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First published: 6/15/04

An Update for the Ages

A Year in the Making

Armagetron screenshot

So much has happened since the last time I wrote here (almost a year ago), I don't even know where to begin.

In the last installment of lainspotting, I was still studying for my field exams in Science and Technology Studies. I am very pleased to report that (as of October 2003) I successfully passed both the written and oral portions of that exam. That, of course, was a big load off of my back, but school has still kept me busy with various projects, teaching, writing proposals, etc. I also started playing Armagetron (a freeware lightcycles game) pretty seriously, which ate up a lot of my free time--it's one of the most addictive games ever. I tend to play on Armagoshdarn, one of the more popular multi-player servers.

A few weeks before my exams, I had the opportunity to attend Otakon 2003 in Baltimore, Maryland. This was my third time at Otakon (1997 and 2001 being the other two times) and I had a lot of fun. I was part of the large CJAS contingent (current members and alumni) that attends every year. Once again, a member of our club won the annual gameshow.

In addition to scouring the dealer's room like I always do, I was a panelist on the Anime in Academia panel, along with Dr. Susan Napier from the University of Texas, Austin and author of Anime: from Akira to Mononoke Hime, Brian Ruh (founder of, Mikhail Koulikov (creator of the Anime and Manga Web Essays Archive), and Brent Allison (a graduate student at the University of Georgia studying anime fandom). Except for Dr. Napier, we are all members of the Anime and Manga Research Circle, which I founded last summer. We had some excellent questions, and I regret we did not have time to answer more of them. If you're interested in issues regarding anime in academia, I invite you to join our mailing list.

Another nice thing about this Otakon was having Ray DiPasquale with our group. Ray, of course, is the webmaster of Distortion Gallery and the co-organizer of the lain fanart contest we ran in 2003. We were excited to find two new lain tshirts being sold (see below), but unfortunately, we still don't know if they are bootleg or not. Pioneer was hyping Haibane Renmei, one of Yoshitoshi ABe's newer shows, which was nice to see.

lain shirts
(click on image for larger version)

Merchandise Info

Speaking of lain merchandise, I ought to mention the latest releases. Be sure to check out my lain figures page for info on the most recent Lain dolls released by Toynami. Pioneer has also released the lain OST and Cyberia Mix soundtracks in the US. These are significantly less expensive than buying the imports, and morally more sound than buying the bootleg versions commonly found on ebay. Unfortunately, if you want to buy these CDs, you should know that they are missing some tracks that are on the original import CDs.

lain ost

On the lain OST CD, you won't find the closing song, "a cry to fade" by Chabo.

cyberia mix

On the Cyberia Mix CD, you won't find the "duvet cyberia reMIX".

I think the loss of these two tracks is a real shame, and if you feel the same, I suggest that you email Pioneer to voice your concerns.

People have also been seeing lain shoulderbags for sale. Again, Ray and I can't be sure whether or not these are legitimately licensed products. We will contact Pioneer for info on this as soon as possible.

Overall, lain has been getting a lot of new exposure. It has now shown on TechTV/G4 a number of times, and I also noticed that all of lain has finally been released (on DVD) in the UK.

Anime Watch

Here are some anime I've seen lately that I like a lot:

Battle Programmer Shirase
BPS is a light-hearted comedic show about a super hacker named Shirase who offers his talents to people who bring him elite and rare electronics equipment. It's silly, but if you enjoy the lighter side of hacker culture (with plenty of technology fan-service), you might enjoy this show as much as I did.
Battle Programmer Shirase

Les Triplettes de Belleville
This rather entertaining French-language animated film was nominated for an Academy Award (it lost to Finding Nemo). I saw it at the local arthouse theater and was very impressed. The story was a bit surreal (and light on dialogue), but the visuals (and music) were astounding. This European-style animation is totally different from anything I've seen in Japanese or American animation. For example, the backgrounds were highly detailed, but not in the realistic way you often see in anime. It managed to be detailed and surreal at the same time. If you like unusual animation, you'll love this film.

Kino no Tabi
Of all the anime I've seen recently, this one is my favorite. Kino no Tabi (released as Kino's Journey by ADV in the United States) follows a young traveler named Kino who rides a talking motorcyle named Hermes. Kino travels from country to country learning about their respective customs, never staying in one place for too long. Kino no Tabi is a psychological drama with some action elements--you wouldn't know it at first, but Kino is pretty badass when it comes to fighting. Due to the various themes it explores, I would say that the show is science fiction. As a matter of fact, its sometimes dark and ironic subject matter reminds me of the original Twilight Zone television series (which is one of my all time favorites). If you liked lain, I think there's a good chance you'll like this show. Chiaki Konaka (the writer of lain), Yoshitoshi ABe (the character designer of lain), and Yasuyuki Ueda (the producer of lain) have all been involved in various post-lain anime projects. These three individuals get a lot of credit for the success of lain, but having seen many of their followup works, I can't say that those works have inspired me in the same way that lain has. The crucial missing factor, I surmise, might be Ryutaro Nakamura, the director of lain. Nakamura directed Kino no Tabi, and from what I've seen so far, Kino no Tabi is the one anime that really captures the feeling and atmosphere of lain, and for that reason, I heartily recommend it to all lain fans.

Kino no Tabi
(click on image for larger version)

School Life

Vannevar Bush Building

In my life, there are just a few things going on that you might (or might not) be interested in. I'm currently working on my PhD dissertation proposal. I intend to do a detailed study of otaku in America, the more obsessive the better, so if you think you fit that profile and would like to be interviewed, please send me an email. I'd love to chat with you.

Last fall, I completed a project that required me to learn about the subculture surrounding graffiti. I've been learning a lot about graffiti and hip-hop culture in general (which includes graffiti, emceeing/rapping, and bboying/breakdancing). It's really cool stuff. Here's the result of my work: Graffiti Grapher (I wrote the graffiti culture section)

In late September 2003, I attended Anime Weekend Atlanta with one goal in mind: to interview Toshio Okada, one of the principal founders of Gainax and probably the world's most well-known expert on otaku culture. I managed to get the interview (which I haven't published yet), and I also attended his panel. Furthermore, when I discovered that he would be lecturing a few times at MIT the week after the convention, I made it a point to attend those as well. A full account of my experiences can be found here: Into the Otakingdom: Days and Nights with Toshio Okada.

lain fans might be interested to know that the first building I walked into when I visited MIT was the Vannevar Bush Building. This was totally unplanned, and I found it quite amusing. I took a few photographs, such as the one on the right. Vannevar Bush, of course, is mentioned in lain.

A Fan's Life

Another major event that happened since the last lainspotting was the reopening of Anime Grapevine, a truly excellent online community that closed down abruptly in late 2001. Unfortunately, it's not open to new members yet, so I won't try to convince anyone to join at this time. However, if you were a member before, you can access AGV with your old username and password. If you forgot it, don't worry. If you type in an incorrect password, you'll be redirected to a page that tells you what you need to do to get in. The lain forum on AGV was/is the best of its kind. Some of the articles on TEL started as stuff I posted on AGV. If you're a member from back in the day, I highly encourage you to come back on.

AGV logo

I started posting articles to AGV again. I'll republish some of those here in coming weeks.

Finally, I ought to mention that I'm a member of Orkut, Google's new online community/friend networking software (currently being beta-tested; only existing members can invite new members). If you're a member, feel free to look me up. If you want to become a member (and I know you well enough to call you a friend), just let me know and I'll send you an invite.

That's all I have for now, but keep the emails coming. Sometimes, TEL-related emails get lost in my mountains of spam, so please resend if I haven't gotten back to you in a long time.

Take care, and see you in the Wired!

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Last updated on October 27th, 2004
Lawrence Eng