The Daily Almanac: Katsucon Aftermath

February 15th, 2010

So yes, I survived Katsucon. As you can see, I wasn’t able to post my daily con reports this time around, but if you’ve been following my twitter feed, you would have seen that I was not quite happy with my experience at the con this weekend. I’m going to spend a little time working on a “Highlights of Katsucon” report to detail just why things didn’t really work out for me. But at the same time, I’m planning to also highlight some of the things I did like about the con, including a very interesting panel from the ever controversial voice actor Greg Ayers.

So be sure to stay tuned to my full con report, which I’m expecting to post within the next few days. However, let me just go over news items from the convention and the little bits and pieces that won’t make it into my report.

Though a bit of a warning, FUNimation was the only company presenting at the convention last weekend, so of course, mostly all of the news will be centered around them.

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The Daily Almanac: A Man Goes to Jail for Manga

February 11th, 2010

Christopher Handley, the man who pleaded guilty last year to possession of “obscene” lolicon manga, was finally sentenced today to 6 months of jail, followed by 3 years of supervised released and an additional 5 years of probation. ANN has the complete details on the court documents released today, which includes a lot of background information on the case that had yet to be known to the public.

There are no words to describe this. Somebody is actually going to be in jail for 6 months just for his manga collection, and that is one of the most ridiculous things that could possibly happen in this country’s judicial system.

I’ve been writing about this issue for years on this blog, about the dangerous precedence being set when you make such works of fiction illegal. But the problem is not getting better, it’s been getting worse – far worse – year after year.

And nobody seems to care. Because after all, what about the children? Won’t somebody please think about the children!

Those fictional, big eyed, blue haired children!

But what’s worst is that when looking over Handley’s background information, you realize that this guy is your average American otaku. He had no prior criminal record, graduated college with a 4.0 GPA, spent a brief time in the US Navy, and then had a solid 12 year professional career as a computer programmer.

The guy had no criminal record! He was a regular, law abiding, tax paying, American citizen.

And now he’s going to jail for fictional pornography?!

He’s spending time behind bars because he read comic books?!

How the hell did this happen?

How the hell could this possibly happen?

But most of all, where does it go from here? Will more American otaku get sent to prison for the contents of their anime and manga collection, or will we finally get rid of this ridiculous law once and for all?

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The Daily Almanac: The War is On!

February 10th, 2010

Sure enough, the big “Secret Project” that FUNimation’s Events Manager Adam Sheehan was teasing about last week was the War on Pants promotional campaign. As explained in this hilarious Inglorious Basterds parody video, otaku going to Katsucon this weekend will be on a mission of killin’ Nazis creating panty paper airplanes. Lt. Ano May then goes on to call on the brave soldiers to fly these “weapons of pants destruction” and show those damn khakis who’s boss.

Two new paper airplane designs will be available each day of the convention at the FUNimation dealer booth, and supplies will be limited. There will be a special panel on Saturday night were con goers can enter paper plane contests and win prizes. And finally, the company has once again enlisted the services of American Cosplay Paradise to supply the booth with Strike Witches cosplayers through out the entire weekend.

As always, keep it locked to my Twitter feed this weekend for live, round-the-clock coverage direct from the frontlines in Katsucon as the War on Pants continues.

Do not weep.

War is kind.

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The Daily Almanac: In Defense of Chu-Bra…

February 9th, 2010

You know, I never review new-from-Japan anime series on this blog because everyone and their mother blogs about the newest anime episodes as soon as they hit the bittorrents. But Ed Sizmore of Comics Worth Reading requested to hear my impressions of one of my favorite series this season, Chu-Bra. Ed watched the first episode last night and was absolutely appalled by what he saw.

Ed’s main hangup on the series is with its over-sexualization of adolescent children. The characters are portrayed as just beginning Japanese middle school, which would place them as 7th graders, or 12-year-olds, at the start of the story. However, I think that Ed and most viewers are completely misunderstanding what type of appeal the series is intending to go for. And because they can’t see past this misconception, they’re missing out one of the better anime series to have come out in recent years.

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Anime Review: Soul Eater (Part 1)

February 9th, 2010

Set in the world of the “Death Weapon Meister Academy,” Soul Eater tells the story of students who partner with weapons in order to battle demons and monsters. The weapons are normally human, but they transform into swords, pistols, and various other inanimate objects in order to do battle. Their goal is to collect the souls of 99 evil humans and the soul of a witch in order to create the ultimate weapon for their head master, the Grim Reaper himself, Death.

The series centers around three pairs of student “meisters” and their humanoid weapons. Our main heroine is the spunky Maka Albarn with her cool-as-a-cucumber scythe, Soul Eater. They are joined by their classmate, the self-centered and egotistical Black Star, and his chain scythe weapon, the sweet and motherly Tsubaki. And finally, the Grim Reaper’s own son, the comically OCD Death the Kid, eventually joins the team with his twin pistols, Liz and Patty.

There has been a lot of hype about this anime series from the anime community since it debuted two years ago. I have seen a huge number of Soul Eater cosplay at anime conventions, so I feel like I was already familiar with a lot of the characters even without ever watching a single episode. And at last year’s New York Anime Festival, both FUNimation and Yen Press teamed up to make a major push for the series to become the main event of the convention that weekend.

But like all very popular mainstream anime series, I was very skeptical as to just how amazing this series could possibly be. So I popped in these first 13 episodes preparing myself to be very disappointed.

So did I find Soul Eater to live up to all the hype?

Oh, hell yeah, I did!

In fact, I loved every minute of this kick ass anime series.

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The Daily Almanac: The Birth of Cosplay

February 8th, 2010 posted a series of YouTube videos showing a very interesting cosplay documentary put together by an English-language Singaporean news channel. The biggest thing I learned from this documentary was just where did the word “cosplay” actually come from. In fact, they interviewed the guy who coined the word himself!

I was also amazed to see just how similar the cosplay culture was in Japan compared to what we have here in America. I’ve always held Japanese cosplayers in higher regard to our local talent because I thought they took the art a lot more seriously. But really, these Japanese girls sound just like all the female American cosplayers you’ll come across at any domestic convention.

Also, the “professional cosplayer” they feature in the documentary, Ms. Yunmao Ayakawa (pictured above), will be a guest at Katsucon this weekend. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be doing a one-on-one interview with her on cosplaying and maid cafes for a future Anime Almanac article.

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The Daily Almanac: The War on Pants

February 5th, 2010

FUNimation’s convention guy Adam Sheehan has been teasing on Twitter about some big promotional video they filmed in the FUNimation office yesterday. The project was originally going to involve Sheehan going onto the roof of the office building, but weather conditions forced them to move the filming indoors. He supplied this photo of their state-of-the-art camera system earlier today, and says more details on the secret project will be revealed earlier next week.

What exactly will the video be about? Well, following the release of their hilarious trailer for the series, FUNimation began writing a series of posts about the Strike Witches “winning the war on pants” on their blog. FUNi Brand Manager Charlene Ingram made a connection to the series by tweeting some pants-related jokes towards Sheehan and his secret project.

Sheehan has indicated that the company would be promoting the upcoming release of Strike Witches at next week’s Katsucon convention, and there is a “FUNimation Promotions” panel scheduled the Saturday evening of the convention. So I’m going to bet that this secret project will somehow involve Katsucon and pants… or the lack of them.

As a strong advocate of the War On Pants movement, you can expect The Anime Almanac to provide round-the-clock coverage of all events next week both prior to and during Katsucon weekend.

Give ’em hell, ladies!

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The Daily Almanac: Apple is not a Fan of Yaoi

February 4th, 2010

Yamila Abraham of Yaoi Press elaborated on a quote she made to this week regarding her yaoi manga being recently rejected by Apple. It turns out that she had enlisted a third party app developer to reformat a 13+ yaoi comic of hers to fit better into the format of the iPhone. They even edited some questionable content in order to ensure it would pass through Apple’s screening process. Even with the changes, Apple rejected the app and cited no reasons for doing so.

The App store has a “mature” rating in place to designate programs rated for users 17 and above, but has a strict “no pornography” policy. I imagine this was the reason for the rejection. While the definition of what could be considered pornographic is strictly up for debate, it is completely understandable why Apple would have to scrutinize any boy’s love content that tries to make its way onto the platform. Yaoi certainly raises some red flags for most normal people.

I don’t condone Apple’s choice of censorship as to what it allows on the iPhone. If I had my druthers, I would allow any mature application onto the platform, especially pornography. But the App Store is what the App Store is.

We’re not talking about some form of media protected by freedom of speech. We’re talking about a gated community that is closely monitor by a major American corporation. And unfortunately, major American corporations are not ready to take on hot guy-on-guy action yet. In fact, most of America isn’t ready for that. So Apple’s call to deny the yaoi app is simply for the sake of protecting its own branding.

And frankly, you can’t blame them for that. Strict policies like that make the iPhone the best consumer device on the market today.

On a separate note, Abraham did bring up a good point in her post that I never thought of before. Amazon actually has an iPhone app that allows you to read Kindle books on that platform. As it currently stands, this app is useless for all the manga available in the Kindle store because the picture is so damn tiny on that small screen. But when that app gets ported to work on the larger iPad, it’s going to be the perfect size for manga viewing.

I imagine that Apple might not like that, as this will be in direct competition with their new e-book initiative, iBooks. I think we will be seeing that Kindle app go away sometime in the near future.

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Manga Review: Stolen Hearts (vol. 1)

February 4th, 2010

Measuring in at well over six feet tall, 17-year-old Miharu is one intimidating dude. In fact, his entire high school class is absolutely afraid of him. So when the shy Shinobu accidentally spills milk on his bag of expensive Japanese clothing, she figured that her life was all but done for.

But rather than beating the life out of the girl, Miharu demands that Shinobu works off her debt to him by taking up a part time job at his grandmother’s kimono shop. And as the two work together passing out flyers for the shop, Shinobu begins to realize that Miharu isn’t actually as mean and intimidating as he looks. In fact, he’s actually quite a sweetheart.

Stolen Hearts is the American debut of shojo artist Miku Sakamoto, whose Nadeshiko Club will also be coming out later this year from CMX. While the art might seem like a bit of a turn off, Sakamoto fully redeems herself with one of the sweetest and most heartwarming romantic comedies I’ve ever read in manga form.

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The Daily Almanac: A Cause We Can Get Behind

February 3rd, 2010

Scott Pilgrim artist Bryan Lee O’Malley is auctioning off an original Pilgrim art piece on eBay. O’Malley will be donating all proceeds of the auction to Giant Robot, a long running independent Asian American Pop Culture magazine that has facing serious financial struggles lately. The signed sketch is drawn in ink and was used in the fifth volume of the series and on promotional items.

An awesome art piece from an awesome comic going to a cause I think we otaku can fully support. While Giant Robot may not necessarily be all about anime and manga, it most certainly celebrates our sub-culture. Bidding for the 24-hour auction ends at 9:56 EST (6:56 PST) Thursday morning, so act quickly. You can also donate directly to Giant Robot by visiting this site.

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