Tag Archives: anime

Discussion: Where’s your anime and manga community?

When I first got into manga ten whole years ago, there was no one around me who liked the stuff. My last year of middle school was the first year of torment as no one at my (very small) school had any interest in it and most thought Pokemon was for little kids and losers. I gained friends interested in manga outside of my school (it was a K-12 school) during high school, but it was a rather small community that mostly consisted of me, my best friend and our crappy taste.

That all changed when I reached higher education. I was looking for a school where I could get a fresh start and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo gave me the opportunity to ditch my immature high school classmates and gain a surprisingly awesome anime club.

I found Minna no Anime (their name, in case you’re looking for a university solely based on their anime club) instantly and was so excited by the idea that my school had an anime club that I started attending right away. It was a bit off-putting at first because I wasn’t a huge anime watcher and I didn’t know anyone. Then they announced their weekly Minna no Manga meeting, that consisted mostly of hanging out and reading manga. Minna no Manga gave me the chance to actually meet some people in the club and make friends. (And read manga.) It was such a great atmosphere that I attended both club meetings religiously right away. Over my 4+ years attending the school, I loathed to miss any of the meetings. I still long for my friends there now that I’m way too far away to drive up there every Thursday and Saturday evening.

Through my friends there I learned a lot about anime, manga and the world of fans. I had so much fun, it’s kind of tempting to go back to Cal Poly for graduate studies or another bachelor’s degree or just live in the area so I can keep going. Yeah, that’s how much I love this group of crazy kids. I even made a slide show and a video about the club before I graduated.

Since I’m feeling a bit lonely with my friends, I’ve even started thinking about starting a similar club in Los Angeles, since my area suffers from lack of a nearby college with an anime club. I’m still dreaming it up, but it’d be a fun regular even for a local comic book shop or a library if either was willing to host one. (So, if you live in the Los Angeles/Hollywood/West Hollywood area, let me know if you’re interested!)

What’s your anime and manga community like? Are they a group of friends or an organized club? Where you guys hang out and what do you usually do? Let me hear about all your fun times with your anime and manga friends!

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Causing the Death of an Industry

A few days ago, Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) creator Yana Toboso posted a statement on her blog saying if people continued to watch anime illegally, “we creators and voice actors will not eat; this is no joke, we will starve and die. This is not ‘lol.'”  Update: Someone posted a great translation of her full blog post here.

When this bit of news broke on Anime News Network, many people on the ANN forums (not surprisingly) decried the author and declared they would no longer read her works in any capacity, or at least not buy any of her works or merchandise. One poster said, “Sorry, but after I watch it online and like it I may go and buy it depending on price and language. Sorry if you don’t get to eat right away, but i promise you will get your money in the end”

What a nice promise, right? But what if fans don’t carry out those promises? It’s happened before millions of times. I’ve even done it with some of my favorite series, just stopped buying them because I decided to focus on reading other series. It happens. But what happens when the alternative is not buying at all? When instead all your money goes to other things so you can’t buy anything to entertain you? I’m sure in this economy, a lot of fans will take entertainment that’s free so they can pay for their rent, something which Toboso might be able to relate to.

But does that make it right? Doesn’t Toboso have the right to eat? What about her editors? What about the people who print the  magazines and the books she makes? They work so hard to bring the manga to the fans, don’t they deserve the money to be made off of Black Butler‘s success? And that’s just the people in Japan, what about the people in other countries who work to bring the series (and others) to fans in a language they can understand?

What happens when fans can no longer justify having manga publishers in the US? (Don’t be overly-optimistic here, we all know that many manga companies stand on shaky ground at the moment and enough pushing in the wrong direction could send them underground.) What will happen when anime and manga goes back to the same obscurity in the US it had before 1997?

The people who work in the industry outside of Japan will lose their jobs. The people who run the myriad of anime conventions will likely lose their jobs as well. Sure, they can go and get jobs at other companies, in other industries, but will that pay their bills? Who knows?

And if the same happens in Japan, will Toboso really starve on the streets? Probably not, but she certainly won’t be creating manga. She’ll be burnt out and will start looking for another career where her work is appreciated. What good is it to have fans when they won’t help you sustain yourself?

Here’s what fans really need to think about, the worst case scenario: the point where enough fans have made enough justifications to not buy anime and manga that we start ruining the industry  in Japan.

First, the publishers will start downsizing. You’ll see fewer magazines being published (this is already happening, actually) which will mean fewer pages and less manga, less anime being created. It won’t be anything you care about, at first. It’ll keep going until the only magazines that are left are the ones publishing Naruto, Bleach, Vampire Knight, only those super-popular manga that do ridiculously well no matter what. And maybe some little kids’ stuff will be left over. Mostly because little kids understand that stealing has bad consequences for them.

By then thousands of people will have been laid off. Mangaka everywhere will be out of work as will their editors, the printers, the animators. On the other hand, Comiket will probably quadruple in size and places like Mandarake will see untold amount of success as they will be replacing their merchandising shelves with self-published doujinshi. In the U.S., Viz will be the only English-language manga-concentrated publisher still afloat.

The end will come when all the scanlators run out of 1970’s shojo manga to post. Fans will realize that they’ve cannibalized themselves, but it will be too late. Everyone who once worked in the industry will have moved on. Their libraries of manga and anime sitting in the corners of their homes, waiting to be re-read or re-watched when these people want to remember the times when they had a really awesome job. They won’t want to come back and re-form the industry because they’ll be too hurt that no one else loved it enough. After all, why would they want to be used and betrayed like that again? Why would they want to sacrifice their respect like that again?

The time to start changing the way you think about how right scanlations are is now or else this worst-case scenario won’t be that far off. This is a bad economy, and while I’m sure you’re hurting, that means the creators and other industry folks are hurting too. Now would be the best time to tell them, “yes, I like your work and I will purchase what I’ve read online.” If you don’t like what you’ve read online, find something you’d like enough to buy.  Now is the time to put away your lame excuses and start protecting what you love so that creators, publishers and others don’t have to take the steps towards an anime and manga holocaust. You don’t want to have to ask yourself what the industry will kill off first.

If you’re interested in finding legitimate ways to purchase or consume manga for little to no cost, please check out this post.

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A Rare Review: Planetes vol.1

I got this volume of Planetes by Makoto Yukimura through Ed Sizemore of Comics Worth Reading via my Anime and Manga Blogger Letter Exchange. It actually wasn’t the first time I’d come across Planetes as my (really ridiculously awesome) college anime club showed the anime last year. I’d also gotten a chance to read vol. 1 while at TOKYOPOP, which is probably the one of the few remaining places to have a complete set. Sadly this manga will not be returning to print as it is an old Kodansha title and the two companies don’t do business together anymore.

Planetes (the manga) is about a team of debris collectors working in space 58 years into the future. Their job is to be the space-age garbage guys, except it can get pretty dangerous. The debris can ruin space ships and kill people, which we learn right at the beginning of the manga, as well as make it difficult for ships to pass between Earth and space.

This first volume shows us the lives, ambitions and motivations of the three main characters, Hachimaki, Fee and Yuri. Each chapter and arc carefully shows us each character’s normal lives in the most authentic way possible, despite the (relatively) unrealistic setting. Hachimaki has big plans for himself, but keeps getting hurt on the job, Yuri has deep emotional reasons for being a debris collector and Fee just wants a smoke every once in awhile in order to help her relax after a stressful day.

This attempt at showing us how life is in space is my favorite part of this manga. There is no pioneering some ridiculous new space mission, just what life would be like if you had a job as a debris collector in a time when humans were living in space like it was not a big deal. Drama comes from real issues like eco-terrorism,space-related diseases, families separated by jobs in space and the serious damage that space debris can do if left unchecked. If this isn’t what real life would be like up in space in the future, I don’t really know what life WOULD be like because Yukimura has done such a good job in painting a realistic scenario. He also uses the current history of space exploration as a means of creating this world, which is a nice touch. It certainly shows to me that Yukimura loves the idea of living in space and knows his stuff.

Planetes is all about the story-telling for me because the art just doesn’t really do it for me. That isn’t to say that the art isn’t serviceable or doesn’t have it’s good points, but overall, I cannot get very excited about it.  It’s plain old seinen art that has decent-looking characters and incredible technical detail and way too much dark tone. I don’t know if this is JUST me, but a page filled with various shades of super dark tones make things a little hard to read for me. I applaud the skill it takes to draw this well, but it’s not the most eye-appealing art out there either.

Now for the comparisons to the anime!

I have to say that I like the anime a little better. It starts off from the perspective of Ai Tanabe, a character who we don’t see in vol. 1 of the manga, but I am certain joins the cast in later volumes. She plays an important role in the anime of introducing the rest of the debris team to us through the eyes of someone completely new to life in space and to the main characters. Because of this, we get to learn as she learns instead of just being thrown into this new society in space at a very dramatic flashback in the manga.

While Ai’s importance as a main character lessens in the anime over time, she also provides us with a bit of levity when it’s needed. In comparison, the manga is just a huge chunk of heaviness. I missed Ai even though the first volume was chock with some of my favorite stories, because Ai would come in with her cluelessness and cheerfulness, the audience has something to smile about. There’s no character in this first volume like her that allows us to do that. She makes the pacing a bit better in the anime and does wonders for people who aren’t that into seinen,or serious moods as well. She’s the reason why a girl like me has no problems sitting down to watch or read this series in the first place.

I can see why this manga wasn’t as popular as it should have been. It’s hard to digest, the art isn’t that terrific and it came out at a time when the majority of Americans as manga consumers weren’t quite ready to accept something with ridiculous depth and not much else. It makes me sad, but I can’t help it.

I would like to recommend this manga, but I feel that it’s a little hard to recommend it ALONE and JUST after this first volume. This volume alone isn’t enough to hook me on the series (assuming I was reading it before I’d seen the anime, that is)  so I would give it another few volumes.  If you’re able to get your hands on copies of Planetes, go find a store that sells the anime too.  Watch the anime first and THEN dive into this manga. You will enjoy the anime a lot better, but you will also enjoy the manga little bit better than if you would alone or before watching the anime. I would most certainly recommend the anime ANYTIME because it is quite fun and is of a higher quality than your average futuristic space anime out right now.

Thank you again to Ed Sizemore for giving me this copy of Planetes. I certainly enjoyed it IMMENSELY, but for the sake of this review I had to be truthful. I do rather hope that all of you buy both the anime and manga because I feel it’s worth it.

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Podcasts!

I have to say,  I’ve been a little bit shy about doing podcasts because I’ve never thought of myself as a great speaker, but the opportunity was brought before me and now I’ve been in two anime and manga-related podcasts!

Here are the links so you can check them out:

The most recent is the April MMF podcast for Mushishi at Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud, in which I don’t talk very much because the other participants totally out-shined me! That’s ok, they’re all great reviewers and had a lot more to say about Mushishi’s art, story and depth than I did.  I still had a great time though! Thanks for letting me join, Ed!

The second (which is actually my first podcast ever), hosted by Joseph Medina’s Jammer’s Animovie Blog, is A LOT sillier. But I did talk a lot more about what I know about the manga industry. Either way, we got way off tangent many, many times. There is also a fair amount of off-key singing. I tried…!

I hope you listen to and enjoy these podcasts. Let me know what you think because I’m still a little gun-shy, but I want to do more podcasts now. I’d love some criticism!

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Jews in Manga and Anime

I’m Jewish. I’m not religious, but I like being Jewish. It’s an interesting culture to be around and there’s always food. It’s always fun to share Judaism with others because most Jewish people don’t care about converting anyone, but non-Jewish people don’t know that much about the religion or the culture.

Look familiar?

There are Jews all around the world, from Europe to Africa, the Americas and even Asia, but it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of Jews in Japan. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure there’s almost no Jews. Probably just a few tiny pocket communities and an Israeli consulate somewhere. As a result, Jews and Jewish culture don’t get much attention in manga or anime unless some mangaka decides that the Kabbalistic tree of life looks pretty spiffy and mystical and sticks it in as a background illustration. (*COUGHCOUGHCOUGH*CLAMP*COUGHCOUGH*) Considering how Kabbalah is supposed to be for married men over the age of 40, it doesn’t exactly count as an accurate portrayal of anything Jewish.

That being said: Jews are (somehow) present in a few manga and anime.

The most prevalent of these manga has to be Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, which makes a lot of sense considering the topic is World War II-era Japan and Europe. Although I have not read the series (yet, mostly because when it came out I couldn’t get it for fear my mom would see it and not be happy), I do know that it deals with Jewish children and families and even with Adolf Hilter’s Jewish heritage.

Adolf, in fact, seems to set the trend for Jews being portrayed in anime and manga because there are at least two different anime adaptions of Anne Frank’s Diary. Understandable, since Anne Frank’s Diary is famous all around the world. I can see why people would like Anne Frank’s Diary in anime form. It is very dramatic and very true to her age. I first read it when I was close to her age, how she felt about her situation was very relatable.

The third manga/anime, and probably the most popular one at the moment is Black Lagoon which has Benny, a lax American Jew, as a side character. Unlike the previous examples, Benny is a modern Jew with different feelings about things like the Holocaust than the Jews in Adolf and Anne Frank’s Diary had. He even talks about this in a certain story arc involving some nutty neo-Nazi’s looking for sunken WWII treasure in a U-Boat. I can relate to Benny a lot, actually. He feels pretty much the same way about the Holocaust as I do.  That threw me for a loop when I first saw the aforementioned story arc.

It’s not that I wish for more Jews in manga; we’ve got plenty of other representations in various media. I know why there aren’t very many, but I do like to ponder if there are more Jews in manga or anime that we don’t know about. Are there any fictional manga Jews out there that I’m missing?

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Manga/Anime Blogger Letter Exchange Update

So, it’s April 1st and apparently I set some deadline about sign-ups for this letter exchange being yesterday.
BUT PEOPLE STILL MIGHT WANT TO JOIN.

So if you’re an anime or manga blogger and want to join, get your name and address to me by e-mailing dorihuelagruber@gmail.com by April 5th. (See the old entry for “rules”)

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Manga/Anime Blogger Letter Exchange!

Letter BeeYesterday I got a letter in the mail from a college friend and excitedly tweeted about it. Gia Manry of Anime Vice, hit with sudden inspiration, responded and suggested an anime/mangablogosphere postcard exchange.

Playing with the idea a bit, I suggested a manga trade, which might or might not be the best/easiest idea. Still, a letter/postcard exchange with other bloggers sounds like loads of fun to me.

So here’s the deal:

If you have an anime or manga-based blog, e-mail me at dorihuelagruber@gmail.com with your address, any random/crazy manga requests you might like to see fulfilled and maybe a blogger you’d most like to be put in contact with.

If we get enough participants by March 31st, I’ll pick out partners and send each participant their companion’s address and “wishlist.”

Participants will be asked to write and send their letters and, if they receive something from their wishlist, blog about what they have received during the month of April.

Obviously, if anyone has any concerns about their address getting out or creepy stalkers and whatnot, they are free to contact me with any questions they might have. I will not be sharing addresses with anyone other than the person picked out to write to you, but I understand if anyone has any sort of trepidations about participating.

If you want to write to more than one person, let me know!

I can’t wait to start some letter-writing!

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Geek not Greek: Minna no Anime

SCREW THOSE EDITS: So, you still have to click the photo to get to the website where you can view the audio slideshow, BUT I MADE IT SHINY!

ANOTHER Edit: Eh. Nothing I’m trying is working, so here’s a link to the big, shiny and not cut off slideshow. I trust you can click on it without hurting yourself or feeling inconvenienced.
Edit: Yeah, so the video kind of got cropped oddly. I’m trying to figure out how to fix that and whatnot. Sorry!

So everyone, here’s a little peek at a project I’m working on for one of my classes. Basically we have to create a multimedia project around a topic of our choice. My project is called Geek  not Greek and contrasts alternative college lifestyles, such as anime clubs, against the typical fraternity/sorority/party lifestyle.

I kind of had to pick one club focus on in order not to kill myself so I chose my school’s anime club, Minna no Anime, because these are the people who have essentially been my family the past 5 years and helped me grow and flourish as an anime and manga fan.

Without this club and my experiences in it, I don’t think I’d be where I am today, trying to make my life about comics, anime and manga.

So, I hope you really enjoy my slideshow!

(BTW, I am a horrible speaker, so please excuse my terrible, uninteresting manner of speaking. There’s a reason I didn’t go into broadcast journalism!)

Minna no Anime

Click to see the slideshow

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The Manga Cliche Review: Musical Talent Part 2

I meant to talk about Beck in the last installment of this blog. I just couldn’t bring myself to write a good transition from my admiration of musicians to Beck, to be honest. My brain was kind of focused on getting homework done and I basically used that first TMCR entry as homework, so…

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad


Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad! As far as I know it is a really good anime. I haven’t gotten to read the manga because, despite working at Tokyopop all summer, I did not get the chance to read it. Plus, it is one of the licenses Tokyopop lost because of Kodansha. BUT the anime is pretty damn good. It pretty much follows one young man’s discovery of rock music (pretty important stuff when you’re a teenager.) Honestly, I think it’s a good anime because it doesn’t just cover the surface of the music industry, but how music is important to the characters. (Or at least the main ones, anyway.)

But, unfortunately, I have to take this blog away from the good and into the bad…

The Bad: La Corda d’Oro by Yuki Kure, Viz Media

La Corda d'Oro

In addition to being a video game and a manga, La Corda d'Oro is also an anime. As you can probably tell from this picture, there is a slight male harem theme.


It’s never really a good thing when a story starts with a deus ex machina. In this case, La Corda d’Oro starts off with the main character, Kahoko, being visited by a fairy who pushes her to accept his magic violin and enter the school’s extremely tough music competition. There’s only one problem, Kahoko has never played a musical instrument in her whole entire life. This is all solved by the magical violin being, well, magical and allowing Kahoko to play beautiful music as long as she knows the tune and plays with heart. Of course, with her school’s music department being fiercely competitive and very separated from the general education school (where Kahoko is a student,) the whole idea of her butting into the competition doesn’t sit well with lots of people. Conflicts occur left and right and Kahoko must gain new skills in order to continue playing the magical violin.

I can sympathize with Kahoko, I know very very little about music, and being thrust into the musical world with huge expectations would probably make me cry like a baby. I would probably need years of practice to play the violin decently and even then I would be kind of crap at it because I just don’t have a good ear for music, which is pretty crucial. The problem I have with La Corda d’Oro, which is based off of a video game,  is basically that it takes something that takes years and years of training and reduces it to magic and putting your heart into it. No wonder so many people in the music school don’t like her, she got a free ride and now she’s taking the spotlight when they’ve worked their asses off to be so good!

Then the story relies on you sympathizing with Kahoko (easy enough, since she’s a classic self-insert character) to make you dislike most of the other characters you come across because they’re just BAD PEOPLE for being so gosh-darned competitive. Clearly, you should not be such an over-achiever because raw, untrained talent and magical instruments given to you by fairies is what you truly need to succeed in the musical world. Gag me, please.

Basically, I could accept the magical violin bullshit and turning every other character into a bad human being, if Kahoko spent the majority of the time practicing her ass off and achieving some epic revelations as to how good music works via the stuff musicians do to train themselves. Instead, she practices hard off-screen and we only see her dallying around with the other contestants learning random things about music from them and getting embroiled in serious, but rather petty dramas. Instead of being a strong character, Kahoko is the victim of anything and everything and really only triumphs with the usually indirect help of others.

It just makes me sad that what could be a very good manga about being thrust into the world of  competitive classical music is so pathetic. I mean, in real life, classical music is a world with a lot of passion and intense drama. Would that really have been so hard to purvey in both the manga or the game it was created from? No. So why not pursue that angle on the story? Because making it a light drama more about interacting with the other characters than actually winning the competition and gaining skills wouldn’t have sold quite as well. Ugh. Why did I spend my money on this series again?

See who does it better next time!

Part 3: The Classic: Nodame Cantabile

Review copies paid for by the blogger.

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Viz begins to accept original submissions/Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” makes SyFy Debut

VIZ_Media ES: Show us what you’ve got. VIZ Media is now accepting submissions and pitches for original comics. Go to http://bit.ly/1iH8la for details.

This is pretty big news. I think it’s pretty unprecedented for Viz, seeing as they are pretty much a medium for Japanese publishing giants Shogakukan and Shueisha’s manga titles.

Deb Aoki, a prominent manga writer, editor and cartoonist talked to Viz editor Eric Searleman (who tweeted the big news) about this major decision:

“Eric Searleman: ‘We’re considering everything. The format will suit the material. For example, there’s no law that says our original comics need to mirror our manga trim size. Let’s mix it up.’

“We want to do something fun and fresh. Why bother otherwise? We want our books to be an alternative to what’s already out there. It’ll be hard work, but we are confident we can get it done. The bottom line is this: the quality of the comic takes precedent over everything else.”

Here’s a link to the rest of that article.

While Viz isn’t the only U.S. manga publisher to put out original (non-Japanese) content, original English manga (OEM) in the past has been either substandard or hard-to-sell. Currently, Tokyopop, the former bastion of OEM publishing, has scaled back its OEM efforts to only those manga with huge fan following or commercial ventures due to economic hardships. Other manga publishers only have small lines of OEM content, if any at all.

Can Viz do it? Probably. Despite closing the girls’ manga magazine Shojo Beat earlier this year, Viz opened the New People building in August with much success. In other words, I think Viz is becoming more experimental. The company is just cutting out what no longer makes them money and trying new and exciting things they think could work.  Obviously they wouldn’t try it if they thought it would be completely unsuccessful.

On another note, Tokyopop’s original content submission rules have been under a lot of criticism by aspiring cartoonists and others for being legally iffy and unfair to the submitters. While Tokyopop is a considerably more experimental company than Viz, Viz is usually more successful at similar endeavors so maybe we’ll see more fair submission guidelines from Viz.

Will Viz do it better? Odds are in their favor, but we’ll see when the first examples of original content come out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On another topic, also related to Viz, Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” will be debuting on the SyFy Channel tonight at 11p.m. Pacific. My twitter feed is positively abuzz about it too.

monster

I’m pretty excited for this because “Monster” is one of the greatest manga I’ve ever read. Its a powerful, suspenseful drama about Dr. Kenzo Tenma, who has been wrongly accused of murder. In an attempt to clear his name and to erase a past mistake, Tenma goes into hiding and chases after Johan Liebert, who is the real mastermind behind the murders sullying Tenma’s good name.

Throughout the manga we see the extent of Johan’s evil and genius contrasted against Tenma’s tenacity, skill and inherant goodness. It is the kind of manga where you get to know the characters and when you put down each volume you’re excited about what happened and eager to read the next one.

I can personally vouch for this as I saw the manga be introduced to my anime club and then circulated so widely throughout the members that there were waiting lists for certain volumes. Each and every person I spoke to about the manga had the same excited reactions as everyone else.

The series, published by Viz, recently ended, so I am quite excited to see the anime go on air so that new fans can be pulled in. “Monster” is one of those classic titles that has been underappreciated except by hardcore fans.

See the reaction to “Monster” on Twitter.

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