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I’ve been living outside of the United States for the past few years, though funnily enough I’ve spent every 4th of July in the US. This year is an exception, but at the same time I will also be heading back home soon. So at least for the foreseeable future, this is my first and last Independence Day in Europe. What better time then to talk about America? I haven’t done that in a few years either.
Specifically, there are a bunch of thoughts related to Americans and anime fandom that have been whirling around in my head as of late, and I’m using this opportunity to try and organize them into some cohesive ideas. Not sure if I’ll succeed or not but that’s part of the entrepreneurial spirit or somesuch. AMERICA.
Two pieces of news that caught my eye over the past few weeks have been the announcement of a sequel and animated television series for Pacific Rim, and the fact that the recently revived Toonami block on Cartoon Network is doing better and better. In the case of Pacific Rim, one of the biggest talking points concerning the first movie’s release was that it didn’t do well in the United States, but in contrast found some success nternationally, especially in China. The idea permeating Pacific Rim and its “failure” was that it needed to do well domestically for it to have any real hope of continuing, but this news has shown otherwise. Scott Mendelson over at Forbes argues that this is the first movie that has received a sequel despite of its lack of success at the American box office, and may hint at the increasing importance of that overseas market. Various arguments have been made for why Pacific Rim didn’t click with American audiences, from idea that “mecha” isn’t a popular genre in either the US mainstream or among its anime fandom, to the opinion that it was just a bad movie, but there’s something intriguing about the idea the US is not the epicenter of this property’s future.
In contrast, it looks like anime is in a certain sense “rediscovering” its American fandom through Toonami. For a long while anime looked like it was on its way out of the American geek culture, as the presence of Japanese cartoons on Cartoon Network faded from their heyday in the early to mid 2000s. The “Toonami” concept itself, a block dedicated to anime and anime-like cartoons, even went away in 2008. And yet, whether it was because the folks in charge smelled profit in the air from anime once more or there was just some personal desire somewhere to bring anime back to the fore of Cartoon Network, Toonami has returned and is doing quite well.
Historically, anime has not needed its American fanbase. Sure, there have been a lot of viewers, but anime’s domestic market is Japan, and it also finds success around the world, in Europe, South America, and Asia. The US certainly has an online presence when it comes to anime discussion and enthusiasm, but over the years it’s been easy to get the impression that this fandom is a paper tiger, especially when it comes to popular shows among the internet fandom not translating to home video sales. Of course, this also has something to do with how expensive anime was for a long time (and still kind of is relative to other forms of media), but overall it wouldn’t be surprising if people perceived American audiences of anime as just somehow lacking. Now, however, not only are American viewers tuning in to catch Toonami and its latest anime, but the shows people are most interested in are also the ones that have developed large fanbases online as well.
It would be remiss of me to minimize the importance of the actual shows themselves, as I think regardless of anyone’s opinions of these anime, it’s fairly easy to see why series such as Sword Art Online (MMORPG plus swords and sorcery), Attack on Titan (violent post-apocalyptic world with large cast of interesting characters), and Black Lagoon (guns and action) would do well with an American audience even if all three are significantly different from each other. One thing that I find interesting, however, is that at least for the first two their Japanese fanbases are also quite substantial. In this situation, you have the support of a hardcore Japanese fanbase, a mainstream Japanese audience (especially for Attack on Titan), a hardcore international and American fanbase, and a relatively mainstream presence in the US as well. It’s as if the division between fan and casual has been collapsed, and interests that are often viewed as mutually exclusive now overlap.
So on the one hand, you have a property in Pacific Rim where the American audience turns out to not be as important as originally thought, and on the other hand you have in Toonami the rediscovery of an American audience that is, while arguably not significant, still good to have. I feel like there’s some connection or relationship here but I’m not exactly certain of what it is. One thing that might help is that I recently read an academic article from 1998 on Sailor Moon, which was written during the time that Sailor Moon was already a runaway hit in Japan and was beginning to air in the US. Though Mary Grigsby’s “Sailormoon: Manga (Comics) and Anime (Cartoon) Superheroine Meets Barbie: Global Entertainment Commodity Comes to the United States” is more about arguing how the series is influenced by cultural hegemony (essentially the continuous and subconscious reinforcement of how things are in society) yet somehow defies it, what caught my attention is the fact that a note at the end mentions how by the time this article was published Sailor Moon had already been a commercial failure in the US.
Sailor Moon was not the profit machine that the various companies supporting its US distribution had hoped, but in light of a new Sailor Moon anime in celebration of its 20th anniversary and the clear continued significance it has to American anime fandom, it’s clear that the show has had an impact, and possibly that what was seen as a failure of the show at the time may have been more a failure of marketing. To some extent, this may have had to do with the cultural landscape of the US in the 90s. After all, in contrast to the revising of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune from lesbian lovers to cousins back then, currently more and more people in the US are accepting or at least tolerant of same-sex relationships. However, there’s another important point to consider. In the Pacific Rim article, Mendelson also writes that “The deciding factor separating Pacific Rim 2 from Robocop 2 may be the passionate fan base of the former. It’s easier to talk financial parties into a sequel to a somewhat under-performing original if paying audiences actually liked said original.” Sailor Moon grew a powerful fanbase that the models for success at the time couldn’t properly account for. As the American anime fandom grows once more, now may be the time for both old and new fans to find some common ground.
Can you believe it’s finally Chapter 100? Genshiken has come a long way, and you’d expect a manga to make a pretty big deal out of something like this, but this month is actually fairly low-key in spite of it being about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps that casual approach is the most appropriate way to celebrate Genshiken.
I get the feeling most people reading this will be familiar with the distinction between giri (platonic) and honmei (romantic) chocolates in Japanese Valentine’s Day, but I’m pointing out the distinction here just in case.
The women of Genshiken are buying chocolates for Valentine’s Day, though in the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie they’ve decided to buy their chocolates together, and for everyone to buy each other chocolates. Or rather, that is the plan on the surface, as it’s really an opportunity for everyone to buy chocolates for their respective crushes and make it look like an egalitarian affair. Yajima appears to chicken out at the last second and just buys a box of chocolates for everyone to share, but this too is revealed to be a ruse. Kuchiki comes in and is (somewhat justifiably) angry that no one remembered to give him chocolate, and Yajima gives the chocolates meant for Hato to Hato but only so that he can offer them to Kuchiki to quell his nerd rage. In the end, Hato (with Sue) goes over to give him some honmei chocolate, which causes Madarame to blush profusely.
The title of this chapter—”Is it the birthday of the Van Allen Radiation Belt?—is a reference to Kyuukyoku Choujin R. It’s also been the source of a lot of Sue’s quotes, and reminds me of Tamagomago’s post on the difference between Genshiken and R. As mentioned there, Genshiken used to be compared a lot to R, but their approaches to the generation gap between club members is different. I’ve pointed out the contrast between the old and new era of Genshiken, though at 45 chapters into Nidaime it’s at the point where the Ogiue-led Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture has been its own thing for almost 4 years now. Even though the connections pop up still, I’ve gotten the feeling that the manga has been trying to move away from that disparity between “young” and “old,” and more towards this incarnation of the club having its own rhythm. That sense that the “fujoshi-laden Genshiken” is unique has always been there, but in this chapter it really comes through.
Genshiken has never really done Valentine’s Day, and while at first that seems kind of unusual given how long the manga is, it makes sense that it would happen only after 1) the club went from being mostly guys to mostly girls (Valentine’s Day is a holiday in Japan where girls give chocolates) and 2) after romantic feelings are front and center in the story. The chapter purposely makes note of the fact that the way the Genshiken members go about celebrating Valentine’s Day doesn’t quite match up to the way things go in anime, but at the same time it still kind of falls into the same parameters. All of the twists and turns in the plot summary above are basically attempts by the girls to Trojan Horse honmei chocolates as giri chocolates, making for something as complex as the political machinations of some royal nobility. I do find it funny that Ohno, having spent some time in the US, gives the “I wish it were more like anime!” vibe like you’d expect out of her fellow Americans.
Always lurking in the proverbial background (and let’s face it, also the foreground) is the fact that this collection of fujoshi (+ fudanshi) for the most part have rather limited and awkward experiences with romance. Even a “veteran” such as Ogiue is still relatively new to the whole girlfriend thing; as the title page mentions, this is only her second time ever celebrating Valentine’s Day with Sasahara. Sue still uses the “Ogiue is me wife” defense mechanism and both Yajima and Hato are smack dab in the middle of a love dodecahedron. Even though Yoshitake is not directly involved, I generally get the feeling, based on her willingness to dispense advice on even a subject as unfamiliar to her as love, that she would probably handle romance worse than Yajima. It’d be the perfect culmination of all those times Yoshitake has gotten Yajima to do embarrassing things. Of course, even better than a punchline is Yoshitake and Yajima actually punching each other, in this casebecause of the former’s “schemes” and the latter’s “cowardice.”
A while ago, I read a review on Anime News Network for Genshiken that was mostly positive but criticized the manga for an overwhelming use of word balloons that supposedly detracted from the visuals. I disagree, not because I think there aren’t a lot of word balloons or that I believe them insignificant, but rather because they add to the experience of looking at manga, guiding the eyes from one significant element to the next while also giving the sense that the characters are chitchatting pretty constantly. Genshiken is sort of an atmospheric manga, but that aspect is minimized most of the time only to let the moments of total “silence” have that much more impact.
As for Madarame’s blushing, I’m not going to say that Hato x Mada is impossible (unlikely, yes), but I think it’d be wise not to read too much into Madarame’s reaction. Once again, we’re talking about a character who is the quintessential super otaku. Even if he finds himself surprisingly popular at the moment, and not so long ago was told that maaaaybe he might have had a chance with the girl of his dreams if circumstances had been different, this is the first romantic Valentine’s Day chocolate he’s ever received from anyone, guy or girl. It can be a lot for a guy. Then again, Nidaime relative to Madarame has partly been about how that classic otaku type is not static, but is rather subject to change due to the influences around him.
If there is anything marking this chapter as a milestone, it might be Ogiue’s behavior. Ogiue was originally a very intense and blunt person with a lot of personal emotional pain inside of her. Here in Chapter 100, Ogiue is rather sharp-tongued, but in a way that really contrasts with her old self. Whether it’s telling Ohno that she can’t play the “recently returned to Japan from abroad” card, or pointing out that Ohno took another year to graduate, there’s a strange kind of serenity to Ogiue’s verbal jabs. Ogiue’s always been a character with a lot of interesting and complicated facets, but subtlety in her words was never really one of them. Maybe it comes from becoming a professional manga creator, or maybe it’s just part of her growth in general. The fact that she’s the spotlight for the title page in spite of not being the focus of the chapter shows her overall importance to Genshiken. Though she’s no longer really in the spotlight, Ogiue continues to be the best character.
By the way, Genshiken Volume 16 is on sale June 23rd. I hope they don’t mess with me again and have a special edition and exclusive editions at Japanese stores!
Tonight s “End Game 7,” the finale to the latest season of VGCW. I recommend that people turn in, as End Games tend to be the hypest of hype, rarely if ever disappointing. Whether it’s Phoenix Wright fighting his alternate-universe evil doppelganger, Little Mac coming back from the lowest of lows to bury Dracula in a casket match, or Kefka using the power of the Dragon Balls to become a god, there’s always something crrrrazy to look forward to.
Me personally, I’m looking forward to Kefka vs. Illidan, if only because there’s the possibility that Kefka will re-obtain his divine powers to fight Mr. Stormrage Winged Purple Beast to Winged Purple Beast.
You can check it out at the official VGCW channel at 6PM Eastern, 11PM UK, 12PM Central European.
This year’s blog anniversary actually snuck up on me by surprise. Every year before this I had the sense to notice that November was coming up and November means time to celebrate, but this time around was different.
For a long time I’ve been considering changing the banner up top, but I keep hesitating on it. I made it on the fly when I first started, and it was outdated from Day 1, but something about it has me feeling that it maintains the blog’s identity. Simple, to the point, Ogiue. Will it finally change this year? Who knows, but I do have an idea or two.
On the anime front, I never thought we’d get to see another Genshiken anime. This blog actually began in the middle of the Genshiken 2 run back in 2007 (not to be confused with Genshiken Second Season which aired this year), so in some ways it’s come full circle. I think the fact that it sort of coincided with the lifespan of Ogiue Maniax so far makes me realize just how much time has passed and indeed how much otaku culture has changed in its own ways.
Moving forward, though I do always want to keep blogging I get the feeling that the next year may bring some changes to the blog. Perhaps it’ll be just a once-a-week post schedule, maybe it’ll be fewer prepared essay-style posts and more near-stream of consciousness posts (like this one!), or maybe it’ll just be more sporadic posting. I can’t predict the future unfortunately. As someone who has tried his hardest to maintain the blog as both a place where I could relax and challenge myself at the same time, keeping at it week after week has been important to me, and if I can help it I’ll continue to do so.
I still have plenty of things to say, and to ask.
Today marks the 5-Year Anniversary of Ogiue Maniax. That’s quite a big milestone I think, especially when I consider that it’s probably the longest I’ve ever actively stuck to something, but because I actually reflect on where I’ve been as a blogger and where I might go every year, I find myself not knowing really what to say that I haven’t said before. So, I’ve decided that maybe rather than just reminiscing on being a blogger, I would kind of talk about my pre-history of blogging, pretty much how I came to be active in communicating on the internet with fans and such, and how I strongly believe those experiences shaped much of how I write and approach anime. I’ve talked about some of these things in part before, so those who’ve been reading a while may see some familiar things, but I hope you’ll be entertained anyway.
My very first experience with online fando came shortly after purchasing my video game ever: NiGHTS into dreams…. I remember saying to myself at the time, “I must be the only NiGHTS fan out there!” based on how none of my friends even mentioned it, so I was pleasantly shocked to find out that there were communities dedicated to the game, even sites where people wrote fanfiction based on the universe. And so I hung on those early messageboards, things that didn’t even have the luxury of sub-boards and convenient categorizations, and it’s where I first learned about what it means to communicate online. I made a lot of friends then, both older and younger than me, and while I don’t really talk to them anymore I do cherish those times. Amidst the webrings and such I learned how big the world is. I was actually amazed that I could communicate with people from the UK!
My next big steps in terms of internet community went hand in hand: anime and Pokemon. With anime, I of course visited the Anime Web Turnpike and tried to read through every single site with the naive notion that if I did I could learn about every anime in existence. I mean, how many could there be? Though that was a fool’s errand, my pursuit of knowledge of anime is still of a similar sort, which I think shows in my writing. With Pokemon too, I can draw a clear line to where I am today as a blogger, firstly because discussions of the anime back when it first came out were filled with everyone’s wild hopes and speculations and theories, but secondly because a lot of my Pokemon community experience was on the competitive side.
There were the war stories,” entertaining recaps of Pokemon battles you’d had both online and off, where you had to take a rather dry text log consisting of “Pokemon used Attack! It’s Super Effective!” and spice it up into something more engaging. And then there were the strategy discussions, where we rated each others’ teams and discussed the pros and cons of various strategies. By engaging in those discussions, I think I laid some of the early groundwork for some of my more argument-oriented posts today. Obviously I was less experienced then in terms of conveying my ideas, but I remember wanting to present my ideas not only intelligently but also in an entertaining and accessible manner.
The amount of forums I interacted on grew and shrunk depending on various circumstances, but that idea of writing for fellow forum readers stuck with me throughout. It’s the reason I cannot truly accept the idea that the internet fosters idiocy in its communities: I know in my heart that my writing style was forged on internet forums, and I strongly believe that I benefited immensely from these interactions, and not only because it influenced the way I write.
So that’s “Early, Early Pre-Ogiue Maniax.” What you see from me in all of my posts on Ogiue Maniax comes from years of getting into spirited but (hopefully) good-natured arguments with people on a variety of nerdish topics. In fact, the reason why I ended up wanting a blog (and started participating less on other sites) was that I would frequently write forum responses which I felt argued really good points about a certain topic, but it would forever be confined to just that small community. I wanted to write about ideas and thoughts I had on my own terms.
Actually, in writing this mainly internet-oriented summary, I realize that I’m leaving out all of the real life development I had at the time as well. Around the same time, I discovered friends in school who had as much if not more interest in games and anime as I did, and I think the combination of both friends who understood me well (and are still friends with me today) as well as enriching internet communication actually worked together to help instill in me some confidence as to who I am and what I love. Still, it wouldn’t be until many years later that I would truly have faith in my abilities, and though they weren’t around all the way back then, I still feel a need to thank those who support me today.
This review is a part of the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project for 2010.
Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie is a film by Oshii Mamoru, director of Ghost in the Shell. Though it predates Oshii’s most famous film by a few years, there is no mistaking its pedigree.
In the world of Mobile Police Patlabor, mankind has embraced the use of giant robots to help with large-scale construction and manual work. Referred to as “Labors,” it wasn’t long until some people started using them for less altruistic purposes, creating a new problem in the form of Labor-related crimes. In response, the police begin deploying their own Patrol Labors, or “Patlabors” for short. One such force is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2, Division 2, a group of misfit officers whose ranks include a tomboy who names all of her pets Alphonse (her Patlabor being the latest), an overly aggressive gun nut, and a seemingly dull and lazy division chief. Nevertheless, they do their best to serve and protect despite their spotty reputation.
Given this scenario, you’d probably expect some combination of cop show drama and ensemble comedy with a dash of mecha, and you’d be right, normally. But while most of the Patlabor franchise falls along those lines, Patlabor: The Movie is instead a cerebral mystery. A recent string of “berserk” Labors threatens the completion of an important project and the most likely suspect, programmer Hoba Eiichi, is already dead, confounding Shinohara Asuma, the Division 2 member who has taken it upon himself to investigate. All the while, the film explores the continuing onset of technology and the eternal struggle of new vs old, with numerous biblical references strewn throughout. Given the tone and content, Patlabor: The Movie is like a stepping stone towards Ghost in the Shell and the eventual direction Oshii’s oeuvre would take.
The film still has a lot of the requisite elements of Patlabor; it has those same goofy characters (all of whom act as they should), robot fight scenes, and a personal feel to the setting. In fact, you need not have watched any of the previous material to understand the movie or to get an idea of the personality quirks and relationships of the characters. However, those aspects of Patlabor are either more subdued or less frequent in the film, instead putting the spotlight on the mysterious culprit, “E. Hoba” (Jehovah), and his motives. In this respect, it reminds me of another movie, Sengoku Majin Goshogun: The Time Étranger, a sequel to a super robot anime featuring a decidedly different tone and absolutely no giant robots, only Patlabor: The Movie is somehow both more extreme and less in its deviation. Patlabor: The Movie really feels as if Oshii (who also directed the Patlabor OVAs) was trying to push the franchise beyond the limits of its basic premise and bend it to his own personal will. It actually works pretty well overall, maintaining suspense throughout and giving quite a bit to think about, but I’m not sure if Patlabor was the place to do it.
In short, imagine Oshii Mamoru trapped in a giant paper bag called Patlabor, trying to punch his way through until he ends up wearing the bag like a Halloween costume, and you have Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie. He’s pretty dashing in that getup.
Today, May 5th, is the anniversary of Japanese curry restaurant Go Go Curry, and to celebrate this auspicious occasion in Manhattan they’re making it so that ALL medium-sized curry dishes are $5. I think by now my feelings on Go Go Curry have been well-established, but just in case, if you’re in the area and have never tried it, I highly recommend you do so. It’s on 38th St between 7th and 8th Ave in Manhattan.
They’re also giving away FIVE free topping coupons on top of that. And I know that unless you really like the Go Go, five coupons is a bit much to use up in a month, but they’re great to hand off to your friends, especially those who have never tried it before (just keep in mind you can’t use them in the same day you order).
As for me, it doesn’t really matter what special they have for their anniversary, I’ll be there simply to celebrate its existence and to dine on the best Japanese curry around.
Incidentally, the other vital component of the day appears to have a similar effect on people.
Also, make sure to check out my Top 10 Favorite Confessions in Anime and Manga over at Otaku Crush.
MAKE PROJECT Z! DO IT!
For those who aren’t aware of Project Z, it was the proposed sequel to Gaogaigar Final that was included with the DVDs of Gaogaigar Final: Grand Glorious Gathering, which was a re-editing of the OVAs to fit the time slots of a TV broadcast. What was really cool about Project Z though is that not only was it to be a direct continuation of the GGG story, but it also was to incorporate elements from Betterman, which was this weird sci-fi horror series which took place in the GGG universe but hardly included any actual crossover with the main series.
It also gave off a very different mood. If Gaogaigar is CSI: Miami, then Betterman is CSI: New York.
So when last we saw our heroes in Gaogaigar Final, well, we didn’t, and the only ones able to return were Mamoru and Ikumi, the two children of alien origin whose abilities allowed them to purify the enemy. Once the kid sidekicks of the robot-piloting ultra heroes, as of Project Z they were to be teenagers who were now themselves the heroic super robot pilots. It had the potential to be this real coming-of-age story akin to Gurren-Lagann.
An interesting aspect of the whole Project Z concept from a mecha perspective was that the main robot of Project Z was supposed to be an amalgam of the robots from Betterman with the technology of Gaogaigar into a single cohesive design. The robots in Gaogaigar are sentient beings created based on alien technology called “Super Mechanoids,” whereas the robots in Betterman are purely human creations devoid of thought called “Neuronoids.” Joined together, they would create GAOGAIGO, a “Neuromechanoid” whose co-pilots would have been Mamoru and Ikumi.
They actually got pretty far with this idea, even creating an action figure based on the design.
Cool, no? Another interesting to point out is that the Gao machines used in the transformation are the ones remaining on Earth. That’s why you have Gaofighgar’s Liner Gao II as the shoulder armor, but also Stealth Gao II from the second half of the TV series.
In addition, because the robots in Betterman were anything but super, Gaogaigo’s design ends up being a mix of real robot and super robot technology. It’d be like if you took a Scope Dog from Votoms and cross-bred it with Gurren-Lagann.
And here’s what would have been really amazing. The base robot of Gaogaigo, called “Kakuseijin Gaigo,” incorporates the Neuronoid ability to change modes and appearance depending on who is the co-pilot. So if Mamoru was in control of Gaigo when it turned into Gaogaigo, then surely when Ikumi was in control we’d get a robot based off of King J-Der. If you look at the Gaigo mode that has Ikumi in control, it even kind of looks like J-Der!
Ikumi’s Accept Mode Gaigo (top), Mamoru’s Active Mode Gaigo (bottom)
So that’s what could have been, or what perhaps could still be. I’m holding out hope that some day our heroes will return to us.