Archive for Features

Anime Review: Strike Witches

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Dude.

They are cute girls who walk around with no pants on.

… and oh yeah, they have animal ears and fluffy tails when they go flying. Some of them are even cat girls!

Do I really need to say any more about it?

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The Good: Everything.

The Bad: Nothing.

Final Verdict: Strike Witches is the best show ever made.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment.

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The Daily Almanac: As Funny as a Heart Attack

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

This was originally going to be part of my Katsucon report, but I feel that there is enough content here that it deserves its own post.  I’m going to have many unfavorable things to say about this convention in tomorrow’s post, but the truth is that my weekend actually started off on a positive note as I attended a panel for voice actor Greg Ayres.

My long time readers probably remember the controversial interview I did with him two years ago over the issue of fansubs. I approached Ayres before his panel last weekend, and much to my surprise, he remembered me very well. We actually got into a very friendly, and somewhat gossipy, conversation prior to the panel. Then I sat with the rest of the audience to hear his interesting story.

And this time, it really had nothing to do with fansubs.

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Top Ten Anime Releases of 2009

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Well, I said that I was going to post a new “Best of 2009” list for every week in December, and darn it, I did it! (^_^)  It sure was a lot of work, but of course, I had to save the best list for last. Ladies and gentlemen, here are my ten favorite new anime releases of 2009.

Now, the word “new” can most certainly mean different things in the world of anime fandom these days. There are the new series that are coming out in Japan each season, and then there are the new series that are just being imported in America this year. So just for clarification on why Series X doesn’t appear on this list this year, let me outline the three ways I consider a series to be “new” in 2009:

1) Anime series had to have had its first volume released on R1 DVD in 2009. (no continuing series or re-releases)

2) Anime series had to have its first episode legally available online for American viewers in 2009 (no fansubs)

3) Anime film had to have had a nation-wide American theatrical release in 2009. (no festival screenings)

Now it’s obvious that one company dominates the list this year. It is not just because of my own personal bias, there is certainly a logical reason for this. FUNimation is monopolizing the anime industry here in America, so most of the new releases this year have been from them. Five out of my top ten are FUNi titles, which is consistent with the top ten lists put together from Chris Beveridge (5 out of 10) and Amazon.com (4 out of 10) this year.

But enough talk and disclaimers, let’s get to the list!

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Top Ten Anime / Manga Companies of 2009

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Yeah, I know that a lot of people tend to only care about content when it comes to anime and manga, but personally, I am just absolutely fascinated by the industry behind it. Something about taking a foreign niche product, adapting it for Americans, and then marketing it to that geeky audience completely interests me.

So because I do keep a very close eye on everything that goes on in the anime and manga business in America, here is my annual list of the ten companies I feel made the biggest difference for the industry and for the fans out there in 2009.

10) Tokyopop

Tokyopop was noticeably absent from my list last year, but that is because they really hit a rough spot in 2008 and had to go off the grid for a good part of that year. But we saw them gradually recover in 2009 and really try to clear up all the loose ends that were left with their sudden departure. Series that went on “indefinite hiatus” now started to come out again, and the paper quality on their books began to improve as well. The company also started holding panels again at anime conventions and have even starting holding online “webinars” for the fans.

They’ve been doing a great job rebounding in 2009, and I look forward to an even stronger presence in 2010.

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Top Ten Manga Releases of 2009

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Ah, the Top Ten lists. My favorite time of the year. (^_^) This is when I get to look back on the past twelve months and pick out the best of the best in the world of anime and manga.

This year, I’m giving each category (manga, anime, and companies) its own special post. Along with listing the top ten new entries, I will also pick out one “No Thank You” title, a series that will probably show up on other critics lists, but I will purposely point out that it is not included on mine. Likewise, I’ll also pick one “Honorable Mention” selection, a series that is not necessarily manga or anime, but I feel really should be included on this “Best of” list.

The criteria for manga is simple – the first volume of a series had to have been released in the US at some point in 2009. This means no re-releases are included (sorry, Yotsuba&!) and neither are continuing series (sorry, With the Light).

My 2009 manga list is going to look a little different from my 2008 list. Since I started doing manga reviews this year, I got exposed to a lot of series that I probably would have never picked up on my own. I don’t think I would have normally included a shojo title, but CMX Manga has released a number a good ones this year, and I included two of them on this list.

There is also no doubt that 2009 belonged to just one manga artist who blew away all the critics this year, and I am no exception. But more on that as we get closer to the #1 spot… Let’s get this thing started! (more…)

Predictions for 2010 (and 2009 Recap)

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

So last year I wrote a little “Predictions” section in my year-in-review post, and I just had a blast writing about it. So this time around, I’m giving this feature its own post with even crazier predictions for the anime and manga market in the year to come.

But first, let’s take a look at all the things I predicted for 2009 and what actually happened.

2009 in Review

Prediction: If [Bandai] can finally work out the licensing issues with their Japanese overlords and bring new content to the internet ASAP, then they could potentially change everything. However, if they continue to shy away from the ‘net, then I predict that BEI will be gone within a few months into 2009.

Result: 2009 was not a good year for Bandai. On January 21st, the company laid off a good part of their 19-member staff. It has been downhill from there, as they were forced to cancel dubbing on shows like Hayate the Combat Butler and delayed the release of almost all of their titles in the 2nd half of the year.

But Bandai did show some creativity this year and FINALLY started embracing the internet. They pulled off the first simultaneous dubbing of a show when Kurokami aired on Japanese, Korean, and American TV with in hours of each other and in that country’s native language. Eighteen weeks in, the simulcast began streaming on YouTube and Crunchyroll. And then they did that crazy Kannagi thing Otakon weekend.

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Top Ten Posts of 2009

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

It’s December, and you know what that means… Time for the “Best of 2009” lists! (^_^)

Every Wednesday this month, I will be posting a new list recapping the best anime, manga, and companies of the year, plus I’ll come out with a new set of industry predictions for 2010. This week, I’ll kick it off with my ten favorite articles posted this year.


Interviewing artist Uruma of UrumaDelvi.

The Anime Almanac went through a major change this year. When my “industry going digital” editorials began losing the impact they once had in 2008, I started feeling a serious case of writer’s block and went weeks without posting anything. At that point, I had gained a substantial following on Twitter, including some PR reps from some major anime and manga companies. They asked if I was interested in reviewing their new releases on my blog, and I gladly accepted their offer.

So half way through the year, I switched over to writing mostly reviews of new anime and manga releases. I increased my posting frequency from once a week to around 2-3 times per week. The blog gained a larger readership with the change, but I had to cut back on my editorial content because of it.

So while I had a much smaller list of posts to chose from this year as opposed to last year, there are still some good ones in this mix. I began interviewing more artists and industry folks at conventions, and dived a lot deeper into the Japanese music scene.

So here are my favorite editorials, interviews, and features from the past year with the background of why they mean so much to me.

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An Exclusive Look at “Oblivion Island”

Friday, November 6th, 2009

What ever happened to all those old toys and doodads you had when you were a kid? Doesn’t it feel like they have just simply vanished off of the face of the Earth?

That is the premise behind the latest anime movie from Production I.G., Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror. As a child, Haruka heard an old Japanese fable of how all the items that have gone unnoticed and forgotten by people eventually get picked up and taken away by nature’s most sneaky creatures, foxes.

Now your typical rebellious teenager, Haruka wonders what ever happened to a mirror given to her by her late mother. She happens upon a Shinto shrine and makes an offering to the gods to return the mirror to her. There she encounters a tiny fox-looking creature named Teo carrying an abandoned toy plane.

While following him, she is suddenly swept away to Oblivion Island, a secret world inhabited by Teo’s people and built entirely out of the objects that humans have long forgotten about. So now she teams up with Teo to explore the island and find her long lost mirror.

The movie was only released in Japanese theaters a few months ago, but Fuji Television was generous enough to invite me to an exclusive screening in New York City last week. What I saw was an absolutely delightful children’s film filled with more imagination, heart, and wonderment than the last two Miyazaki films combined.

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Interview: How Vertical Owned the NYAF

Friday, October 16th, 2009

In an effort of oversimplifying everything I do, I tend to find one anime or manga company to point out in a blog post and declare my clear “winner” of every major convention I go to. Past winners have included Yen Press at the New York Comic Con in 2008, Bandai Entertainment in Otakon 08 and again in ’09, and FUNimation at the New York Anime Festival last year.

But my winner of the NYAF this year came completely out of left field. Vertical Publishing has never been a particularly exciting company to watch at these cons. Their focus on classical manga and non-manga Japanese publishing seemed to be disconnected with the convention audience, and I honestly did not consider them part of the same industry as Del Rey or Yen Press.

And then a few months ago, they hired manga expert Ed Chavez as their new marketing director, and immediately things started changing for the small publisher. At the NYAF, we finally got to see what the future of Vertical was going to look like with Chavez on board. They announced four new manga acquisitions, including the experimental Peepo Choo and the highly anticipated Chi’s Sweet Home. This was arguably the most exciting news to come out of that weekend.

To learn more about how Vertical managed to make such an amazing appearance at NYAF this year, I spent some time interviewing the man himself, Ed Chavez:
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AKB48 – Cute Girls in the City

Friday, October 9th, 2009

In the top floor area of the historical Webster Hall venue in downtown New York City, a sold out house of anime and music fans wait patiently for a show to begin. It is the weekend of the New York Anime Festival, and on this Sunday evening, the fans are showing fatigue from days worth of events. Upon entry to the venue, they were given a pink glow stick and a red handkerchief for reasons yet unknown.

The house lights dim, the stage lights go on, and an announcer blasts, “Are you ready?” to the crowd’s enthusiastic applause.

Then suddenly sixteen girls, with ages ranged from 14 to 21, step onto the stage and begin performing a synchronized song and dance. It is quite a sight to see so many pretty girls occupy one single stage like this. Their opening song, an upbeat number called “Aitaikatta”, greets the crowd with Japanese lyrics that translate to,”We’ve missed you all, we’ve missed you all, we’ve missed you all, yes!”

(c)  ASK

Sure, the pitch perfect vocals going through the speakers were all prerecorded, but that did not seem to matter to the predominately male audience. Their bouncy choreography got the crowd hyped up and waving their glow sticks to the sugar coated beat of their music. And for extra fan service, their catholic school girl outfits were specially weighted so that their skimpy skirts would flare up with every turn, innocently exposing their black undergarments.

Cute, sexy, cheerful, and pure, the girls of AKB48 are to these nerdish men what the Jonas Brothers are to American teenage girls. But the j-idol phenomena is rarely seen outside of Japan, so for most of these native New York otaku, this was their first time seeing a show like this in person.

And what better idol show to see for your first time than the most popular group in Japan these days?

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