Whistling in the Dark
by Brian Hanson,
Greetings, friends, compatriots, and well-wishers! This is Hey, Answerman! The one place on the internet where YOUR burning, scalding anime questions are answered with a relative lack of sarcasm!
This week was one of those weeks. One of those weeks where I basically flopped around and felt terrible because all the things I told myself I was going to do (i.e., fix the hole in the drywall, narrow down where exactly I'm going to be moving to, finding the courage and wherewithal within myself to commit to a life in a new town devoted entirely to building my career) slowly but surely fell by the wayside, in favor of things that were... completely unimportant. And not unimportant in the sense that I just ended up playing Skyrim, or something. Even that would've been an improvement. No, unimportant in the sense that... all I really have to show, for the entire week, is a doodle of a man living in a donut, with a caption that reads: "HELLO FROM THE MAN WHO LIVES IN A DONUT."
My mind is a sad place for sad people. So let's move on.
One of the reasons, even though it is a minor one, that made me go to my high school is the fact that they have an anime club. However, just as I arrived it got cancelled indefinitely due to inactivity. Nobody wants to revive the club and, although I do, any teacher that I ask will point-blankly say no. I have attempted to find one in my area such as ones in libraries or community centers but they list no info. Is there any way to find one on the internet or would my best bet be to drive around all day looking for ones being held in conference rooms?
Well, I could help you out just a little bit better if you told me where you lived, dum-dum!
Speaking for myself, I was lucky in that the closest anime club to my proximity in my high-school years - the much-vaunted TASS, or Tucson Animation Screening Society - was one of the largest anime clubs in the country. I basically just shot one of the directors an email and they told me to come on down, basically. There's anime clubs everywhere of varying sizes and degrees, so if your goal is to just join an anime club, you can definitely do that, but be prepared to either do some driving around and/or be rather disappointed.
Or you could, you know, start your own.
Now I know you said that all the teachers at your school basically shot you down. Okay, so you can't meet at school. Okay, fine. Do you have a big enough living room? Can you rent a space? Can you put in a petition at your library to arrange a meeting area every month or two? Borrow a TV and a laptop? Because if you can do any of those things, you can start your own anime club. I had similar aspirations of starting my *own* anime club in high school, and it wasn't easy - and it folded due to the same reasons you're dealing with. Lack of interest from the faculty, and the general inability of any of my friends at the time to come to any meaningful sort of consensus. (Which is much of the same problems you find later in life when you're a part of a comedy troupe. Oy vey.)
But really, if you can find a place where you and your similarly-minded anime buddies can hang out and watch some anime together, bam, you've got your anime club. Y'know, you start small and grow from there. People start clubs all the time for any sort of reason - book clubs, bike clubs, knitting clubs, you name it - and so long as you're not uncivil or smell bad, people are willing to give other people a shot to socialize with those who carry similar interests. It doesn't have to start out huge; it can just be a couple of friends who get together every once in a while to watch some stuff and talk about it. And if gathering new members is a concern, well hey now, there's this thing called the internet, and so far it's been a pretty great place for people to connect with their shared enthusiasms.
So, I mean, feel free to snoop around a bit just to check and see if there aren't any other anime clubs out there, but from the sounds of it it seems like you've done all your homework already. But anime clubs are fun, especially in high school; so if you can't find one, make one!
The discussion on ANNCast this past week started me thinking, it seems one of the primary objections against homosexuality in Japanese society is the assumption that gay couples cannot reproduce or raise families, reflecting on the rapid decline and aging of the population - at the same time one the biggest criticisms against otaku is that they don't marry until after they're thirty, if ever. Is there a correlation between the prejudice and marginalization of these two groups?
Well... okay, sure. There is, probably, a certain amount of concern, at some level, that an increased percentage of openly gay and lesbian Japanese citizens does not address the country's disconcertingly low birth rates. I'll grant that.
But... at least Otaku can, conceivably, get married. And when every Otaku in Japan voted for Taro Aso or whatever, at least they probably felt like they put their vote behind a politician who represented their best interests. Japanese homosexuals... do not have that. I'm not going to mince words here - the idea that Otaku in Japan deal with the same misconceptions and prejudice as homosexuals is just... that's ludicrous. That is dangerously incorrect logic.
What Zac and his guest on ANNCast were talking about was this sort of hypothetical scenario where we, as a culture, as a global culture, might at some point be evolved enough to look at homosexual relationships in our entertainment and just think of it as normal. Without either dismissing it as "unnatural" or writing it off as "fanservice." A time, hopefully within our lifetime, when same-sex relationships could be casually inserted into all forms of our entertainment without incident or sensationalism. And here in the US, we're slowly getting there. You can see the tracks in the sand, and you can see where it's headed - fewer and fewer people are getting outraged and calling their congressmen when two men or women kiss each other on TV, and more and more people are actually demanding that their otherwise innocuous entertainment to more accurately reflect modern life - and modern life is, and life has in fact always been, filled with a pretty solid percentage of LGBT individuals.
Otaku, meanwhile - they are a minority, sure, but at no point has anybody taken away their rights as human beings (nor are people being allowed to vote to decide whether or not they deserve civil rights). Being an Otaku says more about your character than it does about your biology. Whether you're obsessed with an animated girl or a real one, you are still into girls. The rest of the world may judge you, malign you, and make fun of you for being an Otaku - but for Christ's sakes, they will not deny you spousal health care rights because you own a bunch of Gundam models. That never happens.
This shouldn't be some sort of contest to see who can draw parallels between the plight of LGBT people and their fandom. It is disrespectful and it is folly. I'm sure there's a Japanese politician or two that like to hide behind their bigotry by saying that gays and lesbians contribute to Japan's constant problem of low birth rates, instead of what they want to say - that gay people are weird, man.
Look, I'm sorry if any of this sounds condescending or anything, but I have to get on my High Horse about something, and just personally speaking it irks me when people mistake judgment for actual, honest-to-God persecution. Persecution that is systematic and rationalized. Otaku are judged unfairly, I agree - but a few weird stares because you're a grown man wearing a Madoka T-shirt is nothing compared to a very real problem facing an entire group of people.
I'm going to leave that alone for now; it's gotten too hot for my delicate hands to handle without protective gear. Let's move on to something much, much less delicate!
Reading Zac's unexpectedly early Madoka Magica BD review, and then reading further recent commentary made by him on the series... I am very impressed. I'm impressed (quite positively!) in how he not only came to already really enjoy this series' first four episodes, but also impressed that he seems to have effectively kept himself away from spoiling the content of the last 2/3 of the show (or at least viewing those latter episodes). This was only the biggest Japan-released title of 2011, and yet here we are, getting a review that truly just considers the first four episodes by themselves. Which leads me to wondering - how has this been done, exactly? Heck, just how is this done among any of the ANN staff members; how do you guys manage to not spoil yourselves of an anime (particularly a very popular one) while at the same time doing a job that's so strongly tied to anime?
Now, I realize that plenty of you have active professional lives that don't focus exclusively on anime (such as yourself, Answerman), and I'm sure that each writer or reporter or editor has their own reasons for not having an anime not spoiled for his or herself. Even so... is there some kind of consistency, some kind of trend, that enables someone that's so heavily immersed in anime, like Zac Bertschy, to not get a mega-popular show spoiled to them? Or is it simply a matter of just... staff members not clicking on a link or discussion that may or may not have an anime's spoilers marked-and-covered? I'm just really surprised in the case of Madoka Magica, which has had so much hype and dozens and dozens of articles and news items reported on the site that he's Executive Editor for.
It's a couple of things. First off, Zac and I and everybody from our little circle of contemporaneous anime fans... We've been writing and reviewing anime for a long time - nearly a decade - and it's only been recently where we've had unfettered, complete access to a series as it runs in Japan. Before then, we would review individual volumes, four or so episodes at a time. And at least here on ANN, the edict for reviews was not to review what a show may or may not eventually become, but in fact to review what is actually there on those individual discs. Hence why, say, the first disc of Hellsing received near-universal praise, I think, compared to the rest of the series. Essentially we reviewed, at the time, what we got, not necessarily the entire picture. Which in its own way was sort of disingenuous I suppose, because we all know that long-running series start off great and end poorly, as well as shows that start off poorly and end wonderfully. But that's a relic of a bygone era, for the most part - and yet here is Madoka, right here in 2012, bringin' that whole model back. It's completely nostalgic, and for a lot of people that's a bad thing. But for us, when a series is released in only four-episode chunks per disc - that's how we were born and raised, basically. It's not hard for us to pick up our old reviewing habits and chart a course back to 2003.
And the other part is pretty accurate too. We all definitely know when to leave well enough alone, when it comes to a series that we're either unfamiliar with or in the process of watching. None of us are eager to have something spoiled for us in any way, just for the sake of keeping up with the conversation. Although sometimes that is unavoidable - I had the ending of Usagi Drop spoiled for me, for example; not because I clicked on a link, mind you, but just because there was all this chatter, for lack of a better word, and my curiosity simply got the better of me. But that's my own fault - for the most part, we all know when to simply keep our mouths shut and avoid stepping into the dangerous fray of conversation about a contentious series we haven't actually watched for ourselves. That leads to ruin in this realm; you people (and I mean that in the best way) can sniff out a faker from a mile away. Seriously, you've all got good heads on your shoulders insofar as being able to detect a false opinion based off of nothing as opposed to a reaction derived from actually watching the show. That's why I love you guys. Or at least one of the reasons.
Essentially, we don't need "spoiler tags." We've all been at this game for a while, and we know better than to dig our trough-like snouts into discussions we have no business in. Consider it a long-fought lesson from the USENET era, or the time when forums and message boards were a whole lot more claustrophobic and a lot more caustic. We all learned pretty early on that too much information on a show you have not seen doesn't necessarily just spoil the plot - but it spoils the conversation. And we're supposed to be editorial content creators - journalists, reviewers, all that lot. We literally cannot afford to have our opinions tainted by the vicious spoilers of The Spoiler And Fun-Ruining Cabal.
Essentially we're pros at this for a reason. Despite all the evidence to the contrary in my case.
Alright! Answerfans approaches in the distance, and as it slowly begins its ascent to the fray, I myself creep back into the darkness to provide my stunningly inept insight as all of you folks chime in! Last week, inspired by Funimation's DBZ Blu Ray cancellations, I wanted to dreg up some bitterness and anger that we all, as fans, have experienced at least once in our lives:
To begin, Yuuta goes from hatred and anger to shrieking in class from joy:
I've had a great deal of hatred towards authors for their Hiatuses. Never much for anime, as not many other than Madoka Magica has ever gone on hiatus while I was watching. I have however, had the misfortune of going through Hunter x Hunter author Togashi Yoshihiro's many Hiatuses (hiatusii?) Every time he would announce a break, my heart would shatter, and I would go to school depressed for a week afterward. Then after that I would get angry, which oddly enough made my friends want to read the manga in question. Which is how I dealt with that Hiatus, I got to talk about the best from before instead of worrying what would happen next.
Another manga i've been reading is D.N.Angel, and it was the first manga I had the pleasure of becoming a mega-fan of. Yukiru Sugisaki makes me happy, sad, angry - all kinds of emotions. Just recently she went on hiatus, and she has a history of erratic releases. But that makes it no better, when you get left on one of the most precarious cliffhangers that you have ever been on. It's a major turning point in the story, the ultimate climax, and BOOM no chapter for you little fans~ nope you get to wait for a while, build up suspense. So I've been biding my time, re-reading, trying to take my mind off of what should/could/would happen, and how happy the rest of my fellow fans will be when it comes out.
One last thing. Do you know the comic series Off*Beat? If so, you might know why I'm extremely happy about that at the moment. For so long it seems the series has been almost officially cancelled, and much of the fandom had lost hope, it being so long since any of us had seen any budge in the contract that the author, Jenny Lee Quick, had with the publishing company. Earlier last year I got the tweet from you guys at AnimeNewsNetwork, saying that Jenny had finally gotten back the rights to her creation and that it was coming out this year. I nearly screamed during lunch and excitedly told my friends who were hooked, for the many years we were without hope. Thank you so much for that news!
I've heard nothing but great and impatient things about Yozakura Quartet for all of the reasons that B.J. mentions:
While I could go off on not getting the second half of Kodocha or the final volume of the Shrine of the Morning Mist manga, but I discovered those heartbreaks long after the fact, so I'm going with one that was more recent and infuriating: Yozakura Quartet.
When Del Rey suddenly stalled and I heard that Kodansha was going to come and essential take over from where Del Rey left off, I wasn't too worried. YozaQ volume 5 left at the beginning of a new arc; surely they won't drop it. But then Del Rey didn't produce anything for at least a year and Kodansha hadn't really done much outside of Akira, so I started to worry. I kept hearing that Rave Master would finally be finished and that Fairy Tail, Negima, and other heavy hitters would continue, but YozaQ seemed to be left out of the announcements. Now that Kodansha has finally gotten started again, finding no evidence for YozaQ 6 coming out only frustrated me more. I'm fairly certain that it's been dropped by now, they just never said so.
How did I deal with the heartbreak? Scanlations. That's right, straight up illegal piracy to the max. I loved the series, I bought the first five they published, I would have continued to buy the rest of them if they'd only be published in English! (I'm not into imports.) But no, so I settle for the next best thing. You could call it impatience, but I see no point in waiting for something that will probably not happen with Vladimir and Estragon. HOWEVER, if someone would deign to rescue it and give us English print copies, I WILL GIVE YOU MY MONEY! It's one of my favorite series so I'm more than willing to support it if I can, I'm just asking for the opportunity to do so.
Oh dear, Neal must be one of those OTHER REGION-ders:
I have recently suffered heartbreak over Tomoko Ninomiya's Nodame Cantabile manga series. This sweet, utterly charming and very funny romance between two college students in a prestigious music program was published through Del Rey's comic imprint and stopped at Volume 16, 8 or 9 away from the conclusion. Del Rey has ceased publishing manga, and while Kodansha continued publishing of those titles that weren't finished I don't think Nodame is going to be one of them. I think it has the same problem that most sports manga would in finding an audience to buy it. It's difficult to convince others that, in this case, the story isn't about classical music, it's about two characters that eventually figure out why they compliment one another so well. He wants to conduct. She wants to play. Together they will write a symphony.
But it's a symphony I don't think I'll be able to hear the end of. This series has been adapated to live action and animation and finished right around the end of the manga. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to watch this when it was legally streaming here in the U.S. I got through episode 4 of the first season and suffered heartbreak again when that legal stream was region locked. I don't like reading manga or books on an electronic screen.
I cope with my heartbreak by occasionally politely pestering a boutique anime company or two to release the anime or live action series and hope that KONDANSHA will take up the ball again. Until then, I'll reread what I have.
Dana's right on the money here - Me and the Devil Blues is a kaleidoscopic tour-de-force:
The Blues, prohibition, the great depression, racism, mythology and gangsters: the thirties was a tumultuous period for the United States. Surprisingly, there is a seinen manga that boldly covers these intriguing topics.
Canceled in Japan after 4 volumes, Me and the Devil Blues explores the myth and mystery behind legendary blues musician, Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil to gain his talent. The series was released in English by Del Rey months after it was canceled in Japan and I immediately picked it up once I heard the premise. What a tease! The cliffhanger leaves you gasping for air and begging for more. Despite an inconclusive ending, Devil Blues remains one of the most ambitious comic books I have read.
Portraying 1930s Mississippi in such a realistic manner with impressive well-written dialogue is no easy task. Rampant cross-hatching and dynamic use of shadow reflect a heavy western-comics influence. The art is fluid and well paced; the use of perspective catches the eye and pulls the reader into the action. Panel transitions feel heavily influenced by cinema and action sequences have a Tarantino flavor to them. Surreal manifestations of the devil's curse haunt characters throughout the story. “Haunting” is certainly the best word to describe this manga. Heightened suspense and tension immerse the reader into the scenes. Whether it's the blind racist mayor smelling alcohol on the breath of a deputy in a town afflicted by prohibition, or the gangster Clyde Barrow clearing out a room with nothing but a coke bottle, this manga will keep you on the edge of your figurative seat.
If it weren't for the gratuitous screentone that's common in manga, Devil Blues could easily be mistaken for an American comic book. And yet it is unlike any comic book I have read. Me and the Devil Blues is unlike any manga I have ever read.
It may end on on a cliffhanger, but it offers an intense and haunting experience unique to itself that will stay with you long after reading it. The concept and style are incredibly refreshing and interesting.
I've heard theories regarding the reason for the cancellation. The gritty depiction of racism in Jim Crow-era America was no doubt a difficult topic for Japanese to understand. Perhaps the series would have seen more success had it been originally published by an English publisher. Despite winning multiple awards state-side, the manga was published discreetly with little to no marketing push. It still seems to remains relatively unknown to manga fans.
A translation of a small bio of the mangaka, Akira Hiramoto, on Afternoon's site states “is it bad to draw in earnest and by example” in regards to Devil Blues being cancelled. Despite how passionate an artist is about his or her work, the burden of success weighs on the market alone. I still have hope for an eventual conclusion to the series.
Meanwhile, the mangaka seems to focus on high-school-harem ecchi gag manga like Kangoku Gakuen – a far cry from Devil Blues, but not surprising considering his background with his long-running gag manga, Ago Nashi Gen to Ore Monogatari. For the longest time I refused to believe his ecchi manga were from the same Akira Hiramoto until I noticed very subtle similarities in the art.
But what has been published has left gorgeous images imprinted in my mind and will always resonate with me. Occasionally, I find myself reading it over again, and it persists to deliver that heart-stopping intensity; it has left an everlasting impression on me. It may remain on my bookshelf as incomplete but Me and the Devil Blues is like no other.
Miguel chimes in with what I had assumed would be everyone's go-to response, which just goes to show how much I know (very little):
Well Mr.Answerman, If I had to pick an anime/manga that was discontinued, or left alone for long periods of time, I'd have to say Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. To be fairly honest, it is arguably one of my favourite anime, and my favourite manga, as well as their spinoffs/crossovers (xxxHOLiC, Card Captor Sakura). The characters were memorable, especially for me who started anime with Card Captor Sakura, so seeing characters from that in Tsubasa was nice. The story was good, it had meaning to it, and often left me wondering what sort of adventure, what sort of world will they fall into next. With the added comedy here and there, the well made action sequences, as well as good old Sakura x Syaoran scenes. It was all in all, an instant hit in my head.
So, surely, I was a bit angered, saddened, confused, and many more emotions later on, about the series coming to a stop suddenly nowhere in the anime. Of course I was delighted when they released a few OVAs here and there, but that doesn't really fill the need/want I was looking for when I started watching the anime. There was still so much to go on about, and the OVAs were rushed and killed the mood of the series. Surely the reason for stopping was (hopefully) a good one that's understandable, but nonetheless, I find it hard watching another anime/reading another manga from Clamp in fear of it suddenly ending.
Of course, if Tsubasa ever continues again, or if more OVAs or movies are released, I'll gladly watch once again. Until then, R.I.P. one hell of an anime that never saw its true ending.
And finally, Daniel offers us with some parting wisdom that sometimes - sometimes - NOT knowing is the better thing:
Thanks to The Big O, I have to acknowledge that ignorance can be blissful. Back in 2001 on Cartoon Network, the 13th episode finished with a huge cliffhanger as the titular mecha (megadeus) squares off against three giant robot invaders. Pilot hero Roger Smith shouts out his trademark "It's Showtime!" and the screen goes black with 'To be continued."
Of course, I was so clueless that I tuned in the next time to see the show replay episode one. After a few weeks of watching reruns, I came to the conclusion that maybe that's how this anime was supposed to end in a typical Japanese "huh?" finale. (This was back in the early Wikipedia days.) So imagine my true bliss when I learned months later that The Big O was going to have a SECOND season, co-produced by Cartoon Network.
The second set of 13 episodes did its best to provide some backstory and logic to the overall story, as well as further character development. But the final 26th episode has done its own share of producing "huh?" reactions from viewers. For me personally, Season Two was just as rewarding as the first and made the two-year wait worth it. As for that final confusing ending, I guess I'll remain blissfully ignorant.
Well, shucks - I feel sort of bad for exploiting all of your emotional turmoil for my column. (Actually, I don't feel *that* bad. I mean you're the folks who turned it in to me for that explicit purpose.) Either way, next week, I had a thought on my mind - I'm always curious about what the reality is when something old comes into contact with something new, and of course there's been a lot of talk about Redline recently, so I was wondering if I could get your collective take on this question:
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.
For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.
Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.
That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.
Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!
Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.
We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.
Things To Do:
* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.
Things Not To Do:
* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
And that's it for me, everyone! Don't forget to drop me a line over at answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com for questions that need to be answered, answers that need to be posted, or extremely ribald rhyming quatrains! See you all next week!
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