Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fall 2010: The Awards

Going into the Fall 2010 season was a bit of a renaissance for me. I'll be honest—I haven't really been too excited about animation prospects for a few years. My "collection" likely reflects more of my lack of interest, as I have more VHS copies of anime than I do DVD copies, but the easier access to material and a trip to Japan over the spring has rekindled curiosity.

It's hard to tell just how long that curiosity will continue to burn from the old hickory put on the fire, as this season really tested patience. With the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly putting stricter regulations on anime and manga near the end of the season, it was difficult not to notice the hard sell that animation companies were giving to the older crowd. Heck, the lineup for Fall 2010 would have been crippled if the government had its say on what qualified as "extreme".

That being said, it was hard to pick out what was truly the best and worst of the season—there really wasn't much middle ground to work with.

Best In Show (single-season)
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
Honestly, it was hard to put Gainax's parody of the Cartoon Network in this spot for a number of reasons. Yes, the show was gruesome and grotesque with its treatment of bodily fluids and scat as if they were champagne and chocolate. Yes, there were shows that likely told its story better. And yes, the last episode chokes on Gainax's trademark "non-ending ending" cliffhanger that may have angered fans.

But how can you say that you will forget such a season? The styles so varied, the soundtrack so fuzzy from zizz, the characters both off-the-wall bonkers and satisfyingly likeable, the subjects of sin so close to our own without actually invading the fourth wall, Panty & Stocking pretty much hit us with everything from the ACME catalog and then some. It was sexy self-gratification with experimental silliness and tongue-in-cheek humor. If Gainax doesn't do the obvious and produce a second season, fans will be devastated.

Honorable Mention - Kuragehime, Invasion! Squid Girl, Oreimo

Worst In Show (single-season)
Yosuga no Sora
It didn't even merit much of a glance after the first episode, even with the premise of crowding four story arcs over twelve episodes through four different branching universes. The story was so distilled, the syrupy drama separated from the two-minute splash of comedy at the end. The characters were unexciting, and the visual-novel situations were brittle from too much exposure.

Left with no energy remaining to fuel it, the show basically tries to recover by pushing the taboo envelope further and clobbering the audience with the shock of "twincest" between the main characters. It just turns the show into a bizarre tragedy of relationships that don't cement a specific conclusion into place. Vague, unresolved and perhaps unintentionally offensive, Yosuga no Sora is a show that deserves no attention.

Honorable Mention (?) - Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, MM!

Best In Show (multi-season)
Considering that it was in competition with the likes of Hetalia, One Piece, Black Butler II and assorted others on the Funimation website during the summer, the noitaminA series silently rode under the radar. A story about vampires just didn't equate to a unique feel, but once the show hit its halfway point and sold itself as a full twenty-two-episode show, it took off like a rocket.

While the show started to pick off the small town's population slowly, the midpoint of the series drove the human population into something beastly. Once thought to have too many characters for a plot, Shiki forced them into two sides of a war for survival and shocked the audience with horrific slayings of characters considered too bold to die in such minor situations. Without giving up too much plot, the main character Toshio perhaps pulls off the best psychological performance of the season, investigating the limits of okiagari vampires by experimenting on his own wife.

Honorable Mention - Tegami Bachi Reverse, Arakawa Under the Bridge*2

Worst In Show (multi-season)
Motto To Love-Ru
With all of the characters pretty much introduced in the first series, there was no need for Motto To Love-Ru to follow any sort of pattern or tell any particular extended story. One moment, our lucky protagonist Rito is feeling up one female classmate due to a misunderstanding. The next part, he's naked in front of the violent lolita and getting the tar beat out of him. The last seven minutes involve some touching moment with the uptight classmate, his school crush or the ditzy alien princess.

Was there a reason to really bring this show back if every episode is the same? Even the ending fails to deviate from the manga's ending, giving us the generic sit-com denouement of Rito surrounded by women reacting to his directionless admission of love. Harem show of all harem shows, Motto To Love-Ru lived up to its expectations of being a total disappointment.

Honorable Mention (?) - Sora no Otoshimono Forte, Amagami SS

Most Potential (continuing series)
Star Driver: Takuto of the Radiance
When it was announced that Bones would be the studio handling animation duties, there was no doubt that the mecha designs in Star Driver were going to be a work of art. Originally founded by Sunrise (Gundam, Escaflowne) members, Bones had designed some of the more vivid machines (RahXephon, Heroman) and constructed some of the more colorful stories (Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf's Rain) in anime.

It wasn't expected that a story that wasn't based on a preexisting manga or light novel would work so well. Perhaps there are no expectations for how the story will unwind, but the conversations between the characters are lighthearted yet poignant, stoic yet comfortable like an episode of Utena. Takuto, Sugata, and Wako make perhaps the best trio in anime since Naruto met Sasuke and Sakura.

Honorable Mention - The World God Only Knows

Least Potential (continuing series)
So far, I have yet to hear a critical voice that has been pleasantly surprised by Bakuman, the animated adaption of the award-winning Shônen Jump manga about creating a manga. The first episodes of the show had nothing that really differentiated it from the manga (or the productions of the "manga" on YouTube), and the show is almost too relaxed to grab anyone new to the series.

It almost feels as if the show was to be gift-wrapped and presented to all of the fans that wanted to see it animated from Day 1, a reward for being so devoted to the comic, but I wasn't impressed with the show's first episodes. The fact the show will run more than the allotted 25 episodes tells me that it's popular enough in Japan, but for people overseas that may never experience the joy of being a manga star, it doesn't seem to translate into excitement.

Honorable mention (?) - Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector

Biggest Surprise
Hyakka Ryôran Samurai Girls
Yes, the show pretty much twisted samurai legend in order to put a whole bunch of half-naked women in the hands of an unwilling male, but the end product of Hyakka Ryôran actually managed to do better than expected. It took a little bit of bitter medicine to stand listening to Jûbei's ditzy split-personality, but the action was solid and exciting, and the climax was genuinely dazzling. Most important, the ending actually felt like an ending with some actual sacrifices to be made.

Considering the artwork was also so deeply rooted into the monochromatic ink of Japanese calligraphy, it was tempting to be overwhelmed by the use of stray drops as censors for the nudity, but the show slowly drew color for those spatters. (Besides, they're easier to cope with than BLINDING SUNLIGHT.) Hyakka Ryôran may have been Tenchi Muyô in Edo Japan, but it was still a surprise to see it work.

Honorable Mention - Otome Yôkai Zakuro, Fortune Arterial: Red Promise

Biggest Disappointment
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru
Akiyuki Shinbo and SHAFT laid a few eggs this season. While Arakawa Under the Bridge*2 got a little too wrapped up in drama, Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru depended too much on impressing the audience with camera angles and art. The story was meant to involve a maid cafe, a high-school detective, and/or paranormal activity, but just ended up some sort of soupy mix of the three without ever making headway.

In short, the show left me complaining for more, much in the same nasal manner that Hotori hits the audience with every episode. It could have been so much better if we saw the show's objective by the end of the first episode; instead, we got a slice-of-life show that will never measure up to the likes of Sazae-san or Chibi Maruko-chan.

Honorable Mention (?) - Iron Man, Togainu no Chi

Best Overall Show
Yes, this might be a bit unfair to shows that have already finished, but as Chris Beveridge of expressed on Twitter regarding his own choice of Shiki as the Best Simulcast of the Year, "The strength of the first 21 (episodes) certainly makes it a given, regardless if it ends badly." We probably judge our shows too much on the ending of the series, so it was great to have a show out there that finally took its time, ignored any sort of high-school setting, and took a sledgehammer to everything we knew about anime.

Shiki was not only better at psychological horror than the likes of Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Highschool of the Dead, it took it one step further. It made each character, location, and occasion matter. It made vampire stories exciting by drawing out the tension over time and through dozens of people. It made the noitaminA block a definite must-see in the future. Shiki succeeded with its story, as old-fashioned as it may seem, by mixing European gothic style with the loneliness of Japanese life in the boonies.

If Shiki is released in North America, I will no doubt pay to see it again.

Honorable Mention - Panty & Stocking, Kuragehime, Star Driver, The World God Only Knows

We'll see you next season!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TAF News: Here Comes A New Challenger!

Over the past month, anime and manga fans, both in Japan and overseas, have been keeping close tabs on the passage of amendment changes to the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Ordinance. Dubbed "Bill 156", its controversial formation and quick passage by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on December 15th spawned outrage from the "Comic 10-Shakai"—an association of ten Japanese publishing companies—and the Association of Japanese Animators. As a form of protest, the groups threatened to boycott the Tokyo International Anime Fair in March of 2011.

Since the bill's passage and its resulting backlash, both sides appear to have made little ground. In an interview with the media on December 17th, Tokyo Governor Shintarô Ishihara indicated that this ordinance was done with the safety of children in mind and vaguely targeted those who promote a "book of any sort could instigate children toward crime or delinquency". Without being specific, Ishihara described the potential violators of the new Ordinance as "sad people with warped DNA", even though he also felt that Nabokov's Lolita was similar in content, but not in "beauty" (translation and report from Dan Kanemitsu, who is covering this matter on his blog):
"For example, Mr. Yasunari Kawabata was strongly influence by Nabokov’s Lolita and wrote a bizarre novel, and while that [book] was rather shocking when it was first released, but still is wasn’t so escalated and managed to capture poetic beauty.

But look, you got this stuff that’s all out in the open, and listen, men can’t marry children that aren’t 7 or 8 years old, and having girls like this being raped, that kind of thing, how to do I put it, being portrayed as a part of a narrative that’s supposed to be justified, is something that I frankly believe serves no useful purpose what so ever, and it’s a poison with no redeeming qualities what so ever."
While Governor Ishihara hasn't minced his words on the matter, the publishing companies and the anime/manga industry appear to be ready to take their threats of boycott to a new level. Anime News Network reports that as of December 28th Kadokawa Shoten, ANIMATE, and six other businesses have announced plans for a rival exposition called the "Anime Contents Expo" to take place during the two public days of business for the Tokyo International Anime Fair (March 26-27, 2011).

While the content of the Anime Contents Expo will likely resemble that of the Tokyo International Anime Fair, the difference will naturally be in the location of the event. While the Tokyo International Anime Fair will take place at Tokyo Big Sight, just off the Yurikamome line in the Odaiba area of Tokyo, the organizers of the Anime Contents Expo have placed their event at Makuhari Messe, the location of the original Comiket.

The following information regarding the Expo was posted on the Kadokawa and ANIMATE websites. (Translation done by Geoff Tebbetts. Links not part of the original message.)

December 28th, 2010


Press release regarding the "Anime Contents Expo"

Anime Contents Expo Preparatory Committee

As many of you may well know before from our announcement, we are in support of the Japan Cartoonists Association (JCA), the Copyright Network for Comic Authors in the 21st Century, Manga Japan, the Comic 10-Shakai, and the Association of Japanese Animations in their opposition to the revisions made to the Tokyo Metropolitan Youth Healthy Development Ordinance.

Because of this action, many of us who had planned to participate in the Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF), to be held in March of 2011 with Tokyo Governor Shintarô Ishihara as the head of the Executive Committee, have unfortunately decided to withdraw our exhibitions from this year's TAF due to our opposition of this revision. However, we highly appreciate the history and significance of TAF, and we deeply respect the Association of Japanese Animations for all the tremendous service as TAF's organizers.

However, we have considered the feelings of all the fans that have enjoyed TAF and have looked into setting up some sort of new outlet for the period of time when we provide important updates on new releases over the spring and summer of 2011.

As a result, after considering the conveniences for the fans that come from across the country, their plans, and the availability of locations, we have decided to hold the "Anime Contents Expo", a joint event that will consist of anime-related businesses in the following manner.

We will do our best to provide a place for all fans to enjoy themselves.

We will also strive to widen the contacts for each company with similar interests and enhance operations, so to all the fans and related organizations we ask for understanding and cooperation.

Details regarding the event will be subsequently announced starting in January of 2011.

Synopsis for the Anime Contents Expo
Event Date: March 26 (Saturday) - March 27 (Sunday), 2011
Location: Makuhari Messe

Anime Contents Expo Preparatory Committee
Kadokawa Shoten
King Records
Geneon Universal Entertainment Japan
Frontier Works
Marvelous Entertainment
Media Factory

While some have wondered about the state of TAF itself immediately after the passage of the law in Tokyo, the announcement of the Anime Contents Expo may have very well been the opening bell for competition outside of Tokyo (and perhaps Japan). Many are predicting that TAF will have much more foreign presence from American, Korean and Chinese animation companies with the absence of the major publishers and animation studios, but what will competition from the ACE do to domestic business?

Will there even be a Fair at all?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Revolution Will Be Mangacized

With Winter Comiket on the horizon, opening up Wednesday December 29th through Friday December 31st (pushed back due to the New Year holidays), the tension in the market will likely be much more palpable now that Bill 156 has been passed. Due to its passage and prospective start in July 2011, the revisions to amendments for the "Tokyo Metropolitan Youth Healthy Development Ordinance" will hit prospective manga artists harder now that attention has been showered on their hobbies and professions, mostly from the media coverage. The next Comiket will be in August, a month after the law is put into place.

Keep in mind, as Dan Kanemitsu has been telling us through his blog, that there have been regulations put on the sales of manga and anime before the passage of Bill 156 regarding sex. However, the regulations are much stricter when it comes to sexual acts between minors and adults:

With the passage of Bill 156, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will have the additional power to restrict any manga, anime and video games (but not live photography works) that feature any sexual acts that would violate criminal codes or Tokyo ordinances OR sexual depictions between close relatives who could not legally get married to be treated as adult material IF they are presented in “unjustifiably glorified or exaggerated manner.”

Note that criminal acts not only include rape and molestation, but certain relationships between minors and adults, all forms of prostitution, indecent exposure, and other sex-related crimes as well. The text of Bill 156 does not recognize differences in the setting of the story (sci-fi, fantasy, and / or alternate reality) nor if the story takes place in a different historical period nor different geographical location. From now on, authors of general audience fiction of manga, anime and video games must keep in mind all the codes, ordinances, and laws specified by Tokyo and Japan’s law books if they wish to depict any sexual acts. The degree of sexual stimulation will not be a factor for the provisions added by Bill 156.

So from the sound of the language in the law, it does appear to be causing more ambiguity in the relationships of minors and adults. What could this mean? It may mean that, while implied sexual relations of a forced manner such as rape are a given, accepted and desired relations between minors and adults could also be targeted. Those student-teacher implied trysts in Sayonara Zetsubô-sensei? Gone. Usagi and Mamoru's relationship in Sailor Moon? Also likely in violation of Bill 156.

However, they wouldn't be the only couple in danger—the situation between Haruka and Michiru in Sailor Moon S, once considered taboo and risky to the American airwaves, would likely be banned in Japan, too. Erica Friedman, writer of the yuri-themed blog Okazu, has expressed her own concerns that this bill and Tokyo Gov. Shintarô Ishihara's controversial statements on the LGBT community will hurt stories involving homosexual themes:
What bothers me most about this is that it is exactly the kind of stunt that people who have stashes of child porn pull instead of actually trying to do anything to make actual children safer. Real child porn is not covered under this act - only drawn stuff. And, based on bill sponsor and Governor of Tokyo Ishihara Shintarou's recent statements about LGBT people being genetically deficient and pathetic, I can see that an easy target can be made of LGBT-themed content. Ishihara has recently made some very controversial comments about women, the LGBT community, foreign influence and "protecting" children. Stepping back from the issue of manga at all, it seems apparent to me that he has begun to wage a war against gays, women and children. This cannot be a good trend.
In order to jump-start the protests against the bill and inform manga fans in Japan about both the situation and the stance taken against the bill by overseas fans such as ourselves, Kanemitsu has joined forces with artists Takeshi Nogami and Takaaki Suzuki to release Saru Demo Wakaru Tojôrei Taisaku ("An Idiot’s Guide to Tokyo’s Harmful Books Regulation"), a dôjinshi on the matter of Bill 156 to be released at Comiket. The trio is fighting fire with fire by depicting Gov. Ishihara and his cabinet as manga stereotypes—moe-fied girls, Boys' Love bishônen, and Hokuto no Ken stunt doubles.
At the same time, they are also writing their response to the bill in the form of three articles:
  • "Political Activism as a form of Fan Activity"
  • "Why did the Nonexistent Sex Crimes Bill pass while the Nonexistent Youth Bill was defeated?"
  • "Overseas Perspectives on Japanese Manga and Anime"
While the dôjinshi's manga will be published with translations done by Kanemitsu, the articles themselves will be untranslated, but the English versions will be available at Kanemitsu's website after the end of Winter Comiket. The dôjinshi will also be available at

Friday, December 24, 2010

Season's Greetings from AniMaybe

From all of our family here to all of yours...
我々は心からご家族の皆さまに・・・ wishes for a Happy New Year and...

...a bloody Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Comic 10-Shakai Restates Stance, Expresses Apology to Fans

As of 7:30 PM Japan Time on December 22nd, 2010, Kadokawa has posted a joint statement to once again protest the Tokyo Youth Health Development Ordinance on behalf of the Comic 10-Shakai.

In this statement, the Comic 10-Shakai has expressed their apologies to anime and manga fans for their withdrawl and non-cooperation with the 2011 Tokyo International Anime Fair. However, they have also reenforced their opposition to the bill by stating the precautions they have taken in protecting minors in the past and further clarifying the parts of the passage process with which they disagree:

Regarding the immediate statement on non-cooperation and non-participation with the 2011 Tokyo International Anime Fair


December 22, 2010

On December 10th, our organization announced in an immediate statement our non-cooperationand non-participation with the "2011 Tokyo International Anime Fair". First of all, regarding this matter we offer our deepest apologies to anime fans and to all of those who were eagerly awaiting the Anime Fair. However, this sort of action had to be taken by us at all costs due to our opposition to the passing of the "Amendment to the Tokyo Metropolitan Youth Healthy Development Ordinance", and in the end we felt we had to make this gesture for the sake of all manga and anime fans in Japan. We ask for the full understanding of manga and anime fans in this regard.

However, while many problems with the above-mentioned amendment had been pointed out, the amendment was ultimately passed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on December 15th. Concerns have come one after the other from manga artists and anime producers that there are fears that this will cause creative activity to wither due to the abstract and vague requirements of the amendment. We too have expressed out strong protest towards the passage of this sort of amendment.

Of course, our organization also has a deep desire for improvement in the healthy development in today's youth. For that reason, the publishing industry has self-regulated itself for many years by displaying "adult-only magazine" marks on its covers, as well as providing two microsealed locations on its goods and thoroughly partitioned merchandising at bookstores and convenience stores so that minors could not stand and browse through them. As a result, there are no longer any situations where, as Governor Shintarô Ishihara has stated, "explicit books have inundated (the market)". Even though these sorts of satisfactory results have been obtained under the current conditions, it is totally beyond our comprehension why there is a need for obscure draft revisions. Of course, we intend to double our efforts to thoroughly self-regulate in the future.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, upon passing the amendment, have also passed additional resolutions. Regarding the application of articles concerning self-regulation and the designation of unhealthy reading materials where it was indicated that the language in the ordinance was unclear, "there will be careful implementation with consideration of points expressed in the article in question by its creator such as its artistic character, its social nature, its academic artistry, and its critical nature through humor", and regarding the procedure for consultation with the Tokyo Metropolitan Chamber on Youth Healthy Development for the review of reading materials, "we will ensure fair administration such as the appraisal of items in the revised ordinance where new standards had been added and the acquisition of time for a review." We strongly urge that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, in the context of the aforementioned additional resolutions, proceeds with careful implementation of the revised ordinance while valuing the author's freedom of expression and the voluntary efforts of the publishing industry. Our stance of opposition to this revised ordinance will not change. From now on, we are determined to consistently take the lead in raising questions regarding the existence and implementation of the revised ordinance without backing off our surveillance.

The Comic 10-Shakai
Akita Shoten / Kadokawa Shoten / Kodansha / Shueisha / Shogakukan
Shonen Gahousha / Shinchosha / Hakusensha / Futabasha / LEEDPublishing Co., Ltd.

Facepalm 2010: Autumn Edition

We've finished with our informal poll on the best anime from Fall of 2010. While we're not sure what "Other" stood for in the minds of voters, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt took the cake with 7 votes, while Oreimo and Kuragehime scored 3 votes. The World God Only Knows got a vote, and Squid Girl was left without a vote.

Since there were so many shows that were apparently left out of the poll, we gave you a ton more to select for the "Worst Anime of Fall 2010". We have our personal preference for the show most deserving of a facepalm, so we'll keep our opinions to ourselves, but what made you sick to watch this season? (Bonus points if you actually are masochistic enough to watch it to the end.)

Of course, let us know why you selected the show you selected. Don't worry if you weren't able to make it through the pain; we're a support group here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The AJA addresses the Tokyo Youth Ordinance

On December 15th, the bill in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, simply dubbed "Bill 156", for the revisions to amendments for the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Ordinance had gone through a full assembly vote and passed. Clauses will officially go into effect in April of 2011, while regulations of sales will commence in July 2011. According to ANN:
Bill 156 would require the industry to also regulate "manga, anime, and other images (except for real-life photography)" that "unjustifiably glorify or exaggerate" certain sexual or pseudo sexual acts. Another section of the revised bill would allow the government to directly regulate the above images if the depicted acts are also "considered to be excessively disrupting of social order" such as rape.
As we had reported before, the "Comic 10-Shakai", an association of ten publishing companies (Kadokawa Shoten, Shueisha, Shogakukan, Kodansha, Akita Shoten, Hakusensha, Shonen Gahousha, Shinchosha, Futabasha, LEED Publishing Co., Ltd.), had threatened to boycott the Tokyo International Anime Fair held in March 2011. As of right now, the protest is still to be held, and the Comic 10-Shakai is looking to even prevent the sales and handling of their trademarks at TIAF, leaving the event's status in the air.

To show that they aren't bluffing, the Comic 10-Shakai has gotten support and defense from the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA). The organization, helmed by Takayuki Matsutani of Tezuka Productions, has provided a press release regarding the matter, expressing concern that the TIAF situation will become "virtually unenforceable" if things were to continue.

The following is an unofficial translation of the press release provided by the AJA in response to the issue.

December 21, 2010
To all press relations:

Regarding the revisions to the Tokyo
Youth Health Development Ordinance

The Association of Japanese Animations

As you may well know, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly adopted and passed a revision of the Tokyo Metropolitan Youth Health Development Ordinance on the 15th of this month.

Under the revisions made to this Ordinance, the sales of manga and animation will be regulated, and the content of expression will also be subjected to regulation.

However, due to the ambiguity of the subjects and requirements for regulation, we must say that, in light of the spirit of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, this poses a large problem.

Along with this, the production companies that produce animation that are subject to regulation under the revision to this Ordinance feel that the measure was unilaterally passed without any procedures, such as announcements and hearings, made towards our association for the industrial group assured under the Constitution for our freedom of expression as visual expressionists, despite their necessity from the standpoint of protection of due process of law provided by the Constitution.

For these reasons, our association believes the revisions to this Ordinance to be extremely regrettable.

Also, in regards to the manga similarly subjected to regulation by the revisions to this Ordinance, the Comic 10-Shakai and a good many other groups have expressed their intent to protest and oppose the revisions to this Ordinance.

Not only is this extremely valid from the standpoint of defending the freedom of expression for manga artists, but under the current conditions that the contents of the regulations due to the revisions to the Ordinance are ambiguous and that there have been no formal procedures, our association supports this statement by agreeing with the protest and opposition from the Comic 10-Shakai.

The Comic 10-Shakai have expressed their consistent refusal to help with the "2010 Tokyo International Anime Fair" and to attend it. However, they feel the Tokyo International Anime Fair is a wonderful event that communicates the value of Japanese animations to the world and has credentials towards increasing its value, and they hope that it will be held as normal.

However, the non-participation and non-cooperation of the Comic 10-Shakai would mean that it would be extremely difficult to maintain the quality that the Tokyo International Anime Fair has had up until now, due to the inability to avoid the withdrawal of a large number of exhibits from participating companies, and that it would lead to a delicate situation that may not be able to measure up to the expectations of the visitors.

Since our association has entrusted responsibilities to the Tokyo International Anime Fair's organizers and is not the event's host, it is not our position to make a judgment regarding whether or not to postpone the event. However, as a party that holds responsibilities towards operations, we must say that it will become a virtually unenforceable situation if things continue to go this way.

Much like many of the fans who love animation, we deeply regret this sort of situation, and we, as an organization that has served the organizers of the Tokyo International Anime Fair for many years, would like everyone to understand our disappointment.

We shall continue to monitor the situation regarding the status of the TIAF and Bill 156's enactment. Both matters can be explained in more detail at the following sites:

Brian Ruh, Brain Diving. "Youth Brigade: Clearing up the Youth Ordinance Bill".
Dan Kanemitsu, Dan Kanemitsu's Paper Trail.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Feedback Thread

If you hadn't noticed, there's a poll to your right. If you also hadn't noticed, I fudged by not including an area for people to tell us what "other" anime out there was better than those listed.

So I'll open it up to the readers of this fine establishment's blog: what was the best anime out there for the Fall 2010 season (if it's not listed in the poll)?

You go ahead.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Fall 2010 Rankings (to the nth degree)

"I'm Kurara! This week's #1 show is..."

With the Fall 2010 season almost over and the reviews wrapped up for the year, I thought I'd take a before-and-after approach towards ranking the shows. Having seen every show's initial episode, I ranked the 25 new shows for the season from best to worst, #1 going to the best first episode and #25 to the worst.

It seemed a little boring to just list the shows, and it seemed a little redundant to add my opinion of the shows, since I've pretty much reviewed them all already. That being said, the logician in me (read: MATH NERD) decided to break down each show into its components and provide an equation that perhaps best explains the feel of the show. For example, Negima = Harry Potter + Love Hina. (I'm sure we were all thinking the same thing.)

Confusing? You bet your Pythagorean theorem it is.

1. Kuragehime = [(Maison Ikkoku + Ranma 1/2) / Rumiko Takahashi] + Cinderella

2. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt = (Powder Puff Girls + Dirty Pair + The Misfits from Jem) - Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

3. Star Driver = Revolutionary Girl Utena + Giant Robo

4. Invasion! Squid Girl = Mitsudomoe + Octopus Girl - The Ring

5. Arakawa Under The Bridge*2 = Arakawa Under The Bridge + Forbidden Planet - spaceship

6. Oreimo = Marmalade Boy + Cyber Team in Akihabara + (1 / Otaku no Video)

7. Tegami Bachi REVERSE = Tegami Bachi * Naruto

8. Psychic Detective Yakumo = Kindaichi Case Files + Gackt

9. Otome Yôkai Zakuro = (Taishô Baseball Girls - Princess Nine) * GeGeGe no Kitaro

10. The World God Only Knows = Excel Saga, Episode 4 + Pokemon

11. Hyakka Ryôran Samurai Girls = (Shin Koihime Musô - China) + Sakura Wars

12. Hakuôki Hekketsuroku = Fushigi Yûgi + Rurôni Kenshin + Vampire Hunter D

13. Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector = Super Robot Wars OG + Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture + (Jam Project)^10

14. Bakuman = (Hikaru no Go)! + How To Draw Manga

15. Fortune Arterial: Red Promise = Clannad + (Hellsing/4)

16. Hetalia World Series = Hetalia

17. Togainu no Chi = (Fist of the North Star - Jojo's Bizarre Adventure) * Comiket

18. To Aru Majutsu no Index II = (Chrono Crusade - Devil Man) * 2

19. Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru = (Maid-sama! + Encyclopedia Brown + Ramona Quimby) / Nancy Drew

20. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes = (Meitantei Conan - murder) + Ojamajo Doremi

21. Iron Man = Iron Man (U.S. TV series) + Iron Man (movie) - Iron Man (comic)

22. M.M.! = The sum of every harem anime you've ever seen - inhibitions - appeal

23. Sora no Otoshimono Forte = Oh! My Goddess + Urusei Yatsura - modesty

24. Yosuga no Sora = The Wonder Twins + kissxsis

25. Motto To Love-Ru = 1 / n, where n approaches infinity.

Next time: We actually RANK the shows!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Top 15 Best Themes of Fall 2010

A cracking soundtrack doesn't necessarily need to be in place to make an anime good, but a really good opening and closing theme will have people talking for years. People are still dancing to the Haruhi Season 1 ending theme, and I'm convinced that DNA2 became a smash anime series thanks to the addition of a blossoming band known as L'arc-en-Ciel to its opening sequence. Produce a catchy song and grab the audience with 90 seconds of power, and you'll be sending them to karaoke boxes over and over. Guaranteed.

Here is a listing of the fifteen TV-cut themes, either opening or ending, that I think deserve some praise for lifting their shows. Heck, send some of them overseas for an award tour if you can!

[All CD cover images come courtesy of CD Japan ( OP = Opening Theme. ED = Ending Theme.]

15. "HELP!! ~Hell Side / Heaven Side~" - Mio Isurugi / Arashiko Yûno (M.M.!, OP)

Well, not much to write about the animation, as it's pretty much just an assembly of the M.M.! crew displaying their idiosyncrasies, but the song sung by the main heroines, voice-actresses Ayana Taketatsu and later Saori Hayami, is at least peppy enough to lift spirits. Its double-sided nature ("Go to Hell!" becomes "Go to Heaven!" in mid-season) is notable enough to be a above-average start to the show.

14. "Bakurock~Mirai no Rinkakusen" ("Contours of the Future") - YA-KYIM (Bakuman, ED)

The limping opening theme from Kobukuro gives the slice-of-life show a little too much sappy romance, so at least the ending theme from the hip-pop unit YA-KYIM has a little more joy to it. The animation itself isn't much of a stretch, silhouettes of the main characters running along with panels of the supporting cast, but the up-tempo song keeps the atmosphere breezy enough for the next show.

13. "Rose-Hip Bullet" - GRANRODEO (Togainu no Chi, OP)

Surprisingly absent from the opening animation scene are Visual-Kei bands. With Buck-Tick still affiliated with the Shi Ki animation, the only other band that provides some good Vis-K rock is GRANRODEO, a duo comprised of veteran guitarist Masaaki Iizuka and voice-actor Kishô Taniyama. The opening animation is nothing exceptional, but the music really clobbers the listener like a cinder-block and sets a decent stage for the show.

12. "Last vision for last" - Faylan (Hyakka Ryôran Samurai Girls, OP)

Faylan is one of those singers in Japan where her voice just demands a sexy song for accompaniment. While the decision to use her for the ending to Tantei Opera Milky Holmes is perhaps questionable, she adds plenty of J-pop power to the opening for Hyakka Ryôran. Add to it the female cast strutting their stuff with a clash of swords, and it's a nice punch to begin the show.

11. "Akai Kôto" ("Red Coat") - Suneohair (Arakawa Under the Bridge*2, ED)

The ending theme to the second Arakawa Under the Bridge series has two different versions. While the original is a live-action presentation of its more cartoonish characters in realistic scenes, the second is an animated version with the heroine Nino exploring the world around her as if she were coming alive from a coloring book. The acoustic guitar finishes the episode appropriately, leaving a wind-swept feel to the story.

10. "God Only Knows (Part III)" - Oratario The World God Only Knows (The World God Only Knows, OP)

KamiNomi provides perhaps the most bipolar of the opening themes for the season, using just a fraction from a medley on the official soundtrack as its opening. The first half of the song drowns itself in digital and dances through circuitry like Tron, only to end in the tinny sound of a harpsichord and our main character's mind buried in a handheld video game. Appropriate, considering the main character's tendency to bounce between 2D and 3D mentalities.

9. "Fallen Angel" - Aimee B (Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, ED)

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has, hands down, the best soundtrack of the season with plenty of electronica to follow such a bizarre series. The ending theme tones it down by bringing the viewer back to earth with a slow English-language R&B dance number, while bobbleheaded versions of Panty and Stocking are subjected to slow-motion doomsday scenarios. A great way for the audience to exhale.

8. "Metamerism" - Kanae Itô (Shinryaku! Ika-Musume, ED)

Sometimes simple is better. Although some minute details vary according to the content of each show, the ending animation covers only a shot of Squid Girl gazing longingly at the night sky and the waves on the beach. Kanae Itô covers the song gracefully like a boat drifting on a sea of violins. Possibly the best ending theme of the season.

7. "Downtown" - Maaya Sakamoto (Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, OP)

I'm a bit surprised that the opening theme for Soredemo was so upbeat and catchy that I often spent more time listening to the song and watching the opening than the actual anime itself. Maaya Sakamoto has such a range with her vocal talents as both a singer and a voice actress, and she pulls off a brilliant Broadway song, while Hotori and friends dance along in a cabaret number.

6. "Shinryaku no susume" ("Let's Invade") - ULTRA-PRISM with Ika-Musume (Shinryaku! Ika-Musume, OP)

Nothing needed to be said here but...

IKA-MUSUME! (chu!)

If that doesn't get lodged in your brain for hours on end, you are one hell of a clear thinker.

5. "Cosmos vs. Alien" - Etsuko Yakushimaru (Arakawa Under the Bridge*2, OP)

For the most part, Arakawa Under The Bridge has depended on surrealism in its story and comedy, so Studio SHAFT has saved a lot of its creativity for its openings and endings. Since the collaboration worked so well the first season ("Venus and Jesus"), Etsuko Yakushimaru donates her wispy voice to the second opening amongst a jaunty Wonderland-inspired tea party interrupted by explosions in space.

4. "MAXON" - Jam Project (Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector, OP)

Come on. If it's got robots in it, it's gotta have the thunderous voices of JAM Project! Serious power charge from the quintet, and the animation sells the sizzle pretty nicely. Any excuse to yell "Revolving STAAAKE!" is as good an excuse as any.
3. "Koko Dake no Hanashi" ("Just Between You and Me") - chatmonchy (Kuragehime, OP)

Kuragehime is meant to be a fluffy geek story, so it's only appropriate for the theme to be light and buttery like popcorn. Speaking of popcorn, the animation does a terrific job in presenting the characters in their own movie parodies, finishing with a sunny morning wake-up call around the apartment. Surprisingly, chatmonchy's influences stretch from Thee Michelle Gun Elephant and Hi-Standard to Dave Grohl, but they pull off a nice mellow sound.

2. "irony" - ClariS (Oreimo, OP)

With such clear voices joining the upbeat background music, ClariS may surprise you—the duo is reported to have been in middle-school at the time of their debut this year. While the opening sells a lot of itself through Kirino's tsundere behaviors, the actual animation changes from week to week and remains fresh. Get to know ClariS—they're slated to sing the opening theme for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

1. "Gravity ø" - Aqua Timez (Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto, OP)

There is no song or opening sequence that could reasonably replace what Star Driver has offered this season. Instead of providing cuts to the various characters and mecha in the show, Studio Bones goes off the beaten path by having its hero Takuto running across two-dimensional solid-color scenery and past his classmates, his speed matching the pace and crests of the song. Aqua Timez had performed some good songs for Bleach, but there is nothing but inspiration coming from their blend of pop and rock before Takuto takes off for the skies in his mecha. If there was an opening that ever rivaled One Piece's first OP ("We Are!") in terms of the spring of youth and hope, this is it.

There you have it, folks. The Top 15 songs of the season. Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the soy sauce.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fall 2010 - Rest of the Rest (Tsundere Ver.)

What else do you want from me? I told you that I don't have enough time to watch everything, but you're still here! I've already said I'm sorry!

Fine! I'll review these shows, but don't misunderstand me, you dummy! I just...I just have time to finally get these done! I mean, they weren't exactly the best of shows out there, and the first episodes really disappointed me, almost to the point of not watching them anymore! But I'll review them already!'s not like I'm doing it for you! Dummy!

Synopsis: So this Tony Stark billionaire guy decides to go to Japan to set up a power station in cooperation with the Japanese government. While helping with the research and acting as his own press agent for his lavish events, Stark comes across a rogue pilot who has hijacked a prototype armor meant to be his replacement as Iron Man. At the same time, he has to cope with the attacks from the Zodiac, a band of androids and robots that have targeted Iron Man and the Stark Corporation.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: First of all, there isn't a rush to review the Japanese version of the show, as it will be released soon enough in the United States. This conversion to a dubbed English language may make the show a little easier to process and believable; Stark shows little to no problems with speaking in Japanese in the first episode. A little believability, if you will!

Second of all, there wasn't much appeal for the series when the first episodes were weighed as an entity. Each week, Zodiac poses a colossal threat to the nation, whether it be in a natural or digital form, but once that threat is neutralized, it seems to be forgotten. The only things that tie the episodes together are characters that aren't that interesting, and for some reason Tony keeps bumping into the same nosy female reporter. Aren't there any other people in Japan? And if there are, must they be inexplicably brought into the show? (Wait, what's Wolverine doing here?!)

Synopsis: Moritaka's got the artistic ability that his uncle used to exhibit when he was a mangaka in his own generation, but his uncle's death from overwork has been considered a "suicide" by Moritaka's family. While Moritaka would rather just join the working class, his classmate Akito, a bright guy with a knack for writing, would rather risk it to succeed as one half of a manga tandem with Moritaka. Moritaka's motivation to become a mangaka, however, comes from an urge to see his crush Azuki succeed at her goal of becoming a voice actress and for her voice to be paired with his animated creation.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: Okay, so Bakuman is an anime based on the manga about two guys making a manga in the hopes of making it an anime. It seems logical and ripe for tearing down some of the walls separating the industry from its readers, but the first two episodes just didn't feel like it was worth animating. It was as if the inclusion of time didn't really make a difference—there's no real gripping factor that differentiates the anime from the manga. It's a bit of a disappointment to consider there to be more drama in the manga than the anime.

The other big problem I had was actually with the opening theme, "Blue Bird" from Kobukuro. You have great harmony and play a mean ballad, guys, but way to seriously put the audience to sleep. Maybe things might pick up with the next half of the 25-episode series, but I couldn't get past two episodes. It's a serious shame, because the manga was solid.

Synopsis: Derived from the visual novel from Sphere in 2008, Yosuga no Sora tells the story about the Kasugano twins, Haruka and Sora, while they return to their grandparents' old house in the countryside. Having lost their parents to a car accident, Haruka is very protective of Sora, especially due to her own frail constitution, but life must go on. They attend the town's high school and befriend some past acquaintances and new faces, only for Sora to exhibit a fierce jealousy each time.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: I understand that the show contains an interesting way of unfolding, as each "arc" involving Haruka and one of the other girls in the show develops as if chosen through the alternatives presented in a visual novel. However, I found myself unable to get past the first episode after understanding that Sora totally has the hots for her twin brother. So far, shows have managed to dance around actual incest, but Yosuga no Sora doesn't sugar-coat. Actual brother-sister lip-lock here, folks.

Too creepy to really continue the story, even with the ridiculous cuteness that comes from the episode:

And that's all! No more reviews for the fall! If these reviews aren't good enough for you, then that'll be the last time I ever do them for you!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Fall 2010 - Rest of the Rest

When I reviewed bad anime, I apologized.
When I didn't review the anime at all, I said nothing.

This is an ode to all of those we offended by not reviewing what we considered average. It wasn't the fault of these shows; it was our own fault. We just didn't have enough time for everything, and these shows just didn't charm us at the time. In lieu of flowers and monetary compensation, we provide snips of these middle-of-the-road anime shows from the Fall of 2010.

Synopsis: Based on the "reverse harem" otome game of the same name, Hekketsuroku is a continuation of the first series, Hakuôki Shinsengumi Kitan. Chizuru, the daughter of a prestigious doctor of Western-based medicines, is taken in by the Shinsengumi during her trip to find her father. The protectorate of the shogunate vows to protect her from a scourge of demon-driven samurai called "Rasetsu", only to discover that Chizuru herself is one of the "Demon Clan" that contains the purest of blood, making her the ultimate prey for the Rasetsu for its continued lineage.

Needless to say, the good doctor may not be as good as considered. The medicine he has created, labeled "ochimizu", has the power to heighten senses and power, but its side effects are devastating to the drinker, as it turns them into a bloodthirsty Rasetsu in the process. The second series, treated more as a continuation of the first, chronicles the plight of the Shinsengumi as it tries to both protect Chizuru from the demon forces and deal with their own troubles as demonized humans who drank the medicine for its own survival.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: The show has some good moments, but there just hasn't been much exposure from the series in the US. Hakuôki is to be treated as a pretty good show in terms of its artistic aesthetics, but it requires a start at the beginning. The other burning problem in my mind is that this series seems to just use the famous name of the Shinsengumi in order to tell a story about vampires. Can't say I'm a big fan of revisionist history, so the interest to follow the show was never there.

(Also see: A Certain Magical Index II. I'll get to this shows in time, but it just didn't hit my senses enough to return to "Go". In due time, in due time.)

Synopsis: A "slice-of-life" show produced by the creative eye of Akiyuki Shinbo and Studio SHAFT, Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (And Yet The Town Turns) covers the high-school life of Hotori Arashiyama, an aloof maid-cafe waitress who has a thing for detective stories and a thing against her math teacher. The show covers the various situations Hotori and her friends find themselves drawn into, most of them revolving around the operations of the cafe itself.

Why wasn't it reviewed?: There's...nothing to really review.

The opening and ending themes are rather fun and catchy, and the shifts in perspective that Shinbo emphasizes in his shows are quite pronounced, but Soredemo is a show that even his talents in direction can't float. The plot seems to wander aimlessly from episode to episode without really building direction towards a reason for its animation. Most of all, the whiny voice of Hotori, no fault to her actress, makes the show grating to follow. I've heard that some others have found charm in her annoying personality, but her lack of maturity gets me as mad as her math teacher gets.

Synopsis: This show follows the plot covered in the Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 2 video game, but basically follows the timeline from the previous SRWOG series, Divine Wars. The war between the humans left on Earth after a series of meteor strikes and an alien race known as the Aerogaters unfortunately presented the opportunity for a rogue faction, the "Divine Crusaders" to challenge the Earth's government. While most of the civil war between the two factions has ended, there's now the reemerging threat of the Aerogater fleet...

Why wasn't it reviewed?:
There is still quite a lot of potential for this series to be covered in the next few weeks, as it is being run online on Crunchyroll's website. The opening theme is a powerful force from the notorious "JAM Project", a unit that always cranks the volume of the show to eleven, and if that was the only reason to watch the show, I certainly would watch it daily. The flip of characters—a substitution of the main characters from the first series with its backup team—is also a pretty clever change to its format. I never would have considered seating the starting line-up for the bench players.

The show is directed by veteran Masami Obari (remember Voltage Fighter Gowkaizer?), so I should have been expecting the breasts to be polished to a brilliant gleam (even on the mecha themselves!), but a lot of the disappointment comes, once again, from the substituted characters. Emotionless Lamia Loveless can't seem to get her Japanese straight, and ATX member Excellen comes off as a ditsy pilot that just rubs against all standards of mecha shows. SRWOG: The Inspector's bound to have the action and energy mecha shows always exhibit, but I can't get into the mechanics if I can't get into the characters themselves.

Next time: We're sorry for not reviewing the disappointments!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tokyo International Anime Fair: In Jeopardy?

The Mainichi Shinbun has reported that 10 companies involved with anime and manga production in Japan have decided not to participate in the 2011 Tokyo International Anime Fair, due to disagreements with the upcoming amendments to the "Youth Healthy Development Ordinance" for the Tokyo Metropolitan area. I've produced a translation of the original article that was put on Yahoo! Japan's website:

(Tokyo Anime Fair) Urgent Boycott Announcement from 10 Comic Companies

December 10, 2010, 8:53 PM (Mainichi Shinbun)

On December 10th, Kodansha, Shueisha, Shogakukan and other companies that comprise a coalition of ten comic companies that produce and publish major manga magazines and compiled volumes released an immediate statement that they would not cooperate with the 2011 Tokyo International Anime Fair to be held in the end of March 2011, nor would they participate in it. This is in protest to revision to the Tokyo Metropolitan Youth Healthy Development Ordinance brought by Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who also works as the chairman for the TIAF planning committee. Kadokawa Shoten, also a member of the coalition, announced the suspension of its presentations for the same reason.

The announcement, in opposition to the amendments brought for the regulation of sales of manga and anime with extremely explicit content, expressed the danger that free expression would be stripped, stating that the amendments are being made “without any discussions with cartoonists and anime producers at all” and that “those items subject to regulation would be just as confusing as ever, if not more so”. The mayor and his administration criticized the statement, stating that they are “continuing to repeat disingenuous statements full of factual errors” about anime and manga.

According to the Metropolitan Tourism Department, the Anime Fair started in 2002 for objectives such as industrial development and personnel training. This year’s Fair in March had 244 production companies, television stations, and publication companies make presentations and an overall attendance of around 130,000 people. While they are predicting around a record 140,000 to participate in the Fair’s 10th annual show in 2011, the non-participation of large publication companies that carry many anime creators would make or break the success of the event itself. Representatives at the administration told us that they “could not say if there would be an effect from non-participation”.

(Suzuki, Hideo; Dai, Hiroshi)

Anime News Network reports that these ten companies include the puublishers "Shueisha, Shogakukan, Kodansha, Akita Shoten, Hakusensha, Shonen Gahousha, Shinchosha, Futabasha, and LEED Publishing Co., Ltd.", as well as presenters Kadokawa Shoten. While Shueisha won't be there to present their own works, they will be asking for their works to be pulled from production companies' booths and presentations. Manga creators have also supported their publishers; three creator-group organizations have announced their opposition, and Bleach mangaka Tite Kubo also expressed his opposition publicly on Twitter, stating that "as an artist, I support their decision."

What exactly does this mean for the status of the show? I attended the Fair last year and was astounded by the volume of companies that this could affect. I couldn't imagine a TIAF event that didn't involve these companies, especially when you consider the extent of their influence on anime pruduction companies, art studios, and sales companies. While the Tokyo government stated its preparations to produce a guide that explicitly states the restrictions, this could open a flood of difficult judgments about what is and is not considered "healthy" for viewers and readers.

We'll have to see just how far the effect of such an amendment reaches.