Category Archives: Random

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 ( 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..


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?

Day of Rabbu or not… Recorder to Randoseru

Clearly half of the world has already celebrated this commercial holiday already, but here on the East Coast it is still a couple of hours away. On this day before Valentine’s day, I spent a couple of minutes catching up on Crunchyroll streaming Recorder to Randoseru. It is so short that watching this three minute short anime is not really a hardship. More like a mental “sweatdrop” and “huh” expression for the scenario improbability.

Recorder to Randoseru is about two siblings, with the brother being quite tall to the point of being mistaken and arrested for being a molester in spite of his age as ten years old with. Quite similar to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button right? I doubt the anime is going to talk about reason for why Atsushi is the age he is, so take caution to watch this show with a grain of salt. Otherwise you’ll probably act like Moriyama-sensei and run screaming for the hills.

So episode six of RとR has the cast celebrating Valentine’s day. For clarification to those not in the know, in Japan the girls gives chocolate to guys on Valentine’s Day. Then a month later, the guys would give the girls a white gift. Personally I always never really make it on time for homemade choco-giving… so I always throw my friends store brought choco. However on the shopping advice of my mom and just a quick re-look at Dancing Queen’s blog from last year. This year I am going to have a goal of definitely rolling up my sleeves to make giri- and tomo- choco for my friends…

Hopefully it won’t turn out like this..

Recorder to Randoseru

Regarding The Ranma 1/2 Live Action Fluff

Can It Be True?

A live action Ranma 1/2 dorama series? Well this is out of the blue. Upon receiving scant, somewhat puzzling news from a respected source, it looks like we may be amidst something of a live-action anime renaissance that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. And since the information at hand has merely been shared via this blog, the gears have been turning via fellow writers and fans, musing the expected responses; Where? And more importantly; Why? And since the aforementioned post offers no links to an official site, or any hint of a teaser video anywhere. All we have here is a cast & crew roster, and a premiere date & time: July 10th, and starting at 10pm. Again, all one can do at the moment is to speculate which is always rife with obvious problems.

For those playing the home game, the Rumiko Takahashi martial arts genderwarp comedy Ranma Nibun No Ichi has long been regarded as one of the more iconic anime/manga creations of the last twenty odd years, and has garnered one of the most passionate and enduring international fanbases any show has experienced. The tale of woe that befalls young, hotheaded martial arts student, Ranma Saotome, and the family he is planned to be married into by a conniving, lazy father has been something that a near-entire generation of anime lovers have long embraced, made references to, and at times reviled for its wacky cast of colorful characters, bizarre gimmickry, and martial arts silliness. It’s kind of difficult to imagine the “harem anime” without it, not to mention other favorites including the Fruits Basket manga/series. Mixing a romantic comedy with water-based gender/species-switching hijinks gene grafted with a Shaw Bros. movie was something of a knockout melange that connected, and helped create the anime fandom explode in the west come the early to mid 90s. Translated into a multitude of languages (including Spanish, where yours truly caught a remainder of the show during those days), the series and its characters have retained something of a timeless quality that continues to gather new fans.

Now again, as one not to normally speculate, perhaps it might be good to just express a mixture of openness and worry to the prospect. As much as this sounds infinitely more interesting than say, an American rendition of AKIRA, one cannot help but express concern for this particular project as a live-action concept. Say that for a moment, that this is a possibility; that the approach utilized by previous live-action dorama could be implemented (a good example is 2003-04’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon), would it be optimal for a series that became known later for it’s visual bombast & exaggerated action? Or would it become something far more character-based, which would be fine provided the universe Takahashi created was brought down to Earth just a smidge. One could argue that a large part of the original’s success was the world in which the Ranma characters lived in, and their interactions based on such a setting. Also worth bringing up is the live Maison Ikkoku that was created as a vehicle for model-actress Misaki Ito. And this is where worry for yours truly comes in. If the object of this particular game is merely for co-opted natsukashii purposes, it may end up becoming little more than a mourning for a day long gone, and not so much a celebration of the series’ enduring legacy.

Can a “good” Ranma 1/2 project be borne out of such a notion, even if this is little more than a rumor? One would like to believe so. Recently, we’ve seen a live action love comedy with bent toward the hyperbolically surreal in theaters last summer, but again- this was with a budget & talent able to do merely one film with enough energy and style to actually pull it off. And since that film didn’t do ideal business, it is feeling less and less probable that Japanese producers would even consider this possbility.



The Archetype Factor: Kimagure Orange Road

Happy to be back on the air in some capacity, and felt it right to go ahead and address a defense that has appeared more than once via Twitter. Now this social media platform, as much as I have loved how it has become a groundbreaking means of blurring lines between users from the most influential celebrity to the most isolated blogger, it does contain a blind spot within its character limit. The big stumbling block of it is that context can get lost in between posted statements, retweets, and so on. And one that caught my eye this week was one regarding the often incessant derision from many fans regarding the almost endless use of character archetypes, particularly in current anime. (I myself can count as one of these many voices decrying the use of this practice) And the oft used Devils Advocate statement states that the use of said character types is a practice common to even literature, and has been so for ages, so why is it a problem?

A fair statement, however, being that this is Twitter we are talking about here, such a complex subject should not be highlighted without acknowledging something even more obvious…That archetypes function as templates, not as a means to an end. I believe I brought this disconnect up recently, and i will do my part to illustrate what makes certain characters more memorable than others. And yes, this is clearly a subjective viewpoint I’m coming from here, but hopefully this will help visualize what some anime fans are trying to say when they see stock types rule each oncoming season.

For this experiment, I will go ahead and break out an older series that helped establish one of anime’s most tired premises, the high school love comedy/drama.

The Control: Kimagure Orange Road

Now before proceeding, I must admit to a little bias at the offset. And I do acknowledge many a blogger/ fan who considers this show to be the beginning of a sort of downhill trend of character idolization, and even the birthplace of many one-dimensional romantic/slice-of-life works. The animated version of Izumi Matsumoto’s coming of age love triangle tale with a dash of psionics has its issues, but it also does offer much in the way of what makes stories like this work. (Even in a prototypical sense) Even as the show establishes its characters, and prepares us for an extended ride through the smiles and winces of young love during the latter days of Japan’s bubble era, the show falls victim to what so many other shows made afterward have, and is only made worse when the show was renewed for a second season. (and let’s not start mentioning the arbitrary OVAs either) As much as I love the show, the ensuing frenzy for the show’s focal love interest was merely a symptom of other forces at play. A phenomenon that grew out of the show’s need to make this character an ideal led to some of the more leery moves made by the anime producers, including Kenji Terada.

So let’s look at the main characters of the series, shall we?

The show’s central lead & narrator, Kasuga Kyosuke is something of a variation of the ever-typical loser hero, who’s fortune takes a turn when he becomes entangled in a volatile love triangle between childlike & oblivious Hikaru Hiyama, and mature & often mysterious Madoka Ayukawa. Newly moved to the city, Kyosuke is something of a country bumpkin in many ways, which only makes his strangely grafted on ESPer abilities (coming from a family complete with psychic power wielding little sisters!) all the more unpredictable. And this is where, at least for this writer, the tacked-on issue of being young, and having psychic powers makes for both story fodder & curious subtext. (Fans of Brian DePalma’s CARRIE, take note) As empty as this character should be, he is strangely interesting in how he is set up as this completely clueless lead, and yet has to worry about his lack of understanding about his own inherited ability. Where it comes into play is when he is faced with at times the most domestic problems, and comes face to face with the corruptive possibilities of being empowered. (IE- Library Study with Madoka, or Pool Party with Hikaru & pals-At The Same Time) In fact, a lot of what transpires in the series is borne out of his “hidden” talent. From this point on, the ethics of being empowered comes into play as Kyosuke is now on/off dating the bubbly, and often caustic Hikaru, while quietly pining for her more level-headed best friend, Madoka. It is this central internal conflict that gives the show its juice for better or worse. But it is in Kyosuke’s unflagging, bright-eyed naivete that the show relies on to help viewers better understand the story’s examination of latter Showa-era feminine roles. He’s as much an archetype as he is a classic 1980s male audience surrogate.

Which leads us to looking at Kyosuke’s clueless girlpal, Hikaru. As my previous words have described, she is the smaller, cuter, and hopelessly immature foil for our leads, who functions as a sort of safety net since he can never seem to tell her how he really feels. Having fallen for Kyosuke after accidentally seeing him using his ESPer abilities to make an impossibly perfect freethrow in the school gym while thinking he was alone, she sees him as the coolest guy around. Her lack of knowing the truth behind the shot makes for a lot of the show’s at times tiring humor, but it also sheds light on certain character traits that allude to the classically immature high school girl with a love of artifice, rather than with anything substantial. What makes Hikaru so interesting to me is that even as the show establishes her as an unrealistic, and at times agitating person, she also begins to display an unexpected amount of caring and resilience that even the show’s ideal seems incapable of exhibiting. There is a well hidden maturity to her character that is only made apparent in specifically timed moments. Even under all that sugary kawaii, there is a young woman tearing at the seams, and this is the element that becomes the show’s central ticking clock; how long can any of this last before Hikaru realizes how Kyosuke truly feels? Again, as far as archetypes go, she is kind of a classic (Knives Chau, anyone?), but it is this deceptive hint that she knows exactly what is happening that makes her worth continuing to watch.

And finally, rounding out the triangle is what has always seemed to be KOR’s main selling point, the enigmatic & beguiling Madoka. Now I won’t go into too much about what makes fanboys all over go nuts for this character, but I will state here that she offers more than what some detractors have stated. As the quiet, and beautiful delinquent-turned ideal good girl, Madoka is something of an archetypical break, especially in regarding anime which at the time was largely only placing female leads in pulpy male fantasy & science fiction roles. What makes her interesting to me is how deceptively “perfect” she is. While she exhibits musical talent from the getgo, and over the course of the series, seems to be good at just about EVERYTHING, it is interesting to note that the show also exhibits a darker side to this character than some fans would rather acknowledge. From her never-truly-established checkered past, to her sneaking out and drinking, to even encouraging Kyosuke’s duplicitous nature toward her so-called “best friend”, there is more to this romantic ideal than meets the eye. In a broader context, she is a break in how the average japanese male in the mid 1980s viewed females, and therefore represented an oncoming paradigm shift that continues to take place today. She is on the surface, an independent young woman, while still tending to some deep-seated abandonment issues, perhaps even leading to her stringing Kyosuke along, and possibly even betraying her lifelong friend. Madoka defies not only cultural “norms” of the time, but also of the very concept of an ideal altogether. For every talent she miraculously pulls out of the red hat, there always seems to be a more mundane psychological trade off of some kind. She is only “perfect” in Kyosuke’s mind.

So does the show come through with all of this character complexity intact? Well, no. And this isn’t a matter of character so much as it is of stretching out a series beyond credulity, which is what ultimately hurts KOR as a whole series. However, what does work is a cast of characters that while on the surface may look like a test-type model for any other high school romantic comedy anime, serves to pose some dynamic enough questions by mashing worldviews against one another. And this is indicative of many a classic show. Sometimes, it is this kind of love for characters that allows it to last in the mind of viewers. But it takes work, and craft to make this happen. And in the era of 13 episode show lengths, and amped visuals, it has become hard to settle into a character’s shoes to see how they operate as themselves. Shows today often have to just get things over with, which is a shame.

And yet, when all is said and done, KOR still works for me because the blueprints for what made the leads was well established in the source material. Had Matsumoto not have gone out of his way to make these characters not only interesting, but representative of the time in which they were created, the show may not ever have had made such an impression on me all those years ago. And even as we have become much more sophisticated as anime views and collectors over the years, it can’t be disuputed that far too many shows made in the mold of an animated visual novel, often resort to mass produced concepts as opposed to real characters. One thing that the Kimagure Orange Road series did so well was find the varying character dimensions and played them against one another in sometimes sneaky ways that undermine what we think we know about them. In short, archetypes are the standard when it comes to populist entertainment, but it doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, the more that is played with in between the lines is what makes characters leap from the page and or screen. It isn’t enough to have a “type”, and leave the viewer scraping to add their own two cents in to make them seem more human than what they actually are- moppets for making products out of. People are more multi-faceted than this, and nothing is more reductive of character than lazy, underthought-by-committee writing. Even a little extra effort on the parts of anime & film writing can go a long way in making a cast stand out amongst an ever expanding crowd.

Because it is a lot like what Miles Davis once said, “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”