves in the fantasy of this other world.

To Be Continued

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WO's First 5000!!!

I just wanted to take some time out of my busy day to say a great big "THANK YOU" for hitting this blog five thousand times. It feels good to know that my hard work wasn't completely in vain, and that there are fans that like to read my rants, and reviews, and have kept coming back for more.

In appreciation of your continued support I present you with a few of my favorite pictures and AMVs from the world of Full Metal Panic.

And for those of you that have never seen Full Metal Panic! then here is a fan made preview of the entire three seasons.

So once again, just a brief thanks, and then I'm off to do other stuff. Hope you anjoy the vids, and keep on supporting us, we'll keep updating so you keep reading.

WooHoo!!! 5000 HITS!!!