May’n: An Exclusive Interview

We’re proud to present an exclusive interview by email with Japanese pop-star May’n! It’s a short but sweet look into her current anime, the process of recording, and what kind of music she likes. Enjoy!

Anime Diet: What kind of impression did the American fans at AX 2010 make on you, and how do they compare to Japanese fans?

May’n: I was really glad that they expressed their emotions so directly, even during the songs. Live shows are always unpredictable, but I heard lots of “Woooow!!” and “Kyaaaa” when I sang in a different way from the CD. This doesn’t really happen in Japan, so I got excited!

Anime Diet: How do you think you have evolved musically since you began singing for “Macross Frontier”?

May’n: The number one thing that’s changed is my ability to use a high-tone voice. Yoko Kanno brought out more and more of the range that I thought was impossible for me.

Anime Diet: Is there any style of music that you’d like to try in the future?

May’n: I’m thinking a lot about the rock genre. I think it’s the genre where my style, my voice quality will have an advantage. I want to continue to sing rock, but I want to search for “May’n’s Rock” where I can include some R&B and soul, too.

Anime Diet: You have been involved in songs for many anime series. What anime are you watching now, and what are some of your favorites?

May’n: Recently I watched Guilty Crown. I loved its impressive imagery. And the music by Supercell was “saikou!” I became a big fan of Accel World, for which I sing the new OP starting in April. It has excitement and heartbreak, too. It’s going to be the most awesome anime for sure!!

Anime Diet: What kind of music are you listening to now?

May’n: I listen to many genres: Idol songs, R&B, Rock, etc. My recent favorites are Jason Derulo, David Guetta, and Livetune!

Anime Diet: Which non-Japanese musicians have inspired or influenced you?

May’n: I look up to Madonna and Janet Jackson. Their style is always perfect and their performances are really wonderful. I got to see Madonna’s Japan concert once. She was really a true entertainer.

Anime Diet: Was the new album, “HEAT,” composed with an international audience in mind? What aspects of the album do you think might appeal to a non-Japanese audience?

May’n: It’s filled with the heat I received from all of the fans in Japan & overseas at my previous lives. There’s lots of variety, like rock, dance, and ballads, too.  Please listen to it! I’m sure you’ll want to come to the live shows!! (*laughs)

Anime Diet: What were the most challenging and the most fulfilling moments during the making of “HEAT”?

May’n: The challenge was health management, because the schedule was tight. But I kept my throat strong so that I could sing every day. As a result, I was able to give my best during the whole recording process. I felt really good as I finished each track, so I’m really proud of the album. I think it’s my best one yet.


For more May’n coverage, check out:

Our review of her new album, Heat:

Our previous video interview with her at AX 2010:

Concert footage from her concert at AX 2010:

L’Arc-en-Ciel at Madison Square Garden

Word of mouth, contests, features in local newspapers, and giant billboards: nothing was spared in talking about L’Arc-en-Ciel‘s only North American stop on their 2012 World Tour Concert. L’Arc-en-Ciel is the first Japanese group to headline at the world-renowned Madison Square Garden. Last year when the concert was announced, concert organizers moved it to a bigger stage that seated about 19-20,000 people to accommodate fans.

My trip to the concert began one stop after 34th Street, around 42nd Street and Times Square. I wanted to take pictures of their billboard ads. Then it was a day of finding and photographing L’Arc’s next electronic ad, like a scavenger hunt.

Official concert merchandise sales were scheduled to begin around 4pm. There was already a line, with fans waiting since 12pm, so I joined the line. Many were Asian fans, but I also saw people from Brazil and Canada traveling here for this concert. While waiting with friends, The Paper also arrived: he too had traveled into New York City specifically for the concert. Sales began a little before 4pm, and fans were allowed in groups of 20—though that still didn’t prevent the merchandise area from being mobbed.

I ended up fighting/waiting/nudging/streaming my way to the booths twice. I got a glow stick for myself, a World Concert shirt, and their newest album Butterfly for The Paper. Glow sticks were one of the first items to be sold out, though convention merchandise was still being sold throughout the concert locations before and after the show.

This was an assigned seat concert, so the people I knew were scattered around the arena. I found myself around stage left for this concert. Many fans were on stage right, and those I saw in the center definitely jumped or danced to the music as Laruku performed. The band members spoke mainly in English with the audience.

Hyde was in fine form, singing and moving. He gave a short speech about being excited for having the opportunity to perform at Madison Square Garden. It had taken them 20 years, but they made it! Dressed in black, with cornrows, he changed outfits about two more times during the concert. Ken read from a paper, where he spoke about his experience visiting the American Museum of Natural History. He wanted to visit it, since it was where Ben Stiller’s movie “Night at the Museum” took place. He also announced getting a souvenir in the form of a “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed Monopoly set, which he gave to Yukihiro, along with a New York City cup, that Yukihiro displayed momentarily at his drum set. Tetsuya in particular gave plenty of sexy comments in the gifts he threw. He asked if crowds wanted to eat his banana or lick his lollipop. He also sprayed water to audience from a banana-shaped water gun toward the end.

It seemed as though the concert happened way too fast. For the most part, I was utterly in shock watching L’Arc-en-Ciel performing live definitely feeling swept up by the music even as I tried to concentrate enough to take pictures. They sang songs from their new album, but with familiar songs like “Fate,” “Stay Away,” and “Revelation,” on the set, I know they sang songs that resonated with concertgoers and represented their long track record of success.

I know The Paper enjoyed the concert a lot. I spoke with him afterwards, and he mentioned not being able to walk, since he jumped up and down the entire concert. At points, I marveled at the pyrotechnics on the stage, lost my hearing slightly, had a headache from hearing screams, and screaming myself. I want to relive this concert over and over! (I sincerely hope there’s a DVD of their World Concert.)

Setlist

いばらの涙 (Ibara No Namida)
Chase (English ver.)
Good Luck My Way
Honey
Drink It Down
Revelation
叙情詩 (Jojoushi)
X X X (English ver.)
Fate
Forbidden lover
My Heart Draws A Dream
Caress of Venus
Driver’s High
Stay Away
Ready Steady Go
~Encore~
あなた (Anata)
Winter Fall
Blurry Eyes
虹 (Niji)

Post Concert

While walking again past Times Square, where the L’Arc billboard was supposed to be, my friends and I came across the advertising company taking down the poster. In a few minutes of fan frenzy, fans who also were there took photos with the fallen poster. The Paper was one of them, so we are going to have images of that later.

A friend of mine also caught a banana Testuya threw into the crowd. Since there was no way to preserve it for long, she had to eat it. As my friends and I took lots of photos, she said it was a very strange, but tasty experience. Since the only thing that she could preserve was the sticker, it was an incredible moment.

With this show, L’Arc-en-Ciel finished their North American leg of the concert, but they return next week in London to kick off their European tour.

Be sure to check out Anime Diet’s Flickr for more photographs that I took from the concert.

Chihayafuru 24 – Nobody Wishes to See the Beautiful Cherry Blossoms

I am still resolving my thoughts. Not only because this is a rather interesting episode but also due to the restraints placed upon my writing in order to not spoil anything.

But before we get to the juicy part, please allow me a quick discourse on the taste of defeat. It seems unfair. It is unfair. I am confident that many readers have competed or still compete in some fashion. The runner up didn’t lose because s/he didn’t work any harder. There’s something intrinsic about talent that no amount of work could match. How does one reconcile that? It could make the most fierce competitor boil with anger and cry with despair. Yet I feel this is an integral part of the human condition. Like death, taxes and Gundam, defeat is inevitable at some point. To never experience defeat is to not have lived?

Change is another human experience. One of the characters undergoes a dramatic change. The motive of which remains ambiguous and perplexing. While the change reinforces an aspect of the character established previously, the significance is lost given the insignificance of such a minor detail. Then, before we can decipher the confusion, the character confounds us by revealing his/her ignorance of the change. (To be crystal clear, said change cannot be missed.) If this is a demonstration to add depth to the character, it is extreme and unbelievable even by Galaxy Angels’ standards. Not to mention we’re treated to flashbacks of the character in question.

The change reminds me of a recurring theme early in the show when Chihaya had to fight her sister for their parent’s attention. To elaborate further may risk spoilers so just go watch it and let me know what you think!

Saraba, Dear Kantoku : Noboru Ishiguro (1938-2012)

First thing yesterday morning, I caught wind of news concerning one of the anime medium’s greatest pioneers, but could really say nothing of it. Even though my sources knew something significant was likely taking place, a gag order was in place, leaving me unable to know for certain about the facts. Twitter in Japan was apparently first as expected, but as my day job renders me unable to keep abreast of any  internet updates, I had to come home only to wait a little longer. And it wasn’t until this morning that the fact was released to the English speaking world: Noboru Ishiguro had indeed passed on, leaving behind a legacy that many current anime fans might not be as familiar with, but couldn’t possibly exist without. And as I continued to think about his many works, it suddenly occurred to me just how much more important his passion and vision has been to me regarding my love for Japanese cartoons. Even now, to properly encapsulate it escapes me.

Coming from the original guard of animators who grew up making this up as they went, Ishiguro remains one of the great stalwarts whose name keeps getting lost amidst so many. Having worked on so many important titles throughout five decades, and to have had a hand in the discovering of so many talents, and the formation of legendary studios such as Artland, this is the legacy of an individual poised to chart the historical narrative with the kind of strong heart, and sense of people that any artform would be grateful to have as their respected elder. And also being one of the friendliest American convention guests imaginable, he also remains the very model of an anime emissary. While many continue to mention names such as Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Dezaki, Gisaburo Sugii, Rin Taro, and others, it is Ishiguro who remains primarily burned into my heart and mind.

Like so many, my first impressions of his work came at a very early age when I first watched Star Blazers (aka Space Battleship Yamato). And thinking about it now, my early love for movies of grand scope and emotion (likely brought upon by the films of Steven Spielberg, John Ford, and others) had already prepped me for a certain understanding of large scale storytelling. And for a television series, Yamato had indeed a style (despite obvious limitations) that somehow seemed ready to take on the largest narrative palettes. It was sweeping, exciting, and ultimately melancholy in ways that no show had ever made me feel.

So in the years following, and after seeing a decent amount of other anime shows directed by others from the 1970s, it seemed like something of a bizarre return home when I first watched Superdimensional Fortress Macross. Even though it seemed to have a far more fan-centric vibe, and was unabashedly silly, there was something about its visual and emotional drive that grabbed me in a way that no American movie or show had yet to achieve. Taking what was ostensibly a ludicrous paean to the newborn and still forming concept of the grown anime fan, and granting it the same manner of gravity that worked for Yamato was at least for me, a swing and a home run.

Whether it be through Macross, Yamato, Orguss, Atomu (1980), or most importantly, the sprawling and mega-ambitious Legend Of The Galactic Heroes series, it is hard to imagine these works in the hands of anyone else in the business. His storytelling technique (again, largely based on being economic) was often propelled by a need to frame in a scope ready to compete with Hollywood spectacles. So much of his imagery is so signature in that it fully understands the limits of the frame, as well as where an audience is paying attention. And as a consummate collaborator, there was always room for up and coming animators to strut their stuff during the booming days of anime. The most obvious example is within virtually every eye-popping  moment in Macross 1984: Do You Remember Love?, where the cel work borders on obsessive. As I write this up, my copy playing in front of me, this remains the sheer essence of what the medium can do when allowed unusually high resources, and yet a high amount of directorial common sense. There is a controlled beauty to both this film and many scenes in LoGH that continue to be intensely high watermarks, and I still envy people their first time seeing these.

Which brings me to what has really been burning within me to say as a contemporary version of an anime blogger-type. Among the biggest parts of the Ishiguro legacy that remains as the kind of thing that spoils one for life, is his often unerring will to bring a certain classy gravitas to what could so easily be disposable product. One of the biggest challenges any grand scale so-called “epic” tales face, is a need for the audience to buy into the characters residing in their often massive fantasy worlds. Balancing the grand with the personal is and will always remain a filmmaker’s greatest challenge, and Ishiguro somehow always sold it to me. Again, thinking back to Yamato, Macross, and even the first Megazone 23 film, the weight holding these characters together is always palpable, regardless of the often silly things occurring around them. By building the characters visually with expressions and even human-like gesturing during long shots, we are allowed in just enough to accept what is happening to them. Even when his gender gap moments left much to be desired in his early works, they remain as important cultural markers. In his occasional testimonials during the heyday of Animerica Magazine, he would often reminisce about his early days of teaching himself how to animate by spending time in a park, and just watching people go by. Being a musician, his films often bore a strong power and resonance to the way music works. In Macross 1984, the finale is not unlike a segment in Disney’s Fantasia; it is absolute music. Absolute animation. There is a definitively human touch to his films, and I do not say this lightly. By anime standards, it is as real and surreal as it possibly gets.

So when I think of those whose lives have been affected by his works, as well as the friends he has made around the world, it’s perhaps safe to say that Ishiguro’s legacy is safe within so many of us. I can only hope to continue to expose more friends and others to his works, as well as continue to celebrate an enduing love of a mythology he applied himself to with workmanlike craftsmanship, and romantic storytelling nearly 40 years ago.(and for the most part, redefined an entire industry trajectory). He was a tireless professional, a good husband, and a sweet presence at conventions all over. There are never enough words, so for now, I will only say this,

石黒先生本当にありがとうございます。。。

Review: May’n, “Heat”

Heat
May’n
Victor Entertainment, 2012

J-pop singer May’n, best known in the anime/manga community for being the singing voice of Macross Frontier‘s Sheryl Nome, releases her newest album “Heat” today in Japan. While two of the numbers on the disc are anime OP/EDs, and one from a new Kamen Rider drama, the other nine songs on the album are original tracks written by a bevy of lyricists and composers—including May’n herself, who wrote music and lyrics to two tracks. The songs range in genres from mid-tempo rock, piano-driven ballad, and chirpy dance music, with the one constant being May’n’s forceful melisma-laced voice on every track.

May’n’s voice in large part will determine whether one enjoys the album. At its best, it carries a sense of urgency and power that brought songs like “Don’t Be Late” and this new album’s Phi Brain OP “Brain Driver” and “Heat of the Moment” to life. It is particularly well-suited for driving dance numbers like the Aria: The Scarlet Ammo OP, “Scarlet Ballet,” or the rock-oriented original track “Get Tough.” It is less effective on songs that require some delicacy, or at least a pulling back of her melisma. She tries her best in the more ballad or mid-tempo tracks like “Kagami” and “Koi,” and partly succeeds in controlling it there, but other songs like her own “We Are” feel a bit oversung.

As for the music, while there is a variety of genres on display in “Heat,” most of them fall in territory and styles familiar to J-pop fans. Perhaps not coincidentally, the songs which are OPs and EDs feature the most creative arrangements: “Scarlet Ballet” with its pseudo-classical keyboard riff, “Brain Driver’s” fast rock and melody that befits the strange show it opens. Out of the original tracks, perhaps “Heat of the Moment” and “Kagami” have the catchiest riffs and most balanced arrangements (the former, after all, was chosen to be the lead PV). The other tracks seem more generic and conventional, the album’s second half in particular faltering before picking up again with the ballad “Koi.”

The album closes with perhaps the most unusual song in the collection, Shiro Sagisu‘s (Evangelion, Kare Kano) “Jewels.” Sagisu’s trademark use of strings fills in a bombastic, power chord heavy epic abounding with guitar fills and solos. May’n’s singing style might seem to fit such an arrangement, but the 6.5 minute track begins to wander by the song’s second half. This is not a style of music, however, that is typically broached in J-pop and while imperfect it widens the musical breadth of an otherwise fairly conventional album.

Like many pop albums, “Heat” is a mixed bag with both standout numbers and filler tracks. It necessarily lacks the singular musical vision and consistency that, say, a soundtrack by Yoko Kanno would have, but that is an unfair comparison. Unlike Maaya Sakamoto in her early career, May’n has never been simply beholden to a single composer’s vision, and with the variety of musical styles and self-written compositions, she is trying to forge her own musical direction. Whether she has found it yet remains to be seen, but there are enough strong tracks to remind listeners of her talents as a singer and performer.


See our previous May’n coverage:

Press Junket Interview, Anime Expo 2010:

Concert Excerpt, Anime Expo 2010 (M. LaMoe’s review here):

Wondercon 2012: Where’s the Pocky?

Please :3

Wondercon; for everyone who is a fan of everything. If you enjoy anime, the only thing you really get to experience while at the con is watching anime. The theater rooms are non-stop (during con hours), showcasing the first episode of some great series. That’s wonderful! Except I’m able to watch anime on my own, away from a convention, any time.

Thanks to Wondercon, I've found a new cooking based anime to obsess over: Muteki Kanban Musume :D

(Vampire Knight, Galaxy Angels, Dirty Pair, Aira, The World God Only Knows, just to name a few from Wondercon’s vast anime scehdule).

I don’t come to cons to watch anime with a group of people. I’m glad for the viewing rooms as I enjoy the quick jaunts to breathe for a moment away from the hundreds of Black Cat cosplayers crowding the convention halls, undoubtedly thrilled that Marv Wolfman is an honored guest over the weekend. (I’m excited too! Albeit not being directly a Japanese cultural phenom; there is no denying the influence Wolfman’s body of work is on a global scale.)

There’s some trouble finding the otaku fandom at Wondercon. There are some who enjoy anime, a few who may be obsessed though if there are they must hiding in the viewing rooms. I do beg of you; please quickly exit and come play with me! I’ll be the lost looking weeaboo trying to find anyone in cosplay or industry representative I recognize from my personal favorite fandom: Anime.

This Would Make My Con

I did have a lovely chat with a developer, Jason, from Martin Hash’s Animation Master concerning how Hash’s software is or could be used by those within the anime and manga field to streamline the production of image heavy animations. If nothing else, the program looks fun and yes, a lot can be done with it for those on the production front, but Jason’s quip about the difference between Anime Expo and Wondercon was far more interesting to me: “people at Wondercon seem to shower a lot more.”

Until I find some anime cosplay gals for the readers of Anime Diet to ogle or someone to interview that I’m able to relate to J-culture (don’t turn your nose up yet, there are a few scheduled events that look promising!) please enjoy these viking/barbarians/creatures who attacked me so kindly in the halls of the con:


PoyoPoyo: A Feline Lover Killer

This series is called PoyoPoyo, but I can’t help but keep on calling it Maru PoyoPoyo. “Maru” is Japanese for “round”…and that is what Poyo the cat is like. On first glance, he looks like a pillow or a delightful challenging toy to get in a UFO Catcher.

Why do I call this series a “feline lover killer”? Because if I were an anime character…I would either be a puddle of goo on the floor, or my eyes are going to be framed with hearts….I love cats! In every episode I watched of this series so far, I have melted..

Crunchyroll has been streaming this series during the Winter season, and every episode is about three minutes. It’s quite similar to Chi’s Sweet Home in talking about the daily life of a cat, though different in how it is about an adult cat that becomes adopted by a family but then going on his maru way.

Poyo’s best friend is Kuro from next door. They are both male cats, but that doesn’t stop Poyo from protecting Kuro. Since Kuro has grown, and is not neutered, there proves to be some interesting guy on guy scenarios.

So far my favorite episodes at this point have been episodes 3, 6, 9. All in one shape or form mention either Kuro or an episode where Poyo was the surrogate mother to a litter of kittens. At this point there are only 10 episodes out on CR, and as a viewer.. I anxiously await for more!

Bridging The Gap: Anticipation 2012

Whoa. 2012 is has been off to a brisk start, and Spring seems to already be in the air. And even though the year has started off without a surprise breakout a la Madoka, one cannot help but feel like some greatness in the form of old favorites, the long awaited return of a genre-bending master, and more seem to be on the horizon. And not merely in regards to shows and films (although there are a few worth making noise about here), but in ventures that could very well change the anime market landscape for the better. To be completely honest, it has been a truly long time since someone like me has felt any real modicum of excitement about the coming months.

So let’s give a few moments to consider these potentially mark-making projects, and what they could possibly offer.


1. Uchu Senkan Yamato 2199

You guys have no idea how thrilled I am for this massive revival project. Far better than any of the previous movie attempts to resurrect Nishizaki/Matsumoto’s science fiction allegory classic, this big budget retelling of the Voyage To Iscandar has an equally large pedigree of talent and familiarity. It’s a project so large in ambition, the first 50 minutes of the series is to be premiered in a few weeks in select theatres in Japan on April 7th. Sporting modern animation, featuring some unique takes on all-time favorite characters via Nobuteru Yuuki (Escaflowne, Harlock Saga, X/1999,etc), and impressively updated mechanical works by way of Makoto Kobayashi (Super Atragon, Last Exile, Steamboy). For seiyuu fans, seeing Daisuke Ono cast as Susumu Kodai was definitely an eyebrow raiser. And most standout is the appointing of former mecha-design icon, Yutaka Izibuchi (Patlabor).

This is perhaps one of the more standout decisions for me as I remain in that cult of folks who happened to deeply enjoy his directorial work on RahXephon, so when considering such a huge heritage inheritance, this in many ways feels very appropriate. And even if the rest of the series won’t be seeing TV screens until next year sometime, there is no shortage of high hopes for what could very well be a stellar reinterpretation of one of anime’s greatest sagas. Among the recently developing news regarding the project continues to come in, noted fans like Tim (www.starblazers.com) Eldred , and August Ragone have been doing a bang-up job keeping English speaking fans up-to-date. Most recently through the pipeline is an announcement that the upcoming Blu-ray release of the first two episodes will be coming complete with English subs!

Yamato remains to many as one of the medium’s most heralded mythologies, and it looks like no expense will be spared in the months to come—all in hopes of bringing such a universal story to an entirely new audience while being deeply reverent to fans of the past.


2. Sakamichi No Apollon

A long injustice seems primed to come to an end. Despite a few scattered projects where his hand could only be seen in select areas (Star Driver, Michiko To Hatchin), director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) returns with a secret weapon for this period series centering on young jazz lovers during the 1960s.

There isn’t a whole lot to report regarding this at the moment, but mere words cannot express just how long the medium has felt something wholly missing. And while the criminally underseen Hatchin contained a great deal of Watanabe’s signature touch, there simply hasn’t been much of a truly international flavor to anime in a while. Budget concerns from studios aside, a void has certainly been there without Watanabe’s knowing, confident vibe permeating through a television work. Not to mention that his last big series, Samurai Champloo, despite its deserved place in the pantheon of wildly original pieces of “ought” anime shows, was also missing an element that made Bebop such an iconic achievement: Yoko Kanno. The very idea that Kanno is hard at work complimenting the aural space of Apollon is reason enough to celebrate. But to consider that they haven’t worked on a major project since Cowboy Bebop: Knocking On Heaven’s Door (2001), is just plain perplexing as their styles feel synergistic to a fault (even going back to their mutual work on the OVA favorite, Macross Plus), and considering the source material in Yuki Kodama’s manga. It’s very possible that we’ll be witnessing something of a mutual labor of love, which can translate into some truly unique, personal work.


3.) Feature Films

There’s also feature films waiting in the wings, such as the latest from Mamoru Hosoda, as well as the return of a massive revival which seems primed to delve into uncharted territory.

Well, the early teaser pretty much confirms it; Hosoda is ready to assume the populist throne from Miyazaki with his latest movie effort, The Wolf Children Ame And Yuki, a lushly animated tale that takes place largely in the countryside, centering on a single-parent family with a pair of wolf-children. It’s really hard to say where it will be going, but there is definitely a Tonari No Totoro vibe going on here, which is interesting. Being almost completely bereft of technological imagery does give off a feeling of newness to Hosoda’s usual repertoire, so it can go either way quite easily.

And we don’t really have to spend too much time left speculating what Studio Khara has in store for Evangelion fans when the third Rebuild film, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo comes this Fall. And in lieu of very real disaster, it will be truly fascinating to see where this rendition of the mecha classic will go. Having pretty much obliterated the original story with the finale of 2.0, we(and the creators) will now be in completely virgin territory which can only remind one like me of the days between episodes of the original series, which seemed like a painful eternity. So, magnify that by a couple of years…I’ll wait..


Lastly-

Is the stunning, hint-laden bombshell that was shared over at ANNCast last week. It was dropped by anime simulcast translator & subtitler Sam Pinansky, who also shared quite a bit regarding the process of keeping up to speed with bringing anime to streaming screens. But what he could only talk around at the moment hints at a future of not only anime, but media in general that could very well take a large, positive leap for a more democratized media sphere.

For the whole thing, click me!

For those looking for the jist? (Skip to 31:00 minute mark!)

Mr. Pinansky is hard at work preparing for an ambitious undertaking that is happening via Yomiuri and several other media entities. This group of companies are looking to take a giant step forward by creating a one-stop streaming/Kickstarter business for not only recent, but classic anime, as well as television shows and movies! Pretty much open to redefining what we know as the classic distribution model, fans from all over will be allowed to put their money where their mouths are, even going so far as to allowing more independent artists and personalities to be supported for potential projects. And as mentioned at the beginning, a streaming home for many an older series that had yet to ever see the light of day in subtitled form. A hybrid site akin to Youtube and Kickstarter sounds like an idea too ambitious to be true, but it seems ready to roll out come late summer/early fall.

Think of it: all content, all directly supported, and zero middle-entity. This is the kind of thing that many have long feared that the Japanese networks and studios were completely unwilling to venture into, and it suddenly seems near time when the other shoe finally up and drops. If this risky gamble works, it could help rewrite the media market narrative, and that is simply thrilling.

So that’s what I’m most eager for this year thus far. How about you? Anything on the path in the anime/manga worlds that has you owned for the year?

Chihayafuru 23: The Night is Nearly Past

By other members, she's really referring to me.

Dearest Chihaya,

This is a love letter. Nothing screams desperation like a love letter but the muscle between my lungs has taken over me. I lack the poetic prowess of a fraction of a single karuta card but please understand that I am ready to risk anything and give everything for your love.

I will take you out on spectacular dates. For one, I will gladly go shopping with you. We will peruse the local dollar store where unbelievable bargains like imitation Wrigley chewing gum and rubber plungers made in China sit in adjacent aisles. For another, we will consume the finest foods dining at the world’s most popular restaurant. You know we’re getting the best in class when they call their hamburger Royale with cheese in France.

I will seduce you with far better lines.

Then there are the romantic dates that you will fondly recall to our grand kids. We will picnic on the soft grass partaking in the sandwiches you made the night before while enjoying the magnificent view of the polluted river because I can’t afford admission to the state park. On another occasion, I will cheer you on as you are scantily clad and covered in peanut butter wrestling in a kiddy pool so we may have free drinks that night.

Besides lovely memories, I vow to shower you with material things that you will treasure forever. The week after your birthday, I will present you with the VHS boxset of the first season of Chihayafuru that the salesman promised wasn’t a bootleg. On our one year anniversary, you can have the heartfelt hand made sweater that you knitted for me last Christmas. I will insist that it suits you more until next winter when we agree that it will only fit me.

Do I need to continue? Can Arata or Taichi promise you all of the above? Any of the above?? Oh, like I assured you a million times before, it doesn’t always hurt when I pee. Just sometimes.

Let’s get a tattoo tomorrow,
The Paper

I am...uh... what he said.

 

Chihayafuru 22: Just As My Beauty Has Faded


This. Forever this. Never give up probably ranks highest on the list of trite expressions. Except it’s not trite. Not when it’s timelessly true. I, for one, heartily welcome the newest cast member. While she might lack the conventional beauty of Chihaya or the cuteness of Ririka, Yumin is just as beautiful. Where do I begin?

She is accomplished. She’s a former Queen. She’s achieved her dream where many have failed. Moreover, she reached that pedestal by hard work. Potential is sexy, very sexy in fact but the dedication necessary to labor for years towards victory is just as attractive.

She is flawed. The viewer is given the impression that her tenacity in arguing every close call is distasteful at best and borderline cheating at worst. Yet, it demonstrates that she has a moral compass of her own. She isn’t afraid of what others may think. She plays “[her] own karuta”.

She is mature. She harbors jealous and and sour thoughts regarding her age and appearance relative to others. It’s a gender normative action but she rises above it. She displayed great discipline by practicing to reach her current level of play. She exercises great discipline during matches to gain the mental edge. She is intensely emotional but controls it with immense finesse.

I am as happy as the next guy/gal at the abundance of ample, supple, ni… bosoms prevalent in anime. But it’s incredible refreshing to witness emphasis on a female character not pertaining to the aforementioned characteristics. It reminds me of Studio Ghibli’s passion in celebrating the female experience. We have enough male pilots and magical schoolgirls. Let me be the first to hope that the popularity of Chihaya will encourage similar animes to follow.