Tegami Bachi – where communication is quite important!

Buy Tegami Bachi, Letter Bee, Vol. 1
by Hiroyuki Asada. Published by Viz Media. 200 pages. 2009 $7.99

With the speed of the internet, and cell phone…  postal mail might be not in the minds of many people nowadays. I am always throwing out any spam snail mail, but I definitely love mail that means something to me personally, so in the AmberGround World of Tegami Bachi, mail is a very important form of communication.

Never let the appearance of what genre are out there, is specified to a specific type of audience. This title is definitely released under a shonen imprint in Japan, but with the emotional personality of Lag Seeing, and how cute Gauche Suede and other characters are, this is a series that is definitely not lacking in female fans. Dare I say that this is a very female friendly title.

Also what makes this series a good series to get on, other than the plot is obvious how cute Niche is, since she won’t wear anything other than what Lag tells her, laundry day gets quite interesting. Then there are other obvious humorous quirks in the story such as a running joke of why certain female cooking always never as perfect as they look.

There are so far about three graphic novel volumes of this series in English, 11 manga volumes in Japanese, and two anime seasons. Other possible readalikes for this series is D-Gray Man for mysterious characters aspect and Aria for the human slice of life aspect in a very unique world.

Sanrio’s Small Gift L.A.

Hello Kitty, Keropi, My Melody, and an assortment of Sanrio’s finest graced Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hanger during a 2 week stop in mid-November to kick off a pop-up tour around the country.

Food, games, a ferris wheel, art show, photo ops, and of course the shopping experience made for fans of Hello Kitty Hell delighted the mixed crowd who gathered.

I arrived early in the day, hopin to beat the crowds and be able to get into the shopping area without having to wait an hour in line. Unfortunately, an hour and a half’s worth of people had the same idea. Instead of shopping, I did what I do best; won lots and lots of prizes from silly Sanrio themed carnival games!

A highlight of the pop-up event was the art show, where Hello Kitty inspired a multitude of artists, notably Camilla d’Errico, kozyndan, and Audrey Kawasaki among other impressive talents.

As I arrived (and left) early in the day, I missed the massive quantity of Food Trucks opening for lunch and I skipped several activities such as the mini-putt-putt golf course and artist signings. The sugar shack did provide some nom cotton candy to tide me over with a sugar high until I was off to my next adventure.

Sanrio’s Small Gift Tour is going to continue making stops around the country through-out December. Check out the tour schedule and don’t miss the fun!

MM 08 brings out the best in you

It’s too damn funny.

As I watched, I thought an appropriate disclaimer would be:

Warning, please DO try this at home. In fact, try everything shown in this show with your friends and classmates. XD

Yep, this show caters to my taste all right. I mean, after all, I’m just a freak inside, just like many of your who come and read my articles. There’s nothing insightful, just impressions and more impressions.

I think it’s a really bad idea to attempt to help or impose yourself on somebody in the name of rendering aid. I mean, shit, it makes great comedy and that’s what I’m here for. The twisted and totally exaggerated BL plot at the end is funny but it’s Taro’s antics throughout the episode that makes it gold.

Exaggerate, exaggerate and blow it up and exaggerate all that! OH YES! NO thinking required. Just what the doctor ordered for depression and surviving through the century that’s full of shit.

But you know, perhaps being tortured, beaten and mocked by pretty girls will bring out the best in a person. Never attempt to cure people with problems unless you’re a real professional.

Unless you just wanna have fun and be delighted with the results.

Seriously, watch the show.

Streaming Favorites To be Thankful For (Part Two of Two)

Ah, November.


For many, it’s all about the holiday rush, and all it entails, but for some of us, it’s time to bundle up and perhaps catch something cool to watch at home. Which is likely the reason why I felt it time to seek out some favorite anime series that are now out there, and worth checking out. And also, perhaps as an entirely new generation of US fans takes to the bandwidth like mad, it might be good to shed some light on some notable favorites that we can sample online for free, and support US & Japanese anime companies while we’re at it. It’s time to embrace both past & future, so let’s go!

Continue reading Streaming Favorites To be Thankful For (Part Two of Two)

Streaming Classics To Be Thankful For!

Trouble navigating the classics online? Don’t worry. I’m here to help..

After some thought of the many out there (myself included) sharing thoughts on the growing number of streaming anime out there vying for our attention in a steadily growing new point in history for the medium in the states, it only felt right to spend some time sharing thoughts on an often overlooked quantity amidst the rabble. I’m talking of not only some of the shows I grew up with in those simpler times of either catching them via televised signal, or VHS copies lent to me via friends, and even an overlooked wonder that more folks truly need to give some time to. So let’s have at it this month, as we explore some streaming classics to be thankful for!

Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Oh, come on, you know we were going in strong with this one. And for those unfamiliar with Japan’s equivalent to Krypton’s favorite son, one must really spend some more time embracing your inner rebel, and give the adventures of Harlock and the crew of the ever iconic Arcadia a good watch. As a rule, I’m often not the biggest fan of the so-called “romantic hero”, but in the case of the title character, and the sweeping universe created by the one Leiji Matsumoto, it is an intoxicating mix of Japanese idealism & classic derring-do, made all the cooler by way of a fun supporting cast (I’ve had this lifelong kinship in Tochiro Oyama. Can’t help it.) . All the more beguiling for me has always been the universe with which Matsumoto manipulates his characters, and its a universe fraught with human frailty, and longing. Something that few to no other space-borne creations have ever embraced. Like I just mentioned, romantic. There’s no better way to explain it. And the action can still be remarkably brazen. Oh sure, it’s pure pulp, but supercool pulp, with some very interesting time capsule Japan material for the curious.

Here!

Fist Of The North Star

There are just some shonen action shows one cannot apologize for. And why bother? Buronson & Hara’s post apocalyptic bloodfest is a super-long, over the top game changer for action shows in the early 1980s. Definitely a product of not only the success of films like George Miller’s Mad Max, but also possibly of Sogo Ishii’s hyper-charged biker flicks with a little Bruce Lee in there for flavor. (not to mention the burgeoning number of violent martial arts video games coming out at this time) Add an eclectic cast of bulky maniacs, some interesting acupuncture-based martial arts, and a supertanker of human plasma, and you have a free-for-all take on the romantic action hero. Kenshiro isn’t merely a classic bad ass, but something of an extension of the kind of hero Harlock is, albeit without any real fear of interloping where he deems it necessary (Akira Kamiya, we love you.). Much more nihilistic in tone than Matsumoto’s signature superhero works, the show can, and often drags at times. But just when one thinks Hokuto no Ken will wander off into atypical Shonen Jump lumbering zombie mode- up comes another increasingly ridiculous villain to hook us into grabbing another bag of popcorn. When one considers just how massively popular this franchise has been after so many years, one owes it to themselves to see what all the noise is about.

Here!

Superdimension Fortress Macross
Okay, now this one’s a bit of a cheat, I know. But there’s just something about this unbelievably silly melange of genre & sudsy drama that still packs enough punch to create fans years long after its initial 1982-83 run. Thinking of just how many US fans alone were borne from the near-untouched Macek version of the Macross tale, it makes the head spin, even for one like myself who used to have a strictly set apointment time for this show. (4:30 Monday through Friday) Simply a coming of age tale set amidst a strange mixture of anime standards, the series made noisy the careers of many a notable artist, including Shoji Kawamori, Haruhiko Mikimoto, Kazutaka Miyatake, Toshihiro Hirano, Ichiro Itano, and is almost singlehandedly responsible for the emergence of the anime idol in Mari Iijima. Also possibly the first full-fledged “otaku’s anime”, the show is still an impressive achievement regardless of it’s limitations by today’s technical standards. Another cool thing, is that the show is featured on hulu in three incarnations (including the ADV dub from a few years back featuring a return English performance of Iijima as the Super Idol herself. How often does this happen?) for your convenience. And all headed by none other than stalwart first generation anime director Noboru Ishiguro, need we really say more?
Here in Sub or  recent Dub
Hell with that. Gimme my Battloids!

Esteban: Mysterious Cities Of Gold
Now this one isn’t necessarily a major name on my list, but it does have enough nostalgic quality to warrant a recommendation. So often, we hear little to nothing about the shows of DiC, and the French co-productions that came though this bunch long before the Sailor Moons & Power Rangers. (Yes, even 80s cartoon shows like Inspector Gadget, Heathcliff, & Dennis The Menace came from this unlikely alliance.) Airing in Japan at around the same time as Macross in Japan, and based on The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell, Esteban is the tale of a young lad in Barcelona who’s mysterious past is half revealed on the deathbed of the man long thought to be his father. Little Esteban is shocked to discover that not only he was adopted, but rescued from a sinking ship, and possibly linked to the mythical land of El Dorado, the golden city long held to be a South American legend. Almost immediately, he is en route to discovering more about his past by way of the man who had rescued him, a navigator named Mendoza who’s motives are anything but clear. Soon, Esteban experiences a most unusual set of adventures and makes some unique friends on the way, including a kidnapped Inca princess, and the last remnant of a vanished culture. The show, while far from great, does have in its arsenal some great story to spare. Not to mention a great deal of brain fuel for kids. Remembering this from its days here as part of Nick Jr. are filled with thoughts of summer for some reason, and it is hard to resist in areas, even if the music is a bit on the cloying side. And of course, the US version also comes with some quasi-historical cappers for each episode that border on laughable now, but is a fascinating new way of looking at how anime was utilized in the localization game oh so long ago. Oh, and the finale is pretty awesome. Seriously worth checking out.

“all i know is that i don’t know anything!”

Nobody’s Boy: Remi


Oh boy, I never imagined this one ever making it over here, but if there’s ever a massive coup for bringing a truly classic series here, this is it. This mother of a show (and I mean that in a multitude of ways) is a brutal reminder of the power of the anime artform, and its will to wring the emotions in the most amazing ways. It’s back to the late 70s , it was a time when anime knew how to lay it on thick, and this tale is of the kind that legends are made. So much of what we know and love (or hate) about tragic tales in the animated form is laid bare in this, also a tale of a young orphan in old France, who discovers that his parents aren’t who he thought they were, thus beginning a journey that is both heartbreaking, and strengthening. Directed by the usually action oriented Osamu Dezaki, and based upon the book Sans Famille by Hector Malot, this is the counterpoint to classics such as Candy Candy & Heidi. It is understandable that many may wish to dismiss a show like this today, but it must be said that after all the gimmickry & flash boils down in most shows, I’d be bold enough to say that anime hasn’t had this kind of go-for-broke emotional storytelling in many years. Remi is an often devastating show that delivers the emotional goods with enough aplomb, and hope for an entire year’s worth of shows. Dog Of Flanders has nothing on this beast.

Getting my Kleenex crate right now..
Lastly on my little list…I just had to save this for last.

Galaxy Express 999


It’s back to Leiji Matsumoto with his eternal companion piece to the Harlock saga with a much more personal tale of life, and the neverending series of lessons that can be learned merely by going out into the world (or in this case, across the expansive bounds of deep space!). The legend of young Tetsuro Hoshino, and his longing for a mechanized chassis takes a nasty turn when his poor mother is gunned down by game hunting Count Mecha. Burning with thoughts of revenge, his initial dreams of going machine are warped into plans of revenge, and his fateful meeting of mysterious beauty Maetel may either be the door toward achieving his deepest wishes, or destroy him in the process. Matsumoto’s legendary manga is another piece of longing for a Japan that had been experiencing great change in a mere few decades, and uses the visage of growing up in space as metaphor for this dramatically changing landscape. And the anime series directed by the often wonderful Rin Taro, plays like a most unique operatic/concert experience regarding the journey of life, and the price of our collective dreams. Later made into perhaps my personal favorite anime feature film of all time, GE999 may come off as more than a little overtly conservative to some, and intermittently insane to others, but it is a truly dreamlike & challenging journey where the hits often outweigh the misses, and deserves a firm place in history. Oh, and it also features Harlock, Ooyama & Emeraldas from time to time. ‘Nuff said.

Farewell Days Of Youth

And now for a little something extra:

At Your Own Peril:

Okay, now even though this is by many a classic series, to see Tomino’s claim to fame dubbed and edited in this manner still smarts to this day. But if you’re curious as to the Mobile Suit Gundam origins, and not ready to break out the wallet for some pricey imports, I suppose this is a nice, quick way to get acquainted.

That said, sweet mother of crap, Seriously guys. All this makes me think of is this.

Now on the slightly better side is the treatment that was given to the 85-86 sequel, which in many ways is almost better than the adored original! There’s not a great deal here that hasn’t been said before, but I do love the series in ways that the later shows just couldn’t hold a glow-stick to. Only one problem, the lack of proper opening animation and music. I can only surmise that the music licensing was a bit too steep, thus leaving us with this strange opening. So in the name of complet-ism  , here you go!

Join me next time, as we continue to explore some more favorites that are out there if we look hard enough. So much out there worth supporting. With hope, we can see an even more diverse library of titles for fans to sink their teeth into!

This belated post is dedicated to the memory of the one and only Yoshinobu Nishizaki. One way or another, you were an inspiration. We salute you.

Portrait of M&N: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Purchase Portrait of M and N Volume 1 (Portrait of M & N)
by Higuchi Tachibana
Published by Tokyopop. 208 pages. 2010 $9.34

I was slightly apprehensive when I was initially task to review Portrait of M&N, over at Anime.com, but with the opportunity of getting to read Volumes Two to Three arose. I was able to settle into reading this teenage romance with some more level of comfort. Also as far as what I read in Volume One and Two, there are other one shots from Tachibana. Volume Three is a complete full read of Portrait of M&N.

The cast of this teenage romance does fleshes out some more from the first volume, and there are quirks that can keep a reader going on. There are currently three books out in English from Tokyopop, and it is the half way point, since there is only six books. I really like the varying coloring book cover schemes of the series, so it is Yellow, Green and Blue for the current English releases.

Mitsuru and Natsuhiko are leads who both have secrets to keep from the world. They meet as transfer students, and do keep to themselves from the rest of the class, but as with many shoujo titles, somehow the female always seems to be the more disliked character in terms from other characters within the book.

For other similar reads, I previously mentioned Fruits Basket, and Kare Kano. But at this point of reading and thinking more about the series, Kamikaze Girls is also another title that should probably be read by readers of this series.

I don't want to be stuck in this scene!

Bread.. we must fight for the best one in Yakitate!! Japan

I may be late in the reading specific titles.. and if anyone ever pays attention to my tweets, I posted this photo one time. Yet I digress… I am pretty much fascinated, and furiously reading/devouring Yakitate!! Japan, as much as I can.

This gives a whole other meaning to learning some really random facts, that is not really useful in every day living, but can definitely break conversation on the topic of foodies, and probably make some people drool over the food descriptions.  In Yakitate!! Japan, that is the aspects of making bread.

Kazuma Azuma is on a quest to bake the best Ja-pan – that is bread, and to achieve this goal, he gets employed at Pantasia a well known bread making chain store.

With most of Shonen Jump series, there are clear story arcs defined. At this point of reading up to volume 17, I can point out three arcs.  Surprisingly this is a relatively short Shonen Jump series, only about 26 volumes. (There is a 69 episode anime series that came out from this manga.)

  1. Starting out at Pantasia
  2. Monaco Cup
  3. Quest for Pantasia food competition.

One thing that makes this a great read is the highly over exaggerated comedic reactions of the characters. At some points I am mentally cheering, and at other point, I feel very grossed out. There are some characters I love to hate..  *cough* Yukino *cough*.. *cough* Kirisaki *cough*

Back in the Monaco Cup arc, with the character of Pierrot, definitely reminded me of Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter. There are many interesting tidbits shared about the country of Japan, and with Pantasia Food competition, I notice a parody on SMAP…that is a group I love to pay attention to.

Other good read alikes for this book is obvious food manga like Oishinbo, for the many references that there is. Another is like Toriko, with the obvious food search, competition.

A thing to note is that from the recipes mentioned in this book, Erinf, and Reverse Theives also made experiments to see if recipe mentioned in the book, can actually be put up to the test of what was mentioned at the book.

Look at thoses hands go...

“Yamato” Anime Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki Passes Away While on a Ship Called “Yamato”

The news from ANN:

The Coast Guard at the Ogasawara Islands report that Space Battleship Yamato producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki passed away due to a fall from a boat at around 12:45 p.m. on Sunday. He was 75.

Nishizaki was aboard the 485-ton research steamboat Yamato, which was anchored in Futami Harbor’s Ogiura area at the Chichi-jima island in the Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands). After the Yamato sent out a distress call, the Coast Guard ship Southern Cross brought Nishizaki into its onboard hospital about 15 minutes later. He was pronounced dead about two hours and 15 minutes after the fall.

Mike’s comment: I admit when I first saw the original headline “Yamato Anime Producer Passes Away,” I thought it was Leiji Matsumoto, that old nationalist and the original creator of Space Battleship Yamato, who had died. Apparently Nishizaki and Matsumoto had a falling out and even legal troubles in the past. He has been trying to continue the franchise in one way or another since then, over and against the objections of Matsumoto. He also has a bit of a colorful history of his own, having bankrupted a company and jailed twice on drug and firearms charges. This is no ordinary anime creator or moneyman producer! He could have been the head of a hip hop record label or something.

So if there is any better way to go for the producer of Space Battleship Yamato, I can’t think of one: doing what you love on a research ship named after a show you produced named after a historical battleship. It’s almost like a microcosm of Japan’s development in the past 70 years.

RIP, Nishizaki-san.

Iron man 05 still rock ‘n’ rule!

HOLY SHIT A SPACE DIVE

People, can anyone tell me why the super simple plots are working like a charm???

Oh and

HE DID A SPACE DIVE?????!!!!!

Man, forget skydive, forget bumgee jumping, forget base jumping, forget ___________ (you young folks can fill in the blank). Forget all that, he does a SPACE DIVE at the end of the episode and goes back to Earth??? Fuck, it sounds stupid on paper but the idea is so fucking cool!

All right, I have a theory why the show works so well.

It’s…THE MUSIC,

OK fine, I said before, the music was forgetable. Well you know what? Maybe I missed the point all together.

A great soundtrack does not distract. It blends and ampifies the show. It’s like the props people, the cameramen and for modern movies, CG people, in a great movie. Most people never even bother to think about these behind the scenes folks.

But without them, do you think your favorite movies would be that good? Please.

Simple, simple and simple plots with a superhero that has enough limits to make any anime veteran laugh. Ugly attachments and a US-centric design that should turn any anime veteran off.

Yet it works like a charm on this anime veteran.

Why?

You know, great designs, great concepts and great shows can be very simple underneath.

When all that works out, it’s a masterpiece. I’m a believer of simplicity and I AM BUYING IT.

You should too.

Fall 2010 Roundup, Pt 1: Oreimo, Star Driver, Bakuman

This has actually been a pretty decent season for anime so far, at least with shows that are interesting (meaning: intriguing enough at least to make me pay attention) to watch. Nevertheless, most of the shows also are far from perfect despite being enjoyable. Let’s take a look at six shows so far…

Continue reading Fall 2010 Roundup, Pt 1: Oreimo, Star Driver, Bakuman