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October 19, 2007

The Greatest Blog Post In the History of the Universe (This Morning, Anyway)
Posted by Patrick at 07:08 AM *

Featuring, not in this order, anime opening and closing credits; the 1963 pop hit “Sukiyaki”; new business models for pop music; “piracy” on YouTube; Fullmetal Alchemist; fansubbing then and now; the author’s first SLIP account, obtained in the course of reporting on otaku in San Francisco in 1993; the Japanese band Asian Kung-Fu Generation; young Japanese women in bikinis throwing cream pies at one another while riding rocking horses; and, in Singapore, a public protest, in defiance of local law, featuring Ultraman figurines bearing signs reading “The Freedom To Download Fan Subbed Anime Is The Right of All Sentient Beings.”

Only connect!

Comments on The Greatest Blog Post In the History of the Universe (This Morning, Anyway):
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 07:27 AM:

(Click the top "Next" link if the above link doesn't work for you.)

#2 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 07:29 AM:

Here in China, in the college district of Yangzhou, I have just discovered a store, called "Fun Cartoon", where they sell Japanese anime merchandise with captions in English which look like they were done by a Chinese translator.

They also sell very nice gothy leather jewelry.

#3 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:01 AM:

So is "Fullmetal Alchemist" any good? I keep running into it every time I look around to see if anyone else is interested in alchemy on livejournal, for example. It's a while since i last saw some decent anime, I could do with something new to watch.

#4 ::: starocie ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:15 AM:

anime is everywhere now..
best regards

#5 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Anime is Japan's way at getting back at us for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (I except, of course, "Astroboy.")

#6 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:46 AM:

The names of my twins will be Anime and Anomie.

now, how do I trick my girlfriend into accepting this?

#7 ::: GiacomoL ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:54 AM:

Is Salon targeting AdBlock users? Couldn't see a thing until I disabled it. Oh well, I guess there must be a greasemonkey script to nuke those ads...
The advertising-funded model is so 2001.

#8 ::: Andrew Leonard ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 09:03 AM:

Ah hah hah!

Patrick, I must say, I had the exact same thought as your headline when I posted that yesterday. So glad you enjoyed it!

#9 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 09:20 AM:

3, guthrie,

Fullmetal Alchemist is quite good, and a quick googling of Making Light for reccomendations on it yeilds regular Kate Nepveu saying:
I must have written well into 5 figures' worth of words on it while watching, including this recommendation post.

I highly reccomend it, though I find the first two episodes of the anime/first 20 pages of the manga to be not nearly as interesting as the rest.

I will now steal liberally from Kate's summary:
The premise, briefly, for those unfamiliar: it's the early 1900s in a world somewhat analogous to our own, except with alchemy practiced as a science. Edward and Alphonse Elric are gifted young alchemists; at ages eleven and ten, they try to resurrect their dead mother through (forbidden) alchemy. They fail, spectacularly, at the cost of Ed's arm and leg, and Al's body (his soul is affixed to a suit of armor). After Ed is fitted with automail replacements for his limbs, Ed becomes a State Alchemist and they go on a quest to restore their bodies—which is still forbidden human transmutation, and dangerous and uncertain to boot. But they're determined to try.

Note that the manga has some truly wonderful illustrations, and that the story is liberally sprinkled with humor to compensate for the dark, dark, horror of our hero's lives.

Oh, and whatever you do, try to avoid spoilers. It's worth the effort.

#10 ::: Leah ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Ah, I remember those days, those days of fourteenth-generation videos subtitled in wobbly English over preexisting Mandarin Chinese subtitles! I remember having episodes 14-23 of a series and nothing else, except for maybe a movie that seemed to have been made in another dimension by people who had read the plot of the actual series in a magazine while waiting for the dentist.

Those days, they were glorious. Then anime went on the internet and I was a dinosaur before the age of 30. I'm still catching up.

Maybe those sales of DVDs are falling because the market is saturated, and not many people want to buy entire overpriced box sets of series they haven't even seen. (So they go to youtube to watch it first.)

Fullmetal Alchemist is a brilliant anime, and shines in the dross of recent output. I'm not particularly a fan of the manga, but that's a matter of personal taste. Avoid the fandom at all costs, at least until you have watched the show in peace and quiet. One does not simply walk into FMA fandom. There is Evil there that does not sleep.

#11 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Henh, henh. Told ya. The Japanese are going to be the cultural arbiters of the 21st century! Kawaii forever!!!

And, yeah, Alchemist is pretty good. It's got a lot of the classic anime problems, though. But then, it probably couldn't be popular if it didn't have the popular cliches, and what's around and between them is really interesting--sort of like second-rank 1950s magazine sf but way popular. I wonder what damon knight would make of it all.

#12 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Anime itself is a shot of pop culture from the very close future (Hannah Montana could easily be any of a number of shoujo shows from the 90's, to give one very easy example), but HOW people outside of Japa GET anime is a preview of the white-hot hearts of tomorrow's media distribution and business models.

For certain popular shows, fansubbers RACE to be the first to get a file out: last time I checked, the turnaround on new eps of Naruto was under 20 hours, and that was four years ago (when you didn't see people on the subway with leaf-village headbands (which, by the way, we're already past, as the really hardcore Narutards show it off by wearing some other village symbol)), and the hot thing now is fast SCANLATING, so you can get to read the latest chapter of your favorite manga while the phonebooks are still fresh on news-stand racks across the Pacific.

I wonder how long Japanese subs of Heroes take...

#13 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 11:03 AM:

If there is one law that rules the Internet, it is that content only becomes more accessible, not less.

The whole post is great but that line right there wins the gold star. It should go on a T shirt or better yet, etched into the moon with a giant laser so that Corry Doctorow can stand Zen like in a twilit street and just point to it.

(I'm singling out Cory only because he must be on his third set of lungs by now, trying to get everyone to realize this one simple fact).

#14 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 11:26 AM:

I concur that Fullmetal Alchemist is absolutely brilliant. It has always had the feel to me of a really, really, really good fantasy novel. There's consistent internal magic rules (okay, alchemy), it is very well plotted -- the episodes MUST be watched in order -- it poses very interesting ethical questions, has vivid characters (I've compared Edward Elric to Miles Vorkosigan a few times), and it pulls no punches with the emotional end of things.

Note: not a child safe show, at least for younger children. No sex, but lots of graphic violence. There's a scene involving a little girl that left me with nightmares after it. (And my stepbrother stopped watching the series at that point.)

And yes, avoid the fandom until after watching the whole show. (And this is one of the few shows where I generally avoid the fanfic.)

-- Leva

#15 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 01:07 PM:

Oh, look, more people than just me pimping _Fullmetal Alchemist_! Woo!

_FMA_ is fantasy of the rigorous type (or science fiction where the science is alchemy). It is a lot more accessible to new viewers than my second-favorite anime series, Princess Tutu, and keeps elaborating its premises and working out its consequences--pulling no punches with the latter, too. I love it to pieces even though/because it traumatized me on more than one occasion.

Go forth and NetFlix it, sez I.

#16 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 01:43 PM:

I watched Fullmetal Alchemist on the Cartoon Network and was pleasantly surprised to get good voice acting in a dubbed anime. Usually I borrow DVDs from friends, turn on the English subtitles, and switch to the Japanese voice actors.

I concur on the "dark" and "not for small children". The show gets inspiration from a number of the less pleasant parts of the history of the 20th century that didn't get much coverage in my high school.

The anime is somewhat divergent from the manga, which is being translated into English (up to volume 14 by now). The plot in the manga is even more complex.

#17 ::: Dawn W ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Ooh, shiny! *delurks*

#15 - You have good taste Kate, Princess Tutu is my favorite since seeing Kino's Journey.

I did download the scanlation of the most recent manga issue of Fullmetal Alchemist - #76 - just last week (Ouch!). I still like the manga better than the show.


#18 ::: Adam Rakunas ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 02:34 PM:

I think Asian Kung-Fu Generation has just become my favorite band name. Cool song in that post, too, though the video was nowhere near the weirdness (or the sheer rockness) of Supercar's "White Surf Style 5."

#19 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 02:39 PM:

As an anime related aside, moments ago I was enthusing wildly about the opening and ending sequences for a new series called Moyashmion: Tales of Agriculture, so I'll share my appreciation for it here as well.

Moyashimon is about an agricultural college freshman who can see microbes with the naked eye. Cue his adventures learning about biology while hanging out with weird professors, lab assistants with a tendency to wear leather, and slovely grad students. Everyone is obsessed with sake making and the microbes are all terribly, terribly cute. The opening sequence conveys this cuteness with very smooth CG graphics, and while YouTube's resolution doesn't really show the charm of the claymation ending sequence, boy is that ending theme song catchy. They're both well worth the three minutes total it'll take to watch 'em.

#20 ::: A. Nakama ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 03:13 PM:

I love Sakamoto Kyu. There was an excellent documentary about him on Japanese TV a few years ago that I'm still trying to find for a particularly poignant moment when he took the stage moments after being delivered the news that his mother had died.

The Taste of Honey (the band, not the song) cover of "Ue o Muite Arukou" wasn't all that bad, actually -- and became another big hit on the American charts, now a classic of the disco era. In fact, they're still performing it in revival concerts with all this kitschy and vaguely offensive psuedo-Asian paraphernalia.

Still, the original is far better.

#21 ::: Erin C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 03:15 PM:

There's a scene involving a little girl that left me with nightmares after it. (And my stepbrother stopped watching the series at that point.)

I believe I know which one you mean -- a punch to the gut, that was. I'm grateful I was able to hash it over the next day with a friend who'd also seen it and could sympathize. Even so, I'm not sure I'd be able to watch that particular episode a second time.

I reiterate the recommendation -- FMA is a great show. Equivalent to quality YA literature, in my mind, with layered characters and heavy themes handled well, as well as rigorous attention to detail when it comes to the rules it sets for itself. And yes, the dubbing is remarkably good (and I say that as someone who likes a fair percentage of the more recent English dub jobs).

#22 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 03:21 PM:
I wonder how long Japanese subs of Heroes take...
I wonder what Japanese people would think of Hiro -- is he cool or just an embarrassing otaku stereotype?
#23 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 04:15 PM:

The thing about the Japanese spoken in Heroes is, most of it sounds really slow and stilted. Not as spoken by Hiro and Ando, but by many of the other actors playing Japanese characters. I'm guessing it's because most of them are actually English-speaking Americans rather than native Japanese speakers. George Takei is a case in point -- his delivery was slow, slow, slow.

#24 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 05:27 PM:

bryan (6): Spell the first Annie Mae (or May) and the second, ummmmm, Ann Nomie? That might work.

#25 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 05:55 PM:

FMA is excellent and I can't recommend it enough. My only quibble is that it has some problems which I think were created by diverging the plot from the manga.

The manga has been better in my opinion, partly because it's more consistent (so far) and partly because it's full of very cool and competent characters, with the added bonus that you don't know what to expect once it starts diverging (I don't think reading the manga first then watching the anime results in the same level of whoa!-- chapter 51 still reduces me to incoherent OMG!!1!s).

Leva @14: There's a scene involving a little girl that left me with nightmares after it. (And my stepbrother stopped watching the series at that point.)

Heh. I'm the only person I know who wasn't all that bothered by that. I was bothered by gur qnq orvat n fybccl cflpubcngu naq irel fbba nsgre nabgure penml nypurzvfg rcvfbqr gb obbg. I've heard more than one person saying that they decided to keep watching after that episode because they realized FMA wasn't pulling punches, but of course that may be a feature or a bug depending on each viewer.

#26 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 06:10 PM:

I could never get into Fullmetal Alchemist, though I've caught a couple episodes that were pretty good.

"Cowboy BeBop" is the best Anime I've seen, yet. There are episodes of that show that continue to blow me away every time I see them, and I've seen them so many times.

#27 ::: Cadence ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Woo! Other people recommending FMA! This is good, because I would have had to otherwise, and I have a feeling I'd have lost all objective credibility after I said "You know, Asian Kung-Fu Generation did the new Bleach opening song, too. I watched the fansubbed version last night."

Agreed on "There is Evil there that does not sleep" re: FMA fandom, though. And I'm in FMA fandom, to a certain degree. I have friends who do really good stuff, but the huge majority of it is focused on a couple of pairings I want nothing to do with.

#28 ::: Brenda von Ahsen ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 07:16 PM:

I like YKK and of course Miyazaki. Ghost in the Shell was ok, A little too philosophical in parts but great in others. I've seen bits of Alchemist and Bleach and Naruto. All quite popular but I don't have cable (can't afford it).

In the bikini rodeo pie fight that he links to someone comments that those are not rocking horses the girls are riding but Japanese sex chairs.

“The Freedom To Download Fan Subbed Anime Is The Right of All Sentient Beings.” That's a great line but I'll be damned if I know how you work out copyright issues in the age of the internet. My guess is it'll be be solved for us and not to our liking.

#29 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Ok, thanks everyone. I shall add it to my list of things to watch.

#30 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Where has my head been spending time these days?

The author inquires about the elf at the beginning of the Asian Kung-Fu Generations video. Right off, I thought of The Diamond Age. Of course that would have set a completely different tone for the video.

#31 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 07:52 PM:

Eric @23: As I recall, Ando's actor is actually Korean, and learned Japanese specifically for the role. My Japanese isn't really up to following conversation, but I agree with respect to Takei's verbal performance; when he was playing angry, he didn't do that deep, low growling from the pit of the stomach that the Japanese do when they're upset, so he sounded a trifle flat.

#32 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:17 PM:

Max@16

"I watched Fullmetal Alchemist on the Cartoon Network and was pleasantly surprised to get good voice acting in a dubbed anime. Usually I borrow DVDs from friends, turn on the English subtitles, and switch to the Japanese voice actors."

The fan prejudice against dubs was something I used to agree with, because the early dubs were, in a word, horrendous. But these days? These days, dubs are usually in the range of "acceptable to extremely good".

This is good for me, because if I do find the English voice acting to be good, I get to focus on something besides that bottom couple inches of the screen. Oh, in a couple cases I still prefer that over listening to the English (Utena's dub is awful; Lain's is acceptable but not great), but mostly I generally go with the English versions. In Cowboy Bebop's case, I actually think the English version is significantly better, in fact.

I turn the subtitles on anyhow, though, just so I can have that translation, too. It can be interesting to compare.

#33 ::: Mygaera ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:41 PM:

One of these days, I will actually sit down and watch FMA.

These days, I've been too busy with Bleach. Oh Bleach, how I love thee. How I must catch up on thee - mangas to buy, subs to read and watch..

Bebop is awesome, though I refused to watch the rest of it once Faye left. The music for Bebop, however, is the best part - I have most of the tracks from the OST, as well as plenty of other mp3s from Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts on permanent rotation.

I also have much love for Trigun, which is a spaghetti-western-sci-fi mashup that has to be seen to be believed. I don't think an anime has made me laugh so hard as Trigun.

Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away - natch. Watched subbed, never dubbed.

#34 ::: Mygaera ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Tina@16

You have a point there. Bebop is the only anime I'll actually watch dubbed. Can't believe I missed this before I posted.

#35 ::: Cadence ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 08:56 PM:

Trigun! There we go. It's been years since I watched Trigun, and yet it has come up in two independent conversations independently in the past week. This makes three, thus continuing in my trend.

(This happens often - things which you would think come up pretty rarely do so in clusters of three - see also: William Henry Harrison and Luden's cough drops.)

Anyway, I also love Trigun lots, despite initial misgivings during the first few episodes.

A coworker of mine has mentioned getting requests for more anime "like Cowboy Bebop," and having no answer. Mine would be Samurai Champloo - anyone else have an opinion?

#36 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 09:00 PM:

_Cowboy Bebop_ has veers wildly between farce and noir, and has two characters I can't stand. However, it is pretty and it does have great music.

I like _Samurai Champloo_, which is an Edo-era road trip by the same director, much better. Overview post.

_Trigun_ is a SF/Western starts out very silly and gets progressively darker, but I found that its overall arc was a little thinner than I would have liked.

#37 ::: Cadence ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 09:14 PM:

From Kate's post on Samurai Champloo linked above:

[Episodes] 22 and 23, "Cosmic Collisions" and "Baseball Blues," which apparently take place in an alternate universe where the writers were smoking the really, really good crack.

Ha! So, so true. Sometimes I imagine they suddenly noticed they were two episodes short of 26, and rather than stretch out the plot the writers said, "...Damn. Well, how about we throw in some zombies? And baseball?"

#38 ::: Mygaera ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 09:22 PM:

Champloo is another that I haven't sat down and actually watched yet - if only because I simply don't sit down and watch anything much anymore. I'm an anime slacker.

I also want to give Evangelion another try. I barely remember my first attempt, save that it left me awful confused...

Kate@36 -- which two characters?

#39 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2007, 09:44 PM:

The music in Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell Standalone Complex is by Yoko Kanno. There's some great jazz, some okay rock, and some bits that make me flinch a bit, but I still listen to them.

Fullmetal Alchemist really kicked our butts. It looks like a happy-go-lucky anime at first glance, but, wow, is it much, much deeper. Definitely left me emotionally wrecked at a number of points.

#40 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:04 AM:

Re: subbing and dubbing, I'm a big fan of subtitles wherever they occur -- my hearing is fine, but my brain's processing of auditory input is much slower than with text, and even slower when I'm trying to concentrate on a visual at the same time, so I actually get much more from the pictures on the screen when accompanied by text: I comprehend 100% of the dialogue instead of around 80%-ish.

This surprised my partners when we were watching (the incredibly well-done) Utena, which they had seen before and I hadn't, and I was making correct guesses about the hidden plot long before they had on their first go-round. This was surprising because normally, when watching television, I'm having to get them to explain things to me, or having to rewind and play a sequence over.

#41 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:11 AM:

Oh, Yoko Kanno! Oh, music from Cowboy Bebop! How you are jam-packed with teh awesomeness!

But don't take my word for it: ask Alternate-Universe John Williams. (Includes two! Excellent! Sample tracks!)

#42 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:57 AM:

The first thing that caught my attention about Cowboy BeBop was the music. I was hooked just from seeing the opening credits at Lunacon one year.

Then I actually watched the first episode. Much of it takes place on an O'Neill cylinder. Y'know that scene you'd have on most SF shows, where they tell you what an O'Neill cylinder is and how it spins to simulate gravity and all that stuff? They skip that scene in Cowboy BeBop. At one point one character is laid out on the floor, looking up at another character, and we see his point-of-view, with terrain behind the upright character's head where the sky would be on a planet, and it's just expected that the audience is smart enough to understand this. I was double-hooked.

I've watched the whole series, and the movie. The plots are a bit dopey sometimes, but man, it's the most stylish anime I've ever seen.

At some point I'll get to see the rest of Samurai Champloo. And Paranoia Agent. And Serial Experiments Lain. And maybe Visions of Escaflowne.

#43 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 07:16 AM:

Yes, "Tank!" is great opening credits music, and gives Morton Stevens' Hawaii Five-O theme some decent competition.

My other favorite anime opening credits music is Inner Universe, from season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (although I haven't figured out why most of it is sung in Russian). heh.

#44 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 07:33 AM:

trigun was the last anime that I watched. What always gets me is the sheer contrast in anime. one minute it'll be stupid jokey stuff, then they'll be on to really serious "we're all gonna die" stuff.
I've got Evangelion on video as well, it is a bit confusing, but not very, as long as you keep your eyes open and accept that you never find out all the twists and turns in the plot. Also the ending is a bit funny.

#45 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:23 AM:

Man, I stumble in out of the rain to find a thread about anime and manga where someone named Leah has appeared to talk about grainy fansubs, and someone else has mentioned both Kino's Travels and Princess Tutu. It's a bit disconcerting. I knew there was some reason I used my full name as my handle when posting here. It was to prevent this future confusion! Well, now that that's out of the way.

I'm another anime fan old before her time, shaking her fist from her front porch at these damn kids, with their cartoon networks and their digital fansubs. Why in my day you woke up at 6am to record the terrible syndicated dub of Sailor Moon, and you protested if they took it off the air! I had to watch Fushigi Yuugi backwards, through snow so heavy you could barely make out the subtitles!

That said, I'm one of those people who FMA just never "caught" right. I watched the first 25ish episodes on TV, missed one or two, and then I never bothered to catch up. I'm not entirely sure who to blame. I suppose I could collapse back on my old "bad interesting female character to interesting male character ratio" standby and call it a night... but it is my younger brother's favorite non-comedy anime. It's one of those anime I can tell are of stunningly good quality, but where I can also see the "seams." Reading back through the thread, I think I really appreciate what Randolph Fritz said earlier:

"And, yeah, Alchemist is pretty good. It's got a lot of the classic anime problems, though. But then, it probably couldn't be popular if it didn't have the popular cliches, and what's around and between them is really interesting--sort of like second-rank 1950s magazine sf but way popular."

That's honestly one of the most incisive things I've seen said about modern anime in a while. So much of anime is working within a set of rules with a cast of characters pulled from standard archetypes, but making your world and window-dressing (and sometimes even your plot) interesting enough to pull people in. And I think it's that combination of the safe and the fantastic that caused the anime explosion. My younger brother once said to me,

"You know what my favorite part of any fighting anime is? When the cocky bad guy who thinks he could never be beaten realizes he has been, and he gets that 'this is impossible' look on his face."

And that's one of the reasons anime has caught on in the way it has, and one of the reasons it's so addictive and popular to youth. They want the characters, the worlds to play in, the story. But there are also certain memes/moments/characters that they demand as well.

It's not too hard to get a pretty good indication of what will be popular over here: good set of solid, popular cliches; Fantastic, deep, internally consistent world; teenage protagonists that are easy to identify with. There are only a few shows that are popular and break out of that. Cowboy Beebop is one, Azumanga Daioh is another, Paranoia Agent is a third. But in a lot of ways, those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

My recent favorite anime is Kino's Travels (Kino's Journey in the states because, for some inexplicable and unforgivable reason, the American translators decided to ignore the blatant Swift refrence AND all the English Language advertising/merchandise in Japan. But I digress). Along with princess Tutu it's a weird literary series that explores classic literary themes and wanders through international cultural references while at the same time telling a good story. It lacks the compliment of accessible memes, though, so it will probably always remain obscure.

It also contains one of my favorite quotes of all time, from the episode where they visit the land of books. An unstable-seeming man claiming to be a writer approaches them on the street and makes a request of the travelers. The following exchange ensues once he departs:

Hermes: You do know he's crazy, right?
Kino: All I know is normal people would never become authors.

The thing is, anime like that, (small, odd, literary, philosophical) can exist, go through production, and be translated thanks to the popularity of the bigger splashy titles. If it weren't for the big sellers like FMA and Hellsing and Naruto I'd have never been able to own a clean DvD copy of Kino's, or see translations of the bloody NOVELS it's based on. It's this really bizare testament to fandom, and internationalism, and the spare time of kids today.

I haven't been this happy about the state of anime fandom for years. I love you guys.

#46 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:04 AM:

Mygaera @ #38: Faye and Ed are the _Bebop_ characters I can't stand. Fingernails on the blackboard, I tell you.

#47 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:46 AM:

I'm only now starting to watch _Bebop_, and the opening makes me think of a James Bond theme instead of a Cowboy theme.

I don't have an opinion on Faye yet except that I don't get how she can move around comfortably wearing her jacket like that. Which I suppose is a bad sign.

#48 ::: jmmcdermott@yahoo.com ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Cowboy Bebop's gorgeous anti-heroic density is incredible. If you only watch one episode, make it "Toys in the Attic".

Paranoia Agent is awesome, too, if only because the subject matter veers wildly left-field of everything you expect Anime to be about! No robots! No samurai! The Only Super Hero is Completely Delusional! Parainoia Agent is from the same guy who did the amazing anime film Metropolis. The final episode with the dog always makes me choke up.

FLCL is an ecstatic explosion of creative awesomeness, and it has the great alt-rock band from Japan "The Pillows" doing so much great music.

Hey, what was this post originally about?

Um, oh... Apparenly Making Light readers really like Anime.

#49 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:34 PM:

jmmcdermott @ #48, just so you know Satoshi Kon, the creator of Paranoia Agent, did not work on the anime flick Metropolis. Not that Metropolis ain't great, but it was directed by Rin Taro and adapted from the Tezuka manga by Katsuhiro "You all saw Akira, right?" Otomo. You may have been thinking of Kon's work on a segment of Memories, the anthology film based on Otomo's manga, which is also pretty amazing.

As for Satoshi Kon, everything the man does is astonishingly good. For folks not familiar with his work, in addition to the aforementioned Paranoia Agent TV series Kon directed four films, all of which are crucial viewing: Perfect Blue, a psychological drama about an actress and a stalker; Millennium Actress, a love letter to Japanese cinema from around the mid 30's to the late 60's; Tokyo Godfathers, a Christmas story based on 3 Godfathers which replaces John Wayne and cowboys with the homeless in Tokyo; and his latest, the visually stunning Paprika, about a device that allows users to interact with others dreams and how things go horribly wrong when it is stolen.

Sorry to gibber on, but the raw power of Satoshi Kon cannot be overstated.

#50 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 05:16 PM:

I make a point to watch the Cowboy Bebop episode Wild Horses every year in early February, and have a shot from the bottle I keep on top of the fridge.

#51 ::: platedlizard ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:28 PM:

Bleach is kicking my butt right now, but I've been meaning to get into FMA forever. Seems like the sort of thing I would like.

The turn around for fansubs is less then 20 hours for Bleach, definitely. Actually, if using the posting times at http://www.bleachexile.com/ is any clue it looks like it takes just eight to ten hours after a RAW has been uploaded for the sub to get posted. I'm not sure how long it takes for the RAW to go up, but I am willing to bet it goes up fairly quickly after the episode airs.

I do know that it took about three days after the Bleach Movie (Memories of Nobody) was released on DVD in Japan for it to get fansubbed, counting the time it took to get the RAW up. Fandom was highly impressed, apparently most people were expecting it to take as much as a week.

Contrast those times with the DVD releases, which often take a year or more after release in Japan. Necessary, I know, because of doing the dub, but if you're a fan and you want to be current with your series you basically have to download fansubs. Especially if you are like me and get your entertainment from Teh Interwebs, and not cable.

Another problem with the DVDs is that they cost between $18-28, depending on where you are buying (I personally always purchase from Amazon, since it's usually about ten bucks cheaper). This wouldn't be a huge problem, really, if there was a decent number of episodes per DVD, but (again, to use Bleach as an example) they usually only have four, and with some series, three episodes per DVD. Meaning that if you buy the DVDs you're paying $4+ per episode. A series like Bleach, which as of this week has 144 episodes (Japanese release) adds up fast.

Personally I think Bandai et all should hire some of the fansubbers and harness their power for Good, not Evil, ie official bootlegs that go up the day of the Japanese release. The fansubbers do it for fun but I think a few could be found who wouldn't mind being paid for it. I think iTunes charges $1.99 per TV episode. Even that would be a bit spendy for me for a large series, (I, personally, would prefer to pay a flat monthly fee for uploads, which is pretty much what I did when I was getting caught up with Bleach), it's one solution.

#52 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 04:03 AM:

#28

"In the bikini rodeo pie fight that he links to someone comments that those are not rocking horses the girls are riding but Japanese sex chairs."

Which is nonsense, they are exercise machines, very very popular right now, although I'd guess they peaked a couple months ago. You can try them out at any Bic Camera or Tokyu Hands, there are a million infomercials for them every night; I'm sure a large component of the audience is men hypnotized by the spectacle, but there's nothing overtly sexual about them.

#53 ::: individualfrog ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 04:03 AM:

#28

"In the bikini rodeo pie fight that he links to someone comments that those are not rocking horses the girls are riding but Japanese sex chairs."

Which is nonsense, they are exercise machines, very very popular right now, although I'd guess they peaked a couple months ago. You can try them out at any Bic Camera or Tokyu Hands, there are a million infomercials for them every night; I'm sure a large component of the audience is men hypnotized by the spectacle, but there's nothing overtly sexual about them.

#54 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 08:45 PM:

I will second #48:::jmmcdermott's FLCL, which I first encountered late one episode into the series. I stayed for the "Puss in Boots" references, and was nearly knocked off my seat by what I saw toward the end...and I was seated on the _floor_.

As for copyright, the point that I feel isn't made often enough is that a property right, like any other barrier, is only as viable as the least net ease of circumventing it. Much more often I hear people debating the morality of one version or another of intellectual "property" rights, but the viability will matter more in the end, i.m.a.o..

Of course, that viability can vary with the oppresiveness of the régime (the best argument against the drugs and guns laws I rarely see is that they _could_ work...if we moved to full-tilt dictatorship).

Maybe that's the best way of determining the acceptability of a "property" right: what is the least unpleasant society that would make this right viable?

(O.K., who thought up all the above first, and expressed it better? I'm nearly as unread on the subject as I am opinionated on, two not-unrelated conditions.)

#55 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 09:22 PM:

Avram@42,

Hm, don't know why, but it's making me think of the Johnny Quest opening.

But with the multi-panel comic book setup from the 1965 intro for The Wild, Wild West.

#56 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Hmm -- Jonny Quest makes me think of The Venture Brothers, which, while not anime, is animation, is also on Adult Swim, and answers the question, "what if a Jonny Quest-like character grew up and was a complete loser?" It's always funny, and sometimes it's brilliant. Dr. Venture and his sons are fairly annoying, but the supporting characters are amazing.

#57 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:50 AM:

Ah, anime fandom...

Count me as one of the old-fogy left-behind American anime fan types. Got into that fandom in 1990 through getting exposed to Akira when it was doing the art-house theater circuit, and then seeing a flyer for the local mid-western university anime club at the comic book shop. At that time, the club was lucky to have anything subtitled, or even having someone who was fluent in Japanese to let us know what the heck was going on in the shows we were seeing. We just knew it was cool. At the time the club was about two dozen guys watching whatever anyone got a hold of.

In 1991, I got the club connected to Usenet anime fandom, which meant getting access to decent fansubs. With understanding came rapid growth...

By 1992, our club was doing packed showings in 200-300 person lecture halls with a 12-foot screen and a digital projector. We had week-long fansub copying parties involving 20 VCRs...

In 1993, our club was the single biggest reason for the expansion of the Japanese department at my university. Also that year, I attended my first anime convention, Anime Expo 1993 in Oakland, that same con mentioned at the end of the linked article. The gender ratio there and then was still about 3:1 male:female.

In 1994, I burned out of the fandom for the first time. That was sometime after the month-long fansub copying party involving over 100 VCRs...

I think I can say I was there at the ground-zero of the American anime explosion. What's impressive, looking back, is the speed and scope of its growth. I think this may be the earliest significant instance of the Internet boosting a fandom from obscurity to the mainstream.

Still in my second post-anime-burnout period (got back in in 1999, burned out again in 2002) Maybe one of these days I'll check out FMA, and some of the other newer stuff mentioned here...

#58 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 08:34 AM:

Claire #56: Jonny Quest makes me think of The Venture Brothers, which, while not anime, is animation, is also on Adult Swim

That's pretty much on purpose: Race Bannon made a guest appearance on the show. A bunch of the Adult Swim shows seem like they were approved after the producers got a room full of Hanna-Barbera executives really, really drunk. heh.

#59 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 05:24 PM:

#49:

Satoshi Kon is AMAZING. Though I did describe Paprika as "Satoshi Kon Presents a Satoshi Kon film by Satoshi Kon", his style and tropes haven't gotten old yet, so I'm happy to keep watching.

#60 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 06:16 PM:

I got to meet Satoshi Kon at the D.C. premier of Paprika. I like it, though I do generally seem to prefer the movies Kon writes entirely by himself, whereas Paprika was based on a popular science fiction novel. What was truly awesome was that right before Paprika they showed Tokyo Godfathers.

Watching that movie with a packed house is one of the best theater-going experiences of my life. The crowd reacted with spontaneous gasps, laughs, and applause more times than during any other movie I've ever been to.

At the end there was a question and answer session. I complimented Satoshi Kon on his sarcasm, and he seemed pleased. The sarcasm is what really attracted me to his work from the start - he seems to be able to really poke the weak spots of Japanese culture that no one else is willing to point out, and do so in a truly funny and entertaining way. A friend of mine showed me a piece of an interview with him that really captured this for me. A Japanese interviewer was asking him if he thought the plot to "Perfect Blue" was too complicated for a Japanese audience. Kon said something like "No, I don't. In fact, we wanted to make it more complicated." No hesitation or accommodation at all.

And once that hooked me, there was just so much more to love. Millennium Actress is one of the very few movies that will make me cry at the end no matter how many times I see it.

#61 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 06:39 PM:

"Tokyo Godfathers" was an utter hoot.

#62 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Millenium Actress!

How could I get Metropolis confused with Millenium Actress? Was it the "M"'s in the title? I don't know.

More importantly, where's my DVD player!

I think what is most interesting to me in all this, as an artist, is how the road to success is not in living in a cave and hoarding all my rights and never compromising. In fact, it seems that creativity feeds creativity feeds creativity. Compromise some rights and some artistic morals and unleash the threads into the world. Embracing rights loss leaders to promote one's business plan seems to be what's working most of the time in our new media age.

I see it elsewhere, too, with other artists and authors. Seems to be the way of things.

#63 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:24 AM:

Re: #48

First, let me add my endorsement for "The Venture Brothers"; it's smart and sick and stupid in just the right amounts.

("Remember? That was the year I had those hair-plugs." Heh.)

I'm pretty sure that "Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast", the seed from which the rest of Adult Swim grew, was conceived largely because Turner had all the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons digitised. Unintended consequences.

Oh, while I'm recommending things, I shouldn't forget Maynard and Jennica; I first heard about it when the author was part of a fun hour on Bronwyn C.'s show on WFMU, "Killing Time"; I reserved the book in medio, and was not disappointed.

It's written in Masively Multiple First Person Cranky. And a character's 9/17 rant about the week before made a friend angry.

#64 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 10:28 AM:

As an outsider to anime fandom, can I just say that a) most of these titles are really weird-sounding and I am wildly curious as to how the authors came up with them (kind of like how band names are always so strange), and b) you guys are making me want to go raid my sister's manga collection again. This stuff actually sounds interesting now. Thank you!

#65 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:53 AM:

#64, I can attest that at least some anime titles may seem strange but are, in fact, literal. For example, the recent series Hayate the Combat Butler really is about a combat butler (and is as silly as it sounds). My all-time favorite example of this is Butt Attack Punisher Girl Gotaman, the story of a student at a Christian girl's high school who is visited by Buddha who says, "What has Christianity done for you lately? Here, I'll give you superpowers." Then she goes forth to punish people. With her butt.

On the other hand, sometimes English word salad just sounds appealing...or doesn't sound so appealing but sticks. There was once a young manga artist whose editor wanted him to use the pseudonym Monkey Punch. Said artist complained that this was a pretty stupid name, but the editor assured him it would just be for this one project they were working on, and when he got his big break later on the artist could use whatever name he wanted. Said project turned out to be the massively successful Lupin III, and thus our hero was known as Monkey Punch for the rest of his life. The moral of the story: never let your editor choose a name for you.

#66 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Last night I caught Mamoru Oshii's Tachiguishi Retsuden, or The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters on AZN--now that my mind has been bent into an interesting origami shape (possibly a noodle bowl), I need to ask Those What Know More Than Me--is this movie techically anime? I know it's more animation than actual live-action, even though much of the animation is based on photography.

Should you have not seen this, do see it if you get the chance. It's a commentary on Japan since 1945, disguised as a documentary about a group of urban legends. I expect someone who knows more about modern Japan than I would find it even funnier than I did (although it appears to be pretty black humor.)

#67 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 04:43 PM:

fidelio @ #66, if it's significantly animated and it comes from Japan, I'd say just go ahead and call it anime. Anime fandom spends enough time debating terminology as it is, so when in doubt I prefer not to worry about it to much.

Meanwhile, I'm completely psyched to see Tachiguishi Retsuden and hope that my own mind is bent into interesting shapes whenever I finally have an opportunity to see it. Sounds like it would make for a great double feature with Tampopo.

#68 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 05:01 PM:

#67--Phil, I found myself thinking of Tampopo while I was watching this--when I wasn't wanting noodles!

#69 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 06:34 AM:

Talking of English word salad reminds me of some of the goofier attack names in Sailor Moon -- e.g., "Moon Gorgeous Meditation", "Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss", and "Star Gentle Uterus".

#70 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 08:33 PM:

These animé names would also make good ship names, about as good as Nice Doggie! or The Glorious Heritage of the Shining Light of Andromeda Ascendant, though not as good as The Ultimate Ship II or Overdrawn at the Gravitas Bank.

Then, of course, there was that one animé about a mecha-suit built out of twenty old sewing machines, a piece of gum, and a belt-buckle, Bio Booster Armour MacGuyver.

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