Archive for Features

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?


Peter Tarara and the Merging of New York Cons

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Three weeks ago, Reed Exhibitions announced that they would be merging the New York Anime Festival and the New York Comic Con for one major convention in 2010. The next day, I posted an editorial about my disappointment over the news. I felt that when the two conventions merged, we would be losing one good convention.

Peter Tarara, Programing Manager for Reed and the man in charge of the Anime Festival, immediately responded to my blog post with an email and an invitation to talk one-on-one with him on the issue. So I spoke with Peter last week to learn more about the motivation for the merge and what it will mean for New York’s anime fans:

* * * * *

Which came first, the fact that you had to do C2E2 in the spring or that you had to do the New York Comic Con in the fall?

C2E2 came first. We were having conversations with the Javits Center over dates for the Comic Con, and we couldn’t get dates for the spring. We could have opted to have it super, super early in the year or much later in the spring. But when we finally had the spring dates finalized for C2E2, that very quickly put us in the mind frame to change the Comic Con to the fall.


Becca – An American Rock Girl in Japan

Friday, August 14th, 2009

When Otakon announced that one of their Sunday performers would be Portland-born rock singer Becca, pretty much everybody I knew had the same reaction:

Who is this American girl and why is she performing at Otakon?

What we didn’t know was the unique story of an American rock singer who had already made a name for herself in Japan. But despite her success overseas, she was virtually unknown in her home country. And so her management team are trying to remedy this with a US marketing strategy aimed at fans of anime and manga.

And her appearance at Otakon was the first step in this plan.


Bandai and the Marketing Blitz of Kannagi

Friday, July 31st, 2009

When the Japanese company Aniplex held an industry panel at Anime Boston last May, their emphasis on the unlicensed series Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens baffled the audience and bloggers.

“Why are they spending so much time talking about Kannagi?”

“The show’s still unlicensed, right? What’s the point?”

“Do they want the fans to pressure American distributors to license it?”

“Do they really expect us to get hyped over this series at this point?”

I was reminded of another industry panel last year held by the Japanese company Kadokawa. That representative was there to introduce the American fans to new Japanese series and get them to demand it to be licensed in America. The problem with this plan is that since broadband internet had become so widely available in recent years, the fans were already well aware of these new titles and had probably already watched them.

So was Aniplex being just as ignorant as Kadokawa was with this Kannagi business?

“Well, we already had the Kannagi license back at Anime Boston,” says Bandai’s Marketing Director Robert Napton in an interview with me two weeks ago at Otakon. “That was the first time we were coordinating with Aniplex in what to say and what not to say. This has been in the planning stages for a few months.”

It wasn’t an act of ignorance on behalf of the Japanese company this time. It was the initial step in one the largest marketing ploys that the US anime industry has seen in years. And from the point of view of this blogger, I thought it was a tremendous success.


Butt Biting Bugs and the Wacky World of UrumaDelvi

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I first heard about Oshiri Kajiri Mushi, or “The Butt Biting Bug”, from the popular blog Boing Boing in August 2007. According to the blog, this children’s cartoon was the biggest craze in Japan at the time:

The repeating monotonic line “Oshiri kajiri mushi…” ingrained the song into my brain so much that I ended up singing the tune to myself for the rest of the day. I also found the cartoon to be hilarious, especially how the bug goes through samurai endurance training to get back his motivation for butt biting.

My fascination and love with the cartoon has not gone away in the two years since then, so when I found out that Delvi of UrumaDelvi, the husband-and-wife team who created the bug, was going to be in New York last weekend, I leapt at the chance to talk with her about the popular short and their career in animation.


NYAFF Double Feature – I’m Your Toy, Your 20th Century Boy

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Why do we care so much whenever our favorite novel, comic, or cartoon is adapted into a live-action movie? After all, we already have the original version right there in front of us, and we know that something in the story is going to be lost when squeezed into a 2-hour-long flick. So why do we care so much when that story is shown back to us on the big screen?

I think the reason is because when you see the story on the big screen being portrayed by real life actors, it feels more real and authentic. It gives the fan the notion that the fictional world could happen in real life. Even with something so deep in fantasy as the Lord of the Rings saga could actually look realistic when done as a big budget Hollywood blockbuster.

Viz has recently released Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys and Pluto in America, and both series have been taking manga critics by storm. When everyone submits their “Best of 2009” lists at the end of this year, you can bet that those two titles will be placed at the top of many of those lists.

They are most certainly at the top of my list right now. As the newest member of the Urasawa fan club, I was very eager to see the first two films of the 20th Century Boys live-action trilogy being shown at the New York Asian Film Festival last weekend.

So did these films succeed in bringing the original comics to life on the big screen?

Yes, oh god yes, they did! (^_^)


NYAFF Double Feature – Being a Man and Loving ’em Too!

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

The New York Asian Film Festival is in town this month, and for the first time ever, this blogger is taking the train into the city and catching some of the action for himself. For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting up some reviews and features from the events taking place at the IFC Center and Japan Society through out June and July.

For my first weekend, I decided to catch two movies based on Japanese manga, but are quite possibly as different as two live-action adaptations can be. The first is the Korean take on the boys’ love manga Antique Bakery, and the second is the Japanese remake of the classic anime / manga series Be a Man! Samurai School.


The Worst Packaging Ever?

Friday, June 26th, 2009

So like I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been receiving quite a lot of review material from FUNimation lately. While I’m never going to have the time to get to watch all these new releases and re-releases, it does give me a chance to scope out the current new offering in the R1 market.

But being able to see all these new releases has made me realize that lately the packaging from FUNimation has been a real crapshoot as far as quality goes. This comes from the company trying to cut costs in a dying DVD market and from trying to ship out the massive amount of new catalog they acquired from Geneon and ADV. The result seems to be that no two packages are alike. They’re all made up of different sizes, cases, structures, and designs.

But one such package I received from them recently was so incredibly bad that I simply could not do it justice describing it on Twitter. So please allow me to take you through a photo tour on what must be the worst anime packaging ever.


Reni – The Japanese Idol of New York City

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Japanese singer and dancer Reni Mimura makes her second local debut to a small concert that was mostly promoted by word-of-mouth. She is dressed in a frilly maid costume, carries around a pink stuffed poodle, and wears a pair of bunny ears on her head. Her set list is a combination of fan-requested anime theme songs, Reni’s self-picked cover songs, and her own original songs. Video screens around the venue show clips of the anime movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – a personal favorite of the singer – and the whole front section of the audience is filled with camcorders and digital cameras as the fans actively try to capture the concert on film.

While this setup might seem a little unusual for a small pop concert, it’s all because she’s singing in the Akihabara-style, which is famous for its connection to anime, anime fans, and a type of geek appeal described by the fans as moé. And because of their pretty faces, cute costumes, and non-threatening personalities, the moé Akihabara j-idols are to these nerdish otaku men what the Jonas Brothers are for American tween girls. That is why when Reni goes onto the stage, the small otaku audience gets onto their feet, applaud loudly, and then enthusiastically clap along as Reni sings her first anime theme song of the evening.

But this isn’t Akihabara – it isn’t Japan – and most of the audience aren’t even Japanese. We’re in a small karaoke bar in the east side of New York City, which is being rented out the first Sunday of each month to serve as Reni’s personal venue. But for the American otaku in the audience, this is probably the closest they’ll ever get to seeing a cute j-idol perform like this.

Fortunately for them, this idol is now local, and she’s planning on sticking around in New York for quite some time.

So who exactly is Reni? Where did she come from and how did she end up in New York City?

I sat down for an interview with this singer in Bryant Park one Sunday while the nearby Kinokuniya bookstore held an “Anime Day” full of activities. But as an interviewer, it was very hard to get all the details. Like a proper J-idol, her personal life becomes overshadowed by a perky on-stage personality. So I tried my best to peel through the mystery to figure out the story behind this singer.


Scott Goes KRAZY! on

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Deb Aoki is the very talented guide behind the manga section of She was invited to attend the preview reception of KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games art exhibit last Wednesday at the Japan Society in New York City. The problem? Deb lives on the completely opposite side of country, and was unable to take the time to fly to New York to attend the event.

That’s when she called on two New York area experts on all three genres to go in her place. Evan Minto of Ani-Gamers and yours truly checked out the exhibit last week, and we wrote out a tag-team review on it for Deb’s website.

Overall, I thought the exhibit was a little bit on the small and limited side, especially when it came to video games. However, there were still a few things that I really liked including the action figure pictured above. Also, I can’t stress enough how awesome the “giant wall of anime” room was, and I really wish that I could find a picture of it to show you guys. That alone could have been worth the cost of admission.

But I did mention all my high points in the review, so please be sure to check it out. 😉