Archive for October, 2009
I recently received a message on YouTube, asking:
How do you feel of americans making there own somewhat manga’s?…many ppl are hating on it because its not really manga and or think its not good because it didn’t came out in Japan.
…okay, lemme edit that a bit.
How do you feel about Americans making their own manga?…many people hate them because they’re not really manga or think they’re not good because they didn’t come out in Japan.
First off, let’s address the obvious logical fallacies:
- A work’s original country has no bearing on the work’s quality.
- While manga is originally Japanese, there’s no law against
non-Japanesecreating works using the same or a similar style.
But more importantly, this “
I’ve read a handful of
However, when I flip through any random manga, I have the same reaction. I’m uninterested. I know what I like, and I’ll go for that and get a higher return on my investment. But there are plenty of Japanese (or Korean) manga that bore me.
Also, I (and most American fans) are seeing only a small slice of the Japanese manga market. We’re seeing the popular stuff. What does the rest of the Japanese manga market look like, the stuff that’s not good enough to make it over here?
Overall, I suspect that if you compared all Amerimanga to all Japanese manga, you’d see a similar distribution of quality.
(I’m also glad that we have a commercial market for Amerimanga, which creates an incentive for American
Peter Tatara is one of the good guys.
He was brought in when the Big Apple Anime Festival floundered and collapsed. From what I can tell, he’s basically responsible for the creation of the New York Anime Festival, and he’s the reason it runs so well.
Seriously, I was at NYAF this year, and I also attended Otakon and Anime Expo this year. At NYAF, all the scheduled events actually happened, and
Why is he so good at this? It helps that he started out as a Robotech and Vampire Hunter D fan, and worked at Central Park Media. When introducing Yoshiyuki Tomino at NYAF 2009, he spoke with obvious respect of the man. If you follow him on Twitter (@petertatara), you’ll see how passionate he is about anime. So he knows what guests to get, and he knows what’s important to fans so he can schedule events effectively.
But beyond that, he obviously knows how to run a con. So many of our cons are
Which is no surprise; Peter Tatara is a professional. I’m glad he’s working for us.
ANN: The new Astro Boy film premiered at a low #6 in the U.S., bringing in a mere $7 million dollars in its opening weekend. Awwww, poor Astro. However, you can read Frederik L. Schodt’s quite positive review as the 4th comment on the NY Times review of the film. Schodt translated the Astro Boy manga and was a personal friend of Astro creator Osamu Tezuka.
AnimeNation.net: We now have a release date for the upcoming Gundam Unicorn, plus more details. It’ll be a 6-episode OVA, released on both DVD and
AnimeNation.net: In other mecha news, Bandai has announced that the
AnimeNation.net: The new sequel to Kiddy Grade, the
KotoUS.com: Kotobukiya, the
AnimeNews.biz: Viz has announced they’ll release the first volume of Rumiko “Goddess of Manga” Takahashi’s latest work,
ANN: Do you love manga? Do you love it so much that it’s your preferred media? Would you like to get your world news in manga form? You’re in luck! The
ANN: If you love manga that much, you’ll adore the
ANN: Several anime
Until next week: Stand up to the victory!
Note: Everything I write in this post applies equally to manga and light novel reviews. I’m only going to mention anime to simplify this post’s grammar.
I have a problem.
I’ve been reading a lot of anime reviews lately, and I’ve noticed that a lot of them suck. My own reviews are very much included. They don’t tell me anything about a show I couldn’t get from Wikipedia, and the opinions are the mental equivalent of
Which begs the question: what makes a good anime review?
Well, let’s look at the bad anime review, and figure out what it does wrong. The reviews I’ve been reading are usually divided into two parts: a summary of the show’s premise, and a personal reaction.
Here’s the problem I have with summarizing a show’s premise: I can get that from many places. I can get it from Wikipedia, or Amazon.com, or ANN, or MyAnimeList, or the back of the DVD box.
I think reviewers forget that they exist within an ecosystem. When I want to learn about a show, I don’t read a review and stop there. I don’t say “XxSesshomaru138xX said it was good, so I’m going to buy it!” I’ll check out a few other reviews and the Wikipedia entry and the ANN ratings to get a feel for the show. There are other places to go for anime information.
Now, yes, to review a show one needs to talk about it. But that should be integrated into the review; not a dry recitation of an episode’s events.
Then we get to the personal reaction; the actual review part of the review. And while I recognize that reviews are inherently subjective, too many reviews boil down to, “I like it.” Or, at best, “I liked this aspect of it.”
Well, that’s nice, but all it tells me is that one person liked the show (or an aspect of the show). How useful is that, really? Is that the best a review can do? At that point, the review can be completely binary: Aoi Hana: Yes. Queen’s Blade: No.
I’m tired of value words. Shows have “good action” or a ”terrible dub” or a ”great plot.” What exactly is a great plot? Is it a plot that’s complex? Clear? Deep? Entertaining? Dramatic? Evenly keeled? Always keeping you guessing? I might like a deep plot; the reviewer might like a clear, simple one. I usually don’t know the reviewer’s preference, so how will I know what the reviewer means by ”great?”
Here’s the thing: I want to know why.
If you liked the characters, great! But why? What about the characters did you like? Were they realistic? Oddball? Surprising? Unsurprising? Memorable? Did they have chemistry?
Every time I see a value word, I want to know what it was about that thing that the reviewer liked. If you love the story, okay, tell us what it was in the story that you loved.
So, I propose a ban on the following words in a review: good, bad, great, fantastic, excellent, horrible, terrible, awesome, and sucks. I just tried to define a few cases where those words actually help the reader in a review, but I honestly couldn’t think of one.
I also propose a ban on summaries of the work’s premise.
As reviewers, value words and bland recitations of a work’s premise add nothing to the review. Our readers deserve better. They deserve specificity. They deserve our full reaction to a work; not a lazy simplification.
Backstory: Aaron Sperbeck, an Alaskan prosecutor who normally deals with crimes against children, recently began pushing for a ban on loli hentai. That’s not overstatement; he’s literally using as his examples manga and anime that depict sexual activity with
So. Bans. I’m generally a pretty free spirit; I believe that, in general, stuff should be available to people, without government intervention. The only exceptions are for materials that pose a serious threat to people and have little or no other use, like nuclear materials, chemical weapons, howitzers, etc. Put them in the hands of competent, vetted people using them for historical reference or otherwise reasonable work? Sure. Sell ‘em to anyone who happens along? I’m a little queasy about that.
What about loli hentai? Here’s my concern:
Loli hentai normalizes sex with children.
Loli hentai shows sex with children as immensely pleasurable and almost always
To which some say: Oh, but it’s fantasy! Yes, it’s fantasy. It’s also a fantasy that espouses a world view. Fantasy or not, it can still affect people.
To which others say: Assuming this stuff’s being read by an adult, adults know the difference between fantasy and reality. Agreed, in the short term. Remember, this stuff espouses a world view. That which we ingest becomes a small part of us on some level. A person who reads
Reading one loli hentai manga isn’t going to make a person go out and rape a child. But reading them over and over, and steadily repeating this message that sex with a child is tremendously pleasurable and that those who do it get away with it…strikes me as a little scary.
Others suggest that this sort of material is a safe outlet for those with this fetish, so they don’t have to act it out. On one hand, yes, this stuff definitely is an outlet. But I debate that this is a safe outlet. It’s like asking an alcoholic to only drink once a week. It doesn’t solve the underlying problem, and it opens up all sorts of attack vectors.
So: should loli hentai be banned? I’m honestly not certain. I can see both sides of the issue.
But I’m definitely open to both of them. This stuff isn’t completely harmless.
Much as I love all the anime and manga blogs out there, they don’t help to legitimize fandom as much as actual published books. Especially scholarly ones. And so, I present a list of over 50 real books intended to deepen anyone’s appreciation of anime and manga.
Note: This includes both books I’ve read and books in my ”To Read” pile, so naturally I don’t have much to say about the books I haven’t read yet.
- Paul Gravett’s Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics — A shockingly complete survey of the manga field in Japan over the last half of the 20th century, covering a wide variety of genres and
manga-ka. Want to understand manga? Start here.
- Yoshio Kawashima’s How to Read Manga — Gloom Party — Japan’s weird. This book
re-printsa gag manga, along with a translation of the words and the cultural references embedded in the comic. It’s a great insight into Japanese humor, artistic expectations, and culture.
- Sharon Kinsella’s Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society
Koyama-Richard‘s One Thousand Years of Manga
- Antonia Levi’s (ed) Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and
Cross-CulturalFandom of the Genre
- Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga! — The first
English-languagebook on manga, this is an extensive overview of the medium, from its early days prior to 1900 through the 1980′s.
- Joseph Steiff’s (ed) Manga and Philosophy
- Jason Thompson’s Manga: The Complete Guide — A comprehensive encyclopedia of all manga that’s been published in North America. Including porn.
- Jason Yadao’s The Rough Guide to Manga — Billed as a guidebook to manga history, popular
manga-ka, styles, techniques, and genres.
- Masami Toku’s Shojo Manga! Girl Power!
- Steven T. Brown’s Cinema Anime
- Brian Camp and Julie Davis’s Anime Classics Zettai!
- Dani Cavallaro’s Anime and Memory
- Dani Cavallaro’s Anime and the Visual Novel: Narrative Structure, Design and Play at the Crossroads of Animation and Computer Games
- Dani Cavallaro’s Anime Intersections: Tradition and Innovation in Theme and Technique
- Dani Cavallaro’s Magic as Metaphor in Anime
- Jonathan Clement and Helen McCarthy’s The Anime Encyclopedia
- Patrick Drazen’s Anime Explosion!
- Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg’s The Science of Anime:
Mecha-Noidsand AI-Super-Bots— Takes a look at the popular scientific concepts in anime, and how realistic they are.
Koyama-Richard‘s Japanese Animation: From Painted Scrolls to Pokemon
- Thomas Lamarre’s The Anime Machine — “Presents a foundational theory of animation and what it reveals about our relationship to technology,” according to its University of Minnesota website. Very heady, but fascinating.
- Helen McCarthy’s 500 Essential Anime Movies
- Susan Napier’s Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke and Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle — A collection of Napier’s scholarly essays on various aspects of anime, from Hayao Miyazaki’s children’s movies to hentai.
- Colin Odell’s and Michelle Le Blanc’s Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata
- Andrew Osmond’s Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist
- Zilia Papp’s Anime and Its Roots in Early Japanese Monster Art
- Gilles Poitras’ The Anime Companion — This is an encyclopedia of Japanese terms and concepts commonly used in anime, from shrine maidens to bullet trains. Particularly helpful for the fan who wants to know exactly what a particular term means.
- Gilles Poitras’ Anime Essentials — Haven’t read it, but it’s apparently a new fan’s guide to anime. Describes the major names in the industry, information about Japan, etc.
- Simon Richmond’s Rough Guide to Anime — Billed as a handbook to anime’s history, major works and creators, and technical terms.
- Joseph Steiff’s (ed) and Tristan Tamplin’s (ed) Anime and Philosophy
- Philip Brophy’s Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga (one available used for $200!)
- Helen McCarthy’s The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga — A beautiful,
full-colorbook that both re-printshundreds of Tezuka’s artworks and provides an impressive biography of the man.
- Natsu Onoda Power’s God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of
Post-WWIIManga — A biography of Osamu Tezuka, an analysis of his works, and an excellent overview of the manga industry and its cultural impact in Japan throughout Tezuka’s life.
- Frederik L. Schodt’s The Astro Boy Essays — A collection of essays Fred Schodt wrote about Astro over the years, massaged into book form. An excellent description of Astro and Tezuka’s life, at a level of detail not achieved in other Tezuka biographies.
- Dani Cavallaro’s The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki
- Helen McCarthy’s Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation
- Hayao Miyazaki’s Starting Point: 1979â€“1996 — A collection of Miyazaki’s autobiographical essays about his career, basically from Future Boy Conan to Princess Mononoke.
- Dani Cavallaro’s The Cinema of Mamoru Oshii
- Brian Ruh’s Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii
- Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals — Translation of a Japanese book about otaku mental models, and how they relate to postmodern theory. Heady, philosophical stuff, and some of it
hard-to-believe, but I thought a lot while I read it.
- Christopher Bolton’s (ed), Istvan
Csicsery-RonayJr.’s (ed), and Takayuki Tatsumi’s (ed) Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime — An analysis of Japanese science fiction, with a heavy focus on anime
- Robin Brenner’s Understanding Manga and Anime
- Philip Brophy’s Manga Impact: The World of Japanese Animation (November 2010)
- Stephen Brown’s Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture
- Roland Kelts’ Japanamerica
- Antonia Levi’s Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation
- Frenchy Luning’s (ed) Mechademia volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 — A scholarly journal covering Japanese pop culture, anime, manga, etc. Includes many articles from various scholars and thinkers in the field. Each volume focuses on a different theme.
- Mark M. Macwilliam’s (ed) Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime
- Susan Napier’s From Impressionism to Anime: Japan as Fantasy and Fan Cult in the Mind of the West
- Susan Napier’s The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity — An older, scholarly tome; note that used copies go for $50 on Amazon.com as of this writing.
- Fred Patten’s Watching Anime, Reading Manga — A collection of Fred Patten’s essays, covering the many decades he’s been a manga and anime fan. A fascinating look at both the Japanese and the American anime and manga fandom and industries since the 1970′s.
- Mark Schilling’s The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture — Explains many of the pop culture references seen in anime and manga
- Fred Schodt’s Dreamland Japan — A sequel of sorts to Manga! Manga!, this book broadens its scope somewhat beyond just manga, while also delving deeper into the topics introduced in the first book.
- David Stahl’s (ed) Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and Responding to Trauma in Postwar Literature and Film — Contains several articles about anime relating to Japanese
post-WW2 trauma (man, imagine what they’d make of Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms). Unfortunately, it’s US $180 at last check.
- Saito Tamaki and Hiroki Azuma’s Beautiful Fighting Girl — An analysis of the phenomenon of cute girls kicking tail.
Not Yet Released
- Martha Cornog and Timothy Perper’s Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World (September 2011)
Got anything to add? Let me know in the comments!
(This is a living document; as I find more books, I add them to this list.)
In days of long ago, in uncharted regions of the internet, a war raged among anime fans. It was a bitter struggle, dividing families and tearing apart
It became known as The Sub/Dub War.
This was back in the old days of the 90′s, when anime was released on VHS (if at all). As a fan, you had to choose between an
(Before then, you rarely even had a choice.)
The war raged on multiple fronts:
- Fans of subs pointed out that the Japanese dub was part of the original work, so a subbed version was closer to the original intent of the creators. They were seeing what the original creators (and original audience) saw.
- Fans of dubs retorted that the original creators and audience understand Japanese, and we don’t. In other words, the Japanese version was dubbed in the native language of the country. Japanese fans weren’t watching little words pop up on the bottom of the screen.
- The dub version was almost always cheaper than the sub version of the same show, for simple economic reasons: dub tapes outsold sub tapes by a large margin, and dub tapes were accessible to a more casual audience that wasn’t willing to pay premium prices for a show.
- Translation’s a tough enough job, and Japanese is about as different from English as you can get. Worse, anime is rife with cultural references which make little to no sense outside Japan. English dubs tended to rewrite such material, in an attempt to be more accessible to the American audience.
- English dubs varied wildly in quality. Early American anime voice actors hammed it up or droned like airplane engines. (I’ve heard that many of them were originally radio broadcasters; producers figured it best to find people who were used to microphones in studios. Unfortunately, having a voice for radio doesn’t mean you can act.)
Plus, there were a few anime series on TV, and fans of those shows had grown used to the English voices, and wanted to hear those.
Then came DVD. Blessed DVD. You bought one disc, and it had both dub tracks and an English subtitle track. Combined with a dramatic increase in English dub quality, The Sub/Dub War died down to an occasional
The Dub/Sub War has been quiet for years. Then I stumbled on ”The
This adds an interesting new wrinkle. The War no longer comes down to a question of which version to buy; it’s a question of whether you have a choice. You may just not be able to get an English dub of a show.
It should be acknowledged that other forms of cinema don’t get consistent dubs.
Still. Some shows aren’t being dubbed.
What’s the answer? There isn’t one. As JANAiBlog points out, it doesn’t make sense to dub every show. We’re going to see this happen.
I do think dub fans would do well to make a case for the dubbing of their favorite show. Often, the complaints come down to ”I’d buy it.” One lone voice isn’t enough. But if you can demonstrate that there are enough English dub fans to make a dub worth producing, you’ve got a chance at affecting the companies.
Maybe a slim chance. But it’s a chance.
This post at AltJapan collects a few rants by Japanese animators about their working conditions. As you can see from my comment on that post, while I sympathize with their working conditions, I’m not fully convinced of their arguments. For one, working conditions for American animators aren’t all that different (at-will employment, mass layoffs after every project, low wages, etc.). For another, sweeping changes rarely have all the intended effects, and can swamp whole industries.
But one comment leapt out at me, and lodged itself firmly in my brain. Can’t get rid of it, so I’m going to address it here. The comment in question:
“And if you ask me, Japan deserves to lose its poor animators, so it can only have ten anime a week instead of the hundred or so currently produced. Even TEN a week is a lot by European or American standards!”
Yeah, and nobody cares about American and European TV cartoons. Name one American or European TV cartoon made in the past 5 years that’s gotten any attention outside of the ‘toon world other than Avatar. And Avatar‘s practically anime (heck, it was partly animated in Korea).
But let’s look at the numbers here. Let’s say only ten anime shows are put on air in Japan at any given time. Considering the large number of studios in Japan, it’s fair to assume all but ten studios will collapse, so we’d see one show per studio.
These studios’ entire existence would depend on the success of their one show. They’d want to choose sure things, so that they’d still have a job in three months.
Okay, what have been consistently the most popular anime on Japanese TV for years? Here are the top 4: Doraemon, Crayon Shin-chan, Sazae-san, and Chibi Maruko-chan. Yep, four shows aimed at little kids.
What’s also consistently in the top 10? Shonen Jump titles. So let’s pull in the big ones: Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and Dragonball Kai. Those’ll sell.
That leaves two slots open. We all know how popular dating sims are, so we’re sure to get one dating sim adaptation (Kanon, Clannad, Air, Higurashi, etc.). Manga and light novels are also sure bets, so we’ll get one adaptation of a super-popular manga or light novel series.
That’s ten. That’s all the space we’ve got.
What if we squeezed in an extra title? Okay, we’ll add Sunrise’s latest Gundam or mecha show (00, Unicorn, Code Geass, etc.).
These studios are for-profit companies. They need to ensure they’ll still be around next year. They’re going to favor shows that will guarantee them a return on their investment. Anything else would literally be suicide.
You’ll never get a Bakemonogatari. Or a Welcome to the NHK. Or Genshiken. Or Gankutsuou. Or Gao Gai Gar. Or Kemonozume. Or Dennou Coil. Not worth the risk.
In case this sounds far-fetched, remember that this is the American TV animation industry today. Everything’s a safe bet. Everything’s either an adaptation of a toy line or aimed straight at pre-teens. (Again, except Avatar, and that was thanks to an indulgent network that produces its own animation. There’s no equivalent in Japan.)
I don’t want that world. Let’s improve animators’ working conditions, yes. But let’s not sacrifice the incredible breadth and depth of the anime industry to do it.