April 28, 2006

A Nobel Prize ... or a no-prize?

Japan looking to sell Japan ... at least, its comics and cartoons.

sez Reuters:
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed on Friday setting up a "Nobel Prize" for foreign "manga" cartoon artists and awarding talented Japanese the title of "Anime Ambassador".
Now what's most intriguing about this is that Aso wants to formally recognize foreign artists that are in tune with the manga culture, or something like that. Of course, this probably means that Korea is going to win all the awards at first because they're the most advanced so far. But the key point is that even Japan itself is willing to acknowledge the contributions of non-Japanese to the manga milieu.

Elsewhere in the LOL JAPAN category, I can definitely see the appeal of, let's say, Marching Ninjas. Pythagoras Switch is an educational children's show that has apparently reached some cult status among foreigners living in Japan, mostly because the language is simple enough to understand, yet the content is surprisingly entertaining. The Rube Goldberg eyecatch sequences are really popular, too.

April 23, 2006

Great David's Ghost!

To understand the impact that Love Manga had during its run, consider how it lives on in spirit:

Unable to curb his statistical urges, David Taylor continues his manga sales analysis through Precocious Curmudgeon.

MangaBlog keeps the flame alive with the manga releases from ComicList. Also of note is the regular news trawl, including -- as of late -- extensive coverage of all the current news and commentary on the recent San Bernardino library flare-up.

And before I forget:
Ami Tokito
"Glasses-idol" Ami Tokito sings the theme songs for the second TV season of the ever-amusing School Rumble. (Admittedly, she's probably better known for her swimsuit shoots.)

April 19, 2006

Full Blog wo Sagashite

What kind of search words are bringing people here?

boys making out What? WHERE?!
ouran high school host club scanlation JUST BUY THE DAMN THING, you fool. (Actually there are a LOT of variations on "[insert title here] scanlation/download.")
pictures of hot anime girls Yes, I have some. But they're all in my SPECIAL folder where you can't have 'em.
inoue mao / mao inoue She's cute, isn't she? This fanlisting in English, this general site is in Japanese, and you can find some picture archives too.
detective conan porn ..... NO.
pictures of the end of the world Well that's just depressing, isn't it?
spandex pictures That's about the LAST thing you're going to find on here.
pictures of hot emo boys Try here. Oh wait, you said HOT emo boys? Never mind.
queenie chan the engine Efficient as she is, I have trouble imagining Queenie as any sort of engine.
why are men so irresponsible ... I wish I knew myself.
what does manga mean ? A duck.
rozen maiden doll for sale If you find one, let me know, because I'm willing to pay up to US$1000 for a full-scale Shinku.
kawaii japan sex picture Are you just stringing random words together?
aoi miyazaki She's cute too. Find more Aoi goodness here.
boys caught wanking secretly pictures ....well, that's a new one to me.
hot negima pics Wouldn't you just be able to find that by, uh, reading the actual manga?
how to differentiate manga from other comics Stare really hard and wonder if it's JAPAN.
what is pata Pata is a mammal.
morning musume eye injury There wasn't any; it was some joke meme that went around for a while.
pictures of a girl kissing edward elric That girl had better be Winry Rockbell or there will be HELL to pay.
princess ai evolution scanlations How can you have a scanlation of something that was in English in the first place?
cardcaptor rape manga That's it. I'm broken.

I don't think I want to look at my search terms anymore ... everyone is looking for scans and downloads, and everyone else is looking for yaoi. Them's the breaks, I suppose.

April 18, 2006

Your Spring 2006 anime guide

Ah, April! A time of budding flowers, baseball days, and the new anime season. But with Japan's airwaves growing ever more crowded, how do you know what to watch? Here's a quick rundown, which doesn't cover EVERY show that's coming out, but most of the popular ones and whatever else I managed to catch.

Ah! My Goddess: Sorezore no Tsubasa Continues without skipping a beat. They're still cleaning up after the Lord of Terror, making up occasional stories that weren't in the manga, and generally catering to that quiet but dedicated Goddess audience. And still the only series that gets its physics and engineering (mostly) right.
Air Gear Dude. MOTORIZED ROLLERBLADING. With, like, people flying in the air and crap. How can you not like this? Oh, right -- because it's an Oh! Great series, and all he can draw is hot girls and cool action scenes. But really, why else would you watch it?
ARIA The NATURAL The second season of this series continues with more of its laid-back, feel-good flavor. Young lady gondoliers ply their trade on Neo-Venezia, a future-retro recreation of the famed European city. Many call it boring; I call it relaxing. Goes well with knitting.
Black Lagoon A mousy salaryman is taken captive while on a business trip, and discovers a hidden world of international mafia. Production values look great, and it deals out the action and suspense like crazy, but this wouldn't be the first time there's been a series about "cool people who shoot things a lot" ...
Digimon Savers Digimon just got more and more gimmicky after the first two seasons -- "Ooh, they evolve with cards from the game!" "Ooh, they actually fuse with their Digimon!" -- but this latest one, about a Digimon investigative agency, seems more real. Unfortunately, it's also about 5 years too late.
Disgaea For a video game adaptation built on pure fantasy convention, this was surprisingly more tolerable than some of the REALLY bad new shows. An angel assassin teaming up with a demon prince on an adventure ... cheesy and predictable, but also cute and fun.
Gakuen Heaven A modest young man transfers to a new school called BL Academy. That's all you really need to know, isn't it? He's going to freaking YAOI HIGH SCHOOL. There, he will study important subjects like variables and guys doing it with other guys. An early contender for the "dumb as rocks" award.
High School Girls / Girl's High You know, I like high school girls. (Interpret that as you will.) But I can't really get into High School Girls, even with its enticing pantyshot count. The characters are silly, but not silly enough; they're cute, but not cute enough. And I can't remember their names.
Himawari! So this is about ... a ninja academy ... where teenagers train ... to be ninjas. Hey, Masashi Kishimoto called, he wants his Naruto back. Except, this one's an all-girl ninja (shinobi) academy, and the teacher is the one male character, so. You figure it out.
Kiba I have done such a good job erasing this from my mind that I don't really want to write about it. Some annoying dude who keeps skipping school is on the run from the police. And his mom is terminally ill. Then he gets transported to some lame-ass fantasy world, which makes you wish the police HAD caught him.
Kirarin Revolution Only worth viewing for the novelty value of the lead character -- an aspiring idol singer -- being voiced by an actual idol singer. Otherwise, it's the same old junk about a girl who wants to be with this boy, and break into the entertainment industry, and collect all the Pokemon (okay so I made up the last one).
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Intensely weird and funny. The entire first episode is a hilariously self-aware "student film" with gaping plot holes, cheap special effects, and a badly karaoked opening song. And once they lapse back into the real world, the animation is terrific.
NANA Oh, everyone loves Nana. But everyone hates the first chapter of the manga, which was mercifully excised from the movie but has been displaced and extended in the anime. This version strongly emphasizes the girly Nana's point of view. Will it capture the series' emotional scope ... or just end up going through the motions?
Ouran High School Host Club The other much-anticipated shoujo hit of the season. A boyish girl accidentally gets drafted into a "host club" of the school's hottest guys. Gender-bending is as old as the sun, but this one delivers the funny, along with great animation and design.
Princess Princess And then there's this, where the cutest guys at an all-boys school dress up as girls ("Princesses") to visually appease the student population. What's that you say? Boy's Love overtones? GOSH! What could possibly make you imagine that?
RAY the Animation So influential is Tezuka's iconic doctor that Black Jack makes a cameo apperance here. Ray herself is a doctor with X-ray eyes, who transfers to a hospital where the director has an eyepatch and a peg leg. (I won't ask about the hands...) Medical drama that's maybe a bit too crazy.
School Rumble Second Semester Delinquent-turned-manga-ka Kenji still pines for scatterbrained Tenma, while Tenma runs around misinterpreting everything. Carries over some continuity and secondary characters from the first series, but can stand alone as the standard for nutty comedy.
Simoun They promised me girl/girl action, and I got CRAP. Female pilots fly ugly two-seater aircraft into battle, except they have to kiss each other to power it up. Payoff, without buildup, is worthless. And there is dramatic music playing ALL THE TIME. Another "dumb as rocks" contender.
Soul Link The trials and tribulations of high school students ... in space! Of course, Stellvia already did it cuter and more colorful, and with more appealing characters. If these are the kind of kids that represent our hope for the wild black yonder, I'm not going.
Strawberry Panic! The other talked-about girl/girl show, except I can actually live with it. A new arrival at an all-girl private school discovers that everyone is reeeeally horny. Her roommate is a freaking stalker, and the top girl in the school shows no shame. Like Maria-sama ga Miteru, but more lighthearted.
Utawarerumono (That Thing Which We Sing?) Stop me if you've heard this one -- a man with no memories awakens in a forest village. All he knows is that he's wearing a mask he can't remove, and the village is really afraid of something in the forest. And we should care ... why? Animation's decent, but story lacks a hook.
xxxHOLiC CLAMP-o-philes are jumping on this like kids on candy, and discovering that the manga's Art Deco look comes out really weird in animation. The spirits and special effects look fine, but those lanky limbs are gonna put an eye out. And the flat storytelling is gonna put my brain out.
Zegapain The newest entry in a succession of schoolboys who pilot a robot with no prior experience, then proceed to kick everyone's ass. Despite slick visuals and an unexpectedly strong focus on everyday school life, it's invariably more of the same-old same-old.

Are non-normative gender roles the new thing this year? Kashimashi ~Girl Meets Girl~ (self-expanatory title) got a headstart in January, and now we're seeing the light yuri trend bolstered by Strawberry Panic and Simoun (craptastic as it is). Meanwhile, Princess Princess and Ouran High School Host Club both take the cross-dressing angle, and Gakuen Heaven drops all pretenses, opening up enrollment for yaoi high school.

Surprisingly, I didn't run into any straight-up harem series (although there are certainly some with predominantly female casts). It seems they finally wore themselves out after all the excesses of the last few years. If you really want your fix, though, there's no better bandwagon to jump on than Magikano, which has enough energy and humor to offset the dumbness.

So now you know where to start (I hope). Happy viewing!

April 10, 2006

You can't do this, Taylor!!

Well, actually, you can. And you've earned it, because few other people have been utterly awesome at blogging the world of manga from an English speaking perspective. I especially liked the number crunching, which I could never bring myself to do ... (look at me ... advanced calculus techniques and I won't even sit down and sort the Diamond list.)

Kero and Suppi chess pieces

LOL. I remember that my first ever post was about CLAMP showing their faces in the press for the first time. Well, their gradual breakdown of media silence reaches fever pitch as they plan to come to Anime Expo in Anaheim, California.

Enter the rampaging fans!

Even Japan thinks they're a curiosity, as the Pop Japan Travel Tour gets its 7:50 of fame on Fuji TV as "American Otaku."

So just to clear things up:
1) Yes, I'm stepping in again to cover where David left off with Love Manga.
2) No, I won't crunch numbers and do analysis, but I'll remember to link to the sales rankings if I see them.
3) No, I won't post every day, but only when something uniquely interesting catches my attention.
4) No, I won't post ALL the news that I find, and besides, Brigid has been doing a really good job of that on a weekly-or-so basis.
5) I don't plan to cover manga exclusively, but will be touching upon other elements of the fan culture, including anime, J-pop, other comics in general, conventions, figurines and merchandise, daily life, and whatever else seeps into my brain.
6) If you're really that starved for my writing style, please see my biweekly manga review column at ANN, which started running in January.

7) ... and yes, you will still get a cute girl of the week, or week-and-a-half, or whenever I remember.

Best wishes to David and Immelda. When are you guys coming to the States again? :D