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Name: Kanamori, Hakata (金森 羽片)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Ebiten: Ebisugawa Public High School Astronomical Club

Information:
Kanamori Hakata is a high school student and a member of Ebisugawa Public High School’s “Tenmonbu,” or “Astronomical Club.” A cosplayer in addition to being a fujoshi, she is often teased and sexually harrassed by the club’s president, Todayama Kyouko. Kanamori is also extremely clumsy, and is a fan of a variety of series, including Saint Seiya.

Fujoshi Level:
Hakata is regularly seen carrying around yaoi doujinshi even in class.

This past season I’ve begun participating in the revived “Anime Power Rankings,” which polls anime bloggers for their top 5 shows each week. It’s not super serious or anything, and people can choose whatever criteria they want for their favorite anime of the week, but doing it myself has made me aware of how much judging something on a per episode basis can differ from one’s assessment of the show as a whole.

I’ve noticed that within the weekly parameters I’ll often find that the shows I enjoy and look forward to the most don’t necessarily take the #1 or #2 slots every time. For example, I’m really into Tribe Cool Crew and Gundam Build Fighters Try, but when judging the merits of individual episodes, in terms of their story, excitement, ability to captivate, interesting ideas, animation, etc., often something like Rage of Bahamut Genesis will win out instead. And yet, I can’t say it’s my favorite show of the season.

Probably the show that suffers the most in my rankings in Selector Spread Wixoss, the sequel to Selector Infected Wixoss. I’m enjoying it a great deal, probably more than Bahamut even, but it almost never makes my weekly Top 5.

This isn’t to fault the Anime Power Rankings system itself; it works for what it’s supposed to reflect. However, it does reinforce in my mind the idea that some series are more than the sum of their parts.

souther-curry

The magazine Comic Zenon has recently announced a special Fist of the North Star-themed curry based on Souther, the strongest of the various practitioners of Nanto Seiken, the Sacred Fist of the Southern Cross. Souther, who uses the “Nanto Houou Ken” or “Southern Cross Phoenix Fist” style, is known for fighting without stances, having his heart on the right side of his body instead of his left, using child slave labor, and riding a three-wheeled motorcycle with a throne on top (sometimes affectionately called a “thronercycle”).

More specifically, the curry is based on the recent parody manga of Fist of the North Star titled Fist of the North Star: Strawberry Flavor. Fist of the North Star is considered one of the most significant, influential, and popular shounen manga series of all time, making it a prime target for parodies both official and otherwise. In this case, Souther is specifically “Supervising Director Souther.”

Fans of Souther and Fist of the North Star will notice that the pyramid shape of the rice is a direct reference to the character. In the original manga, Souther uses his child slaves to build a pyramid in honor of his dead master, which then becomes the site of his and Kenshiro’s final battle.

The curry is available at Cafe Zenon in Tokyo and Kichijouji until January 15th. Other foods include Supervising Director Souther’s Strawberry Sweets and Hyui’s Blue Hawaii Lassi. Stickers, metal badges, and other products are also available.

souther-badge

Raraiya_mondayGundam: Reconguista in G continues to be the kind of whirlwind experience that I love in a Tomino anime. Part of that feeling comes from the show’s tendency to throw around a lot of terms without explanation that everyone but the viewer understands, only to gradually peel back the layers over time. Among these many terms are clear references to the Universal Century timeline of the original Mobile Suit Gundam that Tomino directed back in 1979, and I’ve noticed that there are a couple that relate strongly to the character Lalah Sun from that first series.

The first and most prominent reference is the G-Reco character Raraiya Monday. Not only does she have dark skin like Lalah and appear to exhibit some connection to the G-Self, the “Gundam in everything but name” of the series, but characters will sometimes even refer to her as “Rara,” which sounds mostly similar to Lalah in Japanese (ララ vs.  ララァ). When looking at their last names as well, a connection forms: Lalah Sune -> Lalah Sunday -> Rara Monday -> Raraiya Monday.

The second reference comes from one of the terms being tossed around by characters that has yet to be seen: The blueprint of the “Rose of Hermes.” In Japanese, Hermes is pronounced “Erumesu” (エルメス), which is the exact same pronunciation as Lalah Sune’s Mobile Armor, the “Elmeth.”

(By the way, I learned about the pronunciation thing from watching Densha Otoko, which has as an important object in its story, Hermes-brand tea cups.)

What does this all mean? While I don’t know if these are thematic references or actual plot points, if I were to assume the latter it would mean a few things. First, Raraiya is probably a Newtype (maybe even a Cyber Newtype given her personality?), and the reason nobody is aware of this possibility is because the concept of Newtypes has been buried with time (we also see the protagonist Bellri have occasional Newtype-like flashes). Second, the blueprint of the “Rose of Hermes” might actually refer to design documents for the Elmeth’s bits. If that were the case, whoever joins Raraiya with the Rose of Hermes would gain a powerful weapon, which would also connect to the criticism of militarization that is a central plot point in Reconguista in G.

Wl3MssK

One of the talking points of the new anime Gundam: Reconguista in G, related to the fact that it’s the return of Gundam creator Tomino Yoshiyuki in a directorial role, is that the dances performed by the characters in the eyecatches were choreographed by, of all people, Tomino’s youngest daughter Yukio. According to Japanese Wikipedia, Tomino Yukio is a modern dance choreographer living in the Netherlands, and as it turns out, some of her performances are available on YouTube.

Be warned, these videos contain some nudity.

I’m not really into dance, so I can’t comment in depth on the performances or the choreography, but I find it interesting that both of his children went into the performing arts (his oldest daughter Akari is a theater director in Japan). Obviously I have no idea about their family but I do feel that Tomino’s own work in anime reflects a kind of performative spirit in itself (his dialogue often sounds like it comes from a musical or play), and I wonder if this has influenced his children in any way.

 

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun was one of my favorite anime of last season, only I never got around to talking about it. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a second chance thanks to one Mr. Bradley C. Meek, who has started up a new show, the Anime Now! Podcast. You can listen to us talk about one of the funniest shows in recent memory, where perpetual misunderstandings make would-be romances even more charming at the same time that the series riffs on shoujo manga tropes.

Anime Now! Podcast Episode 1

In preparation for the American bluray release of Genshiken: Second Generation (aka Genshiken Second Season, Genshiken Nidaime, Genshiken II), Anime News Network and NISA are accepting questions from fans for an interview with creator Kio Shimoku. Keep in mind that Kio has historically given very few interviews even in Japanese, so this is a very rare opportunity for anyone who’s a fan of Genshiken and the man himself.

I of course will be submitting my own question, and it will most likely be Ogiue-related. Also, I may have bought the Japanese blurays already, but I definitely plan on picking these up as well.

(Thanks to Patz for telling me about this.)

I’m not a dancer. In fact, I don’t have a single rhythmic bone in my body, and the only reason I can or will ever dance is because I’m fairly shameless when it comes to humiliating myself. That’s why it might come as a surprise that my favorite anime out of the current season is Tribe Cool Crew, a show about street dancing. Though only a few episodes have aired, I find myself looking forward to Tribe Cool Crew every week because of how it combines the best of boys’ anime and girls’ anime for children.

The thing that really drew my attention to Tribe Cool Crew from the very beginning is the dynamic between the main characters, a boy named Tobitatsu Haneru, and a girl named Otosaki Kanon, both of whom love to dance. The two complement each other well not only in terms of personality and style, but also because they’re essentially the typical morning boys’ anime protagonist and typical morning girls’ anime protagonist who have met up in a single show. Haneru is small but energetic with a constant in-your-face attitude, and his burning desire to be the best and to meet his idol, Jey-El, wouldn’t be out of place in shows like Mushiking or Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal. Kanon is shy but comes alive while dancing as the anonymous internet celebrity “Rhythm,” utilizing her great height and long limbs to accentuate her moves. In many ways she reminds me of Hanasaki Tsubomi, the main heroine of Heartcatch Precure!, especially because the show takes time to focus on her gradually building confidence.

Essentially, I find that it combines the ambition of the boys’ anime with the care and consideration of the girls’ anime. Though Tribe Cool Crew is still incomplete, it gives me the same general vibe as anime such as Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin and Ojamajo Doremi, both of which I consider to be among the best of children’s anime. As the dances are all done in motion-captured CG, it’s also clear that the show is a response to popular CG dance anime such as Pretty Rhythm and Aikatsu!, taking what was previously solely the realm of idol anime and giving it a bit of a hip hop twist. It’s the kind of expansion of a genre or trend that I can really get behind, even if I don’t quite understand dance.

One aspect of the show that might be difficult for people looking for more plot-centric or character aesthetic-focused shows is that Tribe Cool Crew is still a show meant for kids at the end of the day. For example, the show sometimes features lessons for young, aspiring dancers on topics such as isolation. That said, the anime does feature some characters that an older audience might relate to better.

The look of the show might also take some getting used to, as the character designs are somewhat unusual for anime. They appear to take lessons more from Disney or other American cartoons that emphasize heavy variation in silhouettes to a heavy level of caricature, which can be a bit jarring. It has its own charms, however, such as in the case of Kanon, who is portrayed as an awkwardly lanky girl that perfectly fits both her personality and age, looking as if she just hit puberty and is beginning to feel conflicted between how she believes her upper-class family wants her to be and her inner passion for dance.

You can watch the show on Crunchyroll. Overall, I think Tribe Cool Crew is a really solid show and perhaps the sleeper hit of the season. It has a lot of potential, and I look forward to seeing where it all goes.

Although I watched the original TV series of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, only recently did I finally see the movie trilogy. I’ve already laid out quite a few of my thoughts about the series including its status as a magical girl show  and how I felt about its ending, but revisiting Madoka has prompted me to contemplate certain aspects of the series some more.

Back when the Madoka Magica TV series first concluded, I remember kransom mentioning to me that one of the reactions from the Japanese fandom was this idea that Madoka was essentially the bookend for the era of anime that began with Neon Genesis Evangelion. That sounds pretty lofty and exaggerated, but when I was watching the movie I was reminded of the amount of indecision that goes into Madoka’s character. One of the questions throughout the anime is whether or not Madoka will indeed become a magical girl, but when she doubts and hesitates it’s shown to actually be to her advantage, while for Shinji it’s considered a clear sign of his weak, pathetic nature. The notion that lacking resolve can in some sense be a good thing because it means you think more carefully about the consequences and those around you is something that can be easily swallowed up by a society that tends to prioritize “getting things done no matter what.”

Another thing that struck me watching Madoka again was the presence of the abstract, mosaic-like qualities of the Witch realms by Gekidan Inu Curry. I was already familiar with his work from the Goku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei intros, but when I thought about the fact that this bizarre yet beautiful work has been utilized in shows like Madoka, it made me wonder how many people have been exposed to this more unorthodox artistic style that would not have given it the time of day otherwise. I think it’s often easy to criticize SHAFT as a studio for taking on shows that frantically emphasize otaku tastes, but that very quality of “moe” (or “captivation” if you will) has also been the door into a higher level of artistic expression that isn’t quite as bound by the conventions of anime, if only temporarily.

Anyway, I might do a review of the movies, especially the third one, but no guarantees on that.

02_diablos

As an anime and manga blog largely focused largely on commercial output, it is rare that I will report on and review an Art Show in all of its capitalized glory. However, I feel it important to discuss the “Empty God Core” show at the B²OA Gallery, featuring the works of Japanese artist Umezawa Kazuki.

I am well aware of the fact that anime and manga have been subjects of exploration, self-discovery, and exploitation since at least Murakami Takashi and his “superflat” movement. Often times challenging and presenting the exoticism of Japan’s visual culture, artists like Murakami tend to feel as if they come not from the otaku subculture itself, but are reacting to it as it has grown over times. While I would not go so far as to say that this is some unforgivable flaw in his work, that he may not be a “true” otaku, it does make me notice when a piece of art conveys the perspective of someone who has embraced the lights and sounds of anime and manga as almost existential hazes.

That is the impression I received from Umezawa’s work, though even before I saw the actual show itself I had an opportunity to meet him for the first time thanks to our mutual friend, Ko Ransom. If there is anything that stood out to me most about him at first glance, it would have been his A Certain Scientific Railgun pins adorning his clothing. The one most prominent could be seen on his chest, a chibi version of Nunotaba Shinobu, my favorite character in the Index universe. A teenage scientist with a propensity for interlacing her speech with English, Nunotaba comes nowhere near the default choices for popular characters in her series, so I knew that Umezawa was serious business.

That being said, while I was aware that Umezawa was an otaku before I saw “Empty God Core,” I would have jumped to that conclusion almost immediately if I had come in without knowing a thing. Umezawa’s works consist largely of collages of anime characters, scrambled to the point of almost losing all recognizable qualities, and then rearranged to create futuristic, apocalyptic landscapes and large, god-like figures. I say “almost,” because the first thing I spotted in one of his digital paintings was the characteristic blonde poof of Cure Peace from Smile Precure! Soon after, I spotted bits of other characters as well, but it made me realize how distinct Precure hair is designed to be, so that, even divorced from the very bodies on which they sit, one can see that, yes that over there is a piece of Cure Blossom, and down by the side is Cure Beauty. The iconic nature of anime and manga characters jumps to the forefront, and their fragments are used to construct worlds.

There is a general idea when it comes to anime fandom that a lot of its qualities arose from the perception of 1980s Japan as a kind science fictional space. Like Blade Runner, which envisioned a future city amalgamated from Tokyo and various Chinatowns, the common discourse positions otaku as products of their time, and their subculture a result of changes to the world, the economy, and the degree to which societal values crumble or ossify in response. In this environment, otaku have historically been viewed in a negative light, people who cannot confront reality, loners who can only consume their media in ways which reinforce their divorce from society, while anime and manga become increasingly shallow and lacking in any real substance. What Umezawa’s work does is flip that script on its head, and show how this otaku subculture and its inhabitants can utilize the “vapid” qualities of anime and manga and its devotion to signs and icons of cuteness, beauty, and sexuality as building blocks, as atoms to form universes. Rather than a dystopian cityscape creating the otaku, the otaku creates the dystopian cityscape. He turns lemonade into lemons.

This post is regrettably a little late, but if you’re in or around New York City, the show is running until November 15th. The B²OA Gallery is at 515 west 26th street in Manhattan, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-6pm.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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