Archive for October, 2009

The horrors of criticism

October 30th, 2009
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It’s the Halloween season, which means it’s time to think about loading up on candy, dressing up during what could be called Unofficial National Cosplay Recognition Day and thinking about all the things in pop culture that fill us with a sense of horror and dread.

In the spirit of the season, we could have done a Halloween post based around normal garden-variety Japanese horror franchises – Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Ju-On, the Ringu series, Hell Girl and all like-minded series that feature divine retribution of some sort, stuff like that. But this Halloween, we wanted to do a different take on horror — namely, the most horrific series we’ve ever seen in our careers as otaku reviewers. Brace yourselves for the horrors within. And if you should happen to see them out in the wild, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Di Gi Charat: Dejiko’s Champion Cup Theatre (Studio Ironcat manga, 2003): America first met Gamers mascot Dejiko, her sidekicks Puchiko and Gema, and “rival” Rabi-en-Rose in 2003, when Viz brought out a series of manga. It made no sense because (a) an accompanying anime that would have made things make more sense hadn’t been licensed yet and (b) aside from the hardest of hard-core fans, no one knew what a Gamers store was in the first place. Undaunted, Studio Ironcat plunged into the fray with their DGC book, Champion Cup Theatre.

And it made even less sense.

We know Dejiko’s an alien princess catgirl dressed in a maid outfit and huge ear-bells. She is a very cute character in that outfit. Why the Ironcat translation/localization team looked at that and decided, “Hey! Let’s make Dejiko speak all thug-life gangsta!” has been forever lost in time (mostly because the publisher shut down two years later). Imagine trying to read an entire book full of this kind of dialogue:

Technically, shouldn't she be saying "Nyo nyo nyo"?

Umm, yeah. Sure. At least the translation/localization team didn’t make Rabi-en-Rose speak in valley girl slang …

Like, gag me with a spoon 'n' some junk.

… never mind.

Eiken (Media Blasters manga, 2005-2008): Because any time you try to remember what a series was about and all you can remember is that (a) the female characters had impractically large breasts and (b) there were many panty shots, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. You might recall that I mentioned Eiken in my Cel Shaded column a few days ago, and for good reason: It really is that bad, among the worst (if not the worst) things I’ve ever read.  The first volume of this series was purchased in the “if it’s manga, and someone took the time to bring it over, it has to be good, right?” phase of my early anime/manga reviewing career … and unloaded without comment a few days later. Why no review of this anywhere in Cel Shaded or Drawn & Quartered until now? Let’s face it — any review that pretty much amounts to “Look! Basketball-sized boobies!” isn’t exactly suitable for a family-friendly publication.

Final Fantasy Unlimited (ADV anime, 2003-04): Wilma tackled this one, and here’s what she wrote about it: Anime and movies based on the “Final Fantasy” video game series haven’t had much luck — yes, I’m one of those who didn’t care much for “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” — and the “Final Fantasy: Unlimited” series also flops along that star-crossed path. One night, strange seismic occurences create a so-called Pillar of Darkness and an opening to “Wonderland.” Two scientists make several visits to the world of Wonderland and write a best-selling book on what they find there. On one trip, however, they fail to return. Twelve years later, their twin children, Ai and Yu, head into Wonderland to find their missing parents — and find a lot more than they expect.

The anime gets painfully repetitive within just the first few episodes, with main “mystery man” Kaze releasing his special powers far more often than seems necessary — all with practically the same animation, to boot! — and Ai displaying her whiny brattiness and ultra-suspiciousness from the start. It was Ai’s stupidity and up-close-and-personal mistrust (there are literally shots of her pout-twisted face that fill the entire screen) more than anything that made me turn off the first DVD in disgust before I could finish all four episodes on the disc.

"D" = dreadful, disappointing, disgusting ...Initial D (Tokyopop anime, 2003-2005): No. Just … no. We’d like to take this moment to thank Funimation for not only performing a license rescue, but also promising to restore this anime ride to its original factory standard and removing all of those wince-worthy “tricked out” modifications. It’s like sticking a spoiler on the back of this car — there are some things you just don’t do.

Puni Puni Poemy (ADV anime, 2004): Ahhhh, Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe. Before Puni Puni Poemy, you gave us Excel Saga, which delightfully skewered all sorts of anime conventions and added a fresh take on Koshi Rikdo’s manga. After Puni Puni Poemy, you gave us Nerima Daikon Brothers, arguably the funniest musical anime about a family of daikon farmers aspiring to be entertainers. And Puni Puni Poemy itself … well, at least you gave us Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers.

To be fair, Excel Saga was great and wacky and all, but I wasn’t too fond of episode 26, “Going Too Far,” where the production staff indeed went too far in creating a too-hot-for-Japanese-broadcast-TV episode that smothered the humor in favor of numerous shots of naked (yet still tastefully covered) women, Hyatt bleeding all over the place and shots of implied sex. Take a small plot point from Excel Saga — specifically, an episode where Pedro’s young son, Sandora, becomes an animator in the U.S. on a series called, yes, Puni Puni Poemy — and toss in a heaping helping of that “Going Too Far” mentality, and you have the 60-minute, straight-to-video Puni Puni Poemy anime.

WARNING: Subjects in picture may be raunchier than they appear.Chaotic? Absolutely. Cute? Yes, for a little while … the running joke about Poemi being so wastefully energetic that she even refers to herself by her real-life voice actress’ name, Kobayashi, has its charms. But this production just feels like Excel Saga episode 26 version 2.0, with jokes that straddle the fence of good taste, music cues recycled from Excel Saga, and a level of hyperactivity that I can only presume is meant to cover up the lack of content. There may be more to it than we can see from ADV’s translation, but since this release didn’t get the same AD-Vid Notes treatment as Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers, we’ll never know.

Twilight (Yen Press manga, 20??): Just kidding. Maybe. Depends how you feel about the Twilight franchise.

Want a few more horrors? Have a look at some classic clunkers.

Anime = spiky hair. Really.

October 28th, 2009
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Best Tezuka artwork that could double as a hair gel ad EVER.What is anime? Aside from being a question answered on pretty much every DVD from ADV for a really long time, it’s a question with a clear answer: Anime is animation from Japan that prominently features characters with really spiky hair … hair that everyone secretly wished they had.

No, no, anime fans. Don’t write in and try to convince me otherwise. According to a press release passed along by tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J., one of the greatest characters in anime/manga history and the star of a movie now in theaters, Astro Boy, has a hair style that inspires the launch of hairstyling products. As the release noted:

“L.A. Looks’ participation at the premiere is part of a series of Astro Boy-related initiatives. The first event took place on Oct. 17 and 18 with 50 advance screenings nationwide, where fans were invited to have their hair styled like Astro Boy. Summit Entertainment and Imagi Studios in partnership with L.A. Looks set up shop outside theaters, styling hair in Astro Boy’s signature ‘spiky’ look.  With the brand’s newest product launch, L.A. Looks Power Spikes, stylists will show moviegoers how to get Astro Boy spikes with L.A. Looks!”

Here, have a promotional photo.

While this may be the most recent move to attach the anime wagon to styling gel, it’s by no means the first time this has happened. The first time, as Wilma recalled and I immediately remembered with her, was back in May 2005, when Garnier introduced its Fructis Style Manga Head hair gel in the United Kingdom. The eye-scorching Flash Web site for the gel unfortunately has been lost in the sands of Internet time, but a brief Anime News Network article back in the day shared a few things about what we’re missing now: a site that offered an explanation of “What Manga is all about” and “Why Japan is so cooooooool,” along with seven “rul’z” on how to get that perfect manga look.

And to think that when Cel Shaded debuted a few weeks later, this never came up as a topic. I’m so ashamed.

Bookseller appreciation day

October 19th, 2009
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The Rough Guide to Manga is now on sale everywhere.

I know what you’re already thinking: “Ohhhh boy, here we go, Writer Boy’s gonna start shamelessly plugging his book now.” But while it would be nice if you bought a copy *cough*or10*cough*, shameless self-promotion’s not what I wanted to do. Although today’s topic is certainly related to book sales.

See, this morning I did a search on Amazon for the book — partly to see if the book had gone into “in stock” status as promised today, partly as a vanity thing (it’s the 444,866th bestselling book! YES! Look out, Manga Guide to Molecular Biology, I’m GUNNING FOR YOU!), and partly to see how much Amazon and its network of sellers were selling it for. It’s the last thing that turned up the most … intriguing … data of all. Take a look at this screen grab taken around 9:30 this morning:

Such nice discounts! ... for the most part.

Okay. 32 percent off cover price, I can dig. $12.24 –  calculated by a handy-dandy online percentage change calculator as 35.5 percent off — even better. But 12 percent more for a used copy? And that’s the cheapest of the four? (For the record, prices go up to $26.60 in that section.) Umm. Well. Something tells me that if you bought something under the used section for those prices, you may not need a guide to manga. You may need a guide to common sense instead.

Oh well. I suppose prices could have been worse, hmm?