My Hero Academia: Two Heroes at AX2018

My Hero Academia: Two Heroes premiered at Anime Expo 2018 and Anime Diet was on-site to review the film.

Fans of My Hero Academia were thrilled to hear of a movie coming out with more adventures of their favorite heroes. The events of the movie, billed in Japan as “revealing the secret past of a major character,” took place after the Final Exam arc of the TV series.  From the official synopsis:

Deku and All Might receive an invitation from a certain person to go overseas to a giant artificial moving city called I-Island. This island, a kind of ”science Hollywood” that gathers the knowledge of scientists from around the world, is holding an exhibition called I-Expo showcasing the results of Quirk and hero item research. In the midst of all this, Deku meets a Quirkless girl named Melissa and remembers his own Quirkless past. Out of the blue, the impregnable security system the island boasts is hacked by villains, and all the people on the island are taken as hostages! Now, a plan that could shake hero society has been put into motion! The man who holds the key to it all is the number one hero and Symbol of Peace, All Might.

 

Familiar U.A. students had a chance to shine again in this My Hero Academia animated film. With an energizing soundtrack, visually pleasing and exhilarating fight sequences along with well-acted character voices, the movie was a solid and fun ride for the returning MHA fan.  Live audience participation made the movie that much sweeter, as anyone who has been at a premiere with hundreds of screaming fans can attest. However, the pacing during the first half of the movie was slow and the overall storyline was not inventive.

It was apparent that writers for Studio BONES (known for Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Soul Eater) were not trying to introduce any drastic changes in the movie, opting instead to play off the things that worked well for and made people love the series in the first place.  All the classic elements of My Hero Academia stories were present: friendship, teamwork, sacrifices, moving beyond your limits, and even a somewhat unresolved redemption story.

Arguably, these conservative plot choices showcased the studio’s mastery of animation. Even in a fairly risk-free storytelling, there were surprises and delights. Production values remained high, with fight scenes remaining fluid and well paced, and decompression used to great effect. Many points of the movie moved the audience to cheer, laugh out loud and even experience the “feels”.

My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is a must watch for the die-hard MHA fan. Those new to the MHA universe may wish to watch other parts of the series first, to build a connection to the characters and appreciate the significance of certain events when watching the movie.

Summer’s AX2017 Events Review

Sing, Clap, and Stomp-Along

Last year’s Sing, Clap, and Stomp-Along was thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve been going to it ever since I first started going to Anime Expo back in 2015. I can say with confidence that there is almost nothing bad to be said about it: it’s open almost all day for the full 4 days of AX, there’s a wide variety of AMVs to be seen, and all the people poured their hearts into their wonderful creations to be shared with the attendees. I wonder if I could do something like that too, but it takes a lot of work and requires a lot of patience to make a three minute music video, which is something I admire. The people are rowdy and the room is always full of life when you step into it. Everyone gets into the music and appreciates the beauty of the complex edits that people have spent their time making. Each AMV uses a vast variety of pop culture to match with the show. That’s what makes it so fun to go to: everyone sings, claps, and stomps together! I recommend that it’s a must-do at Anime Expo! The only downside to this event is that there are a lot of anime spoilers.

Black Butler Cosplay Meetup

This was a great way to make friends and I got to meet Connor, also known as CDawgVA on YouTube, on my birthday! It was the best birthday ever. There, me and friends were able to meet a lot of people who were also into Black Butler and enjoyed it as much as we did. I was also able to meet up with some of my friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time there too. The overall Black Butler community is nice and welcoming, and it’s nice to be around people who appreciate the same things as you.

Welcome to the Ballroom World Premiere

    Anime Expo usually offers world premieres and I felt really lucky to be able to see Welcome to the Ballroom! It truly was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m glad to have been able to be there to see it with my friends along with the few other people to see this show. Anyone who attends AX has the opportunity to participate in something like this is well. It was an honor to see the wonderful people who spent their time behind the directing and the production of Welcome to the Ballroom. Seeing the producer of Attack on Titan there in the flesh was exhilarating, and he was happy to take part in making both shows.

Matt’s Anime Expo 2017 Rundown

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved anime. Since the days of Toonami on Cartoon Network my memories are of running home from school to watch shows like Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing. My love of anime, manga and geek culture has grown to the point where I make it a point to attend as many cons as possible.

The granddaddy of them all is Anime Expo. I’ve been to every Anime Expo since my first one back in ’06, missing only one year, ’09, due to going on some family trip. Anime Expo isn’t just the largest anime convention in California; it’s the largest in North America. It gets bigger and better every year and Anime Expo 2017 was no different.

What?! Over nine thousand?!

Ticket prices for AX are way cheaper than for other huge cons like SDCC or Wonder Con. You can either choose to go for four days for $90 or you can choose one day for $55. But honestly you’re playing yourself if you choose anything less than the 4 day pass. The tickets get even cheaper if you purchase them earlier. Overall this convention is easier than most on my bank account. That is – at least until I see the vast amounts of stuff in the dealer room that I cant resist buying!

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Kino’s Journey Revisited

There has been a lot of playing to nostalgia lately in pop culture, but no more so than in Hollywood. For example, the Gunsmith Cats Kickstarter was going on in March and April, and Crunchyroll’s backlog of classic anime grows larger by the week. At the same time though animation does not tend to reboot old shows as often as American television or Hollywood does, so it was a surprise when the understated Kino’s Journey series was getting a reboot after more than a decade.

While there are some issues with the new series, such as Kino looking slightly more feminine in this incarnation as well as the pacing of the series seeming to emphasize violence and action, it is interesting to go back to Kino and their life of constant travel as someone who is a queer person, and as someone who is trying to follow not only queer studies in the US, but also in Japanese cultures and elsewhere. I unfortunately cannot separate the choice for Kino to be portrayed androgynously with the series and with its reception: many animated series seems to use a character’s androgynous appearance as a plot point or for comedic value. In Kino’s Journey, while Kino may represent the viewer more easily this way, the androgynous appearance is not a cliche. Kino just lives their life, going from town to town and just trying to experience life, instead of trying to be a disruption. The fact that the character of Kino comes across as more obviously female in the renewed series, then, is a change that cannot be overlooked. Why the change?

Perhaps this is an aesthetic choice or a choice rationalized with market and audience. Like I mentioned, the portrayal of Kino in the first series was more androgynous: there were very few hints to the viewer as to how they identified, and their language use even did not reveal too much about their gender. The renewed series did give more of a feminine touch to Kino’s character design, but also changed the focus and pacing to seemingly concentrate on action sequences. If it was an aesthetic choice, then why? In Japan, clothes are not necessarily indicative of gender, and indeed lately in the news one can see Japanese and Korean stars talk about feeling genderless in terms of dress and style. They wear the clothes they want to, whether it is Lolita fashion or urban punk fashion, and that is that. Japanese beauty products are marketed to men as well, and even recently there have been a surge of Japanese businessmen looking to nail polish and nail art as a way to not only proclaim group status (such as painting their nails in company colors) but as a way to demonstrate some style.

Which brings me to my next observation: if the changes were because of the times, or because of changing trends in the market, then what does that mean for “the market” and who is the intended market for Kino’s Journey? In the Japanese animation industry, most animation is admittedly for the Japanese domestic market first and foremost. While there are exceptions, such as the second season of Big O or the development of Space Dandy, and even though simuldubs are becoming more and more commonplace, the primary focus on the Japanese market remains the norm by the studios and decision makers themselves.

My final point though, which may nullify the first two, is finding out that the voice actor of Kino from the first series played a major role in pushing for a new series. In that case maybe it is just a recognition that the story of Kino might be applicable to audiences even a decade or so after the first series, and a hope that more people can discover them.

Ancient Magus’ Bride, Depression, and Hope

When I first started watching The Ancient Magus’ Bride on Crunchyroll, I was struck by how it began. Here was a protagonist so far in the depths of despair that she seemingly sold herself in auction to whoever might have her, reasoning that at least someone in this world would want her, and coming to the conclusion that whatever might happen, it would be a marginally better alternative to suicide.

This setup exists in the manga as well, to the extent that some fans call it “Stockholm Syndrome: the series.” The protagonist is bought at auction by Elias the powerful mage, he takes her to his house calling her his bride, and so begins the series. I could see this critique: for the first several episodes, Elias occasionally remarks to be careful, that he owns her. Chise, the viewpoint character, seems to have no sense of self-worth and constantly demeans herself and her actions.

It was not just other women who voiced this concern: there were men too, who viewed the dynamic between Elias and Chise as abusive. It reminded them of Beauty and the Beast, they said: the captive rationalizes the abuse, and falls in love with her captor. They did not want to see it past the first couple of episodes, male and female alike.

And yet, it still seemed to me Chise had agency. She was in the depths of severe depression and was considering suicide. The animation did not show her full story right away, but we saw her contemplating suicide from a school rooftop before making the eventual choice to take buyers on their offer: in the manga, and as details of Chise’s life in the anime slowly are revealed, we saw that not only had her magical status brought her abandonment and despair up to that point, but we saw Chise making a bargain with the auctioneers. In fact, in the story, she pocketed half her selling price, which came to 2.5 million pound sterling. While yes, she was acting out of self-destruction, she retained some degree of agency in doing so. More to the point, the series asked for the viewers to at least have some empathy with Chise in this: viewers did not need to support her self-destructive decisions, but were asked to try and understand what may have led Chise to believe that it was the only option left to her.

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The Convergence Miracle of Blade Runner Blackout 2022

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Well over twenty four hours since it landed, and I remain in that rare place. A place where something one remembers in fragments, but is jolted back by a newly formed memory. A refrain of an old poem, now enhanced by a long delayed echo. And yet we have been here before throughout numerous iterations. Just as a story is capable of ending its run of flickering across the screen, so too are our absolutes as to what happened after. Such is the miracle convergence of Shinichiro Watanabe(Cowboy Bebop/Space Dandy)’s fifteen minute bridge short, Blade Runner Blackout 2022. A short, but clearly one made with deep reverence, Blackout, portrays an event that came not too long after aged Blade Runner(a state backed assassin of humanoid slaves), Deckard, has disappeared with his last target in tow.

The event as it is portrayed in nonlinear fashion, involves a large scale terrorist attack against the global human technological infrastructure. By way of setting off a missile enabled EMP blast, the aim of a pair of renegade Replicants(Of the 8th Nexus generation. The previous we have been privy to were the 6th.) with the help of a lone human collaborator, seek to send the human race into a darkness long enough to destroy vital records as to their existence. This while the human world has grown wildly intolerant of Replicant technology, opting to enable an even worse breed of death squad. We are given a glimpse into just how terrible things have become since 2019 Los Angeles, where we are introduced to Trixie (A pleasure model Replicant), and Iggy (a former military grade model). Swiftly reunited, and ready to strike a blow against the race that created them.

Rounding out the trio involved, we are briefly introduced to Ren, a sympathetic human with great antipathy for his kind. In a moment that plays like a mildly perverse rendition of Priss and JF Sebastian from the original, we’re left pretty sure that he is to be the main trigger person for the Replicants’ plan. We are also given a window into the moment of Iggy’s awakening. While off-world, and in combat with an unnamed enemy, his discovery instantly turns the imposing humanoid into a resolute force of rebellion. Knowing full well that Trixie and he, while perhaps not long for this world due to manufacturer’s insurance in a brief lifespan, remain eager to live whatever life they choose. Almost indistinguishable from humans, save for their right eyes, plans seem primed and ready for liberation.

Needless to say, the presentation remains as impeccably realized for a Watanabe work. But what is truly extraordinary in comparison to previously produced anime shorts based upon existing western properties, this one feels like a dream project for so many animators whom I’ve grown to love. And the end product sings in a chorus of sight and sound poetics that feel less creatively strained than anything sold on the same shelf as The Matrix Trilogy, or Batman. It feels both utterly reverent to the seminal original film, yet with just enough flair and energy to fuel an entire feature. Among the incredible talent assembled, Shukou Murase (Ergo Proxy, Witch Hunter Robin), Hiroyuki Okiura (Ghost In The Shell), Shinya Ohira(Redline), Mitsuo Iso (Denno Coil), and Shinji Aramaki (Megazone 23 III), and others, it is almost like witnessing lifelong rock band fans at last allowed to share the stage with their inspiration. It’s a supergroup effort that only left me wanting more. Suddenly, two weeks feels like eternity.

But what we were able to get, is both gorgeous to the senses, yet also propulsive in helping set up Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming follow-up. Everything in Blackout, feels truly authentic, and honest to the events of the original Blade Runner, which remains to this day, one of the most impactful cinematic experiences of my viewing life. Heck. I’d go so far as to comment that without Blade Runner, so many of my interests(and this includes anime/manga) would never have materialized. So to witness Ridley Scott’s landmark of science fiction worldbuilding, at last merge with a generation of artists I have grown to love as an over thirty year result, is cause for celebration.

– And yes, that is the voice of a certain cast member, reprising a personal favorite role. Man, that was great.

Hozuki’s Coolheadedness aka Hoozuki no Reitetsu

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If you happen to watch the series streaming on CrunchyRoll, well get onboard reading the manga. I am a fan, for this series. I initially learned about this publication when I was on the BookWalker Global website. Of course I grabbed onto what I can read. I have already seen the entire tv series, so getting the manga and reading it in English is my next step of re-entering into this world. This manga is currently translated and avaliable in English with Kodansha Comics as a digital first release.

So there has to be some awareness into what exactly does it mean to be in Hozuki’s hell, imagine Dante’s Inferno meets a business office setting and you get this version of Japanese hell and punishment. Hozuki happens to be the administrative assistance for Enma-Daioh and he is humble to downplay his accomplishments. All the while, many characters in the series relies on him to keep his calm, hence the coolheadness aspect in the title.

The series follows the anime quite nicely, or rather the anime follows the manga nicely. This getting into the anime and then to manga follows a trend, where the anime is broadcast, and viewers consume. Then they consume the book, where as it is reading that manga first and then watching the anime.

For readers of this series, there is a great deal of youkai and folklore to be of interest in this series. There is some footnotes, but yes mostly it is expected that the series should be reading this story for fun. If there is more to read alikes, to this story, readers should have read stories like Shigeru Mizuki’s Gegege no Kitaro or Hiroshi Shiibashi,Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan . 

Hozuki’s Coolheadedness currently has  two volumes released digitally from Kodansha, and the 13 episode television series is avaliable from streaming through CrunchyRoll.

Your Name(2016): A Telling Tale (Film Thoughts)

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In the race for anime box office domination (a race largely reserved for studios, and the occasional anime industry wonk), the unexpected can often be the most telling barometer of where art and commerce are currently merging. A dance that can often illustrate, befuddle, depress, and justify. But after finally stepping from the dark, and mulling about Makoto Shinkai’s runaway blockbuster, I am again reminded that sentiment, no matter how awkward, can be a powerful force for escapism. Adding to my still controversial relationship with the auteur’s output, the sentiment exuded in often bizarre increments by Your Name, remains a concentrated reminder that for all one’s diet for japanese animation, it takes a specific openness to quirk to overcome what has become something of a signature. Your Name, while the most standard across the surface of Shinkai’s work, stands as a veritable carnival of his best and worst tendencies.

Taking the term, En Media Res to it’s most most absurd conclusion, Shinkai throws us into the plot with all the swift-cut ferocity of an anime television teaser.(Seriously. This is a film with not one- but two segues into anime television opening montages.) City boy, Taki(Ryunosuke Kamiki) awakens, but something isn’t right. His body is swollen in some strange places, his home is now in the sticks, and he has no idea how he got there. Meanwhile, country girl, Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) is again occupying the body of a young high school boy with a yen for architecture, a crush at work, and some perplexed buddies. Especially in regards to his ability to suddenly talk with girls, and needlepoint. Both sides of this 1980s style body-switch scenario are taking in that both kids are indeed acting strangely, and that they seemed rather out of sorts the previous day. To both Taki and Mitsuha, there are no clues as to what is causing this, but handy mobile phone blog apps are providing clues to these bodies they are forcibly borrowing, and the confusion they’re causing. But can either of them ever permanently retain their respective bodies again? What kind of irrational hocus pocus is behind this shared affliction? And will Shinkai ever be able to maintain a cohesive narrative without falling back to his safe zone – the wistful, longing voice-over?

Without spoiling too much, the film does come at the audience fast and with greater energy than is common for the filmmaker’s more glacial speed. We are quickly granted glimpses into the lives of our protagonists, and their respective backgrounds. Especially true of Mitsuha, who’s father abandoned the family business of priesthood for township mayor, in a town with only a few friends, no real hangouts, save for their idea of a cafe, which is a rural bench near a coffee vending machine. These moments are endearing, but are often too brief to properly absorb. And while we do get a little background on Taki, his background does feel the real end of the shrift. He is well-to-do Japanese city boy, which is an archetype that is never given any proper background outside of the occasional crush. The film is often too busy to marinate, which is strange for Shinkai, who attempts to get out of his safer first gear, only to imitate a teen with a new car; endless stops, starts, and sudden leaps forward. Your Name, never seems to find a footing until the third act, in which case finds itself in a pacing quagmire that threatens to render the film numbing.

There are the expected sentimental images of dynamic skies, a reverence for tranquil nature, and a yearning for some form of grounded meaning amongst youthful recollection. Like the last twenty years of anime, there is a neverending nod toward some nebulous past that drives Shinkai’s work that echoes a cross between Anno and perhaps even the often forgotten Tomomi Mochizuki, but lacking in the same complexity. His works often feel like an echo rather than a spark, and with Your Name, there is this ever growing sense of the familiar that reeks of everything that has come before, without a terrible amount of freshness. Even as the film attempts to reconcile the plight of our heroes with the cosmic, and the musubi threads that bind us together, the notion never truly finds a place to be properly absorbed. The notion in a story is vital, but like proper sun and moisture, it becomes hard to effectively feel anything that is to be felt. We can gawk all we want, but to truly feel, that is at the heart of what it is to come away from a work forever changed. Which is why it’s one thing to talk about that feeling, and actually experiencing a sensation. Your Name, spends a lot of time trying so hard to obtain this, yet never allows the reins to its world, allowing viewers to take in more than a pat ideal about connection and resonance. By the end, I had no real understanding why these characters would or should find resonance with each other beyond the confines of the story.

It’s a gorgeous film for sure. It’s just too bad that for all it’s greater aspirations, the final piece never finds comfort in prolonged immersion with these charming characters. Every time a gag begins to work, the narrative grinds gears once again, skipping pertinent information that would be better explored in clearly animated terms. Very often, all we get are the occasional line explaining what happened. As if apologizing for a scene that simply had no time to be made. As a result, the film feels helplessly incomplete.

If the goal was to treat humans as proxies for collated data, we could easily watch Ghost In The Shell, but what Your Name implies within the premise, never runs further than skin deep. And if this is what passes for a complete entertainment experience, I’m quite curious about what it is they are seeing. Because for me, I see a grand missed opportunity to tell a tale of better understanding one another via cosmic circumstances. Which still feels like a goal worth exploring. Maybe five more films will be the charm?

My ode to Wakakozake

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I have dropped off the face of the planet, in the face of reality and real world. But I still wanted to let people know that I am mindful of some series for when I have a limited time,to watch. So I wanted to speak about my adoration for Wakakozake. This series was added to Crunchyroll’s streaming catalog around Summer 2015.

Crunchyroll has the anime, and two seasons of the live action adaption streaming. So if they have the third season, you’ll expect me to think about the term, Pshuu!

Wakakozake is a story of Wakako Murasaki who is a 26 year old office lady with a desire to drink and search for places to eat. The entire series is about her visiting different eateries after work and drinking alcohol of some type of food. So for the foodie in people, what is there not to love?!

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So Wakakozake doesn’t necessarily speak much about the preparation like it is seen in cooking shows or contests, but in the anime and the live action. There is a monologue of Wakako’s inner thoughts as she enjoys the food, and speaks like an amateur food critic.

So for people who like to share thoughts about food, there is Yelp and there are blogs. There is subtle difference between the anime and the live action, because in the anime, viewers see her enjoying the food. In the live action, it turns into subtle food advertisement, that I am unsure if the manga would have this trick. I have seen this in manga form from Fumi Yoshinaga’s Not Love But Delicious Foods. In the live action, the same treatment for introducing restaurants can be found in Kodoku no Gourmet. But it can be said that for the inner foodie, there is such a reaction such as pshuu… which gets animated quite nicely in the show. I am going to sign off on now, and just think about the next experience I have in eating Japanese cuisine!

Evangelion at 20 – That (Brutal) Age

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Being young hurts. Never let anyone tell you different. We can wax nostalgic all we want, but youth is the place where all the muscles get their first taste of resistance in the form of daily life. From lessons about co-existence to the heartbreak landmines one must endure, it’s no wonder so many retreat headlong into realms of fantasy. It’s a fundamental reaction to a sometimes relentlessly harsh world, devoid of many things to depend on. It is this core truth for so many that lies at the heart of Hideaki Anno & Gainax’s great claim to fame. Looking back two decades into not only Evangelion’s strange, and world-altering history, but also of my own personal tumult, it isn’t hard to see why it all mattered so much when it was first unveiled upon an unsuspecting public in the fall of 1995.

I can spend erudite paragraphs extolling the virtues of this still celebrated and debated piece of anime iconography, but it felt like something more was required. After all, art tends to connect best with a public that is ready to embrace it. So many factors play roles here that it can often be dizzying. But the goal here is to help best understand what happened so we can at least cursorily chart what has happened since. So with this in mind, let’s look a little into the era which inspired the series, and perhaps unearth why it still connects so well with old as well as young fans. Unexpectedly, or perhaps expectedly if you are sensitive to the state of the world, the realm where we should most prominently look is no further than economics.

It’s often bandied about on many a Japan enthuisast’s site that the 1980s was a time of economic potency. Credit had become shockingly easy to come by, and the banks didn’t seem too concerned about quality. And access to even shades of the high life seemed within reach for many average families. So when things took a turn for the worse come the end of that decade, and a malaise began to set in come the early 1990s, it was in many ways a crushing spiritual blow to all who had grown accustomed to that level of plenty. Notions of familial expectation were raised, only to see these notions come to a halt when the youth of that era saw harder times, especially in regards to employment prospects. Not unlike the effects of the Stock Market crash of 1991, the idea of growing up between expectant parents and the realities of the world outside began to gleam like a sun impacted prism. The break between adults and kids found itself burrowed deep within what the US experienced in the Seattle grunge music scene. After all, what was the point of a future if it was so out of reach?

Such notions were not lost on other forms of art, such as in film and animation, which suffered immense blowback from the ensuing loss of production funds. No strangers to such concerns, was the fledgling anime Studio Gainax, who had been practically buoying themselves to safety since the middling box office of their robust raison d’etre in Royal Space Force (1987). After having entered the direct-to-video market with titles like the jiggle-parody-goes-space-opus, Top Wo Nerae! Gunbuster(1988), and their risky, self-shotgunning pseudo parody Otaku No Video(1989). And soon after, riding the NHK train with the Jules Verne & Miyazaki hybrid, Fushigi No Umi No Nadia(1991), the limping bunch of ragtags with “no business sense”, found themselves in need of a hit. And badly so. Enter, Neon Genesis Evangelion. A title shrouded in veils of so much mystery, that it could only spell disaster from opinions inside and out.

It’s completely needless to elaborate what happened afterward, but it might be good to consider the implications of Evangelion’s arrival, and what has come in the wake of it. Twenty years of anime bubbles and bursts, twists and turns, often reaching to the best of any studio’s ability to harness some of the show’s all consuming fire. Despite chasms in budgets, and often harshly idiosyncratic turns by established icons, few to no series reached such thematic highs. It was, and continues to feel as if Anno’s rollercoaster met a collective wavelength that had little to no room for other serialized series. All it took, was a creaky premise, stark portrayals of archetypes that would inevitably become a license to create thousands of merchandise-worthy knockoffs, and an unerring sense of synergy with the minds behind it. Anime, had suddenly become the mirror image of a once high society’s less considered population. At long last, the disenfranchised youth of a hard driving, win-at-all-costs generation found itself an identifiable icon, and a punching bag for those less willing to acknowledge it.

Shinji, for all his emotional instability and sullenness, is the part of us that we often shove in a broom closet for fear of feeling disposable.

So when the series’ still-debated finale came to pass, to the often exasperation of a first wave of disgruntled internet fans typed furiously. In a great many ways, it was the first show of what would become a cliche in the fandom today. To this day, there isn’t an hour that doesn’t go by where some Twitter war has trails of smoke coming off of my feed, or memes concerning what character trait is the most chuckle inspiring. Yet few television shows have created such a ravenous fervor to the point that the chance opportunity to produce a feature film rendition of the finale would be a blood-smeared retort the likes few franchises have ever inspired. The bile of the complacent fan was about to come face to face with the full-fisted reciprocity of the medium.

All things on the table, for me ,Evangelion ended with the now-laughably titled, The End Of Evangelion (1997). A film that takes the Up With People finale of the show, and vomits it back in fans’ faces. An alternate ending that reduces the heroes into something a lot less palatable, and without redemption. And while other shows have tried valiantly to play the “fans have no idea” hand, rarely has it ever been so eloquently executed. Beyond the works of Tomino, and various others, EoE forces viewers to face these less than flattering elements, and to decide for themselves or not to proceed with the attitudes they espouse so heavily in their incessant commenting. It remains my personal favorite ending, not so much because of its overwrought nature, but it’s will to lay an entire mythos on the line for an exploration into the grandest question of all..

“Why the hell am I here?” – Without offering anything clearer an answer than, to grow.

Beckoning the public to not allow themselves to be prisoners of their own despair seems to be at the core of the best Evangelion has to offer. Any “deeper” interpretations feel lacking to absurd in comparison. What many imitators failed to understand about it was that underneath all the gloom & doom, lies a sincere leveling. Using a largely escapist medium the way it does can be considered verboten, even today. And yet there it defiantly remains. The show understands that youth is but a temporary place, even as so many of us pretend that we never left.

Growing up over a hundred miles from any city in either a northern or southern direction, couldn’t not have a profound effect on how a younger me viewed the world. Being from a desert area, where the expectations for a local kid were to either become a fixture in the local resort industries, or escape at the earliest opportunity, it was easy to find onesself locked in one’s own mind. Unable to connect due to a certain lack of philosophical diversity, and an overall state of economic gridlock, seeing past the world presented, made it hard to envision possibilities, let alone feel motivated to change anything. The pressure did not come from overbearing parents, but of a location’s disgust for its future generations, and a nostalgia that bordered on toxic. But as long as many of us desert children were able to embrace the arts in one form or another, and not find ourselves in the throes of early parenthood or chemical addiction, hope seemed to at the very least be a flat tire fix for a realm rife with shattered glass filled ditches.

But art & words remained my sanctuary, and continue to help shape who I will become, even as these forces can continue to beckon me into a form of submission. One can either be dictated by your passions, or sparked by them. Addiction beyond those that plague our veins is a very real thing, and it can be hard to consider the world and its ever illusory weight. But looking through the very works that helped us process our mutual evolutions rather than ensnare them, shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion remain powerful because they speak to difficult trials many of us face during that most challenging of life periods. To acknowledge the abyss, and to allow onesself to be transformed by expression, is one of the great gifts that art can provide. Being a kid is fucking brutal. Especially when one has little to no what to process what is happening all over. Thankfully, even an often derided form of entertainment can cast a healthy light to help all this madness make a lick of sense. And for this, I am grateful for The Children.

finalayanami

Upon starting this piece, a part of me wanted to talk a little about the Rebuild feature films, when it hit me that the films themselves seem to be less about character, and more about the series as a whole. Which creates something of a distant echo. Something that works more on a curator level than on a personal one. And while that has its admirers, it simply lacks the cutting immediacy and urgent voice. So, forgive?

Interview: Ayano Mashiro

Ayano Mashiro is a young singer who has come onto the anisong scene in just the past year. She is best known for doing the first OP to Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, “ideal white,” as well as the OP to Gunslinger Stratos, “Vanilla Sky.”

We interviewed her at Anime Expo 2015. Jeremy Booth conducted the interview except as noted.

How was your trip here to the US?

I took a flight out of Sapporo to Narita [Airport, in Tokyo] to LA, so that was quite a long flight–probably the longest I’ve ever taken. The last flight I took overseas was to Singapore, and it was only an hour’s [time zone] difference…but from Tokyo to LA I believe it’s a 16 hour difference, so I was really scared about the jet lag. But here I am!

What made you decide to become a singer? What was the moment where you decided, “I really want to sing”?

I’ve loved to sing since I was little, but I was taking piano lessons when I was a kid. At my piano recital, I was a weird one–I had my piano teacher play the piano while I sang. This made me kind of think “this is fun!” being on stage, singing lyrics to an audience. It was a mind opening moment.

It’s a good feeling being on stage, isn’t it?

Actually I do get nervous on stage, but I’m more hyped than moved being on stage these days.

Talk to us about your hometown, Sapporo. Is there anything that you really miss and look forward to get back to when you travel, like food or something?

Where I’m from, the seafood is very famous, and I like sashimi…so I miss fish in that way. The second thing is ramen, and I’ve only been to two overseas cities, but I Googled to see if there were any ramen places nearby….I was surprised at the portion sizes and how large they were. I had fish and chips last night and it was humongous.

Who do you think has influenced you most in your music?

Growing up, I listened to a lot of anime songs, and my sempais like Eir Aoi, Maon Kurosaki…I listened to a lot of their music. But I like to listen to a lot of genres to expand my musical palette.

Talk a little bit about any other hobbies or talents that people may not know about or expect. 

I’m a big fan of spicy food, and I like to challenge myself on how far I can push the limits of spiciness!

What do you like about Yowapeda, the bicycle anime? Do you have a crush Onoda Sakamichi?

Yes! When you listen to the lyrics of the show’s song, it fits into Onoda’s character…it’s like he’s working towards his dream, sacrificing anything for what he wants to achieve. That’s what I like about him.

Since you are here in LA, are there any famous actors or celebs you’d like to run into if you had the chance?

I’m a fan of Avril Lavigne so if I met her on the street that would be awesome. I also like Selena Gomez.

If you weren’t a musician, what else could you see yourself doing?

I actually don’t know…I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Tell us a little bit about working with and spending time with LiSA. Any funny stories about her?

I asked LiSA, “do you get stage fright?” She said, “Yes I do,” and that was memorable…so every time I see her on stage, she gives her all, and it makes me feel like I can do it too.

[Michael] Tell us also about your times with Maon Kurosaki too…

Are you a big fan of hers too? (Laughs) She’s actually a very friendly person and really cool, but she’s more girly when off stage So that gap is interesting.

So far, what do you think your greatest achievement is, and what do you want to achieve in the future?

I don’t know if this is an achievement, but when I’ve gotten to play a lot of concerts since I started. And I’d like to play bigger and bigger venues in the future.

Who Killed The World? – The Bureau Of Proto Society Delivers

Smithee

When anime has such a clear-eyed perspective on the zeitgest, I perk up. Imagine my bemused surprise when a medium so often concerned with appeasing our most questionable wishes, takes a well-timed potshot at itself. Personally, I love it when post-modernism is being used to comment on larger media concerns, and this little gag seemed aimed squarely at fans like me. So when I clicked PLAY on Yasuhiro Yoshiura‘s eight minute short, I was anticipating what Twitter dubbed to be a celebration of classic cinema imagery. What I saw, was the equivalent to a well-executed barside joke.

The Bureau Of Protosociety, takes place in a near nondescript future world where our remaining population lives deep underground. Clearly the result of some vague catastrophe that a clandestine committee continues to mull the cause and effect of. Several members, with screens surrounding them, grant us a window into possible apocalyptic scenarios that have led us to this completely sheltered existence. What ensues from here ranges from war, alien invasion, to plague. All strangely looking familiar while we’re talking about it.

But the references here aren’t what grabbed me most with this. The implication of such a piece, is that in a realm bereft of history, culture is often rendered meaningless. It’s especially biting to discover the nature of the citizenry and the bureau’s concerns over a developing uprising. Almost echoing current political concerns in Japan. A foolish lack of hindsight on the part of a populace, leading to perhaps one of the best summations of the current anime landscape I have seen in some time. (and it doesn’t hurt that the tune at the end brings back many a memory)

Among the many reasons why I have largely enjoyed the Animator Expo series, the ability to play things less commercial and safe remains my favorite. Yoshiura’s reverence for cult, and a bleak sarcasm that could rival bits of Space Dandy, makes this a special standout for those looking for something a little more biting than your usual televised fare. So what if it doesn’t run longer? It’s a nifty little mike drop that deserves your few minutes of snack time. And like all good anime diets, it is crucial that your in-betweens are a greater part of your self-nurturing side.

Happy Food-For-Thought!

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