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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