The Daily Almanac: I’m Your Slave

March 2nd, 2010

DearS is a comic in which an alien race of big breasted women (and some pretty boys as well) crash into Earth. Along with highly exposing space costumes, the women wear dog collars around there neck. The collar is symbolic of the fact that their only purpose in their alien life is to find a “master” of the opposite sex and faithful serve under them as a “slave.”

Strawberry 100% is a grade school soap opera where a girl accidentally flashes her strawberry patterned panties at teenage boy when she trips over him. She runs away completely embarrassed,  so the boy never gets her name or a good look at her face. But he becomes completely enthralled with the bizarre episode, so he goes on a quest to find the girl with the strawberry panties.

Chu-Bra is the story of a 7th grade girl who is obsessed with women’s lingerie and forms an “Underwear Appreciation Club” with a group of her classmates. Because of this premise, the comic is constantly showcasing its female characters in their underwear, and often in very sexual position as well.

And finally, Kodomo no Jikan is the story of an elementary grade school girl who shamelessly flaunts her sexuality to her male teacher in order to tease him and get him in trouble. Because of it’s portrayal of a little girl in such a way, it has arguably become the most controversial manga title in the past decade, and was even banned in America by Seven Seas publishing.

What do all of these comics have in common?

They were all done by female manga artists.

That’s right, the most offensive, perverted, fanservice-laden, otaku-pandering, female-degrading manga of the past few years have been penned by female manga artists themselves.

How about that, ladies?

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The Daily Almanac: It’s Not Stealing, it’s Called Homage!

March 1st, 2010

So as I wrote in my post last Friday, the internet has been going nuts for the past few day over the alleged plagiarism of Nick Simmons, son of rock band KISS’s Gene Simmons, over some panels he apparently lifted from the manga Bleach. Deb Aoki of Manga provides a lengthy recap of all the debates going on surrounding the act and just how bad it is compered to the digital piracy of manga online.

You’re not going to find me quoted anywhere in that recap. I didn’t participate in any of the online discussions or debates for one reason:

I don’t think that this act of “plagiarism” is really that big of a problem.

Isn’t manga an industry filled with copycats already? Why are we suddenly singling out Simmons here for imitating art he saw in a comic he obviously enjoys?

Manga artists are constantly ripping off each others styles and ideas, and that’s just a normal part of the business. Look at the massive dojinshi subculture built around amateur artist selling knock-off versions of their favorite comic series. Originality is something that you rarely see in this medium.

Sure, Simmons was probably cutting it a little too close with copying over so much of the panel like that, but I felt that he made more than enough changes to make it “his own.” That’s why I completely stand by Simmons as he made his public statement today calling his work an homage to Bleach. That is exactly what it is, an homage.

And let’s not forget that Bleach artist Tite Kubo seemed to be completely dismissive of the issue as he tweets (translation by Ms. Aoki), “I’m more interested in the fact that Gene Simmons’ son is a manga-ka than whether he’s plagiarizing me or not.”

After all, what’s really the big deal? Copying is just the manga way of doing it.

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The Daily Almanac: My Favorite Magma

February 26th, 2010

Well, we got hit with another snowstorm in Jersey which has kept me indoor for the past two days, and I got hit with a major cold today that has kept me in bed during that time. So today’s post is going to be brief and hilarious.

The Twitterverse has been all abuzz the past day over the alleged plagiarism of Nick Simmons, son of rock band KISS’s Gene Simmons, over a panel he apparently lifted from the manga Bleach.

That’s a story I’ll save for another day, but for now, lets talk about something funny. In response to the accusations a Facebook page, someone posing as Simmons went on an ignorant rant denying he watched anime nor ever “read a Japanese comic book or ‘magma‘.”

Thus gave birth to the My Favorite Magma meme on Twitter last night. All of the best anime and manga titles… just a little bit off. This would probably be the titles your grandmother would say if someone asked her what anime shows you were into.

You can see the entire list with the #MyFavoriteMagma hashtag, but below are my personal favorite magma titles.

Enjoy the list and have a good weekend, peeps! I hope many of you are able to make it to the NYICFF tonight and tomorrow. (^_^)

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NYICFF 2010 Review: Oblivion Island

February 25th, 2010

Review originally posted on November 6, 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 is making its official debut this weekend at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, but Fuji Television was generous enough to invite me to an exclusive screening of the film last October. 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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The Daily Almanac: It is Time of Closing a Library.

February 24th, 2010

Jon over at JanaiBlog pointed me to this visual novel app for the Apple iPhone last night, My Neighbor Girl (iTunes link: full version and free trial version) . It’s such a simple and stupid game, but I ended up playing all night. Even though I’m still in the middle of playing the latest Ace Attorney game from Capcom, I opted to play the amateurish My Neighbor Girl instead.

I think what really drew me to the iPhone app was the fact that the Japanese programmers actually tried to translate it into English themselves. Not only did they put together a grammatically incorrect and awkward sounding script, but they actually had their Japanese voice actress attempt to read it out loud!

Now all things considered, the Japanese girl’s English is not all that bad. One might assume that she’s probably the top of her class when it comes to foreign language. But still, she sounds very uncomfortable as she struggles to pronounce the English words through her thick Japanese accent. And she gets no help from the script she’s reading from because, as you can see from the screen cap above, it becomes complete nonsense at moments.

At first I was appalled by all the Engrish and switched over to the Japanese audio and text, but then I decided to give it a second chance. And she eventually won me over. There was something kind of cute about the way she was struggling with her English. Kinda moé, in a way.

So if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, give this one a shot. See if its poor translation wins you over as well.

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The Daily Almanac: NYICFF Anime Preview

February 23rd, 2010

The New York International Children’s Film Festival begins this weekend, and we have a fantastic line up set for this year. The NYICFF has played host to many American anime premieres in the past, including 5cm per Second in 2008 (read my review here) and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in 2007.

Unfortunately, the festival was severely lacking any anime last year, but they more than make up for it this year three highly anticipated debut films. I’ll hopefully have my reviews up for all three titles in the next two weeks, but for now, let’s check what the NYICFF has to offer in this year’s anime preview:

Summer Wars

NYICFF 2010 opens with the scintillating new feature from emerging anime star Mamoru Hosoda, a film whose “dazzling fluency of motion and untethered brilliance of invention makes the usual fantasy anime look childish and dull.” – The Japan Times. Kenji is a teenage math prodigy recruited by his secret crush Natsuki for the ultimate summer job – passing himself off as Natsuki’s boyfriend for four days during her grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration. But when Kenji solves a 2,056 digit math riddle sent to his cell phone, he unwittingly breaches the security barricade protecting Oz, a globe-spanning virtual world where millions of people and governments interact through their avatars, handling everything from online shopping and traffic control to national defense and nuclear launch codes. Now a malicious AI program called the Love Machine is hijacking Oz accounts, growing exponentially more powerful and sowing chaos and destruction in its wake. This “intriguingly intelligent” cyberpunk/sci-fi story is a visual tour-de-force, with the amazing world of Oz as the highlight. Like the Internet as conceived by pop artist Takashi Murakami, Oz is a hallucinatory pixel parade of cool avatar designs, kung fu jackrabbits, toothy bears, and a bursting rainbow of colors.

Summer Wars will be showing Friday, February 26 at 6:00 pm (Sold Out) and Saturday, March 13 at 11:00 am (still available). Mr. Hosoda will be in attendance for the Friday showing.

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The Daily Almanac: The Bra Strap

February 22nd, 2010

So you all remember my manifesto on the greatness of Chu-Bra a couple of weeks ago, right? Well, to sum it up, I thought the series was actually really well done because it combined the visual sexiness of lingerie with a very unique (and serious) take on the awkwardness of puberty. I feel that if you write the show off as being nothing more than lolicon fodder, then you’re doing the story a great disservice.

Well, Ed Sizmore of Comics Worth Reading still wasn’t quite convinced that there was more to this series than its sexy exterior, and he requested that I write up episodic reviews on what I was seeing when I watch this series. While I don’t plan to do this for every episode, I’m going to try to do it for all the really good ones from here on out.

So let’s focus on episode 7, since it is now streaming for free for anyone within the US. While the series has been focusing on puberty through the female point of view up until this point, this episode really centered around the male’s experience via its only boy character, Komachi-kun. As a male, I found myself able to easily identify with him as he struggles to keep his hormones in check while still trying to remain a “good boy.”

I thought this episode summed up the male middle school experience perfectly by centering around the all too familiar event we see pictured in the screen cap above:

Staring at the bra strap showing through the shirt of the girl sitting in front of you.

As the Chu-Bra girls go into the summer, they change into their lighter school uniforms, and with the lighter fabric comes the opportunity to catch a faint view of the bra straps underneath. Everyone notices this the first day, and as the boys gossip over this new development, Komachi does his best to not think about it.

But he can’t help it, none of us could at that age. And whenever he sees a bra strap through the uniform, he takes a longing notice to it. There was still this huge mystery at that time about the complex female undergarment and the unknown holy grail that was contained underneath those tiny belts and latches.

Watching this episode reminded me of how much I was enthralled with this idea during my adolescence, and how this strap has somehow become completely unattractive to me in my adulthood.

Perhaps the mystery is solved the first time we reached second base with a girl. Perhaps we simply desire something more than just the strap after a certain age. Or perhaps girls just learn how to hide their strap better as they get older.

But either way, this episode completely captured that awkward feeling we had with our hormones running wild in middle school, and that is why this series deserves more credit than it is currently receiving from the fan community.

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Hightlights of Katsucon 16

February 19th, 2010

Ah, Katsucon.

This was probably the first time I ever decided to go to a convention at the very last minute. It’s been a while since I attended a convention, and my plans for traveling to Chicago for C2E2 this spring are not looking all that fruitful. So as FUNimation’s Adam Sheehan was describing the company’s plans to promote Strike Witches for Katsucon weekend, I bit the bullet and made plans to attend the convention. And thanks to Jon and Ernie of the Out-of-Time Productions crew, I was able to get a hotel and a ride down to DC.

But unfortunately,  we got hit with a blizzard in the area just two days prior to the convention. Even though the roads were clear for the ride down, I was still feeling all the stresses of the week built up as I entered the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center.

So that made all the problems that I encountered at Katsucon all the more obvious and annoying, and when it was all said and done, I left DC with a very bitter taste in my mouth.

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The Daily Almanac: As Funny as a Heart Attack

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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The Daily Almanac: Tokyo Mew Mew is Kinda Like Porn

February 16th, 2010

Just had to start off with this photo caption pointed out by MangaBlog this morning. While reporting on the Handley sentencing, The Iowa Independent pictured several shojo comics like Tokyo Mew Mew with the following caption:

Seven manga books, intercepted and seized by federal authorities, led to a 40-year-old Iowa man being indicted on child pornography charges. Similar although non-explicit graphic novels, like the three pictured above, are available at most public libraries.

Now, in a way, they’re right. Tokyo Mew Mew is kind of similar to The Animal Sex Anthology because they’re both Japanese comics. That’s just like how Star Wars is similar to Debbie Does Dallas because they’re both classic American films from the late 1970’s.

But I think that there might be some misleading conclusions formed when you compare children’s entertainment to hardcore pornography, even if you state that one is not quite as sexually explicit as the other. You can kind of see why Handley didn’t really stand a chance facing a jury of his peers when that’s how the Iowan media handles the story.

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