Archive for Editorials

Dragonball Evolution or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Box Office Bomb

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Along with being an anime buff, I’m also a big movie buff. I probably see a new film at least once a week, so I am quite familiar with the way Hollywood and the industry works. Because I have such a huge admiration for the medium, it takes a lot to make me hate a film. In fact, I’ve only hated three films within the past year while finding the 50-some other films at least tolerable.

I hated Twilight because it was a dull film that was only meant to show off a pretty boy with bushy eyebrows. I hated Mama Mia! because the film ripped out my testicles, threw them at the screen, and then sang a song about it. I hated The Legend of Chun-Li movie not because it was a poor video game adaptation, but because it was a bad action flick.

But as difficult as it is to make me really hate a film, it’s even harder to make me really love a film and make it significantly stand out for me. So when the end credits began to roll for Dragonball Evolution last weekend and I gave it a genuine applause out of admiration, that really meant something.

Yes, I actually enjoyed this live-action adaptation of the popular manga series. I was a fan of Dragonball even before I was a fan of anime. This simple story of strength, power, and domination has reached out to many Americans and has made the franchise the most popular anime ever released over here. So because I thought that the final moments of the film captured the same awesome feeling that the original comic and anime had, I felt very satisfied that Hollywood brought the property to the big screen.

But looking around, it would appear that I was the only one who enjoyed it. The Dragonball fans hated the movie before it was even made. As every photo and trailer came out, the blogoshpere would complain about how bad the movie looked and how much it was going to suck. And in the weeks leading up to the film’s release, I was bombarded with blast after blast of hate as anime fans illegally downloaded the film and watched it on their computers.

With all this negative press leading up to the film’s release, it was no surprise that the film bombed its opening weekend and only took in a dismal $4.6 million at the box office. It even undersold everybody’s already low projections.

So where did it go wrong? How did the most popular anime property in America fail to reach out to its target audience?


An Email About Keitaro, KyoAni, and the Fans Who Love Them

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I should probably make this a regular feature. Every once in a while, I receive an email that deserves a little extra attention from me in my response. When I received an email titled, “Keitaro Urashima Post and Why You Should Speak For Yourself Only!” I thought it was just going to be another flamer email to put on my block list.

But upon reading the email, I discovered that it was indeed filled with rage, but this rage seemed to be seriously misplaced and completely contradictory to what he was trying to prove. It was the perfect example of the otaku-vs-otaku hate that I have preached against in the past.

He never posted this up on his LiveJournal account, so I’m going to keep the letter anonymous and removed any form of identification in it.

Scott on Scott Pilgrim and the Best OEL Manga Evar!!!

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

I once heard that in marketing, the customer will become interested in a product after it has been recommended to them three times. A year ago, I had read a gushing review of the OEL manga series Scott Pilgrim in ANN’s weekly review section. A month later, the hosts of the video podcast The Totally Rad show had also given very positive impressions of the series. So it was almost too easy for Amazon to sell me a copy of the series when I was hit with it a third time in their “Recommended for you” section.

The title character of the series is an unemployed 23-year-old Canadian just off of a major break-up. After trying to date a shy high school girl, he meets a wild American girl, Ramona, who turns his boring life completely around. What follows next is six surreal volumes of comedy and ridiculous ninja action as Scott has to literally confront and battle every ex-boyfriend of Ramona in order to be with her.

And because it is created by Canadian artist Brian Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim is proof that a manga series created by a Westerner can speak to the Western audience in ways that Japanese comics can’t. It is one of the best comics I have ever read, and it is OEL at its finest.


REPOST: Keitaro Urashima – The Everynerd

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Today FUNimation re-released the anime adaptation of Love Hina, the franchise that introduced me and many otaku of my generation to the wonderful world of anime and manga. To celebrate the return of this series, I’d like to repost this essay I wrote about its impact to the anime and manga industry in America, and just why I believe it was able to speak to a whole subculture of geeks around the world.

Originally posted on August 18, 2005.

If you were a manga fan over five years ago, you will recall just how different things were back then compared to now. Manga was flipped, expensive, heavily edited, and had a very limited variety of titles. But then a newcomer by the name of Tokyopop decided to make a radical change to the market. They introduced a new line of manga in which they called, “100% Authentic.” Not only were the pages un-flipped, but the size of the book was smaller, the cost was only 10 bucks a volume, and they didn’t translate any sound effects.

The new format was a hit, and created a new interest in Japanese comics. The shelf space expanded at an exponential rate. And yet, surprisingly, the series that was on the top during this revolution wasn’t from a well known anime actions show like Dragonball Z or Cowboy Bebop. Instead, it was a series about a 20-year-old boarding house manager and the 5 girls who lived with him.


Editorial Repost: Child Pornography in Anime

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Today starts the trial of Christopher Handley for the content of his pornographic manga collection. Under the PROTECT Act of 2003, the fictional depictions of children having sex and bestiality in his collection could put him away for 20 years in prison.

This is not the first time that PROTECT has put an otaku on trial. After that man was convicted on those charges three years ago, I wrote out the following editorial piece on the problems with making works of fiction illegal. I feel that the piece is still applicable to Mr. Handley’s situation.

Originally posted on December 4, 2005.

Update: The trial has been postponed until next month.


An Email About Fansubs and Morality

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

I don’t normally do this, but I figure that with this being the first week that Crunchyroll went legit and started streaming new episodes of Naruto, I had to put out a final plea to my audience.

I had received an email last week concerning my Greg Ayres and the Fight Against Fansubs post from a reader I’ll refer to as Brian. Because he was nice in his letter, I sent him back a long email about my views and thoughts on the issue.

After reading over my response, I realized that there are some points I wrote about that really all my readers should know, not just Brian. Because I have stopped downloading fansubs and written many pieces on the negative consequences of it, I often hear people saying that I either hate technology, hate anime fans, or that I must be in the pocket of the industry.

So this week, I’d like to repost Brian’s email and my response to clear the air and let everyone know exactly where I stand on the fansub issue, why I do what I do, and what exactly I’m asking of my readers.


How the Japanese are Reclaiming the Internet

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

If you have been following my blog for the past year, then you are familiar with my controversial narrative of the US anime market and how it reached its breaking point a few months ago.  The giants of the industry formed their mighty empire after Toonami and Adult Swim brought in a new American audience around the turn of the century. The fans needing something more than just Dragonball Z and Cowboy Bebop to handle their anime craving began to head out to their local Best Buy and spend their hard earned cash on new DVDs.

With this expanding new market demanding more series, the American distributors bought into any new series that Japan was producing at the time and began adapting them for the US audience. But during this time, broadband internet connection became available to more households through out the country. With this new development, it was no longer TV that provided the gateway to new American otaku, it was illegal downloading and streaming video websites.

The audience brought in from the internet were not going out to Best Buy to buy anime DVDs. Why would they if they could just download it all for free? And as older fans discovered the ease and availability of fansubbing, they also stopped buying DVDs. This meant that all those series that the giants have been working on following that big rush were now just sitting on the store shelves going unsold.

The anime DVD market was dead, and it died at the hands of the internet fansub monster. Although fandom continued to grow through the years, profits began to shrink and wither away into nothingness. We saw the first causalities of this when the giant Geneon fell around a year ago, and again when ADV fell to pieces only a few months after that.

So instead of trying to squeeze water out of this dried up sponge, I have written many essays on how the Japanese needed to adapt into the digital space created by illegal file sharing. And as the economy and general outlook of the industry became far more gloomy as the months passed, it has become obvious that they had better do it soon. Otherwise, we were going to see many more causalities in the near future.

However, despite what appears to be all too painfully obvious to the Americans, the Japanese seem to be completely oblivious to the fansub monster. I faced this fact head on with an interview I had at Otakon last summer.


Beyond My Comfort Zone – Scott Reads Yaoi

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Note: This post contains very explicit images and discussions of sex and homosexuality depicted in comics. Read at your own risk.

About a month ago, I hung out with the team over at the Reverse Thieves blog in New York City. We went to a used Japanese bookstore, and I was thrilled to find a copy of Kodomo no Jikan, one of my favorite manga series, for sale. When I showed off the find to the others, Narutaki immediately indicated to me that he was disgusted by the title because of all the controversy surrounding its lolicon content.

“No, really, It’s a great series,” I tried to convince him. “Don’t let the lolicon fool you, there’s a great story behind it!” But he wouldn’t accept it. As Narutaki told me in an email later, he becomes upset and uncomfortable by any sexual portrayal of children in manga whether it is lolicon or shotacon. No matter how good a story it might be, he believes that he would have a hard time bypassing that fact.

So they issued a fun challenge for both of our blogs. The Reverse Thieves would go beyond their confront zone by reading the first two volumes of Kodomo no Jikan to see if they can find a good story despite its lolicon content. But in exchange for them giving that series a try, I would have to take the time to read and write about a certain genre of manga that I would be very uncomfortable reading myself…



The Optimism of FUNimation Entertainment

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

“DON’T PANIC!” reads the first slide of FUNimation’s powerpoint presentation at the New York Anime Festival, and once again, the audience lets out a nervous laugh. It is the same slide that the company has shown at the last Otakon, Anime Expo, and any other convention they have been to this season. It comes after a year in which fans saw the fall of two giants in the industry, Geneon and ADV.  The company means to calm the worries of many fans about the future of anime in America. However, a single slide didn’t really bring that much reassurance, as the news seemed to continue to get worse as the summer rolled along.

But things were a little different for this convention. Since Otakon, ICv2 had released a report on the current state of the anime industry, and it was revealed that FUNimation actually made up 32.7% – nearly a third – of the entire market. They were way ahead of the second largest company, VIZ Media, at 15.9%, the comatose ADV at 10.5%, Bandai Entertainment at 7.7%, and Media Blasters at 5%.

FUNimation makes no effort in hiding this fact at their NYAF panel, and very quickly admit that they are probably doing much better than anyone else right now. But still, having them announcing that we should not worry about the state of the industry sounded a little cocky this time. Of course they aren’t worried about the industry! At a third of the market share, they are industry! What a huge power for one company to hold.

But as the old Spiderman quote goes, with great power comes great responsibly. Instead of leaving the “Don’t Panic” statement at just that, FUNimation spent a little bit of time explaining their strategy for the future of the industry right there at the NYAF. And I have to admit, the optimism of this company finally convinced me the tide is just about to shift, and FUNimation is going to be the one to change it.


Yen Plus – The Rebirth of Raijin

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Let me take you back to the spring of 2003 when I was in my final months of high school. One of the “senior privileges” my school offered was that we were allowed to leave campus during our study hall periods. Well, none of my friends had study hall with me and I most certainly didn’t want to stay in school for that afternoon period. So I made a daily routine for myself.

First, I’d walk on over to the nearby 7-Eleven to buy myself a Slupree. While I was there, I would check their magazine rack to see if the latest Raijin Comics issue had come out. If there was a new issue, I’d buy it. I would then take said Slurpee and magazine to an outside bench, take a comfortable seat, and then spend the remainder of the period reading the manga and drinking the cool drink on that warm spring afternoon. It was a great way to get through that last semester of my secondary education.

Raijin Comics was a weekly – let me repeat that – weekly manga anthology produced by newcomer Gutsoon! Entertainment that had started in December 2002. It launched at the same time Shonen Jump USA launched, but Raijin was clearly going for a more mature audience with a wider variety of titles. This included some old shounen classics like comedy-adventure City Hunter, the extremely violent Fist of the North Star and Grappler Baki, and the popular sports manga Slam Dunk. But mixed in with these older titles were a couple of newer comics like the harem comedy Guardian Angel Getten, the political drama First President of Japan, and the absolutely adorable talking animal comic Bow Wow Wata.