Friday, July 15, 2011

Sket Dance

Was going to post tonight about the new Citizens Co-op that opened up in town this week, in my least-neglected blog The Accidental Environmentalist, but decided instead to bring news of a favorite anime I've been watching, the adaptation of the manga Sket Dance.  It's really very funny and I'm surprised it isn't more popular.  I always think that this is because it is something specifically geared towards my age-group (old enough to know better than to get sucked into anime and manga), but maybe it's just that this is an anime that doesn't really have a niche audience.  I think the manga is probably pretty popular and I'm resisting reading it until I've watched all the episodes. 

Perhaps the reason why I like it, besides being really funny, and perhaps also the reason why it isn't as popular is it is really a narrative about, and hommage to, manga and otaku.  There seems to be a growing snobbery in fan communities about "otaku pandering" and I don't really understand where it comes from; it's probably the awareness of a sub-genre of late that dotes on otakus in the storylines and perhaps that is seen as breaking the fourth wall, or something.  I see it as just what it is, a sub-genre of narratives that talks about something that a whole, small segment of the manga and anime fan base are aware of and the rest of the population who enjoys this media is not as educated about.  I happen to be in this last category, so I like storylines about otaku and enjoy it as part of the broader narratives that play into manga and their anime adaptations, or original anime works that create subtle subplots that take this fan community into account.  I have no examples so please don't ask me - yes, you have correctly guessed that I generally talk out of my ass on my blogs and welcome.

Sket Dance constantly breaks the fourth wall of otaku pandering by affectionately calling up each formulaic meme in manga and Japanese culture throwing it out there for laffs.  And that's okay.  It's funny and endearing for those reasons, as well as the well-developed world of Sket Dance characters.  It's one of those stories where I want to get a Sket Dance wrist band but realize I am too old to sport this stuff anymore.

Got the image from Cypherninja

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tiger & Bunny: Not just for Japanese audiences?

Tiger and Bunny, in that order
I was a little miffed when I re-read a couple of the reviews the ANN critics do for their quarterly anime reviews about the new offering for spring from Sunrise, Tiger & Bunny - while it is mostly well-liked, two of the reviewers chose to assume that this is being marketed to Western audiences.  I don't know if Europeans do this, but American anime viewers have a hard time comprehending that not every animation that comes across their tables is going to be made especially for them.  Now, I've been guilty of this myself in the past, but it's mostly my personal store of ego that causes me to think that certain animes are made just for me.  With westerners it's just a given that a foreign animation is somehow being marketed to them.

Wild Tiger gets the SoftBank logo.  Fail!
Tiger & Bunny is apparently one of these, because it focuses on Western-style superheroes.  In Sternbild, a massive, two (three?) story metropolis in the not-to-distant future, some humans have been born with a mutation that gives them superpowers.  Called Nex, these mutants have been co-opted by multi-national conglomerates and their crime-fighting has become prime entertainment for the denizens of Sternbild in the form of HeroTV, a reality program/game show where superheroes vie for points to see who comes out as the top superhero by the end of the season.  Name brands pasted on their battle suits and uniforms like Nascar drivers, the heroes are largely rivals for top place, except for the newly-formed team, Wild Tiger and Barnaby Brooks, Jr., who Tiger immediately nicknames "Bunny."

Bunny gets the Bandai acct., obvs.
The first of its kind on HeroTV, the team is a novelty; in reality, Tiger and Bunny do not get along and Barnaby is continuously embarrassed by his team mate, Wild Tiger, an Over-the-Traditional-Age superhero who has been dropped by his former sponsors because he causes too much collateral damage to buildings and state vehicles in his pursuit of bad guys.  Tiger wants to save the citizens of Sternbild at all costs; Barnaby just wants the fame and recognition of being a super hero.  Reduced to side-kick status, Wild Tiger continues to believe that being a super hero is more than just getting points for arresting the bad guy first.  Barnaby is so focused on status that he will not even hide his real identity, something of a taboo for traditionally-minded superheroes; Bunny distinguishes himself as part of a new breed of super hero, more idol than citizen-saver.
Blue Rose: Idol AND superhero, tough combo!

How these two misfit team members begin to find a middle ground is part of the formulaic fun of Tiger & Bunny, but there are so many character stories yet to be told of the other heroes in this animation and that, too, is also the fun of seeing how this anime will develop.  Episode 5, where most of the screen shots for this post originate, begins to build on the central theme of the relationship between Tiger and Bunny, but we also begin to see glimpses of the other characters, such as Blue Rose, who is torn between a singing career and using her superpowers for good.  As at least one of the reviewers on ANN noted, Fire Emblem is the token gay character - and why the gay character in Japanese animes has to be both a drag queen and black is still somewhat beyond me, although I have a couple of theories.  The fact that he owns his own company and therefore is a free agent in the superhero game is a nice touch, however.

One last thing I'll note that the reviewers didn't is the weird gleam in everyone's eyes - it's distinctive but makes everyone look glassy-eyed like they're sick, or something.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tetsuko no Tabi

I like this anime more than I thought I would; maybe I just have a softspot for storylines about otaku.  It is a clever way of talking obsessively about trains while scraping together some semblance of self-respect for not clinging to otaku-ness; this is at least the thinking of the little-known mangaka who follows the train otaku and her friend (who she realizes too late is also a train otaku).  She rides haplessly along with the other two, led by the main otaku (I'm feeling very lazy right now and so am not looking up character names - please excuse my slackyness).  After watching two episodes I can understand why there are train otakus in Japan - their railway system is really expansive and really neat.

I wonder what Banba would think about this story?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

X-Men Anime: But is Wolverine hot?

The answer is, "no." Wolverine is not hot in this Madhouse retread of the X-Men franchise. Cyclops is the tragic hottie in this one, unfortunately - unfortunate because he is the most boring of the X-Men and so goes the anime itself.

Putting aside character design, the series is just "meh" so far - this is the original reason why I started concentrating on Japanese manga and anime; I had to make a break with the US-style superhero graphic novels. Now, for some reason, my western heritage is following me by having these tired superhero memes recreated ad nauseum by Japanese production houses. They apparently all take place in Japan - I started watching the Wolverine one that came out a short time ago, and quit after the second ep - yawn. At least Wolverine was hot in that version. But, even the Japanese cannot make tired old Marvel properties breathe with youthful life. I'll give X-Men another episode to make me reel and keep me hooked, but I'm not expecting much.

Got the picture of not-so-hot Wolverine from Furious Fanboys

Update 4/12/11:  Watched ep 2 last night and liked the crazy robots and the horribly mutilated young mutant was gross but interesting; my interest level has gone up a little, but I'm also starting to find the classic superhero hyperdrama a little annoying, as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Star Trek: The Animated Series

There are two types of fanbeings - those who gravitate towards Star Wars, and those who gravitate towards Star Trek.  Of course, it's not as cut and dry as all that, and I'm rather fond of both narratives; I just find Star Trek more...accessible.  Somehow it's always on my teevee when I am in front of it.  It's hard to explain.

Anyway, so I thought it would be a lark to put Star Trek: The Animation into the Netflix cue, just to see if DJ would cotton to it.  We just finished watching the first disc of a 4-part set and I'm thinking, this is going to be one of the sets of cartoons I end up collecting.

DJ really, really likes it - it's almost exactly like TOS but it's somehow more simple.  Part of it is the fact that it's only a half-hour so they're bite-size for 8-year-old attention spans.  At the same time, it is really, really well-written, and most of the original peeps from TOS are doing the voices!

It's actually pretty awesome in that TOS kind of way - it's ultra serious with some strange Roddenberry Liberal agenda and unintentionally hilarious at all the right moments.  Like I said, it is basically the Star Trek universe on a child's scale.  This is one of those cartoons that I seriously missed the boat on when I was a kid - according to Wikipedia, it was on TV from 1973-1974 - I think at that time I was probably watching Speed Buggy or Scrappy Doo or some crap.

Oh well, back to work.

Got the crew pic from

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mahou Shoujo Modoka★Magica

Mami, Rifles dropping from her skirt?!  Now that's Magic!

As I've become a bit jaded in my second go-around with anime as an adult, I never considered myself someone who would like anime from the Magical Girl category, but I've taken a shine to Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica.  Who'd a thunk?

The thing I like about it is that it pretty much destroys my preconceptions about magical girl stories, and seems to be a bit dark.  I also like the alternate-reality sequences where the magical girls reach the core of the delusion (a newly-forming witch) that is causing people to off themselves in various ways (jumping from buildings, releasing toxic gases in a closed room), and these sequences are especially well done with a lot of stop-action-like animation using photographic-like images.  It's hard to tell what technique the animators are using because things have really opened up with CG-integrated anime.  Does this mean a more serious move towards CG is planned and will this put the already depressed Japanese economy further in the dumps by replacing animators with CG-generators?  Not sure, but this technique is very interesting and engaging in realizing an alternate reality from the usual anime world we see. 

The dark part of the storyline is that the girls who are selected to become magical girls by this stuffed-animal looking magical dog (rabbit?) is, on the outset, a pretty sweet deal; in exchange for becoming a magical girl and fighting witches you get any wish you want fulfilled.  But the cost is too great in more ways than one, and this agonizing sub plot of what and how the two main storyline characters want to wish for and make their decision to become magical girls is interesting and unexpected.  

If you don't want to take my word for it, here is a youtube video of a very (enthusiastic?) drunk young man, probably broadcasting from the inner sanctum of his dorm room at uni, narrating the preview from episode 3.  

Got the picture of Mami from Due2Life blog.