Archive for Features

The Anime Almanac’s Top 10 Posts of 2008

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Last week, I reviewed the past year in terms of anime releases, manga release, and the best and worst companies in the industry. However, there was still one more thing that gained a lot of traction and notice in 2008 –

The Anime Almanac and its ever lovable blogger! (^_^)

I started this blog a few years ago while in college, but the stress and time I needed to devote to school work left the site on a constant hiatus. I’d pop up during a school break to make a post, but for the most part, this site failed to get anywhere do to my lack of consistency.

When I attended the New York Anime Festival a year ago, several different events occurred that I felt needed to be told to the world. I had four posts already in mind, but I didn’t just want to pop in to post those few things and then disappear again. If I was going to be returning to blogging, this time I was going to commit myself to something big.

So I bought the domain name, I redesigned the site to have a more contemporary feel (which I later redesigned to have a more moé feel), and I set a goal for myself РI would post at least one article every week.

These changes paid off quickly and tremendously. I started off the year as just another opinionated jerk with a blog, but I ended it as an opinionated jerk with a press badge, access to exclusive interviews and information, a professional reputation, and a growing readership who look forward to seeing what I’ll write next.

This week, I’d like to go over my top ten posts over that past year and why they made the Anime Almanac the site it is today.


2008 in Review and Predictions for 2009

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

You know, even though I mostly focus this blog on stories about the anime industry and the American fan culture behind it, I am still an avid collector of manga and anime DVDs. So that means that along with keeping tabs on the latest news and traveling to many conventions this past year, I’ve been watching and reading many new series.

For the next two weeks, I would like to take a break from my normal postings and do a little bit of a review of 2008. Looking over my collection, I’ve pulled together my top picks for new anime and manga releases in the past year. Hover your mouse over most of the titles for cover art and shopping information via Amazon.

And because I just can’t keep my editorial opinions to myself, I have also included a list of the best and worst companies and organizations of 2008, as well as my predictions for the anime and manga industry in the new year. Let’s see just how accurate my predictions actually are when I look back at this a year from now. ūüėČ

And just to be clear, I’m only listing series that began their availability in America in 2008. Series that had been available prior to 2008 or that are not legally available in the US are not counted.

“Rica ‘tte Kanji” and Lesbianism in Manga

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I think for a majority of American otaku, the word “yuri” conjures up only a few images. There’s the boy-turned-girl by aliens stuck in a love triangle between two other girls. Or the girl in the huge black witch’s hat flirting with a female swordsmen. Or probably the image of Catholic school girls adjusting each other neckerchiefs.

For the most part, my experience with yuri has only been these highly erotic stories obviously targeted to a male reader, and that turns out to be general description of the word by professional manga translator and genre expert Mari Morimoto.

“It’s kind of like live-action lesbian porn in the US,” she explains to her “Gay” Manga 101 panel at the recent MangaNEXT convention. “Most of it is just girl-on-girl action for the straight man.”

But every once in a while, an actual lesbian artist will create a comic targeted toward the lesbian community, and it just so happens that a pioneer in this genre was a guest speaker for the convention that weekend.

When Rica Takashima began serializing her comic Rica ‘tte Kanji for the lesbian magazine Anise in 1996, she broke the mold of what was considered yuri. Instead of a highly erotic story of “forbidden love” between two women, she created a super-cute tale of realistic lesbian lifestyles and relationships.

I read through the book when I arrived at the convention that weekend, and found it to be really different than any other manga I’ve read before. So I had plenty to discuss and ask when the convention hosted a “Book Club” session with the artist herself the next day. We all sat at a large round table, and Morimoto joined us to translate for Takashima. Such an intimate setting allowed us all to dive deep into the comic and the subject matter behind it… sometimes a little too close for comfort.


Behind the Mic – The Bang Zoom Workshop

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

A group of a dozen aspiring voice actors gather in a small recording studio in Midtown Manhattan. They are there to participate in a day long voice acting workshop hosted by Bang Zoom Entertainment. Not only have they paid quite a lot of money to attend this class, but their promptness in showing up at 9:00 on a Sunday morning is a clear indication that they are all serious about this.

Their instructor for the day is Tony Oliver, veteran voice actor and dubbing director. “This is a professional class,” Oliver warns his new pupils. “I’m not mean, but I don’t pull punches.” For a full eight-hour day, Oliver will be working with each student in the basics of anime voice acting.

This idea of fans getting into professional voice acting has always fascinated me. Back when I ran anime clubs in college, a few of my members wanted to get into the business. Some of them even took acting classes and pursued theater degrees just to get into anime voice acting. It is also hard not to notice that at almost every voice acting panel I have attended at anime cons, at least one fan will ask the professional guests, “How do I become a voice actor?”

So now that these aspiring voice actors are actually inside of a recording studio for full day, what exactly were they going to be doing? How hard is it to voice act? What kind of lessons could they learn from the pros? What will happen when they go behind the mic for that first time?

Bang Zoom was kind enough to let this blogger observe this workshop, and must say, this was one of the most amazing events I have ever witnessed in my years of fandom. So for this week, I’d like to take you inside of that New York recording studio to see what it is like for a fan to finally get behind the mic.


Robin Sevakis talks Anime News Nina

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

On October 24, 2007, the website Anime News Network launched its newest feature, a weekly webcomic by Robin Sevakis called Anime News Nina. In the opening five panels, we were introduced to Nina, a cute but bewildered news elf whose sole purpose in life is to learn everything about… umm…

Anime!” her annoyed director yells at her. “You’re going to learn everything about anime for the Anime News Network.”

And in just those first five panels of cute artwork, establishment of a lovable main character, and one hilarious sarcastic punch line, I knew this was going to be one great comic. I was hooked on Nina.

Nearly a year later, the comic is still going strong with a weekly release schedule on the news site. Nina has reached such a high popularity that the New York Anime Festival offered Sevakis a chance to come to the convention as a “Featured Guest” this year. Quite an impressive achievement for a first-time comic artist.

So being the unashamed Nina fanboy that I am, I asked to sit down with Sevakis during the convention to learn more about Nina and the clever artist behind it.


A Look at the Humor of “Har√© + Guu”

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Some months ago, I wrote in my Avatar retrospective that the humor in anime comedies just could not compare to that of our domestic cartoons. The Japanese and Americans have two different senses of humor, which are buried deep into our cultural upbringing. Domestic cartoons featured more sarcasm and cynicism into their humor, which are both concepts not that prevalent in Japanese culture. On the other hand, anime comedies feature a lot jokes from the tsukkomi-boké formula, where a straight man (tsukkomi) punishes the stupidity of an idiot (boké). While tsukkomi-boké can translate to a vaudevillian slapstick to an American viewer, it mostly fails to produce the same kind of laughter as it does in Japan.

Well, not long after I wrote that, I came across one anime show that completely blew this generalization right out the window. At the start of August, I signed up for Fios TV service in my apartment, and much to my surprise, it came with the FUNimation Channel. Now, the FUNimation Channel is still very new, and from what I hear, it’s only available over Fios. That is why it is no surprise that the channel only appears to air about a dozen shows on repeat. But even with the limited selection of shows, they had one that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while now, Har√© + Guu.

Har√© + Guu is the story of boy named Har√© who lives in a small jungle village with his mother, Weda. After a night of partying, Weda unexplainably brings home an adorable pink-haired girl named Guu to live with them. But after a while, Har√© discovers that Guu is not at all what she appears to be, and she makes his world a nightmare with all her crazy antics. The original Japanese title, Jungle wa Itsumo Hare Nochi Guu, is a play on Har√©’s name meaning “sunny and nice” and can be interpreted as “the jungle was always nice, and then along came Guu.”

And my God, this show is funny!

It is really f@#$ing funny!

It is the funniest anime I have ever seen and clearly does not just play into the traditional tsukkomi-bok√© formula. There is something very unique about this show that you don’t get with other Japanese comedies. So this week, I’d like to take an analytical look at the humor of this show and why it translates so well even to this American otaku.


The Stage Production of Studio Shaft

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Adaptation – in the world of media, it is the act of altering the written text of a story so that it may be preformed for film, television, or theater. It’s not as easy as just handing the actors a novel and expecting them to be able to preform the story on camera or in front of an audience.¬† It is up to a screenwriter or playwright to take the novel, visualize the story in their head, and then create a script specifically for the medium they intend to use it in.

There are two big tasks for the screenwriter to deal with. The first is to create a dialogue because that is the primary way that the actors will be able to communicate the story to the audience. While they may have some help with some dialogue in the original story, the screenwriter must create more conversation to fill in the gaps that one can narrate within the text of the novel but cannot convey on screen or stage.

The screenwriter must also map out how the story will visual play out in their adaptation. They must describe the set, the background, the camera angle, the positioning of the actors… every little aspect of the production must be written into the new script or screenplay.

When you come down to it, an adaption might have originated from a written novel, but the show really comes from the creativity of the screenwriter.

In the world of otaku media, it is not nearly this difficult to adapt between the two biggest mediums we care about – anime and manga. Manga, by nature, is already very visual and entirely dialogue driven. The panels can serve as a “storyboard” of how the anime adaptation will look and the word bubbles can serve as the script for the voice actors to use. And more often than not, many anime adaptions do just that.

That is, unless you are director Akiyuki Shinbo and his team at Studio Shaft. In a move of creative genius, this studio brings back the art of adaptation in many of their anime projects. This week, I’d like to go over two such series from the studio that are currently available in America, Tsukuyomi ~ Moon Phase ~ and Pani Poni Dash!


Living Legit – A Month Without Fansubs

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

A month ago, I wrote in my controversial essay that I was going to give up on downloading illegal fansubs. In a way, it really wasn’t that hard of a decision for me to make at the time. I had burnt myself out with covering the spring season on my Twitter account. What started off as a dozen new shows in the first week quickly filtered to only two shows the next week, and I even lost interest in those shows not long after that.

Instead of watching fansubs for the rest of that season, I was discovering many older shows through my Netflix account. I was watching them on my big screen HDTV, so I felt a lot more relaxed sitting on my couch than sitting in front of a computer at my desk. And for the most part, they were all turning out to be good series because I was only renting shows I recalled hearing good things about through out the years.

So when I was working on the Ayres piece, I had to deal with the fansub debate head on and really reevaluate why I was continuing to download things illegally. I’ve been saying for years that people who were watching fansubs were not buying DVDs, and this in turn was creating problems for the industry in both America and Japan. But knowing this, I went on for years using the reasoning of, “I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out,” as my justification for downloading fansubs.

But I never bought the DVD. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who regularly bought anime DVDs anymore. They all stopped when they discovered fansubs.

So instead of being a hypocrite and never fulfilling on my promises, I decided to give up on the whole thing all together. It didn’t really sound that difficult to do. Working on the Ayres piece just convinced me to go all the way.