Archive for July, 2010
In watching the new anime coming out this summer, I realized that every series has a high animation budget. (Well, except for Tono no Issho.) Of course, “high” is a relative term, but there’s no doubt today’s shows have a higher sheet count than the standard established for the past decade or so. Every summer 2010 show–at least when comparing first episodes–has a higher sheet count than, say, Aoi Hana, Genshiken, or ef.
So, big companies must be willing to put money into anime again. I wonder if this is due to the runaway success of Kyoto Animation’s oeuvre, from dating sim adaptations like Air and Clannad to otaku-oriented shows like Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star. Certainly, mass fan visits to major Lucky Star sites have made the news; perhaps that turned a few heads in the financial backing world.
Now, these same shows could be burning their entire animation budget on the first episode. But high-budgeted initial episodes has been a trend for many years, and even there, this season’s first episodes are better animated than previous seasons’.
It’s a very, very good thing.
Okay, I’ve watched the first episode of most of the new anime for the Summer 2010 season. My thoughts:
|Sengoku Basara Two
If you’ve watched the first season of Sengoku Basara, this is exactly what you’d expect, with a few more characters added. If you haven’t seen the first season, well, watch that first!
This is an animated dating sim. Straight up. Lovely music, beautiful character designs, and a
This is To Aru Majutsu no Index or To Aru Kagaku no Railgun — a group of weird teenagers with various powers, in this case solving various people’s problems (usually with violence). The protagonist is a very shy guy who’s fallen in love with the tsundere girl. Very high sheet count. Fairly standard setup.
|Digimon Xros Wars
I can imagine the writers saying, “You know what Digimon doesn’t have enough of? Giant robots.” Yup; the creatures all can do the Voltron thing and combine into a giant robot. Clean character designs, solid character work, bright colors, and
|Asobi ni Iku Yo
Harem anime concept, with a neat twist I won’t spoil here. Done by a spinoff from AIC, the original harem anime makers, and it shows. This is a modern harem anime — cute girls, but with dramatic twists. The main girl is a cute catgirl, which is fetishy, but that’s the point. Fun.
|Highschool of the Dead
This may be the best zombie story I’ve ever seen realized on screen. This is dark, disturbing, and dramatic. Everything a survival zombie story should be.
Wacky high school comedy. The protagonist joins a high school that until last year was
|Tono no Issho
Girl takes over school for occult study, determined to shut it down because of the dangers of messing with the occult. Problems ensue. Tonally, this feels like Ghostbusters, an action comedy about spirits and such. Has some dramatic moments, too.
And yes, yes, there’s Kuroshitsuji II and Strike Witches 2. In both cases, whatever your thoughts on the first season, my thoughts on the second probably won’t sway you.
I want to meet:
Crispin Freeman, American voice actor (Alucard in Hellsing, Prince Turnip in Howl’s Moving Castle, Itachi in Naruto, many others) and anime mythology expert. If you’ve seen Crispin, you know he’s smart, poised, and an amazing font of knowledge about mythology. He describes himself as an ”information junkie,” and he’s used that to develop a series of lectures on mythology and its relation to Japanese animation. Fascinating.
Adam Sheehan, the ”face” of Funimation. I’ve actually chatted with him briefly in the halls of conventions a couple of times, but I’d love to sit down with him and a couple of beers. He named his daughter Lain, for Pete’s sake. How awesome is that?
Fred Patten, super-otaku. His book Watching Anime, Reading Manga opened my eyes to the long history of American anime fandom. And judging from his writing, he’s just plain reasonable. He basically created American anime fandom back in the late 1970′s.
Vic Mignogna, American voice actor (Ed in Fullmetal Alchemist, many others). I spent a fair number of hours watching videos of Vic at various conventions. He strikes me as an open, kind guy with solid boundaries — a perfect combination of attributes for a popular American voice actor.
Who would you like to have a beer with?
Every teenager should watch this show.
What makes it Attentive Anime?
Boogiepop Phantom re-tells several stories in the ”Boogiepop” psychological horror novel series. It’s colored (almost) entirely in sepia tones. There are over a hundred named characters in its 13 episodes.
This is not your average anime.
Boogiepop Phantom is about adolescence. It’s about the beliefs we form–healthy and unhealthy–and the consequences thereof.
Each episode focuses on a particular view of the world. Some lead to early deaths. Many lead a protagonist to realize that their precious worldview is utterly inadequate. More crushing, some protagonists never realize it.
Implications / Thoughts about the depth of its premise
I have to call out specific episodes:
- A girl works hard at playing the piano at a professional level. Her parents are happily sacrificing to pay for her lessons. Her hopes are dashed, and her reaction is typically extreme for an adolescent, and nonetheless deeply sad. Better, the show demonstrates the destructiveness of her reaction by showing us her reaction’s results. We see the pain that grows out of that decision.
- Another girl is so desperate to grow up that she throws away the stories she’s written, which are her only personal, creative outlet. Ironically, she turns into a child–emotionally stunted.
- A shy boy receives the gift of telepathy. He hears his friends…judging him constantly.
Perhaps appropriately, Boogiepop Phantom has only the phantom of a plot arc. The events of the series do absolutely lead to a climax and a finale, but this is a show about its characters and their viewpoints.
Moreover, while fantastic elements weave through the show, the few recurring characters exist to protect the world from those elements. There’s an interesting shot in the final episode, in which the characters are taking a break from their high school graduation ceremony. They stand next to a balcony, and the two protectors stand on either side of a girl who has no clue what’s going on. It’s a powerful image: ordinary and extraordinary people, surrounding the innocent world to protect it.
This is no ordinary show.
There’s a solution to this. What if the studios released DVDs before the shows air on TV?
Let’s take Angel Beats!. Imagine if DVD 1, containing episodes 1–4, is released two days before episode 1 airs on television. A few days before episode 5 airs, the second DVD is released.
Otaku who must watch it now can buy it immediately and get geek cred for watching it early; others can wait for the TV airing. And if someone becomes a fan through the TV airing, the DVDs are already out and waiting for them.
Of course, this would have to be a simultaneous world-wide release, like Gundam Unicorn; otherwise American fans will rip the discs and we’ll have the same fansubbing problem.
The studios would have to plan and prepare more than they do now, and I’m sure the TV networks would push back. Otherwise, though, why wouldn’t this work?
Roland Kelts, author of Animerica, recently posted a somewhat alarmist article called ” ‘Cool Japan’ is no longer enough.” His contention: Japanese creators don’t market themselves well enough as brands to anime/manga fans, and now “it may be too late” (his words), because the anime market is shrinking. In other words, he’s implying that the anime/manga market is shrinking because Shogakukan and Shueisha don’t market their names to American fans.
I find this argument, erm, suspect. Somehow, Kelts suggests, if the average American otaku knew that Detective Conan is published in Weekly Shonen Sunday, which is published by Shogakukan, they’d, erm, buy more manga?
I understand the fundamental brand logic — if I like something within a given brand, I’m more likely to buy from that brand — but I don’t think that logic applies here.
The anime/manga market is in decline because otaku don’t buy the anime/manga they already like.
For example, I’m a big fan of Kyoto Animation’s work. When a new KyoAni anime is released, I watch it. Fansubbed. (I do buy the DVDs once they’re released, if I watch more than one episode of the show.)
Even if brand awareness would increase otaku consumption, they’d simply pirate more.
The sales of Haruhi and Lucky Star bear this out. These shows generated tremendous buzz and views when they were released as fansubs, then sold poorly on DVD.
How to fix the anime industry? That’s a separate blog post.
Aniplex will be releasing Durarara!!…in January. It’ll be released in three parts, each part containing two discs and a total of 8 to 9 episodes per part.
Funimation announced licenses for both To Aru Majutsu no Index and To Aru Kagaku no Railgun. And the Trigun movie. And the second season of Darker Than BLACK. And the third season of Black Lagoon. And Hellsing Ultimate 5 through 7. And the second season, movie, and OVA of Shakugan no Shana. Whew!
Funimation also expanded the list of shows they’ve rescued. The full list is now: Chrono Crusade, Gantz, Kaleido Star, Peacemaker, Texhnolyze, Ai Yori Aoshi, Armitage III (both the TV series and the movie), Haibane Renmei, Hellsing, Serial Experiments Lain, and all of Tenchi Muyo!, presumably in one big honking box set.
Bandai had some cool notes. Besides announcing street dates for shows like Gundam 00 season 2 and Kurokami, they announced that the three Zeta Gundam movies will be released as one big set. (And it’s now available on RightStuf.) Also, season 2 of Haruhi will be released as one big box set in August. Then came the big Bandai announcement: They’ve licensed K-ON! (season 1). But, again, that’s all we know.
Right Stuf‘s still doing cool things. They’ve licensed Sora no Woto, the well-received moe show from last season, and they’re going to remaster the Revolutionary Girl Utena TV series, as three boxsets, to be released next year. Maria Watches Over Us season 4 will come out in the next few days, and over the rest of 2010 we’ll see El Hazard: The Wanderers, SuperGALS!, Gravitation, and Dirty Pair, while 2011 will see Junjou Romantica season 2 and Antique Bakery.
VIZ is still in the running. They’ve acquired several new manga, including Mistress Fortune, Sakura Hime Kaden, Oresama Teacher, and Ai Ore. They’ve also got the anime Nurahiyon no Mago, which will be titled Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan over here. It’s already started simulcasting on VizAnime.com.
A bit of info about Geneon — remember how I said in my previous vid that Geneon licensed Railgun and Highschool of the Dead? But a few paragraphs above I wrote that it’s being released by Funi? That’s the weird thing — Geneon licensed it, but Funimation will be releasing it. Huh.
I’ve been watching Rurouni Kenshin TV lately. For those who don’t know, Kenshin was a popular anime TV series that ran for three seasons in the late 1990′s, based on a hugely popular manga series. It tells the story of Kenshin Himura, an
I just finished the first season (of three), and the show’s in setup mode. The main characters are interacting and growing used to each other. The spunky boy faces some serious consequences and grows up a bit. It’s one of the things I like about the show: unlike most shonen series, the characters grow noticeably and quickly.
Villains usually pose one of the biggest problems in any shonen series. Villains usually fall into one of two categories: the Trickster and the Doomsday Villain. The trickster uses some strange trick to fight — in a recent episode of Kenshin, one used invisibly thin wires to restrain his opponent — and the hero must figure out the trick. The doomsday villain seems impossibly powerful, swatting away the hero’s attacks with ease, until the hero finds that last reserve of strength and overpowers the villain.
Kenshin has its share of these. Fortunately, they’re presented in entertaining ways: Either the character itself has a distinctive personality, or the structure of the overall story keeps the episode interesting (such as a mystery story).
Then Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star shows up.
In episode 19, a boy seeks a master to teach him swordsmanship, and stumbles on a
Now, on the one hand, it’s easy to laugh at this. It’s easy to assume that Watsuki ran out of character ideas.
For one thing, Raijuta and Ken do not share the same personality. They’re both quiet and stoic, but Ken’s a tragic, somewhat morbid character (from what little I’ve seen of him), while Raijuta is more
For another, c’mon, it is fun to see a character “cross over” into another anime. What’s so wrong with that?
Thirdly, and I think this is the most important thing: Raijuta serves a specific purpose in Kenshin. This isn’t like a tournament show, where he’d just be another powerful bad guy for the protagonist to fight. Raijuta is woven into a story about trust, betrayal, and pursuing dark goals. Indeed, when Raijuta and Kenshin first formally meet, Raijuta respectfully asks Kenshin to join him, in deference to Kenshin’s experience.
So. Trickster villains and doomsday villains can work in a shonen title, just as long as they further the story.