Archive for 2009

Kyoukai no Rinne: “So you say Shinigami are the ‘in’ thing now?” says Rumiko Takahashi

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 Manga Reviews

The cover of the first chapter

The cover of the first chapter

As some of you may know, I am a rabid Inu-Yasha fangirl, which led me by extension to become a general fan of its author, Rumiko Takahashi. As such, when I found out Takahashi was starting a new series, there was no question about whether I would read it. The subject this time: wacky hijinks involving shinigami and a high-school girl with the power to see spirits.

The main character (a girl by the name of Mamiya Sakura) has been able to see spirits ever since an incident that occurred when she was a little girl. This becomes of interest when she meets Rokudo Rinne, a red-headed transfer student who, oh yeah, she first sees while no one else can. This is because Rinne is a shinigami (“death deity”), in possession of a haori that allows him to take spirit form and allows spirits to take solid form. Rinne is also totally, destitutely, broke-ass poor due to various circumstances involving a wacky and flippant grandmother and something about a mackerel. Sakura, due to her ability to see spirits and apparent inability to keep her nose to herself, ends up helping Rinne in his shinigami duties. These apparently include squatting in abandoned buildings, fleecing students for bread money and chasing off giant undead Chihuahuas.

(more…)

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Hit Manga “Fairy Tail” Gets Animated

Monday, June 29th, 2009 Anime News

Fairy Tail

With 15 volumes released in Japan, and six released in the U.S., Hiro Mashima’s (Rave Master) newest manga Fairy Tail is finally getting an animated treatment.  Fans of the series don’t have to wait long, as the series will begin airing in Japan this October.

The animation will be done by A-1 Pictures and Satelight, studios hand-picked by Mashima to animate and produce the series after Mashima’s previous series Rave Master was cut short.

[Source: AnimeNewsNetwork]

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CJAS Marathon May 2

Thursday, April 30th, 2009 Announcements, Events

Join us on Saturday May 2nd (the day after Slope Day) from noon to midnight in Goldwin Smith Lewis Auditorium.  Enjoy 12 hours of various anime, and be sure to check out the game show at 3:30!

12:00 - Pokémon 1 Victorian Romance Emma 2
12:25 - Victorian Romance Emma 3
12:50 - Fushigi Yugi Darker Than Black 1 & 2
 1:40 - BREAK
 1:50 - Ranma 1/2 Fushigi Yugi 1 & 2
 2:40 - Texhnolyze 1
        Clannad 1
 3:05 - GAME SHOW
 4:05 - [movie] Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
 5:45 - DINNER
 6:45 - Trinity Blood 1
 7:10 - Noir 1
 7:35 - Fist of the North Star Basilisk 1
 8:00 - BREAK
 8:10 - [movie] Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
 9:50 - BREAK
10:10 - Familiar of Zero 13
10:35 - Twelve Kingdoms 38 & 39
11:25 - Macross Plus 4
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A Second Glance

Friday, April 24th, 2009 Culture

Anime Characters Don’t Really Look Western

The above video clip was recently posted to the forums. It is an odd music video mini-rant about how people keep saying (and writing, and discussing) how anime characters look Western. She (he?—for ease of discussion, let’s assume it was a she) brings up and refutes the biggest arguements for anime characters being Western, and its worth looking over her shoulder at the original arguments and her reactions.

Big eyes. Apparently the arguement goes, that since anime characters have large eyes, and Westerners have large(r) eyes, anime characters are Western. However, there are a couple problems with this. One point the YouTuber brought up was that Westerners don’t actually have bigger eyes, and to some extent I agree with her. While her juxtaposition of squinty white men next to wide-eyed Japanese girls was a bit anecdotal (men generally have narrower eyes, don’t they? Especially in anime) it is true that the size of Western/Eastern eyes doesn’t differ much, though the shape does. Besides, NO ONE has Fruit Basket sized eyes.

The YouTuber also brought the good point that eyes are big because bigger eyes express emotion better. This is born out by the fact that the biggest eyes occur in the girliest manga, where it is considered strange if the main character isn’t functionally manic-depressive. The more realistic an anime’s art style – Ghost in the Shell, Grave of the Fireflies – the more normal the eye size. Also, large eyes are used for girls and girly manga because our brains are wired to think of large eyes in small faces as cute – it is the same proportions as puppies, kittens, and human children.

Hair color. Anime is known for having absurd hair colors. Since Northeast Asians all have black hair (which they don’t, actually. Shades between red and black are all possible, though the former is unlikely) , anime characters must be Western. WRONG! Even ignoring the fact that Japanese kids often dye their hair kinds of crazy colors, it’s not like Westerns have pink hair either. Also, as the YouTuber points out, hair color and style is often used to help identify characters, especially in shojo manga where most characters are pretty and thus look remarkably similar. Plus, it is also possible to get anime without funky hair colors – Maison Ikkoku comes to mind. The craziest hair is usually connected to fantasy and sci-fi.

Light skin. Now, I’m willing to concede the fact that Northeastern Asians generally have slightly darker skin (though their standards of beauty have them bleaching it while we tan, so it’s all relative) but there’s more than enough variation that seeing a lighter skinned character in an anime doesn’t say much about their race. The YouTuber also brings up the point that pale skin is prized in Japan, and has been so for centuries. Light skin is a sign of beauty.

The YouTuber also give the somewhat related point that the profile of Westerners is very bumpy (eyes, brow ridges, etc.) while Northeast Asians have much smoother profiles with picture evidence. And, since anime characters have smooth edges to their faces, they are clearly Japanese. There is some merit in this, though there are also problems. Anime characters’ faces are probably smooth to make them easier and faster to draw. Also, Western standards of beauty prefer much thinner faces, which means more prominent facial structure.

She also mentions that fact that the Japanese generally find it easier to cosplay and that their idea of beauty, for both men and women, differs significantly from Western standards. In Japan, men are perferred to be slight and a bit delicate, while in the West the ideal is very masculine. Women in Japan’s ideal is the idea of kawaii – very youthful, almost childish, with light skin, while women in American are tanned, busty, and unhealthily thin. Both of these ideals are very obviously bourne out in anime. In the showing this semester, even the “manly characters” (e.g., the King of En, Kamina) are still much prettier and slight than they would be in a Western cartoon.

The YouTuber brings up a few more minor points, but this is the bulk of her argument, and it is a good one. I’ve definitely heard – from my father no less – that anime characters look Western. But, the more you think about it, the less they look Western and the more they look…like anime characters. Nothing more, and nothing less.

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CornellCon 2009 is on Apr 24

Saturday, April 18th, 2009 Announcements, Events

Next Friday, April 24, CJAS will be holding CornellCon from 8PM to 12AM  in Risley. Come enjoy anime, manga, video games, a cosplay café, and a performance by Ring of Steel! We hope to see you there!

CornellCon 2009 Poster

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A Sudden Change to Our Schedule

Friday, April 3rd, 2009 Announcements

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will not be able to show Macross Plus this week during its allotted time slot. Instead, we will be moving up Ghost in the Shell one week to fill in the void left by Macross Plus’s disappearance. However, because of the length of the movie we will not be airing Twelve Kingdoms 32 or 33 this week, and will instead move them into the first two slots Ghost in the Shell was to take up next week, with the first episode of Macross Plus – NOT the second – to be shown afterwards. Additionally, if you want to view the conclusion of Macross Plus, you will have to unfortunately wait for our semesterly marathon.

To sum up, instead of the initial viewing schedule this semester, we will be following from this point on:

spring-2009-schedule

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His and Her Romance: The Difference between Male and Female Geared Romance Animes

Friday, March 27th, 2009 Culture

A question I was asked recently got me thinking about the difference between the love anime directed towards boys versus girls. Now, this is by no means exhaustive, but the breakdown seems to be as follows:

Boys: There seem to be two basic types: Harem and otherworldly girlfriend (and sometimes they merge). The harem genre ranges from the blatant (Familiar of Zero, Love Hina), to the mildly plot driven (Tenchi) to the very well hidden (Utawarerumono). Now, there is nothing wrong with harems: I like Tenchi, and there are certainly reverse harems; Ouran High School Host Club is very popular. There are also females-geared animes that have elements of the harem. xxxHOLiC actually fits this, but for the fact that it’s not a romance. (Also, for this to work, the female audience has to identify with the male hero rather than the female love interests, which is a bit hard to pull off, as that mostly means the male hero can’t be hentai at all.)

The other type of boy’s romance is the otherworldly girlfriend. The first one to come to mind is Oh! My Goddess, but many other fit as well, such as Video Girl AI, and parts of Tenchi and even Familiar of Zero fits in a backwards sort of way – it’s a normal male in a magical world.

Girls:  girls’ anime seems on the surface to be both more varied, but it really only has major reoccurring trope. It is the “girl is fish-out-of-water”; or at the very least, something drastic has changed in her environment. There are two (sometimes more, and very occasionally one, but most common is two) boys competing for her affection/attention. Important in this is that she needn’t like both of them; both of them just need to draw her attention. Actually, the less the girl likes a boy at the beginning of the series, the more likely he’s the final love interest. The two boys are often extreme opposites; one is blond/brunette, one has black hair; one is cold and distant, one is very kind (which is often taken to ridiculous levels or is a complete act); one is brand new and one the heroine has known all her life. Not all of these dichotomies exist in every anime, but several generally appear in each one. However, and this is important; both are very protective of her, even if they don’t seem to like her. Also, if either has athletic ability, either both of them do, or the one she finally chooses is better at sports/whatever. In Mars, Tatsuya is good at skateboarding, but Rei races motorcycles; in Marmalade Boy, both boys are good at tennis, but Yuu is better.

It’s interesting that while boy’s anime generally has one (otherworldly girlfriend) or many (harem) girls, girls’ anime has a duality. While each subgenre uses stereotypes (and the very best of all of them have the most realistic characters) in harems, each girl has a different personality on the surface, but all of them are devoted to the boy; he just has to chose which girl he like best. In magical girlfriends, while there is sometimes the girl next door character, more often the only real viable love interest is the magical girlfriend, who is utterly devoted to the boy. The conflict comes more often from making the mechanics of the romance work (e.g., there are time limits on the girl’s magic, the robot’s batteries are running out, in Chobits, the …unfortunate placement of a certain switch), while in a harem it comes from the girls competing with each other.

The girl’s animes certainly have stereotypes, but there is a bit more variety, and the boys are more likely to be nuanced than the girls in a harem: aside from being opposites and protective, the boys can have almost any type of personality and quirks. And the duality setup isn’t unique to anime. Various other stories from other mediums follow this pattern as well. The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is Pride and Prejudice. (Spoilers coming up: if you’ve not read Pride and Prejudice, go get a copy and read it. Now.) The main character, Lizzie, has to choose between Darcy and Wickham. The two of them are complete opposites – Wickham is blond, charming, lighthearted, and a complete bastard. Darcy is dark, cold, stand-offish, and surprisingly noble once he takes the stick out. In the first part of the book, Lizzie prefers Wickham and dislikes Darcy, which of course means that she’ll pick Darcy in the end.

Another difference between quality and generic romances besides the reliance on stereotypes is the focus of the story. The best romances have the plot move the story forward, ala Pride and Prejudice, Much Ado About Nothing, and Red River. In each of these, the plot drives the story and is interesting in its own right, but the focus and point of these stories are the emotions and how the plot sparks and changes the emotions of the characters.

These types of stories are more common in girls’ romances (I’m not biased, no not at all) while boys’ animes seem to be more plot driven, with the emotions of the characters feeding the plot, rather than the other way around.

A side note, because it wouldn’t be one of my posts if I didn’t mention shonen-ai; an odd side thing is that a lot of the non-one shot (i.e. porn) shonen-ai stories have many, many similarities with girls’ romances. This is because they’re written by girls for girls, more or less. Often, the two boys who would be romantic rivals in a romantic shojo manga are each other’s love interest. One theory of why this might be is because the drastic differences of the boys make the story more interesting and more romantic. CLAMP’s shonen-ai pairings are a good example of this. Fai and Kurogane; Watanuki and Domeki, Kazahaya and Rikuo; Yukio and Toya; the first generally lighter – either a spaz, or easygoing, or lighthearted, (more emotional, in other words, though not necessarily the same emotions a girl would have), generally slighter, smaller, and usually blond. The second is taller, dark, if he has a sense of humor it’s a bit sadistic, and very solid. Very much opposites.

Romance is messy indeed.

Once again, this is written with no research and less forethought. If you disagree, write a comment or something.

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The Friendly Neighborhood Otaku – The New Face of Japan

Friday, February 13th, 2009 Japan

Before the 21st century, first impressions of Japanese culture or identity were more likely to be ethnic stereotypes.   Most Japanese were either honor-obsessed, anachronistic samurai-archetypes or extremely shrewd businessmen.   The extent of the country’s influence was thought of as purely economic.  To most Westerners, the Land of the Rising Sun was where sushi (read: California Rolls) and the latest gadgets were born.  Japan’s only real marks on the face of the Western World were Sony Corp. and that messy business back in the 1940s.  Needless to say, quite a few things have changed about the Western perception of the Japanese in the 21st century.  The most remarkable of these changes is the rise of Otaku culture in the International media and its propagation to other First World countries.  Literally, otaku means “neighbor” or “another’s household.”  In its current usage, the word is used to refer to anyone with an obsessive interest in something, anything that can be idolized.  Otaku types range from the Military Nut to the Goth-loli fashionista (a style that focuses on Victoria-style clothing and elegant mannerisms) to the most ubiquitous type: the anime/manga/video-game otaku and its many subtypes.

Historically speaking, the otaku culture represents several turning points for Japan.  First, the country has its latest cultural movement attracting the attention of media and industries alike.  Second, the development of the otaku culture has led its further diversification into sub- or countercultures.  Finally, the otaku culture and its derivatives have proven marketable (to an extent) in international markets, especially the immensely popular anime/manga/video-game following.

The growth of Japan’s latest cultural phenomenon is not to be underestimated, nor should its impact on the entertainment industry.  As early as 1995, series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion went beyond what their predecessors had accomplished in terms of generating a fan community.  Whereas earlier programs such as Uchusenkan Yamato (Space Battleship Yamato) generated a cult following amongst existing anime fans, Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion was nothing short of a national craze.  It created new fans of what was once “cult” anime and manga, spawned a sea of merchandise, two movies, spin-off videogames, and a fresh wave of doujinshi or “fan-works.”  To this day, the character archetypes in EVA continue to be copied relentlessly, some as a nod to the original work and others as a way to make a quick 100 yen.  None of this was new or unique to the industry, but EVA’s multi-genre appeal made it one of the first series to make an actual impact (excuse the pun) on Japanese pop culture as a whole, not just as another footnote in the annals of Yamato fans.  It is ironic, perhaps, that one of the most marketable series in Japan today features the psychological breakdowns of ¾ of the main cast and a version of the Apocalypse.

The reason for its marketability, however, is clear: Amidst all of EVA’s talk of Freud and free will are very attractive, very troubled, and very pitiable characters whose traumatic, even horrifying roles in the story never detract from the merchandise in their (impressive) likenesses.  The amount of merchandise of the character Ayanami Rei alone is enough to dwarf that of whole series.

This leads me to my next point.  Once created, multi-genre series like EVA and (more recently) Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion tend to spawn their own subcultures after they have made their mark on the face of pop culture.  These derivatives can center on the specific merchandise or spinoffs or cosplay (masquerading as a favorite character), but more likely than not, center around the doujinshi published by the most avid fans.  While the works are not actually part of the series themselves, they are typically produced with the blessing of the company (usually freely given in exchange for a small royalty fee).  The appeal of the doujinshi stems from the amount of freedom the author has.  Many of the works are pornographic in nature, but what separates doujinshi from mere fan-fiction is how they can actually be self-published for a regular audience willing to buy the volumes in print.  The nature of a doujinshi lets the fan be an author as well.  The subculture has grown so huge, that the largest anime and manga convention in the world is also the world’s largest doujinshi market, called Comiket.  Even the industry pokes fun at this with series like Genshiken, which contains a self-portrait for just about every brand of anime otaku imaginable. Lucky Star’s Izumi Konata even plays the role of a female anime otaku, much to the delight of her mostly male audience.  This is serious business in Japan, and the works often have a kind of universal appeal to a wide audience.

It was inevitable, then, that the hottest properties in Japan draw a crowd on this side of the world, right?  After all, didn’t that Miyakazi guy win an Oscar or something? Despite how the Media play it up, anime and manga hold only a niche market in the States.  The following (although very small when compared to Hollywood numbers) is vocal enough to ensure that for every cash-cow franchise like Yu-Gi-Oh! or Naruto that arrives, there follows a Welcome to the NHK or Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Although not as lucrative as it was in Japan, a major series brought here will still garner plenty of cash.

Thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet, the anime and manga otaku culture has spread quickly.  Now, even those with even a passing knowledge of Japan may automatically associate the country with big-eyed school girls as often as they would samurai, sushi, and really useful hybrid cars.  For better or worse, otaku are now a new face of Japan.  Time will tell how the country’s new visage fares on the world stage.

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Manga Review: The One I Love

Friday, February 13th, 2009 Manga Reviews, Reviews

The One I Love

Author: CLAMP, 1995

Volume: 1, 12 Stories

The One I Love is one of CLAMP’s most obscure works published in English. And there are a multitude of reasons for that: it’s no sprawling epic like X or Tsubasa; it connects to no other CLAMP worlds; it has never been made into an anime; it is only 1 volume. However, its still well worth a look, and the small size just makes it a quicker read.watashi_cover

The One I Love is a series of short stories in which a female main character has some sort of reflection on or encounter with love, or the person she is in love with. The stories’ topics range from getting married, to a long-distance relationship, to looking cute for your boyfriend. These beautiful vignettes are short and sweet, and it is surprisingly relaxing to read one or two in the midst of a hectic day. If you’re looking for action or tragedy, go elsewhere. Otherwise, most will probably enjoy these stories.

Shonen-ai Note: None.

Continuity Note: Doesn’t connect to anything.

Anime Adaptation: None.

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Spring 2009 Schedule Unveiled

Saturday, January 31st, 2009 Announcements

Hey there, this semester we have a strong line-up of series to (hopefully) cater to fans of different genres of anime. In addition to our returning series, the new additions to the line-up include The Familiar of Zero, Serial Experiments Lain, Patlabor, Macross Plus, plus a couple of movies during the semester. We hope to see you at showing.

schedule

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