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By Charles On 25 Oct, 2011 At 08:24 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThis editorial is the second of a two-part series. The first half was published on October 17th, and can be found here.

6: Durarara and Baccano!- Because these two shows are essentially the same. Drrr/B! managed to do for me the same thing FMA did back in 2007- they taught me how to have fun again. Much like the earlier series broke me from a glut of heavy mecha series, Drrr showed me that large casts can in fact be a good thing. And B! managed to include a cast so colorful that it was impossible to ignore any of them. But most important of all, these two series were shows I devoured, and devoured quickly. It’s rare these days that I can marathon episodes of anything, but B! took me just 2 days and a long train ride to chain through, and left me wanting more long after it was done.

Now these two series are far from flawless. Both have anticlimactic endings. Both lose track of what they want to say at times. And both jump around relentlessly during the narration, to the point where you can skip an episode and not even realize it until three down the line. But these are small prices to pay for shows with incredible entertainment potential, that will linger with you long after the last episode ends. And make you beg for a second season.

7: Death Note/Hell Girl/Bleach- Wow look, another multiple series entry. Three this time. Well, actually, these chosen three could have been joined by so many more. Because I’m not referencing these shows in particular, but what they all have in common. Aside from good storytelling and suspense. They all have shinigami.

Ai Enma

Shinigami are something of a passion of mine. One of my oldest, and most potent, interests lies in ghosts, monsters, death and the supernatural. So when I got the idea last year to do a panel on Death Gods, it was these series that I turned to first, alongside Gundam Wing, Princess Mononoke and others to look into the phenomenon of the shinigami in Japanese media. Eighteen months, and some 1000 attendees, later the panel , “Dead Like Us,” is one of my most recognized and requested at conventions, and the one that has allowed me to research and lecture on something wholly my own. More than any other recent series or game, the shinigami-based anime have given me the chance to give back to the medium in ways that I never had considered when I started my work back in 2009. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

8:  The films of Hayao Miyazaki- I’m sure a bunch of my readers were wondering when I was going to get around to Miyazaki-sama. Much like the shinigami in the previous entry, I owe a lot to him, in terms of enjoyment, awareness and furthering my own reputation as a lecturer and academic. Unlike the shinigami, Miyazaki has also had a profound impact on my life through the films themselves.

I discovered Miyazaki-sama through Princess Mononoke, way back in 2000, when I found a VHS copy of the dub at Coconuts (remember them?) for $6.99, and recalling the name from an anime club meeting. I watched the film maybe 4 or 5 times that weekend, I could not look away. It was little surprise then, that when Spirited Away came out the following year, I of course made time to venture to the only movie theatre in Queens showing it just to see it. Or that I changed my weekend plans when I found out Howl’s Moving Castle was showing near where I was going to be that night.

Miyazaki-sama speaks to me through his films. Unlike any other anime I have seen (with the possible exception of Usagi Drop), his films have caused me to look at my life and examine who I really am inside. Unlike any other anime, his are the films I watch the most, and share the most. Miyazaki-sama has a gift with storytelling and crafting that is nearly unmatched in the industry. There is little wonder, then, that he is so respected and loved by so many. Watching just one of his films can uplift the spirit and add to the experience of life. Sound a bit pretentious, or idealized? Possibly, but only if you have never seen a Miyazaki film before. Watch just one, and you will understand.

9: Eden of the East and Summer Wars- Seeing a trend here: this list is a lot more than just ten anime. Which, I suppose, is fitting, seeing how hard it would be to distill over a decade of fandom into just ten series or movies.

I watched Eden of the East and Summer Wars over the spring this year, and the thing they share in common, is they blew my mind. Not just enjoyable or entertaining, but literally mind-blowing. Summer Wars had the same effect on me as Mononoke did a decade earlier, making my jaw drop open and forcing repeated watchings over the weekend. Eden was the latter half of the long train rides to and from Anime Mid Atlantic back in June. Both made me think while they were busy rewriting my idea of what anime was. Both got me excited to be a fan and viewer again. Both left me wanting more.

This is what a mind**** looks like.

I suppose what separates these two from other, similar entires into this list (read: Drrr/B!, FMA) is the emotional connections they formed. The other series taught me how to have fun. These two made me think while I was having fun. They others were very open to marathoning. So were these, but I kept noticing more and more things, and making long lists of notes of other things to look into. The others made me laugh. These made me say “Wow!” And that, in the end, is worth mentioning. Because a lot of series are fun. Precious few make you say “wow.”

10: Gundam Seed- This was the Gundam that changed Gundam for me. Prior to Seed, I had a love for Wing and it’s military-rebellion storyline. I thought G was quirky with it’s take on tournament fighting. War in the Pocket made me cry. And 0083 had some beautiful suit designs, but was over too fast. Then came Seed, and a whole new world opened up to me.

Seed rewrote what Gundam should be, at least from my point of view. Beautiful suit designs, interesting characters, and a story that was close enough to the UC to nostalgic, but different enough to still be compelling. Seed brought Gundam into the 21st century, and set the bar for what could be accomplished in a Gundam series. Dual narratives, counterplots, intrigue and self-discovery- these were what Seed set out to do, and did wonderfully. And while the series (and its sequel, Seed Destiny) left a sour taste in the mouths of some veteran fans, it brought new fans into the series with its flash and flare. I doubt I would be the Gundam fan I am now if not for Seed.

This is my list. What’s yours?

By SarahTheRebel On 1 Oct, 2011 At 12:05 AM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 2 Comments

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When someone first tells you about “that awesome show Durarara”, you may be tempted to bless him or her or expect an imminent dinosaur attack. Please don’t: it was not a sneeze or monster noms, it is simply the wacky name of a wonderfully wacky kick-ass show.

 

Let me give you a little word-montage to catch your attention: punching clothes off throwing vending machines shaving a gangster pretending to ride a motorcycle eating sushi torturing kidnappers saving suicides falling in love with a head in a jar and getting your arse handed to you by a headless biker woman.

 

 

That montage does not even begin to cover this show.

Synopsis

Durarara is officially about a dullahan, Celty Sturluson, who is a modern day headless horsewoman. She rides a motorcycle that is really a horse as she drives through the city in skintight leather with an adorable cat helmet performing her job as a courier. Celtie’s head is missing, and she’s traveled from Ireland to Ikebukuro, Japan to find it. But nothing is easy in Ikebukuro.

 

Plot

Unofficially, it is really the story of multiple people’s stories and how they all weave around and under each other. This concept is actually drawn out in the ending art of the first season, in which every character is being held up or is connected with another character. Each of their stories are necessary to explain the whole of any one story.

I love the way the authors used this storytelling method. It’s kind of like real-life when you think about it. Everyone has a different perspective. People can watch the same event and come away with different versions of it.

“It may not look like it at first, but everything that happens in this town is somehow related. It’s all part of some larger awful truth that’s beyond our comprehension”

 

The main conflict usually revolves around the missing head, gangs, such as the Dollars, causing mischief and Izaya, who we’ll get to in a minute.

Characters

Mikado Ryugamine

 

The other main character is Mikado Ryugamine. He gets picked on a lot for that name. He comes to Ikebukuro form a small rural village at the invitation of his best friend Masaomi Kida.

 

Masaomi

 

Masaomi and Mikado fall in with Anri Sonohara, the class representative who runs away anytime Mikado starts to open his heart to her.

Mikado, Masaomi and Anri are almost always together. Masaomi warns Mikado to stay away from the dangerous people in Ikebukuro.

 

Mikado, Masaomi and Anri

 

Shizuo Heiwajima is one of those dangerous people. He’s also my favorite character by far. <3 I would have his angry little babies. Shizuo, despite being the strongest person on the show, is not a villain. In fact, most of his violence is due to his hatred for Izaya Orihara.

Shizuo

 

Izaya is the “villain” of the show. He is pretty creepy and manipulative but also very friendly, which throws other characters off. If we’re working on archetypes, Izaya is Loki and Shizuo is Thor (from mythology, not the movies lol).

 

Izaya

 

Other characters include Simon Brezhnev, the black Russian sushi seller; Kyhoei Kadota, Walker Yumasaki, Erika Karisawa and Saburo Togusa, a group of quirky kids who are actually gang members; Seiji and Namie Yagiri, the brother and sister with waaay too much chemistry and Mika Harima, the missing girl.

Episode setup

 

Episodes often start at the end and work their way backwards. They are also narrated by one of the characters, which is a great way to gain more insight into the character and their mindset.

Everything is very confusing because nothing is explained at first. Who people are in relation to each other is only explained with “don’t mess with these guys”

Oddly enough, Celty, potentially the coolest mystery, is completely explained in episode 4 (except for where her head is).

Probably the most frustrating part is the chat room. Throughout the episode a chat room will pop up with random people. It is pretty artistic and modern but the problem is that you eventually find out who is who in the chat room… and then u want to go back and watch all the episodes again to figure out who was really saying what!

Mood and themes

Durarara is very artistic, jazzy and modern. Some of the themes include “What is evil, really?”, “Boredom as the root of evil” and“Isolation in a crowded place”

The city is a big, lonely, dangerous place, but you have friends to help keep things in focus.

I think two of my favorite things about this show are that nobody does dumb things and the use of modernity.

 

No Stupidity Please

The smart thing to do

 

In this show, no one does the dumb things they do in other shows, like not telling people how they feel, or not sharing information, or running into a dark alley: you never find yourself frustrated with the actions of a character. It makes the show more believable

Technophile

The other thing that makes the show more believable is the use of technology. The headless lady uses a PDA to talk, the show has a chat room as a main part of it, everyone uses their cell phones to take pictures of crazy stuff happening around them and to link up with other people. It feels like this show could really be happening in the next city over.

 

Art Quality

Scenes are often set up like a play. One scene that stands out in my mind is Izaya delicately dancing around Mikado to avoid a dumpster that is thrown a few seconds later. They also often use color to highlight trends or moods. For example, the crowd in the background are often gray, but if they are in a gang then that color scarf is in color.

 

 

 

 

Entertainment

This show is entertaining. That is all. To summarize: go watch it. It is amazing. They leave so many mysteries each episode that you will have to keep watching and will find it hard to tear yourself away.

The mystery, combined with humor is definitely a winner. The first time you see someone get hit with a vending machine or punched so hard their clothes fly off you will know why I say that.

 

 

Mysteries, action, humor, hotties: this show has it all. Also, I also really dig all the subliminal messages to drink milk. You’ll get what I mean when you watch it.

Dub versus subtitles

For the first time in my life I will recommend a dub. If you are a Japanophile and you really understand the culture and the use of language then do the subs but if you are a dabbler in anime, not the culture, do the dub. It explains things in a way we westerners can understand.

NOW GO WATCH IT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

By otakuman5000 On 2 Aug, 2011 At 05:36 PM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Conventions, Editorials, Featured | With 2 Comments

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There I was: at the mecca of Otakus: Otakon! I was so excited I kept trying to take pictures of every cool costume I saw, shouting characters’ names and grabbing my friends’ arms with excitement.

For about 30 minutes.

And then I was bored.

 

The real fun

That’s when I started digging through the little bag everyone was given upon entry. In the bag was a magazine filled with interesting facts about Otakons past and present, tips about what you could bring (good to know for future visits) and more info about the Deejays and special guests present. There was also a guide and an awesome sheet of awesome (hey, I didn’t name it, because if I did it wouldn’t name it that).

After reading through the material I realized that there were A LOT of things to do. I could learn how to draw manga, make music for anime videos, create masks, get autographs from voice actors, Q&A with studios, practice my Jpop dance moves, watch anime and kung fu movies, visit the dealers booths, look at artwork and peruse a manga library. Oh yeah, and go to a rave, watch Hentai and learn all about fetishes beyond tentacle rape and… yeah. You get the picture: there was lots to do.

I ended up watching Patrick narrowly beat out Luna for the title of Otaku Idol and yelling along with everyone else watchng 13 Assassins.

Otaku Idols! Peter on the right was the winner

I found that my favorite parts were watching anime, the dealers room, the art room and the rave. The rave is self-explanatory (I mean come on… it’s a party!), the dealers room was fun because there were so many interesting things to buy (and an awfully flirty man who wanted to put a corset on me) and the art room was awesome because it was amazing artwork.

My corset connoisseur

Goku and Dr. Gero catch some games in the gaming room

My overally-very-most-favorite-of-all-time was just sitting around watching anime and kung fu movies. There is nothing like sitting in a room full of nerds watching something awfully nerdy while listening to the nerdy comments. From that venture, I highly recommend Durarara as a great action anime and Garden of Sinners as a mind-boggling horror/mystery anime. Garden of Sinners is VERY artistic, to the point of feeling like yelling at the screen to pick up the pace. At the same time, it is also beautifully done so if you have the patience for that sort of thing definitely check it out. I’ve already started watching both!

 

Tips

Here are some tips if you are a first timer like me!

 

1. If you have never cosplayed before, consider not coming in costume

If you are not an experienced cosplayer, think about not coming in costume. There will be a lot to do and take in and being in costume will mean stopping every minute to let people take pictures of you. I saw people holding the same pose for ten minutes or more because as soon as one photographer was done, another was already in place shooting the next picture.

There are also a lot of rules to follow at Otakon and you will want to make sure to read up on them before cosplaying.

 

2. Look at the schedule

The schedule is VERY confusing. You have to look from a spreadsheet of times, title and room number (the awesome sheet of awesome) to a brochure IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER to figure out what any given room is holding. This can be very frustrating, as it will require a lot of back-and-forth as well as making sure you find some method of keeping the lines straight on the spreadsheet (I used the brochure as a ruler) otherwise you may end up in the wrong room.

I recommend looking at the schedule as soon as you walk in to make sure you don’t miss anything you really want to see.

One of the dealer's booths

3. Be prepared to spend money

Food is expensive both in and around the convention area. There are also great vendors booths including everything from t-shirts to custom posters to glowing dreadlocks so come with a set amount of money you are prepared to spend. I found I did just fine with $50 for the whole weekend, not counting the cost of the hotel room and gas money.

4. Book a hotel room far in advance

As soon as you figure out the logistics of your trip to Otakon, get a hotel room. Closer to the event rooms will be more expensive and further away. Why do you want a close hotel? Because parking can run you up to $22!!!

5. Take your friends into consideration

Are you friends the type who like everything you do? Are they comfortable (and are you comfortable) with splitting up to go do different things? Will you be staying late? Arriving late?

Going with a large group of people can be fun, or, as was the case with my group: really, really annoying. My group just couldn’t stay awake for it all and I had to leave early and felt that I did not get my money’s worth of Otakon.

Talk with your buddies before heading out to make a plan or figure out what you will do in different scenarios. This is another reason a close hotel is a good thing: you could always have multiple room keys and come and go as you please.

Pictures

Here are some pictures of the lovely cosplayers! If you don’t see your picture here, check out my personal blog for another article about Otakon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Charles On 25 Feb, 2011 At 03:54 PM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment

What happens when you shove a dozen different anime styles into one show and set to blend? It might sound something like a DRRR…

By Charles On 21 Dec, 2010 At 03:10 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Editorials, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWow, is the year over already? Doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was shoveling snow and preparing for Katsucon, and now it’s already Christmas and I can close the curtains on 2010. A lot happened this year, a lot was released, and there was no way for me to experience it all. But there were always the gems that stuck out, and now, in no particular order, I present my 10 memories of 2010.

Inception: The word “mind****” doesn’t begin to describe this one. Christopher Nolan’s journey into the subconscious explored the nature of ideas, control, infiltration, and a lot of other cerebral themes, acted out by a top-notch corps of actors completely at home with their roles. Stunning, provocative, and thoroughly enjoyable- easily the best film I saw this year…and probably a few years previous as well.

The Karate Kid: Save your criticisms and comparisons- Karate Kid 2010 lives up to the theme, flavor and story of the original, just bigger, flashier and more escapist. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan prove to be every bit as much the surrogate family as Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita. This isn’t a remake, its a re-envisioning, and a worthy homage to a coming of age classic. Set your doubts aside and give this one a watch, you will not be disappointed.

Toy Story 3 and Tangled: I can not, nor will I, choose between these two movies. Both are Disney fare (one Pixar, one not, both produced by Pixar head and Ghibli fanboy John Lasseter), both have compelling characters, excellent dialogue, entertaining story, beautiful animation and plenty of re-watching potential. Both have appeal far beyond their “target” audience, and redefine what a “childrens” movie can do. And both show just how much one can accomplish with digital graphics and good writing. If only all Disney movies were this good- Dreamworks take note, the bar has been raised.

Cataclysm: World of Warcraft’s third expansion shows how this is not just a game, it’s a way of life. Ratcheted up difficulty, new races, new class combinations, and a world completely altered by the eruption of the dragon Deathwing, Cataclysm takes the old world and throws it violently into the future, dragging its players along with it. New travelers will find the game tough but fair, old hats were remember the days of “Vanilla” and explorers will see their beloved planet forever changed. But be warned, this is no cakewalk- you need to fight if you want to survive.

Anime Boston: Joining the ranks of older, “more established” conventions, Anime Boston proved in 2010 that there’s more to con life than just meme shouting and questionable cosplay. A strong variety of panels, diverse activities, a devoted pool of guests and (some 17000+) attendees, and the largest Artist Alley of any con on the East Coast, set against one of the nicest cities to visit in the country, Anime Boston is the perfect entryway for newcomers, and a shining light in the often scary landscape of fan conventions. Not bad at all for a con that isn’t even a decade old yet.

Angry Birds: Whoever thought the idea of launching birds at pigs would be so addictive, or challenging. As many other portable gaming devices showcase advanced graphics and ports of older, “classic” games, Rovio’s 2D lesson in physics and warfare silently became the most played, and most addictive, handheld game this year. Problem solving, random explosions, aerial bombardment and a whole lot of trial and error led to this sleeper hit being the top rated and downloaded app on the Apple Network. Need more evidence? When this game hit the Android Network in mid-October, it crashed the download servers and many uses spent the better part of a day trying to grab it (I was one of them). Who would have thought something so simple would be so powerful in the end.

Durarara: A pleasant slice of life anime centered around the experiences of three high school freshmen (two guys, one girl) living alone in the big city of Tokyo. Throw in serial “Slashers,” romance, escalating gang tensions, a Celtic shinigami searching for her missing head, a pair of insufferable otaku, a seemingly bored villain who does things for kicks and a guy who throws vending machines at people when he’s angry, and you have what might be the best anime released in Japan in years. A series of related events told through multiple sets of eyes, DRRR manages to be a simple pleasure set in complicated times.

Shikabane-Hime: Death, regrets, loyalty, devotion, Buddhism, monsters and buxom girls- Corpse Princess blends all of this into one slow building but extremely satisfying experience that explores the idea of death and how certain people either cope with it, or run from it. Very few shows look at the often complicated Buddhist view of death, defilement and corruption with as much attention or exposition as this one, and very few are as graphic. It’s a rare find to stumble across a complete package, and this one is complete in every sense of the word.

Doctor Who: After 2 years absence, the BBC hit series returned with a vengeance (and a new Doctor) on Easter weekend, and never looked back. Bigger, fancier, better was the mantra behind this stylish vision of a 900 year old time-traveling “Doctor” and his female companion, as they battled vampires, weeping angels, and aliens, ran alongside roman legions and Vincent Van Gogh, and saved the universe (again) from calamity and destruction. Any doubts about this season were dispelled, as newcomer Matt Smith capably played the title character, and was upstaged at times by both costar Karen Gillam as spunky companion Amelia Pond and perennial fan favorite Alex Kingston as the mysterious River Song. Not a flawless entry into the 47 year old Doctor Who story, but damn close.

Honorable Mentions: It would be a shame to end this list without at least pointing out these other gems.

Kuroshitsuji: A Victorian tale about a boy and his (demon) butler. The anime is fun, if a little fan serviced, but the manga is a great read.

Unstoppable: A disaster movie that wasn’t itself a disaster, mostly due to excellent camera work and the skills of its leads, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.

Fable 3: Not quite what Peter Molyneaux promised, but the closest his vision has ever come to perfection.

Resonance of Fate: A solid JRPG for the 360, right when we needed one. Being a bit steampunk didn’t hurt either.

Anime USA: Like Anime Boston, just smaller and more centrally located.

Shutter Island: Less mind-blowing than Inception, but still a fantastic psychological thriller, set in an insane asylum on an island far from land.

Kick Ass: Bloody, violent and profane don’t even begin to describe this excellent film adaptation of the Millar/Romita graphic novel about a kid who wants to be a superhero.

Dragon Quest IX: The latest installment in the long running JRPG series arrived on the DS over the summer. All the experience of an MMORPG without lag and monthly fees.

AMV Hell 5: Long awaited, but thankfully not stale. The latest installment in the AMV spoofing series delivered less laughs than previous outings, but was still entertaining.

Supernatural: The 5th season of the CW monster-hunting drama ended with the apocalypse, but not before the world went to hell first. Pure cheese, but tasty.