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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Very Merry Review

It's the week of Christmas and you know what this means: The unveiling of my secret Santa review. During late October my secret Santa has given me three options (which I originally planned to watch) and then select one for a review. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to watch all three of them. Instead, I am going to review the one show I was the most intrigued with: Invincible Super Man Zambot 3.

When I began watching this anime I was not aware that it was co-created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino who is well known for his Gundam fame. However, eventually it became clear to me that this was a Tomino show... but not just a Tomino show, a pre-Gundam Tomino show. Zambot 3 is where Tomino began building his particular storytelling reputation. It is apparent that many elements in Zambot 3 are later then seen in Gundam series.

Zambot 3 in action.

Invincible Super Man Zambot 3 was a super robot show that aired in Japan in 1977. The age of the series was very obvious to me as I began watching. The dated visuals and sound was at first, quite repulsive. In addition to that, the story started out somewhat childish as the show was aimed at a teenaged boy audience. Fortunately I endured the beginning of the series and was treated to a much darker, much more complicated story.

The heroes of the show.

It begins with Kappei Jin who is having a quarrel with a gang leader, Shingo Kouzuki. In a middle of a friendly little fight, a giant robot called a Mecha-Boost attacks the harbor which is where they live. At the same time, Kappei's grandfather is finishing excavating a large spaceship, and within, a human controlled transforming mecha called Zambot-Ace. While running away, Kappei ends up on top of this spaceship. His grandfather then instructs him to "shoot in" into the Zambot. Somehow he already knows how to pilot the robot. His grandfather explains to him that he has been teaching him how to pilot through sleep-learning. Unsurprisingly, Kappei manages to defeat the mecha-boost after finding its weak-point.
The first episode was very simple and quite frankly, somewhat boring. The following episodes introduce Uchuta Kamie and Keiko Kamikita who are also Zambot pilots and Kappei's cousins. To battle the mecha-boosts the three Zambots combine to form the Zambot 3. Eventually, we learn that the mecha-boosts come from an alien entity called the Gaizok who wants to destroy humanity and that the Jin family are actually descendants of aliens from planet Bael who settled on earth after their planet was destroyed by the Gaizok. Now that the characters and settings has been established, Tomino tells a story of fighting for acceptance. A colorful kids story turns into a dark story of death and constant struggle for war-zone survival. Without spoiling anything, the series beholds drastic events and an epic ending. The ending also throws in some philosophical consideration and emphasizes an overall moral of the series. What I really liked was that every relatively major character in the series underwent significant change. Kappei didn't just stay as a snotty rowdy kid, he turned into something a lot more grander. The story of this series is definitely its strongest asset and makes this old series worth watching even today.

Manly tears.

I can sing praises about the story all day long, but now comes the more negative side of the series: The visuals. Unfortunately, this show was animated on a very low budget in 1977. The colors are muted. The whole presentation is grainy. There are lot of reused stock footage to cut costs and animation is somewhat sluggish.

Obviously, just like the visuals, the sound is just as dated. The soundtrack is of a cheesy 70s variety. The recording of voices is low fidelity in a single channel. The Japanese dub could use a bit more work as some of the minor characters were poorly casted. Despite all this, the ending theme is very powerful, especially near the end of the series.

If you can get through the dated visuals and cheesy late 70s sound, the series is worth watching. Unfortunately this series has never been licensed for an English release so picking up a physical copy is nearly impossible since the series is so old, and is more than likely, out of print. Fortunately, there is a readily available fan-sub of this series. I give this anime an 80/100

Friday, October 15, 2010

NYAF, the redheaded stepchild of NYCC?

Feel the Love

As many of you already know, there were two major East Coast convention taking place at the Javits Convention Center in New York City last weekend. Or at least, there were supposed to be two conventions. New York Comic Con, the biggest convention on the East Coast was hosted along side of the New York Anime Festival. This was a result of ReedPop's plan to merge the two conventions. A total of 96 THOUSAND people attended the combined convention. New York Anime Fest found itself secluded in a small basement area while New York Comic Con took over the rest of the convention center.

Why would you do that?

So was NYAF really the redheaded stepchild of NYAF? It's hard to say that since NYAF is usually in the basement area anyway and that there were still as much NYAF programming as usual... or at least that is what Lance Fensterman claims. However, I noticed that in fact there was less room than usual for the NYAF convention floor minus the dealers. NYAF took place on the other side of the convention where the cell signal is even worse than the other side as well as fewer rooms for use. Still, ReedPop had their priorities, since at least 70% of the attendees came for NYCC and not NYAF. So NYAF got the shorter end of the stick.

NYAF opening ceremonies and the 10 people there to see it

But overall, the convention experience was still fairly enjoyable since there were some decent and interesting guests such as Minori Chihara (well known as Yuki Nagato) and the creators of VOCALOID. The programming had absolutely no gaps where nothing was going on. And even if you were not interested in screenings or panels, NYCC had a lot going on at the showroom floor. What sort of made this experience a chore, was the massive crowding on Saturday. I didn't even attempt to get through the exhibition hall (dealer's room) because it was just insane. The lack of cell signal in the basement didn't help things especially when you wanted to look up the schedule or live tweet during panels.

Feel the wrath of Minori Chihara's laser eyes!

Looking back to NYAF 2009 I noticed some disturbing things. First of all, I did not see ANY workshops in the programming for 2010. Although there were screenings, in 2009, there were so many more. Since NYCC is supposed to be a family friendly con, almost all 18+ programming was cut. I am not even going to mention LARP. So it's pretty obvious that this year's NYAF was shrunk due to NYCC's enormous size. It also came to my attention that the amount of dealers that usually sell at NYAF has shrunk and were not present for NYCC/NYAF. I am not sure if this was because they either couldn't afford it, or perhaps ReedPop allocated only a number of tables for anime-centric dealers.

If that looks crowded, keep in mind that it's only Friday.

So what can ReedPop do to not make NYAF look like an embarrassment? For starters, they need to restore NYAF back to its previous size. Perhaps use some of linecon's (the space used for lining up to get in) mostly unused space to allow for this. Put it back to where it usually takes place since the cell signal there wasn't so bad. The crowding in the anime/manga spaces at the exhibition floor was unbearable, they need to allocate more space for walking/browsing as well as allow for more anime merchandise tables. That's really all they need to do.

The "linecon" area shown here, is empty during the rest of the convention. Perhaps it can be utilized in the future.

If you want to know more about what happened at NYAF, check out Janaiblog's great post on it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is wrong with Otakon?

Every year, in the hot and sweaty middle of the summer, Otakon, a large Anime convention is held in Baltimore, Maryland. The convention is so large that it practically takes over Baltimore for the weekend. To con-goers, Otakon is the Mecca of the east coast conventions and an absolute must go convention if you live on the east coast. You are almost guaranteed to have a good time if you attend the con. This year's Otakon has been my 7th year and I can comfortably say that it was the worst Otakon yet.

Don't get me wrong, Otakon is still a great convention and it is easy to list all the great things that it had to offer this year. Every year it has been always well organized despite the steady attendance growth to over 29000 this year. The quality of the panels at the convention was superb and there were fresh screenings anime and movies. The dealer's room as always had a large variety of dealers. The video game, as always, massive.

However, describing the shortcomings of the convention is a lot more difficult because it forces you to think a little more about the reasons for the shortcomings. Also, criticism is somewhat useless if you don't offer alternate solutions.


"Welcome to Otakon, anime and Japanese culture and freaking lines!" -fellow attendee waiting on the line to the dealer's room

This is a problem that every large convention is faced with. This is a problem that simply can't be solved by regular means. Otakon has been taking many steps in alleviating this problem and so it isn't as severe a problem as linecon. However, the symptoms are still there: inability to get into popular panels without lining up an hour before, large lines to get into the dealer's room, masquarade, and the rave. If you're claustrophobic, you're screwed. Unfortunately, not much can be done about overcrowding at Otakon without changing the venue completely. With the recent addition of the Hilton, a change of venue seems unlikely in the near future.

Getting Into the Convention

This problem was introduced last year. In the past, once you got your badge, you could pretty much enter through any entrance. For some inexplicable reason, they opened the convention floor with just one entrance and thus people who got their badges on Thursday night were screwed as they had to wait in a line to get in anyway. This problem became so ridiculous last year that many people who picked up their badges on Friday or even just registered, were able to get into the convention sooner than people who picked up theirs on Thursday. Oh yeah, and no one that was waiting got in till 10 AM. This year, was a repeat of the same problem but not only of Friday, but on all 3 days! Even though the convention is technically supposed to open at 8:30 AM, they didn't actually start letting people in till 9:30 AM. I have no idea why you would screw over panelists who had their panels scheduled at 9:00 AM like that, but the idea of only one entrance being open is ridiculous.

Is the Dealer's Room Shrinking?

In 2008, Otakon's dealer's room was at its largest size. Taking up the size of this year's dealer's room plus the artist alley. Last year, for what I thought was economic reasons, they shrunk the floor to what it is this year's size. However, I noticed a disturbing number of dealers that were at Otakon for many years and suddenly didn't show up this year. The additional space seems to have been allocated to dealers who needed the extra space, but the variety of dealers has shrunk noticeably. I really hope this isn't a trend that is to follow for the upcoming years.

Where Did All the Cool Guests Go?

Last year was probably the most amazing Otakon for guests ever. With many known musical guests and interesting anime production staff, Otakon 2009 was easily the best Otakon. This year, Otakon understandably toned down on the amount of concerts and musical guests. I would have been okay with this change as long as the guests that were brought over were just as good as in previous years. Unfortunately for Otakon, that did not happen. Home Made Kazoku was the best that they were able to do this year despite the fact that other conventions on the east coast like AnimeNEXT, Anime Boston, and New York Anime Fest had a much better success at getting interesting guests. I understand that acquiring Japanese guests is a very difficult especially on the east coast where it becomes more expensive in both money and time. It is also becoming apparent, that with the con industry booming, the competition of getting quality guests has really heated up. Otakon is in danger of losing it's east coast crown as the biggest convention to NYAF which merged with New York Comic Con.

Was the Staggered Schedule Necessary?

I figure someone has suggested a staggered schedule to try accomplishing two things: Allowing panelists time to set up or pack up; Giving people time to get to the next panel. Unfortunately, there were obvious setbacks of this idea. Since there was 30 minute break between panels, it was painstakingly obvious that there was about 50% loss in time that could have been filled with more panels. The staggered schedule sacrificed panel variety as well as added 'dead' time between panels. This made the schedule boring with fewer interesting panels. Now Otakon wasn't the first convention to have used a staggered schedule. New York Anime Fest uses a staggered schedule with much success. So why couldn't Otakon get it right? Not only does NYAF keep a 15 minute break between panels, but it keeps a much more constant panel schedule which Otakon also failed to do. I really hope next year, they try to improve on this.

Hotel Reservations

So Otakon offered reduced rate hotel rooms if you reserved through Otakon. Fair enough they were indeed cheaper. However there was an important catch to this deal. If you reserved through Otakon and not the hotel directly, it means that hotels will treat you like a second class citizen and were allowed to downgrade your reservation if they wanted to. So if you (attempted to) reserved a room with two queen size beds for two people and one guest, tough shit, the hotel can give you a room with one queen sized bed if they want to. I wish that Otakon made it clear to everyone reserving hotels through them of possible issues concerning room reservations.

Having Fun Not Permitted

Just like many jaded veteran con goers, I too get annoyed by people yelling catch phrases and sudden hallway huggers. Over the years, Otakon went out of their way to enact rules to stop people from annoying others. Unfortunately, this is a double sided sword because at the same time, you are restricting people's expression of excitement and subduing the atmosphere of the convention. Suddenly, the con felt less lively, and more bland. I really think there can be a middle ground on this issue. Surely, the vuvuzelas can stay banned, but there is really nothing wrong with signs as long as they don't incite disruptive behavior. Catchphrases allowed as long as they're not racist, inflammatory, or vulgar. And really, what's wrong with consensual hugging?

As everyone already knows, there was a fire alarm that went off at around 2 PM on Saturday. However, I can't really blame Otakon for the fiasco since it was completely out of their control. Regardless, Otakon did an excellent job handling this matter.

These were most of the negatives that I feel turned Otakon 2010 into a mediocre con experience. Please feel free to comment on anything here, whether it be agreements or disagreements.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Con Report: AnimeNEXT 2010

I realized I haven't updated my blog in a while. Been kind of busy with life in general and didn't put any time into blogging. Fortunately, the summer con season is upon us with AnimeNEXT and I took this opportunity to write up a con report. Enjoy!

Thursday: Day 0
Thankfully, AnimeNEXT had pre-registration pick up on Thursday as well as regular registration. Picking up the badge on Thursday alleviates anxiety from having to deal with missing out on panels or programming while you wait on-line to pick up the badges. The pickup went pretty smooth and it only took me about an hour of waiting in line. Already, people there were upbeat about the con and some actually cosplayed even though it wasn't a convention day.

Friday: Day 1
I wish more conventions would do this: Open the con at 9 AM, but schedule panels a few hours later in the day. AnimeNEXT did just that. This allows people who didn't pick up badges on Thursday to not worry about missing out on an interesting panel. By the time the first panel started, most people already had their badges. AnimeNEXT changed up the convention layout this year. There were 10 rooms in the Doubletree hotel dedicated to panels and workshops. Artist alley was enlarged, and video games moved to the Holiday Inn hotel in across the street. Once again the video screenings were in the training center.

@TheDigitalBug: Always impressed by #anx2010 variety in the dealer’s room.

@TheDigitalBug:…but no touhou in sight…

Panels, Panels, and more Panels...
The majority of the time at cons, I spend attending interesting (or so I hope) panels. Today was no exception. I started out my day by attending the "Rando Me!" panel. It was a fan panel about random gag anime such as Excel Saga and Cromartie High School. Other than that, there was nothing note worthy to say about this panel.

I was very impressed by the panel I attended next: The "Inside the Lives of Congoing Otaku" panel focused on a discussion about: What is to be a congoer. How do others view congoers? General behavior of congoers. What is the past, present, and possibly the future of conventions? The panelist predicted that conventions are going to continue to grow and that many more are going to show up. Concurrently, new small conventions will appear that specialize in a genre of anime or a very large series like Gundam.

“You don’t want to be glomped by a 400 lbs slave leah.”

AniGamers and Uncle Yo presented a panel on "Fandom & Criticism: The Art of Active Viewing" which discussed techniques on critiquing Anime, Manga, and Video Games. This was a very useful guide for bloggers and writers who spend a good amount of time reviewing an object of interest.


As any convention, AnimeNEXT has opening ceremonies. Unlike other conventions, AnimeNEXT attempts to introduce the convention to the attendees with a humorous skit. This year, they did a silly awards ceremony which although wasn't of the best execution, managed to keep everyone in the seats at least amused.

The Japanese guest of honor for AnimeNEXT this year, besides the musical guests, was Kenji Kamiyama: A high profile director and screenplay writer of Production I.G. Some of the shows he worked on was Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Seirei no Moribito, Jin-Roh, and most recently, Eden of the East. A usual, a Questions and Answers panel took place and everyone had the opportunity to ask Mr. Kamiyama questions about him and/or his works. The crowd managed to ask him some very interesting questions and Mr. Kamiyama was very open with answering most questions.

This year, the musical guest was a mostly-girl band from Japan titled "Stereopony" who are responsible for a few songs that appeared in Bleach, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Darker than Black OAV, and Yatterman Movie. I was pleased by the fact that the concert ACTUALLY had standing space for a change as opposed to just seats. Stereopony's music is a colorful melodic rock and the crowd responded very lively. Their concert went very well despite the fact that press were hassled by the staff for taking pictures even though they're press!

I finished the day by attending a Hello! Project Idol Madness panel. Since I know very little about Hello! Project idols, I came mostly to see if I can learn more about this Japanese phenomenon. Even though I expected a discussion panel, it was mostly a game show that gauged your knowledge of Hello! Project idols....*sigh*.

Saturday: Day 2

Crowd today is noticeably younger. #anx2010

I fired up my AnimeNEXT day with some Rock Band at the Holiday Inn hotel and checked out the video game rooms there. Basically, they took three rooms and took out the walls in between them. There was a large abundance of fighting games, only a little bit of first person shooters, some rhythm games and plenty of old school console games on SNES, Sega Genesis or Dreamcast. Rockband was in a room by itself as well as Dance Dance Revolution. As usual, there were plenty of tournaments going on throughout the whole weekend.

Just like any other anime convention, AnimeNEXT had anime screenings. But unlike most other conventions, the screenings were playing 24/7 and there were a total of 5 rooms just playing anime non-stop. Funimation also brought in Master of Martial Hearts to screen at AnimeNEXT so it was a good opportunity to get a preview of the whole show.

In attempt to master the art of spending money on a con, I attended the ConBudget panel which was loaded with tips and tricks for minimizing the expenditure of a convention trip such as how to travel, stay overnight, shop, etc. Following the ConBudget panel, I cought the better half of the Otaku: Through the Generations panel which featured more discussions on verious generations of Otaku.

Funimation was the only company that had an industry panel at AnimeNEXT. We had the opportunity to meet Josh, the new man that will be hosting most Funimation panels from now on since Adam Sheehan was promoted to a different position in the company. Unfortunately, Funimation had nothing new to announce at AnimeNEXT and so if you already saw the news from Anime Boston or Anime North, you pretty much knew everything that was going to be shown at the panel. Josh wasn't as lively as Adam, but once he gets the hang of his job, he'll get better.

A weathered veteran of the anime industry, Greg Aryes, mainly discussed the impact of piracy on the anime and manga industry as well as the recent scanlations shake-up. Greg Aryes has already talked in the past about how piracy and fansubs are ruining the anime industry hoping that his voice would at least inspire people to take a stand. He was questions whether his efforts are in vain or whether they actually cultivated fans to respect copyrighted works and perhaps stimulate the industry. He does not know, but I believe from what I seen, that his struggle did indeed sway fans toward a more legal approach to appreciating anime and manga.

Ever wondered why older anime has such different drawing style? How bishounen came to be? Evan Minto of AniGamers answered these questions and discussed the evolution of character design at The Changing Faces of Anime panel. He discussed all the styles that became building blocks for later styles in modern anime one time period at a time.

Uncle Yo provided an hour of nostalgia at the "As the Otaku Grows" panel where he discussed all the old shows and cartoons that most of us grew up with. As usual, the panel was filled with plenty of humor as well as revelations of cartoons that got away with some perverse stuff.

I wrapped up the day with a hentai panel...but unfortunately when I got out of a previous panel there was a long line of people waiting to get into a small room. Surely I wasn't going to get in, but I persevered and midway through the panel I was finally able to get in. The panel focused mainly on series that were not licensed (yet) . But they did show a good list of quality titles.

Sunday: Day 3

@hisuiRT: "Best" #anx2010 experience. Walking in on someone masturbating in the bathroom!

Sunday at three day conventions is always a day of relaxation. A day to cool down after two days of partying. For some people Sunday was the only day that they attended the con so the energy was still there. I didn't do much other than do some last bit of shopping and then sat in some interesting panels.

Every convention should have one of these: A panel on otaku by otaku for otaku. The discussion ranged from how otaku are potrayed by the media, how otaku are viewed by normals to what makes otaku tick.

I have not seen Legend of Galactic Heroes, but I was intrigued by it since I keep seeing and hearing people talking about it. So I took the plunge and watched the first movie of it along with fan commentary. Pretty good stuff.

Appearing for the second year, a Psychology and Anime by Charles Dunbar discusses philosophies in psychology and how they apply to anime and anime fandom. This was a very insightful and educational panel where we got to ponder the implications of how we perceive and interpret anime.

To close off, AnimeNEXT 2010 was a blast. Although a moderately sized con, AnimeNEXT is able to provide the congoers with plenty of things to do, and very interesting guests. Although there are still some issues that AnimeNEXT needs to iron out for future years, AnimeNEXT is going to continue to grow and bring quality entertainment for attendees for years to come. On a completely different note, here's my weekend spoils:

Other AnimeNEXT 2010 reports to check out:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Finish What You Started

I've noticed a viewing habit among general anime viewers, that many anime series get started and eventually dropped. There are many reasons for this. Some which are legitimate; A show really sucks, why finish it? But most of the times, it's for the reasons such as lack of patience or the viewer believes there are better shows out there. More importantly, dropping anime becomes a poor habit where worthwhile shows end up getting unfinished.

There are some direct and indirect consequences of this habit. First observation I made is that, although not necessarily always true, people who drop anime don't own it on dvd or bd. If I am going to buy anime, I am more likely to watch it completely through. So if you poke around profiles on, you can see who the 'real' anime fans are. In addition, people who chronically drop anime are more likely to miss out on a great series that just happened to start slow.

A nameless anime fan with a chronic dropping habit.

Now I am not saying that you should not drop any anime at all. As Brent of Otaku no Video put it, there is an opportunity cost when you start an anime. If the anime is so terrible, it would be smart to drop it and watch something better instead. For the record, I have not dropped an anime series so far. I usually try to stay away series I won't enjoy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things!

A couple days ago, I posted a reaction post on Funimation's Dance of the Vampire Bund controversy. Now I am going to attempt a more analytical view of the events that transpired.

The whole event began with Funimation's announcement:
FUNimation Entertainment is known for releasing the titles we license in their original, uncut form, as their creators intended. However, after viewing the unedited as well as the Japanese broadcast edit of the series Dance in the Vampire Bund, we have determined the series contains controversial elements which, when taken out of context, could be objectionable to some audiences.

With this in mind and with approval of the licensor, we will edit select scenes from the series in streaming and home entertainment release. These are scenes which are inappropriate for U.S. viewing and are not essential to the storyline.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is a complex and dark drama cited by press and fans as one of the best anime series out of Japan this season. Its strong story is what brought the series to our attention and why we are bringing it to the U.S.
I don't know how much time Funimation's PR department spent on this announcement, but this is where the nasty starts. First of all, they start of with a lie. Sure they had a good track record with censorship for a good period of time, but Funimation has censored things in the past. Then they say that some people might not like the content in Dance of the Vampire Bund. Okay. Every anime has controversial elements that, when taken out of context, could be objectionable to some audiences. I am sorry, but this sentence will not give you pity and understanding for what you are about to say in the next paragraph. We don't really care that you got approval from the original creator. Many times, they agree to anything, but saying that everyone in the U.S. cannot handle some material in Vampire Bund is not only an insult to the show's fans, it's an insult to all your customers! Apparently everyone's too dumb and sensitive to handle Dance of the Vampire Bund in it's original form! Great! Thanks Funi, this will guarantee sympathy and agreement. Vampire Bund is definitely, a complex and dark drama, thanks for dumbing it down for us! Maybe I am reading too much into this. Maybe I am just getting old, jaded and bitter. But this PR is a kick to the groin.

But then what brought about this decision? People quickly pointed out the Handley Case for the main reason why Funimation stepped back and decided to censor their anime. To an extend those people may be right. Handley may have given American Otaku a bad rep and put Anime and Manga companies in the cross-hairs of legal enforcers. Whether that's true is pure speculation. However, there is definitely not a legal reason because of the Miller Test that was going to be used against Handley (except he pleaded guilty and so we didn't even see it used). Dance of the Vampire Bund would, without a doubt, pass the Miller Test and would be cleared of any obscenity charges. If this was a legal precaution taken by Funimation then they either didn't ask for legal advice, or were too dumb or lazy to deal with it.

Scott of Anime Almanac was quick to defend Funimation in his blog post. After all, the folks at Funimation are fans like us and work hard to get localized anime to the United States. You can't really bad mouth all of Funimation for this incident. Scott also attended a workshop at Katsucon on the various dilemmas an Anime company goes through. He describes a scenario where there is a massive fan outrage. The choice is whether to appease the fans or go ahead and release the product anyway. This a decision whether to support the fans or whether to support the company. As a person, I understand why a someone would pick a scenario that is theoretically better for the company (in the short run). And this is exactly what (someone at) Funimation did. BUT, the fans are your customers; the customers buy your products; sold products provide revenue. Stab your fans, your customers in the back, and they will never come back to buy your products. Lost sales = lost revenue. In the short run, this isn't a big deal. However, it will take years and years for these fans to reconsider and come back.

Analytical posts have delicious pie graphs like these. Data taken from
(Click on the Pie to enlarge)

What will Funimation do? They are yet to respond to the outrage. The best thing they can do right now is to provide some ointment on the wounds of the pissed off fans in a form of PR. But, I am afraid that they will simply stay quiet and hope everyone just forgets about this whole thing and laugh it off like it never happened. (This won't happen.) The worst thing that Funimation can do right now is to pull off other titles and censor them to conform to their new 'appropriateness' standards. Whatever Funimation will do, it is pretty clear as to what many of their customers will do. They will simply not buy the anime during DVD/BD release. Some will never touch a Funimation product again for some time. Unless of course, until Funimation once again places the fans, their customers first again.

A (probable) picture of their projected sales after the announcement.
(Click on the Pie to enlarge.)

On the bright side of things, The Dance of the Vampire Bund manga distributed by Seven Seas is probably doing very well due to the controversy. Ironically, many fans have said that the Anime diverges quite a lot from the Manga and is therefore inferior.

UPDATE: Funimation has responded to the outrage. More interestingly, their response fits my "this is the best thing that Funimation can do right now" scenario that I came up with.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vampires and Warewolves Oh My

I've been brooding about this long enough to form a complete opinion worthy enough of a blog post. Unless you live in complete isolation, you may be already aware that Funimation have gotten the rights to Dance in the Vampire Bund. Shortly after their announcement, they disclosed that Vampire Bund's stream and the DVD will be edited for US release. ...insert internet shitstorm here.

Apparently, Vampire Bund contains some edgy controversial scenes that are inappropriate for US viewers...or at least what Funimation claims. So Funimation was faced with a business dilemma: A lose or lose situation where you have to pick which is the lesser loss of the two. No one really knows who made the final decision, whether it was someone at Funimation, or whether it was actually someone in the parent company, Navarre. My guess that it was the latter since this decision was very... out of touch with the fans.

Censorship in Anime is a very touchy issue especially since the DVD buying crowd absolutely abhors censorship. This DVD buying crowd has grown up with anime series that were cut up and censored by US companies so therefore any new censorship cuts real deep into the fan psyche. The result is obvious, everyone and their mom was angry about Funimation's decision. Not only did people declare that they won't be buying the dvd release, they shitlisted Funimation completely, boycotting all their releases. The logic behind this is simple, since the decision was made by the higher ups, the higher ups will only act when loss of profits becomes a big issue and so boycotting Funimation is the only thing a fan can do to force a reversal. Personally, I will continue to support Funimation through this turbulent time.

Many people have claimed that this decision was due to the Handley case. I can see why ...but really, the Handley case has very little to do with an anime that contains topless child-like vampires. Handley had hardcore pornographic comics; Vampire Bund does not have explicit sex nor does it have nudity beyond just topless girls. Big difference. So the controversy has nothing to do with the legality of the show itself, more like that these controversial scenes just might hurt Funimation's corporate image. Another supporting fact is that FUNi has already released a few shows that feature underaged nudity such as Dragonball, Rin, and even Strike Witches.

So what happens now? What will Funimation do? What will you do? FUNi has some options on their hands. My guess is that they will simply try to weather the storm and hope that people will simply forget this ever happened and buy the censored version of the DVD anyway. The fans on the other hand, are smarter than that. They might forget about it, but they will never buy an edited dvd out of instinct. And more importantly, more than 95% of them will NOT buy it. ...I certainly won't.

So what will people do instead; now that they learned of this new, sinful, controversial show? A small number of them, will purchase the R2 releases. However, many others will simply turn to fan-subs. Obviously, why spend money on an inferior product? Or so is the logic behind this action. Alternatively, people will simply purchase the manga and never touch the anime. The manga is now probably getting tons of sales right now. In b4 Seven Seas paid Funimation off to create a viral controversy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

RIN ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~: The Review

I've always been a fan of dark adult-themed anime. Ever since watching such classics are Akira and Ghost in the Shell, I was truly captivated with the phenomenon of Anime. However, such anime that have mature themes has always been somewhat uncommon and so I have the joy and privilege of reviewing RIN ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ AKA Mnemosyne ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ in Japan.

So before I go into the real review, you may be wondering, why was RIN renamed for US release. I had the same question and inquired Adam Sheehan of Funimation on Twitter. The reason is simple, the original creators wanted it renamed.

First thing I noticed when I picked up my review copy is that the series is packed in a box covered with art. The slim dvd cases also were chuck full of artwork, making them very pleasant for the eye compared to older anime releases. Funimation lately has been doing a very good job making interesting packaging that looks attractive on a shelf and interesting to open.

First Impression:
So I fired up the first episode and I was greeted with the opening which was kind of annoying at first but then diffused to... wait... I recognize that voice and music style ...yes, the opening and ending themes are done by a Japanese power-metal band Galneryus which I am quite familiar with and very pleased they did music for such a dark and grotesque show.
The show opens up introducing the main characters waking up and drinking water vodka which happens to be something that occurs on every episode, except with noticeable variations.

Vodka ends up playing a key role in the overall plot.

Getting Comfortable:
It's not easy to get comfortable with this show, as there is plenty of graphic violence, nudity and sex; Which is comparable to a rated R movie. However, what struck me were the voices of the main characters as they sounded quite familiar. Rin Asougi was casted by the same actress that did the voice of Amaha Masane from Witchblade: Noto Mamiko. Mimi was casted by Rie Kugimiya who everyone should know, is responsible for plenty of tsundere characters such as Shana, Louise and Taiga. So this show has quite a solid voice cast! Besides the remarkable voice talent, the animation is just gorgeous. Lots of attention was given to detail and animation quality.

Detail. Lots of lots of detail.

The Vitals:

So what did I think of character and plot development? As a show about immortals, the series progresses through about 6 decades with a decade in between each episode, forming quite an interesting perspective on immortality. This sort of thing has been done by Popotan, but the girls there were transported forward in time. Instead, here, each episode tries to convey what occurred during the gap of time that we missed since the last episode.
The series slowly unveils every mystery right until the final episode where it ends in a truly epic fashion. The characters themselves are very interesting especially the antagonist who, as the series progresses, becomes more and more hated... in a good way. Rin Asougi, who is the main focus of the series, undergoes extensive mental and emotional development throughout the series while undergoing painful physical and emotional trauma.

One reason for purchasing a series on dvd is that many times there are those extras that you don't get from a download or stream. The extras for Rin are pretty standard fare: textless opening and endings; trailers and promotional videos. But Rin also has an interview with the Japanese voice cast which I thought was very interesting to see four very influential voice actresses in one room talk about the show and their roles.

Bottom line:
The high quality production, the dark and brutal atmosphere, and interesting and original story makes Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ is a must have. But, I would not recommend this to people who have a weak stomach for violence. Overall, I would rate this series 95/100. Go watch it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Delicious Walfas Waffles: a Story of Incredible Courage

One name that everyone seems to know in the western touhou fandom besides ZUN is Walfas AKA KirbyM. His simplistic and unique art style is easy to recognize and with his release of create.swf, his art style is seen all over the place. So it shouldn't be of much of surprise that his drawings of touhou characters is quickly developing a fan-base in Japan where touhou fandom is enormous.

No ma'am.

Walfas' is currently a college student who makes shiny animations and blogs about mostly touhou in his spare time. Recently, he teamed up with an ActionScript programmer, Thefre, to make the latest create.swf which is widely used by the fandom to create quirky fun touhou videos or pictures. Over time, many of the fan works even made it over to niconico douga which is the Japanese version of youtube (and used primarily by Japanese).

He also made these neat file folders which were also sold in Japan.

Eventually, Walfas finds himself collaborating with a Japanese doujin circle, ddiction, in creating a textbook for learning English called New Hori-ZUN: A pun on the New Horizon English learning textbooks. And that, by itself, is an amazing accomplishment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Japan's DVD Economy and Why Media Blaster's Still Selling Singles

In recent years, we experienced quite a meltdown of the anime market in the United States. The Japanese market took quite a blow from the meltdown and suddenly was unable to afford to produce as many shows at it did before the meltdown. It didn't help that Japan never recovered from the 20 year old recession and therefore all the anime companies in Japan have been having a difficult time in making profits and even staying in business. So there was no surprise to me when I read a blog post about reverse importation of anime to Japan. The post goes into detail about the history of the dvd format, Japanese economics, and the effect of reverse importation of Japanese anime.

X9 = ~$800
Versus:X2 = ~$90
A fine example of why reverse importation exists.

My view on reverse importation is that it should definitely be allowed. Japan is still selling all anime in singles for $40-$60 for a large variety of reasons. One main reason for the high price for so little is that the anime is released a week to month after it has aired. Also most importantly, there will always be a number of geeks who will buy these shows no matter what. So why lower the price? This reason is also responsible for Media Blasters decision to continue releasing anime in singles despite a recent trend in the industry to move to 13 episode sets. Inflexible Japanese retail system be damned. But, now is not the right time for reverse importation to transpire. We need to let the Japanese anime market recover first before giving it further blows to their profits.