「Visual Collection/Series Premiere」 Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō #01.

Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō #01.

Source Material: Manga series of the same name by Ruri Miyahara (宮原 るり)
Studio(s): Brains Base
Director(s): Shigeyuki Miya (宮 繁之)
Series Composition: Kenji Konuta (古怒田 健志)

Background Information:

Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō is an original manga series by Ruri Miyahara (Love Lab!) that has been published in Shōnen Gahōsha’s seinen manga magazine Young King OURs since the June 2010 issue. As of December 2013, it has been collected into four tankōbon volumes and is still ongoing.

Summary:

Usa Kazunari, now a high school student, wants to leave the disaster of his middle-school life behind and enjoy a new high-school life of peace and comfort. Though when he says “a life of peace and comfort”, what he really means is a life spent with an intellectual and refined girl.  When Usa comes across classmate Kawai Ritsu in the school library and is completely enamored by her appearance and presence, he places all his youthful fantasies upon her. Coincidentally enough, Usa’s parents have just been transferred jobs; and as a result, his new life at school is congruous with his new life at the Kawai dormitory. Usa’s impression of his new home are initially unbearable when he finds out Shirosaki, a pervert who is a potential threat to peaceful society and most assuredly a threat to Usa’s idealized adolescent life, is his new roommate. However, things take a seemingly fateful turn when Usa discovers that Kawai is also an inhabitant of the co-gender dormitory. In the span of a few days, Usa becomes more accustomed to the hindrance that is his roommate, to the playful teasing of his land-owner Sumiko, and to the lengths he must go to obtain Kawai’s attention. But things take another turn when he discovers another fellow-tenant, Nishikono Mayumi, not in the actual dormitory but outside next to a pile of empty cans and bottles of alcohol. After a flirtatious interaction and an elbow to the face, Usa gets a taste of what his newly-introduced dorm-mate is like, and quite a bloody one at that. The assembled household members have a day-concluding dinner together and Usa realizes that while Kawai may be the ideal girl for him, the other new additions to his life might just prove the opposite and probably even be detrimental to his relationship with the girl of his dreams.

Review:

Don’t be fooled by the title of the series (lit. “We Are All From Dormitory Kawai”, but also a play on words that has the double meaning of “We Are All Pitiful” – the former having the likeliness of a slice-of-life and/or comedy while the latter much more expressive of a drama, tragedy and/or anti-romance if you ask me, in any case, completely different connotations) or the first minute of grandiose color palettes, assertive sun-rays, juxtaposition of beautiful nature with human daily life, delicate piano accompaniment and male protagonist’s opening internal monologue that reveals his self-awareness of an unfulfilled life absent of romance and passion; this is most definitely not a TV-sized Makoto Shinkai production, no matter how much of his aesthetic formula it follows. Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō is being adapted by Brains Base, a studio I hold in high regard, but for different reasons than for most other studios. Wherein a defining characteristic of P.A. Works, Ufotable and other production companies is the unbelievably meticulous quality of art; up to this point, I seldom thought the same for the works of Brains Base. (While I thoroughly appreciated the artistic stylings of Baccano!, I wasn’t too head over heels for Durarara!!’s. Subsequently, Blood Lad was a more pleasing visual experience for me, but even then I never merited it as masterful craftsmanship.) In commending Brains Base, what I saw to be its most admirable quality was its selection of works and how it properly portrayed the greatness of each work. (Durarara! ! and Blood Lad being clear-cut examples of instances when I wasn’t frustrated at a studio for adapting a series just to make it mediocre and not even have the respectability to see it through until the end, but rather when I was enraged at a studio for making such splendid adaptation of a series and leaving the viewers with nothing more right when it reached its peak of excitement.) It’s safe to say that Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō has completely re-painted my impression, as like I said before, don’t be fooled by the Makoto Shinaki resemblances, because this series is most definitely the kind of heart-wrenching story that emotional masochists will voraciously consume (although for the record, there is a masochist in the show if that helps). But in retrospect, is any comparison to a Shinkai work ever not a compliment, especially if it’s concerning the visual production? To that I exclaim an irrefutable, “No!” If I want to reference my antiquated impression of the studio, then, most assuredly, Brains Base has stepped up its art game by one hell-of-an-impressive multiplier. In mimicking the Makoto Shinkai way, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the artists behind Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō have effectively sky-rocketed the show’s value. It’s a bit hard for me to justify as to why myself; but if I may instill a bit of my own personal philosophy into the explanation, I believe that with a certain commitment to quality work, there’s an additional upgrade in ways that viewers can understand the feelings you are trying to encapsulate within your work. These effects can be subtle like the immaculate detail of a bowl of rice with chicken and egg that rivals even the vivid portrayal of clouds (something most would consider most artistically-appreciable), in turn giving a more wholesome sense as to how the character eating the meal feels. And also these effects can also be continuously and perceptively prominent such as the artwork truly expressing out the characters’ expressions and emotions, making them outright beautiful in their own sense, no matter how common or ordinary their static character designs (another common aspect of Makoto Shinkai’s aesthetic work) may be. To this respect, I think even to the well-trained, avid anime-viewer eye, an eye that has become weary of the same visual appearance of characters bearing identical and generic archetypes, there is a whole new level of accentuation and individualization that can be seen. All in all, I guess this concept encapsulates the idea that the more realistic something is, the more believable it is. Or simply, that the art speaks for itself, in which this case, it most certainly does. And it’s saying something along the lines of, “Look at me, I’m beautiful! Take a screen-cap, it’ll last longer.” It goes without saying that for a show centered on its cast of jointly-eponymous characters, any effect that will highlight their presences is without a doubt important. And while the art quality of this show does just that to much avail, it’s also fantastic to be able to admit that even without their tasteful visual depictions, these characters actually still stand-out a bunch through their respective personalities and quirks. While the open-closet pervert Shirosaki isn’t the most refreshing character of the household, his effect in dragging the hopeful romantic, Usa, who is constantly floating off in his own delusions of love, back down to ground-level, quite roughly so I might add, might just be a necessity dynamic that keeps the show in general from turning into a less whimsically entertaining, flat-out account of a tenderfooted boy’s high school crush. (This being an adequate outline for a movie, yes, but more so questionable in the format of a television series spanning in the dozen(s) with its episode count.) Alongside these wholly incompatible roommates are the female members of the Kawai dormitory, the capricious Kawai Ritsu, who literally speaks softly and walks around with a big stick; the busty and free-spirited but emotionally-vulnerable Nishikino Mayumi, whose first and second impressions from her fellow hopeless romantic, Usa, are “great tits” and “alcoholic” respectively; the yet introduced Watanabe Sayaka, who is only described as a college student; and the landlord Sumiko, whose anachronistic maturity and complete disregard for the savoir-faire she so obviously has (as a seasoned elder and all) I find to be the most hilarious thing about this show. With a series like Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō wherein there’s not necessarily a derived narrative to progress upon (Usa’ romantic advances towards Kawai being the only thing at this point and even that is being overshadowed by the overall atmosphere of comedic gags), there’s greatness in that it can access its entertainment value from the very beginning. With the aforementioned ability of Brains Base to really adapt a series as what its worth, Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō’s latency has been clearly presented here today, I would say.

Rating: 8.7/10

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「Visual Collection/Series Premiere」 Blade & Soul #01.

Blade and Soul #01.

Source Material: Blade & Soul
Studio(s): Gonzo
Director(s): Hiroshi Hamasaki (浜崎 博嗣) , Hiroshi Takeuchi (竹内 浩志)
Writer(s): Atsuhiro Tomioka (冨岡 淳広)
Character Design: Eri Nagata (長田 絵里), Hyung-Tae Kim (김형태)
Chief Animation Director: Eri Nagata (長田 絵里)

Background Information:
Blade & Soul is a Korean fantasy martial-arts massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by NCSOFT’s Team Bloodlust developer division. Having been in development since 2007 yet still void of many promised services, such as overseas and console (Playstation 3 and XBox 360)  releases, the game is considered as currently in development hell. In spite of that, due to recognition of its innovative game mechanics, its artistic and stylistic design, and NCSOFT’s established reputation with previous series (Guild Wars, Lineage, Aion), it has garnered widespread attention as an accomplished entry in the MMORPG industry. While the anime series is to adapt from the source material itself, its release precedes the establishment of the game’s Japanese servers.

Summary:
Aruka, a skilled assassin of the Tsurugi Clan bearing a scar resembling the shape of a swallowtail butterfly, was the sole witness to the murder of her master by three assailants belonging to the Param Empire. Since the incident, she has made it her personal mission to put an end to the vendetta and exact revenge upon the three assassins she prominently remembers from her vague memory. While bathing in a pond and reflecting upon that fateful evening, she is discovered by a pair of brothers who recruit her as a bodyguard, not after being overwhelmed by her physical prowess. Now serving Mori, the young female successor of a village, Aruka is exposed to the devastating influence of the Param Empire on people other than herself. The imperialism of the Param Empire has turned the village into a target land for the cultivation of “sky spirits,” flowers that grant supernatural powers upon being cultivated, subsequently establishing a common enemy for Aruka and her employer. All throughout, Aruka  retains her stoic nature towards both her friends and foes, failing to even bat an eye when the whole village is attacked and countless people are killed before her. Ganza, essentially an unexceptional character of mini-boss-eque nature (filler, even in mini-boss terms) volunteers himself as someone who can defeat Aruka, over-estimating the power of the sky spirit bottle he  possesses. Aruka assassinates Ganza with one skillful maneuver with two blades but is ultimately unable to stop the army that accompanied him. As Aruka and Mori watch the destruction of the village from afar, Aruka tells Mori to pursue vengeance. Then, while cutting her own hair, Aruka clarifies that instead of taking revenge, she is merely abiding by law.

Review:
First off, I would just like to say that it’s really difficult for me to not compare this anime adaptation to the original game. Of course, while they are two entirely different mediums, that’s not said in the sense that they don’t share many aspects, but rather, in the sense that they should be equally respected as distinctive art forms. So, in consideration to the congruous narratives, reworked character designs, the recycled soundtrack, and other similarities,  it’s quite easy to say that this adaptation pales in comparison to the elegant execution of the original game. If anything, I’ll just have to trust myself when I say that I would undoubtedly think the same even if I had never heard of the game prior – and hopefully it’s fair to ask for you too to take my word on that. The thing about Blade & Soul is that for an MMORPG, it has a spectacularly riveting and engaging narrative. And in all honestly, it’s hard to come across one that succeeds in conception and execution of its story, especially when the fine line between game-play and cut-scenes is thickly veiled by the individual preferences of each player. Not perfect, but better than most, Blade & Soul does well in establishing the plot as a cultivated and integral part of the game, wherein the awe-inspiring artistry in design and graphics essentially present the cut-scenes as a worthwhile and standalone picturesque experience. But while it is an exquisitely visual adventure, Blade & Soul also knows how to balance its elements through game mechanics. To that effect, I believe it is very important to know, for example, what to place in cut-scenes and what to place in player-optional NPC talk bubbles. In translating the visual appeal, atmosphere, story and lore of an open-world game, one faces the challenge of depicting these intricacies, such as the gorgeous environments that the player can simply admire while walking their character towards an NPC, into concrete frames of an episode that ultimately subtract from its overall twenty minute run-time. There’s an unavoidable drawback to every scene implemented, so it goes without saying that attempting to emulate every single component of the game would be nearly impossible. Even so, in evaluating this premiere episode in more anime-suitable standards, it’s also hard not to be discontent with Gonzo’s recreation. I wouldn’t call myself the biggest fan of Studio Gonzo at all (though if it can produce another masterpiece on the level of Gankutsuou, I would consider that one of the greatest comeback of a studio in anime history) and that line of impression continues with the production value of this here adaptation. In regard to Aruka as the main character, a static air accompanies her disposition, so that while she is admittedly of a bad-ass nature, it’s ambiguous as to whether or not she’ll justify the role of protagonist through hard-driving character depth and/or development or whether she’ll remain the archetypal avenger all twelve episodes. Additionally so, aspects that could accentuate the story-telling oh-so-well, animation of action sequences and general art quality are also quite lackluster and flat, a lot of Aruka’s movements being simplified into non-dynamic animations. On the other hand, when action is low-key, it’s still hard to appreciate the beauty of the environments and scenic shots as much as one would in the game. And as always, I’ve it a point to be concerned with how the scheduled episode count will affect the series overall. One cour is usually not enough to present a magnificently compelling series, but it is always enough to make me fretful. Of course, there are those series that can do just the seemingly impossible in twelve or thirteen episodes, some in even less; but the fact remains that at this point, with a series that is missing satisfying core elements as well as the additional oomph factor, there is too much to be desired. If you ask me, the first artistic desecration was when they changed the “&” in the original title to an “and,” and it probably all went downhill from there.

Rating: 7.2/10

 

Log Horizon #25. and How-to Properly Seize A Second Season

Source Material: Mamare Touno (橙乃 ままれ)
Writer(s): Toshizo Nemoto (根元 歳三)
Studio(s): Satelight
Director(s): Shinji Ishihara (石平 信司)
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi (高梨 康治)

It’s easy to underestimate the possibility control and power of money on any given industry, and the major power of the media mix in anime is no exception. Especially in recent years, we’ve seen our fair share of questionable adaptations every season. Shows that are adapted into anime series before even having enough content to satisfy one cour. Shows that are altered completely from their original narrative. Shows that are oh-so well deserving of continuation but are ultimately truncated. And shows with essentially unnecessary continuations. For both the good and the bad sides of this coin, it’s definitely an interesting conundrum about a certain influence on culture. All of this is open to contention, of course, though one fact remains constant and that is the inevitability of further exposure. Whether they be manga, novels, games or even the more up-’til-lately less indulged mediums such as light novels, visual novels and the like, getting an anime adaptation will increase audiences. That is a formula that has long since been set in anime-drawn stone, which really brings us to the true topic of this article, a little niche light novel series I like to call Log Horizon and whose anime adaptation I like to call ‘the best MMORPG sub-genre anime I have had the pleasure of watching.’

Leaving aside a thorough synopsis of the overall series for another time, what we’ll discuss is its state in the last fours weeks of its broadcast. After a thrilling finale at the Battle of Zantlead, the arc focusing on the conflict with The People of the Land comes to a satisfactory close. Back in Akihabara, the army-disbanded adventurers are back to their free-willing, adventuresome selves and are effervescent in their post-victory celebration and indulgence in the first ever Scale Festival. It’s not really a set-up for another gripping battle, at all. This is evident when this in-between arc’s antagonist arises, a nobleman and person of the land named Lord Malves, who besides in countenance proves to be no spectacular authority, no more a threat Shiroe. What worth he does prove himself to be, however, after two episodes of moderate lime-light, is a fantastic red herring. As a generous fate would have it, the issue with Malves is effectively resolved within the first five minutes of the season finale, leaving a whole lot to be covered in terms of embellishing the episode greatly with a sense of yearning for the riveting teased things to come, a sense of nostalgia through heartfelt moments with the eponymous guild of the show and just a general sense of astonishment at wonderful story-writing.

With the good riddance of our short-lived villain, things are immediately taken up a notch. A moment between Minori and Shiroe finally has her simultaneously confronting the Akihabara populace’s general opinion of Shiroe as well as confronting Shiroe himself. At last, Shiroe is posed with a particularly heavy-hitting question that doesn’t revolve around strategic analysis but rather, around him as a person. It is here that Shiroe expresses his own personality quite explicitly, which is such a seldom occurrence for him – and you can’t help but notice that he must have had a long and emotional history with his past guild, something that always seems to linger in the back of his head as he plays that role of the “villain in glasses,” brooding behind the scenes of everything. And if I had to put a finger on it, I would say a huge deal of this demeanor involves Kanami, a character I’m anxiously looking forward to finding out more about. Conversely, in the tween eyes of Minori, we can see how much her image of Shiroe, once so glorified, is losing its luster, though not negatively so. If anything, Minori has quickly grown out of her phase of idolization and is subconsciously equalizing herself to Shiroe, even pitying him to a certain extent in this episode. It’s hard to say whether this shaping of her outlook on Shiroe and people in general will play strongly towards her affection for him or not; but either way, it’s a damn fine level of character depth. Of all the new Log Horizon recruits, Minori is definitely the brightest of the bunch and the level of her character growth is something so satisfying that it could enable her to surpass Akatsuki in terms of a likeable character, even if the mentioned is frankly cooler in combat ability, appearance and class (that’s MMORPG class, not aristocratic class, mind you).

But of course, as she probably heard me say that just now, Akatsuki was looming in the background and witnessing the whole discourse, she possibly being the only one more specialized in covertness than Shiroe, something that speaks for their own compatibility I suppose. (A cinematographic quality worth noting is the framing in three shots, wherein Shiroe is seen looming over the entirety of a twilight Akihabara, then Minori is revealed beyond that scope and a while later, Akatsuki is even more so beyond that. A very nice sequence of composition.) And in my opinion, this was a much needed advancement. Beyond her moe stature and position of over-poweredness at level ninety, Akatsuki really needed a stronger persona and connection with Shiroe to have anyone rooting for her  attempted courtship. This being especially necessary considering her longer history with our megane protagonist. Though by this, I’m not saying that I enjoyed seeing Akatsuki essentially hating herself for being so unobservant of her beloved despite being so aware of her own lifestyle of inconspicuousness. Quite the opposite, I was overjoyed at the under-the-stars guild dinner scene, that when all the cards were on the table and everyone was being so open with each other, the girl was able to brush aside her self-directed frustration and take part in the unity of the members. Truly, if that isn’t what a guild family is for, then I don’t know what is.

Speaking of good and bad sides of coins earlier as well, Shiroe’s romances and the coin Shiroe fiddles around with in his fingers this episode, it’s an interesting dynamic that is introduced between Shiroe and Nureha, guild master of Plant Hwyaden and interim leader of the Minami District. God knows Shiroe has enough romantic interests for the time being (though I suppose more age-appropriate ones are welcome) but additionally so, the relationship, or rather, obsession, that Nureha has with Shiroe almost seems to resemble Shiroe’s position of captivation towards his past and still mostly undisclosed (frustratingly so) guild master, of the Debauchery Tea Party. And I guess when a resemblance to deep-rooted memories doesn’t work, there’s always a buxom figure and irresistible fox-tail. Proving to be calm, cool and collected as always, Shiroe resists the irresistible and rejects Nureha’s guild membership offer. Further excessively, he continues to renounce their relationship and essentially makes a declaration of war with Nureha, a course of action that I thought was a bit sensitive; but I wouldn’t say it makes me skeptical of Shiroe as much as it makes me eagerly anticipate just what the story can ensue towards.

And it’s definitely a extensive route Log Horizon has assembled for itself. The closing moments in this episode re-created the legitimate sense of adventure and friendship that has been a core element of (and that has made me enamored with) this series all throughout. Following a truly MMORPG-tributing and gratifying action sequence involve our current line-up of Log Horizon adventurers and the usual energizing ED sequence, Shiroe informs Ri Gan he is leaving Akihabara and the announcement for the second season wraps the finale up. Something about Shiroe looking more mischievous than usual made me believe it was actually Nureha disguised as him talking to Ri Gan, but if my paranoia isn’t something to worry about, there is a sense of conceptual symmetry here. Admittedly, it is a bit saddening to see Shiroe essentially abandoned most of what he has established in Akihabara these past twenty-five episodes (especially so damn amazing comrades, shout out to Crusty), but what is an adventurer’s life other than one of taking risks and reaching new heights?

So, now in posing the post’s question, how does an anime properly seize a second season? Well, for Log Horizon:

A great introduction season through and through, no news announcements concerning continuation preceding the final episode broadcast, a mislead of sorts at the near end to make you think it’s just another completed series to drop in the recess of your memory bank, and then a full payout in the end with a myriad of moments that will remind you of the show’s best qualities, a clincher of story-writing that tells you things can get even better, and the crowning announcement that things will indeed get better. Damn more than good enough for me.

And to think, it all started with a hamburger that had some flavor.

A Year of Anime (2013)

Preface: And so, another year of anime has passed. Every year, it seems like the industry is prospering to new levels, and I am happy to say that alongside it, so does my involvement in it. Looking in retrospect, I can honestly say that I am astounded at how much the anime industry has changed. This year we’ve seen adaptations of manga, 4koma, novels, light novels, visual novels, games, mascots, and multi-media franchises. Additionally so, well-anticipated sequels and original adaptations have graced the year and proved to be just as enthralling. I am proud to say that I have matched this flourishing activity with that of my own. This year I have managed to watch _ anime series and finish _ of them. This post will serve as an extensive retrospection, including thoughts and reactions that I will do my best to recollect for respective premieres, highlight episodes, endings, and series in general. Of course they will all be assimilated into reviews primarily focusing on the “best anime of the year” motif, but the first half of this post will consist of specific awards concerning notable aspects of the medium while the second half will consist of the annual top series. And so, without further ado,

Disclaimer: If you find yourself disagreeing with my opinions, I urge you to respond with a list of your own. There are series I haven’t seen, thoughts I haven’t thought, feelings I haven’t felt, and perspectives I haven’t shared; but I’m sure I’d like to.

WARNING!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!

Eligibility: Anything that aired within the year.

Best of (Story):

Best Story: Kyousougiga

I wouldn’t say that the writers behind Kyousougiga have a god-complex like many big-time shōnen mangakas, but they sure as hell do the trope better than a majority of them. Penchants for imbuing characters with absolute power aside, Kyousougiga delivers the greatness of its story in leaps and bounds. In ten episodes, we are presented with a long-enduring, beautifully-scripted family drama that sees its own members traveling between planes of existence, becoming rulers of a civilization, practically waging war amongst each other, and the like. Fast pacing, of course is a common aspect (and what many would consider a weak one) in one-cour series (Kyousougiga being even shorter than one-cour) and yet, the series is able to leave behind with every episode’s premiere a vast depth of underlying content, whether that be the symbolism of Buddhist culture or the rich story-building with the planetarium of the thirteen planes. These facets are subtle but do so much to augment the main storyline; ultimately remaining uncultivated by the viewers’ intrigue without additional attention (It’s no wonder there’s multiple recaps episode in which the cast of the show provides background information on the show’s premise). It’s a needle in an imaginary haystack.

Honorable Mention(s): Shin Sekai Yori, Hunter x Hunter

Best Arc: Chimera Ant Arc (Hunter x Hunter)

Hands-down. I’ve avoided writing an explanation because I have an entirely separate blog post dedicated to the arc and its importance in the making.

Honorable Mention(s): Greed Island Arc (Hunter x Hunter), Sisters Arc (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

Best Plot Twist: Inari is the son of God (Kyousougiga)

Inari pulls out the most batshit plot twist ever since a particular shōnen series did something of a similar vein and subsequently received widespread acclaim. But it’s not a twist that’s completely out of his ass, no, it’s out of his scabbard and it’s a sword, that he uses to stab… his daughter and his brother. Inari’s, for lack of better words, “change of heart” and status as son of God effectively makes him the most ambiguously evil character of the year (Yes, I see you, Squealer, but I knew your ass was evil from the beginning!). Wherein most plot twists live for shock value, Kyousougiga‘s is one that more so answers questions than raises them, kind of… The unraveling mystery of the Kyousougiga family comes to a modicum of clarity when we finally know what the deal is with this enigma of a character, a man who married his own painting, denied an grief-struck boy from suicide (which was practically synonymous with salvation in his culture), crafted two more children from his artistry, and then abandoned them. He then creates a final child, leaves her too, and comes back to stab her in the event of discussion. And with that, we come full circle. Wait, no we don’t, what the fuck just happened!?

Best Dialogue: Monogatari Series: Second Season

I’m not sure how much I need to argue for this, seeing as how Monogatari is arguably the most dialogue-driven series in anime history. Furthermore, Studio Shaft has pretty much perfected the art of capturing scenes of conversations after all the installments of the series. Overhead shots, low-angle shots, grandiose locales, over-exposed eye shots, immaculate focus on lips, lens flares, burlesque poses, melodic soundtrack, interlaced text, inter titles, you name it and Shaft will dramatize it masterfully. For me, NisiOisin is famous for his dialogue wit; he’s like the anime-version of Quentin Tarantino, wherein his stories not only feature cutting-edge subject matter with obvious appreciation towards pop culture, but also gritty presentation in discourse. It is said that the practice of conversation itself is an art form; with that in mind, I guess we can add another point to Monogatari‘s stylistic roster.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Best Fight: Annie v.s. Recon Corps (Shingeki no Kyojin)

One of the main factors that soared Shingeki no Kyojin to the status of a masterpiece and true shōnen series for me was how intense the literary device of conflict was portrayed through its writing. Not only does the battle of an entire damn corporation against one girl last throughout the entire twenty five episode run of the show, but is also thoroughly and adequately foreshadowed, developed, materialized, and extended. As Annie is the first revealed titan, her story is one that is irrevocably attached to every other motif in the story. So when the nigh conflict finally comes to pass, it is quite literally her against the world (at least the world we’ve been shown thus far), and it does marvels in terms of emotional depth. Her one-on-ones with Eren, Mikasa, Levi, Hanji alike are all equally compelling match-ups. I do admit that as a result, original author Isayama kind of set a trap for himself as to how to make her imminent defeat as satisfying as possible. Personally, what I wanted most was her to fall in her fight against Mikasa and Levi in the woods (specifically to Mikasa), so I was a bit disappointed when that didn’t happen. But what ensued was also undeniably great (we even got Mikasa’s callously delivered jab at her as she literally fell from the walls of human civilization). And it goes without saying that what preceded it was also undeniably incredible. From the confines of the training camp to the plains beyond the walls to the innermost areas of the woods to the central stage of the town, the struggle against Annie was long, enduring, and just pure epic. Annie is a dead ringer for a great fighter and it’s not just because she’s a practiced boxer.

Honorable Mention(s): Kite, Gon and Killua v.s. Yunju, Centipede and Mosquito (Hunter  x Hunter)

Best Death: Deishuu Kaiki (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

Kaiki’s is a death that pretty much received the royal treatment. Not only did he get to be the narrator for a good part of the series (and a whole volume if we’re talking about the light novels), but he was also glorified in redemption by saving the lives of virtually the whole main cast of the series. The guy had a golden carpet laid out for him, one that led to his death. To be honest, with all the aforementioned story aspects that could be considered huge foreshadowings, I was in utter disbelief when the time, his time, finally came. Of course, I was long since emotionally invested in Kaiki (the scene of his altercation with Ononoki about his romantic history is iconic to me) , so when the finale decided to end with that as a cliffhanger, you know the writers are just reveling in how trauma they’ve caused you.

Honorable Mention(s): Kite (Hunter x Hunter), Shimogamo Souichirou (Uchouten Kazoku), Squealer (Shin Sekai Yori), Misaka 9982 (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

 

Best of (Character):

Best Male Character: Shimogamo Yasaburo (Uchouten Kazoku)

Yasaburo gives hope to all the lackadaisicals in life. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Uchouten Kazoku is an adaptation from a novel, seeing as he’s such a textbook example of a character from a, well… book. While other protagonists are off gallantly saving the world from evil, the host of this show has his hands full with just the affairs of his own family. In actuality, Yasaburo may be the narrator of the series, but he could hardly be considered the centerpiece of it, seeing as how there’s a dramatic representation of the family Shimogamo family as a whole, eccentric unity. He doesn’t solve all the conflicts by himself; he acknowledges his own flaws and the flaws of his relatives. Nonetheless, it is the brilliance of his constant self-reflection that is the determinant aspect of the show. Without Yasaburo’s retrospections, there would be no underlying concepts to grasp from this everyday story. He is a phenomenally written character in that he is not only able to relay the brimming emotions from the cast of the story but also from the audience itself.

Honorable Mention(s): Gon (Hunter x Hunter), Deishuu Kaiki (Monogatari Series: Second Season), Joseph Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), Staz Charlie Blood (Blood Lad), Sakishima Hikari (Nagi no Asukara)

Best Female Character: Mayoi Hachikuji (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

Hachikuji is the most admirable fifth-grader ever. Hachikuji has retained my endearing impression since her introduction in the first Bakemonogatari series, where she became the first girl, besides Senjougahara, who Araragi met. And again in Nisemonogatari, she graced the premiere episode with arguably the best scene of the series, establishing the profundity that an elementary-schooler should not by normal means possess. This year’s installment marked her unfortunate and highly untimely passing, but not without a proper emotional send-off that saw her usually composed disposition crumble before the callousness of her fate and the sincerity of Araragi.  And that may just be the allure of her character. Physically, Hachikuji represents a moe archetype, but the juxtaposition of her overtly mature demeanor completely transmogrifies the enticement of her character into something else entirely. That we can fawn over her preciousness as well as regard the sophistication of her personality allow us to flip both sides of the coin with concurrent content. She’s a delight.

Honorable Mention(s): Hajime Ichinose (Gatchaman Crowds), Mankanshoku Mako (Kill la Kill), Misaka Mikoto (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

Best Protagonist: Gon Freecs (Hunter x Hunter)

In terms of a lead role for the story, you can’t get any better than Gon Freecs. Sure, the main plot is driven by his quest to hunt down his father, but just a little more inspection and it should be obvious just about everything else breaks down as a effect to the cause that is his character. It was Gon’s stubborn heroism in the face of Nobunaga that tangle the protagonists further into the web of the Phantom Troupe. Greed Island was wholly an adventure for the sake of the plot’s main objective, but Razor’s clash with Gon was a personal battle of clout. And presently, Gon’s fate in the Chimera Ant arc was an outcome of him deciding to take Killua with him to see his father, triggering the Greed Island game to transfer the two to Kite instead.  That all is resultant of the nature of his character holds true to his definition as protagonist of the series.

Honorable Mention(s): Shimagamo Yasaburo (Uchouten Kazoku), Misaka Mikoto (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

Best Antagonist: Neferpitou (Hunter x Hunter)

Neferpitou is an exceptionally unique case. Despite his role as a secondary antagonist in the Chimera Ant arc, the modicum of his presence and actions in the story have had such a grave effect that he fits the bill of antagonist so damn perfectly. In correlating Pitou with the big bad Mereum himself, Pitou actually seems more evil, and that’s not just because of the huge blow dealt upon the latter’s reputation by the oh-so-moe Komugi (though that is quite a large part of it). Let’s lay a few comparisons to establish this scale. Firstly, while Mereum did in fact kill his own mother by emerging from her womb, it was ultimately an inadvertent and consequential action. Conversely, there’s an overt implication in portraying Pitou as wholly apathetic to the matter as he even withholds resurrecting the Queen, a possibility only with his Nen ability. Secondly, while Mereum shows no sympathy to any other, he does not actively seek cruelty. Neferpitou is one who heavily follows the path of carnage, Exhibit A being his brutal victory over Kite compared to Mereum’s abandoned triumph over Komugi, which occurs on a much less severe battlefield. Thirdly, Neferpitou is the epitome of the word monstrosity in that he has remained the most unknown figure out of the Royal Guard and King himself despite being the first born and first introduced. His aura has thus far been acknowledged as the most terrifying, in which its immensity is horrid enough to outweigh Shiapouf’s, which incapacitated one of the greatest, professional hunters, as well as make Colt believe Netero, the arguably strongest character in the entire Hunter x Hunter series, has no chance against the King. Speaking of which, there is still a relationship of tremendous tension between the King and Neferpitou, one that hints ample treachery and conflict. To say that he even might betray the omnipotent king he serves is basically saying this motherfucker is bad news, big bad news.

Honorable Mention(s): Mereum (Hunter x Hunter), Squealer (Shin Sekai Yori), Annie Leonhart (Shingeki no Kyojin)

Best of (Genre):

Best Action: Hunter x Hunter

Togashi has put an unbelievable amount of work in conceiving Nen combat as well as structuring its introduction and continual coverage. Hunter x Hunter. The concept was first presented in the Heaven’s Arena arc and every since has had a hearty and soulful coverage of new components to the expansive technique. Moreover, it’s given fruit to some of the most creative action scenes and fights of the year, enabling Togashi to import his adoration of sports, board games, video games, and more. And while these might sound as cutting edge as the visceral nature of physical combat, don’t even think for a second that the series lacks in that area whatsoever.

Honorable Mention(s): Shingeki no Kyojin, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Best Adventure: Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter takes this cake with ease. As if last year’s events that saw our protagonists chasing around a group of the strongest characters in the series and getting mixed up in a Mafioso fiasco wasn’t enough of an adventure, Gon and Killua kicked in the 2013 year with the first official episode of the Greed Island arc. And if a whole arc devoted to two pre-teen boys playing a massively multi-player role-playing game isn’t the epitome of adventure for you, then I don’t know what is. From that virtual entanglement to the current Chimera Ant arc, it’s as if the boys have properly gone from a gamer’s heaven to what anyone would consider hell. It’s been a helluva an adventure, but hell, what’s more adventurous than going to hell and back?

Best Sci-fi: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

A common topic of discussion when it comes to technology is how it will inevitably influence warfare. Thankfully, modern warfare can be avidly represented in fiction without any worry of physical consequence. The account of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S, and the entire Toaru series in general, is one in which its author immerses himself in a world of science fiction and tailors it to his own craft. Unlike some other sci-fi series of the year (Psycho-Pass, Suisei no Gargantia), Railgun largely implements the motif into an extra component of its series, action. A major part of Toaru‘s fun is identifying each character with their science-based powers and comparing them with each other in that sense. The story etches them out to be people defined by their powers and that adds a new measure to their persons. But it’s not only the characters themselves that receive the grand scientific treatment. The story itself dons its most intriguing essence from the employment of science-fictional themes, each arc offering respectable and engaging concepts of philosophy that rival the aforementioned rival series. The Sisters arc is one such exceptional example of such daring and sightly feats. (The whole issue of clones being human or not taken up one notch when they’re the clones of the protagonist and the underlying implication of kinship is beckoned.) Railgun is a series that knows how represent its classification as science-fiction story in exhilarating and dynamic style and depth.

Honorable Mentions: Suisei no Gargantia, Psycho-Pass

Best Fantasy: Kyousougiga

The imagination behind the making of Kyousougiga is enough for people to get lost in and inhibit for decades, if not centuries. As a matter of fact, that’s essentially what happens in the plot of the series itself… so it must be true! Many people say that FLCL is the coolest anime series ever; but in my opinion, Kyousougiga gives it a damn good run for its money. The vastness of Kyousougiga‘s imaginary and stylish world is what allows it to be such a fine flight of fancy. It’s not difficult for an original anime project to overload and contrive its story with attempts at culture-clashing, such as worlds with anachronistically parallel existences of advanced technology and medieval customs. It’s been done many times before and has failed many times before (though the connotation behind failed is pretty ambiguous). But when a series like Kyousougiga comes along, it drops the hammer to prove that it is a fantastical world entirely possible (in fiction at least) with the implementation of superb and seamless story-writing. The fantasy elements of Kyousougiga are indeed visual astonishing; but equally, their cultural and historical allusions and subtle symbolism are what enhance the depth of the story to new heights. It’s simply fantasy done right.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku, Shin Sekai Yori, Monogatari Series: Second Season, Zetsuen no Tempest

Best Drama: Kyousougiga

Kyousougiga takes the zenith of drama to the heart of human relationships, the family. Within its ten episode span, the series has family members from the main cast living with another, eating with another, playing with another (and here’s where it gets weird), trying to kill another, creating another (by wholly unconventional means), trying to send another into an alternate dimension, forming an incestuous relationship with another and the like, in no particular order. Try imagining all the sentiments and emotions associated with that kind of dysfunctional family. While the show doesn’t quite cover every possible base, what it does unravel from these heartstrings is one intense enveloping development. From sub-genres such as the family drama to concepts from Sigmund Freud’s “Family Romances,” there’s all kinds of maudlin sagaciousness in the writings of Kyousougiga. With every episode, the show leaves a severe sense of yearning in the core of your heart and pit of your stomach, and god damn, it’s not even your own family.

Best Romance/Harem: Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko

HenNeko is definitely a series that leans more towards the harem side of the spectrum as opposed to the romance side. But hey, in a world where people are still asking every day what exactly is love, there’s no helping that there will be radically different interpretations of the timeless concept. While series like White Album 2 are the much more conspicuously advertised romance series, I’ve recently come to accept subtle heart-to-heart moments speaking much louder from the actual heart than the forced melodrama of vulnerable, angsty teenage interactions, even if one appears in a comedic romance and the other in a dramatic one. There’s a Japanese aesthetic concept called yūgen that is inexplicably more complicated than anything I can explain about it, but the general gist of its nuance is the beauty that is not directly displayed but that can be presumed from its deep and mysterious subtlety. I’ve all but applied that to my impressions of romances in anime. Wherein a charming relationship is eventually tarnished by melodrama forced into the writing, a casual interaction of genuine sentiments can still hopefully bloom into a beautiful enchantment, even after the open-ended conclusion that most harems offer. And oh boy, is there a lot of such sentimental scenes in HenNeko. Yokodera Youto is one hell of a genuine kid, a hapless pervert, but a good kid. His prepubescent life is fortunately full of interactions with bombshell beauties, adorable girls and even a loving mother (that is not his own). With all these cards on the tables, yes there’s a lot of room for eroticism and total fan-service, but the anime does a great job at being much more than just that with conflicts after conflicts overcome by friends bordering on the realm of romantic interests (except for the mother, that’s just sweetness of family). Not romance in the literal sense but love is definitely in the air for this one.

Honorable Mention(s): Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru, White Album 2

Best Fan-Service: Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku o Ketsui Shimashita

You may call me a pervert, but I hardly believe that I’m the only one.  Anime has long since made fan-service a staple  of its industry, and it only seems to become more affluent as the years go on. Simply put, sex sells. (Even animated sex.) And so does the more toned-down version of it. At this point, I have to admit myself that after so long, the approach of fan-service has pretty much become an art form. At the very least, I think we can agree that there’s a distinction amongst the kinds you see, be it blatant fan-service, subtle fan-service, or anywhere in between. Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku o Ketsui Shimashita, or Yusibu, definitely leans more upon the blatant side of the spectrum, but hey, to avoid sounding too lascivious, let’s just say for the most part it seems the artists and animators enjoy what they’re doing. Instead of just slapping a pair of, for lack of better words, somethings, on the screen, they put on a pretty detailed and lovely show, especially during those various action sequences where there’s a generous display of physics. I’ve officially re-dubbed this show into I Couldn’t Become A Hero, So I Decided to Continue Admiring Boobs and Butts.

Honorable Mention(s): Walkure Romanze

Best Comedy: Hataraku Maou-sama!

Hataraku Maou-sama! is one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me, not because it was a horrible series all through-out; but rather, because it showed a vast amount of potential to be a big hit until it just plummeted straight to the pits of hell. From now on, it just might be my go-to series to reference when explaining to someone the fatal flaw of having just too many damn characters, an affliction it unfortunately caught early on in its run. Nonetheless, ignoring my gripes about such things as the total side-casting of favorable character Ashiya, I have to give credit where credit is due, because Maou-sama! was one hell of a riot in its early stages. Its opening sequence was an ingenious transition from some mighty sakuga animation of a demonic war that gave it a sense of severity to a total turnabout scenario of the almighty demon lord and his right-hand man trying to escape the clutches of a local police station. Hilarity ensues as their misadventures just get wackier, for a small chunk of episodes at least. In the end, while not the most consistent in its delivery, Maou-sama! was definitely the comedy that garnered the best laughs from me this year.

Honorable Mention(s): Yuyushiki, Little Busters!, Minami-ke Tadaima

Best Slice-of-Life: Uchouten Kazoku

I’ll admit that I have a pretty warped perspective on the slice-of-life genre, I mean, how the hell is Uchouten Kazoku, an anime about tanuki, humans, and tengu, a slice-of-life series? What kind of delusions about life do I have, right? I don’t want to sound too pretentious in saying this (mainly because it reminds me of how my college professors teach certain cultural aesthetic values), but for me, slice-of-life is an aspect more focused upon the feeling and response of profundity that can be realized in everyday happenstance as opposed to mere content matter being situated in everyday situations. While I can’t put it into words in any manner cohesive, I can vouch my sentiments with the series itself. Uchouten Kazoku is a masterful expression of everyday values. I don’t know any tanuki or tengu who have seen this show or even read the original novel, but I can speak as a human when I say this narrative has taught me volumes about themes that are quite simplistic in nature.

Honorable Mention(s): Gin no Saji, Servant x Service, Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru

Best Mystery: Zetsuen no Tempest

Zetsuen no Tempest dwells in a realm of multiple genres: fantasy, drama, romance, action. While any of these may be the most suitable categorization, there is no doubt that the mystery that interweaves the destinies of the two male protagonists and the fates of the magic and regular world is a driving force behind the series’ entire narrative. Every speck of romance and drama is linked to the characters’ attempts to solve the grand mystery of the show: Who killed Fuwa Aika? Needless to say, when the epiphanizing moment finally does come to pass, there’s a multitude of fantasy and action blended into the mix too. Whether you consider Zetsuen no Tempest a mystery series or not, the clear and present one within its plot was by all means more rousing and well-written than those of any other series that may have haughtily garnered the title of mystery this year.

Honorable Mention(s): Little Busters! ~Refrain~

Best Horror/Thriller: Shin Sekai Yori

Once you’re over the fears of mainstream monster movies after a few restless and sleepless nights, give yourself a whirl at the relentlessly haunting prospects proposed in Shin Sekai Yori, because, oh boy, is it one warped world. The suspense and terror of Shin Sekai Yori isn’t a fear factor that derives purely from its warped world of genetically altered humans, hive-mind/groupthink, mutated warfare, and the like; but also from the mindful construction of its story. The deft story-writing within the original novel is highly complimented by the staff of A-1 Picture’s capability in adaptation, leading to each episode’s grievous revelations. The doleful atmosphere that pervades the entirety of the show really is a reflection of the dystopian world they are trying to present. The inevitability of sympathizing with the main characters paired with the fearful amazement of identifying with them as humans (if you can still call them that) is something is a creepy conflict in itself.

Best Sports: Yowamushi Pedal

I think my opinion that anime can make anything interesting started with sports anime. I’ve indulged in my fair share of sports anime, but I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid fan of the genre. A majority of them seem to fall into the trap of formulaic matches, wherein the newcomer protagonist has to overcome hardships to make it into his renowned high school team, and then overcome more severe hardships to make it into the varsity of his team, and then overcoming even more severe hardships to win against other renowned high schools teams, and then finally overcome the most severe hardships to prove he can compete on a national, or even international level. Who would’ve thought that a series about bicycling in a circle would give me a brand new outlook? Like many sports anime before it, Yowamushi Pedal is authored by a total nerd of the respective sport, which is reflected in how in-depth the explanations are, but that is ultimately a great thing. Sports series are especially influenced by the passion of the author, to the point where even the characters start reflecting it. For me, Yowamushi Pedal takes that extra mile. Like a well-seasoned bicyclist, it’s not concerned with rushing into the immensity of its own plot; it’s all about fun. In one whole cour we have yet to see an official match between any of the bicyclists. The reason why of course being that there’s no reason to hype anything into something official. More importantly, we’ve been given a story about the love of a sport and the characters having genuine fun, both of which are pretty damn infectious. Someone get me my riding helmet!

Honorable Mention(s): Diamond no Ace

Best Short Series: Aiura

Honorable Mention(s): Senyuu.

 

Production:

Best Art/Animation: Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter has appropriately won over the title of best shōnen anime adaptation in my heart, a distinction that previously belonged to the adaptations of Fullmetal Alchemist by Studio Bones, a studio that too used to be my decisively favorite. The series in general is a dream anime come true, and while that’s not all due to the art and animation, god damn, are those two factors a monumental part of it. From one-on-one action scenes to chase scenes to sports showdowns to board game matches, the production staff at Madhouse know exactly how to make Yoshihiro Togashi’s captivating narrative come to life, and maybe even punch you in the face afterwards. It isn’t something that occurs from the get-go but one of the most infamous things about Hunter x Hunter is its hefty decline in art associated with its many hiatuses. In spite of this, the staff behind the anime managed to commence the adaptation with visual splendor that only increased in value as the episodes continued, even well into the three digit episode count. In reading respective chapters after watching new episodes every week, I can indefinitely say that the art and animation speak for themselves and in much more than a thousand words. More often than not, the anime counterpart of sequences have a much more immense effect in terms of atmosphere, tone, mood and any other determinants that make for a awe-inspiring viewing. Madhouse serves as a stronghold that protects Hunter x Hunter from the disease that abominably afflicts all other ongoing shōnen series. An honorable act worthy of highest praise, thank you Based Madhouse. 

Honorable Mention(s): Kyousougiga, Shingeki no Kyojin, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Red Data Girl, Nagi no Asukara, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Best Opening: 「sister’s noise」 by fripSide (Toaru no Kagaku no Railgun S)

While precipitately playing the ED theme in order to interlace it with the intensive last moments of an episode has long since become an art form in the anime industry, the less notably innovated OP theme is still trying to figure out ways to catch up with the novelty of its counterpart. But fear not, because the production staff of Toaru no Kagaku no Railgun S have matched the artful construction of an episode with the jolting impact of fripSide‘s musicality. Whether it’s played right at the start of the episode or right after the shocking revelation of a short dialogue, 「sister’s noise」 is a banger that will electrify you into a proper Railgun-viewing condition. Frequent intakes of the song, even after finishing the series, is permissible but do be careful around water.

Honorable Mention(s): 「Small worldrop」 by Annabel (Red Data Girl), 「Guren no Yumiya」 by Linked Horizon (Shingeki no Kyojin), 「Uchouten Jinsei」 by milktub (Uchouten Kazoku)

Best Ending: 「REASON」 by ゆず (Hunter x Hunter)

The radio tells us that the greatest feeling associated with music is upbeat happiness. While I generally detest the music that dominates the radio waves, I have to agree with this sentiment, for this year at least. 「REASON」’s dual usage as an insert song and ED during the Greed Island Arc wasn’t anywhere near enough to make me tire of its effect. From coming out of my computer speakers at the end of each Hunter episode to coming out of my earbuds during my walks home from school, the song stirred emotion and adventure in my heart and had me tirelessly waiting for the new episode of Hunter x Hunter each week. And if that doesn’t define the meaning of a great ED to you, then I guess the only option left is to have the music speak for itself (yes, this is my obvious attempt at getting you to watch Hunter x Hunter).

Honorable Mention(s): 「Qué Será, Será」 by fhána (Uchouten Kazoku), 「Wareta Ringo」 by Risa Taneda (Shin Sekai Yori), 「BLOODY STREAM」 by Coda (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), 「Gomen ne, Iiko ja Irarenai.」 by Miku Sawai (Kill la Kill), 「Song for friends」 by Rita (Little Busters! ~Refrain~), 「Owaranai Melody wo Utaidashimashita.」 by Mikako Komatsu (Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyoubi)

Best Soundtrack: Uchouten Kazoku

Honorable Mention(s): Shingeki no Kyojin, Monogatari Series: Second Season, Hunter x Hunter, Gatchaman Crowds, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Best Seiyuu (Male): Withheld

Best Seiyuu (Female): Withheld

Best Character Design: Fantasista Doll

Shōnen mangakas across the industry are jealous of Anmi’s character designs for Fantasista Doll as they sit at their tables drawing their side characters with the same spiky hair as their protagonist. Well, if they aren’t, they should be. In considering the premise of Fantasista Doll, in which each character virtually gives birth to five others (each doll owner has five servants who server him or her), it’s nothing short of amazing how creative and unique Anmi was able to make each character, visually, at least. While there wasn’t much room at all for the show to provide coverage in the department of personality, what’s enough for the imagination of the audience is the stylish hair and the chic wardrobe. Not to get too superficial or materialistic, but these are dolls we’re talking about, so I’d say it’s all fair game.

Honorable Mention(s): Nagi no Asukara, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT

Best Studio: P.A. Works

There’s a lot to consider when thinking highly of an animation studio. To begin with, there’s a lot a respect that should be allocated to every studio just for partaking in the creation of anime as a medium; but in pinpointing the exceptionally reputable studios, there is indeed a lot of consider. Art, animation, sound, voice casting, original works, chosen source material, etc. As far it all goes, I believe that  P.A. Works has never failed to do any of these poorly in any of its series. Of this year’s Red Data Girl, Uchouten Kazoku, and Nagi no Asukara, there is an abundance of undeniable art at work here. If I had to attribute each series with a respective quality, I would favor Red Data Girl as a daring recreation of a historically and culturally rich fantasy novel series, Uchouten Kazoku as a wondrously creative adaptation of a quaint but profound novel imbued with the magic of anime, and Nagi no Asukara as a bold original work that rivals the latent astuteness of conventional forms of literature. Whatever the qualifier may be for each series, they have all been a delight to experience with P.A. Works behind the helm. While I find myself yearning for continuations of such series, much like a lot of other series by other studios, there’s a considerable degree of trust in P.A. Works that even when they do move on to new projects, the standard of excellence will always be there. Now that’s the kind of studio you can trust.

Honorable Mention(s): Madhouse, J.C. Staff, Production I.G. (inclusive of Studio WIT)

Best Premiere (Episode): Shingeki no Kyojin

I feel like this is such an appropriate distinction to have when talking about anime. Lately, it seems as if all premiere episodes get trapped in their own intent to catch the audience’s undivided attention with an over-the-top first impression. Luckily, Shingeki no Kyojin is a series that succeeds in doing this while also retaining its promised excellence throughout its entire runtime. From the start, we can praise Studio Wit for doing such things like delaying a new episode in order to have it meet up to their standards of art and animation; but the mere fact of the matter is that the first episode of the show is a flawless introduction to the overlying themes and motifs. It gives us a taste of its callousness, it establishes the essence of its world, and it kills the main character’s mother… Is it even possible to not keep watching after all that?

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Best Finale (Episode): Monogatari Series: Second Season

The modern day formula for anime adaptations is to pick up a project without any clear idea of profit and then lett the blu-ray (and other) sales decide the remainder of the series’ fates. As such, each season is riddled with the open-ended final episodes of many promising series. In that case, series like the Monogatari Series are a blessing to have, for us viewers and I assume for the production staff who can proceed with adapting a series to a better degree of freedom. What occurs from such flexibility are finales such Monogatari Series: Second Season‘s, in which the perfectly-paced, thrilling death of Deishuu Kaiki is the most effective cliffhanger since, well… before anime made cliffhangers a generic, everyday, or rather, every episode occurrence. Oh, and lest we forget the impactful resolution to the Hitagi End arc that sparked an aspiring mangaka child’s ambitions, detailed an conclusion to one of the series’ more significant romances, and saved the lives of quite nearly the whole cast. A job well done, Kaiki and Shaft.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Best Episode: Withheld

Best Scene: Withheld

Adaptation:

Best Original Series: Kyousougiga

Honorable Mention(s): Nagi no Asukara, Gatchaman Crowds

Best Manga Adaptation: Hunter x Hunter

Honorable Mention(s): Shingeki no Kyojin, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Yowamushi Pedal, Blood Lad, Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~

Best Novel Adaptation: Uchouten Kazoku

Honorable Mention(s): Shin Sekai Yori

Best Light Novel Adaptation: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S, Unbreakable Machine-doll

Honorable Mention(s): Log Horizon

Best Visual Novel Adaptation: Little Busters!/Little Busters! ~Refrain~

Honorable Mention(s): Robotics;Notes

Best Game Adaptation: Danganronpa Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation

Best 4koma Adaptation: Yuyushiki

Honorable Mention(s): GJ-bu!

Best Spin-off: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Honorable Mention(s): THE UNLIMITED – Hyoubu Kyousuke

 

Miscellaneous:

Most Deserving of Sequel: Blood Lad

Blood Lad was a series operating over a ticking timebomb, but it did a damn impressive job nonetheless. As a ten episode series, Blood Lad devoted a majority of its duration towards proving how stylistic it is. With a black comedic world only comparable to the wackiness of Soul Eater, meta-fictional protagonist Staz, and an inclination for genre-mixing, Blood Lad is a series that can only be described as an undeniable product of present day’s new wave of animanga. Now while that is a description that fits the anime adaptation for the most part, the last few episodes did exceptionally well in progressing this view. While yes, contemporary in every visual fiber, Blood Lad proved that it also has the depth of traditional story-writing and the coolness of shōnen series. In its fleeting moments, Staz shows just how much of a bad-ass and passively womanizing protagonist he can be, and things shift into an exciting arc with the most foreboding antagonist yet. But alas, one of this year’s biggest disappointments is that there is no resolution to this rising action.  Don’t let your blood boil for too long.

Honorable Mention(s): Kami-sama Inai no Nichiyoubi

Most Under-appreciated: Shin Sekai Yori

Shin Sekai Yori is indubitably one of the most intelligent anime series of the year, if not the most. Both in its written and animated form, it has merits beyond simple admiration. And though excellence isn’t something proportionate with under-appreciation, Shin Sekai Yori is a certain special case. It deserves a hell of a lot of attention, that much is for sure. What ails me isn’t the mere fact that it failed to live up to its performance in sales, but additionally how much its artistry was received with contempt. During it’s run-time, it was nearly unavoidable how harsh viewership was towards the series, whether it was for its art or for its content matter. And in my opinion, that was an outright travesty. By the time the criticisms beckoned in, the series had already proven that is was more than capable of being a masterpiece of an anime series. The themes and motifs it rung in with its narrative were thrilling, philosophical, and well-informed. If you ever needed one, Shin Sekai Yori is a referential backing to the fact that commercial reception does not define the greatness of a work.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Exceeded Expectations: Girls und Panzer

Girls und Panzer is what would would happen if a production staff working on a new series by means of the girls and guns formula went along with the proposal but suddenly decided to actually make the series an endearing and worthwhile experience. I really can’t tell if it was the entire team behind the series that had this intent from the beginning or if it was decided mid-way by one person influencing the creation as whole. If it was the latter, I would consider that one hell of an infiltration mission, especially if accomplished in something as conspicuous as a war tank. Girls und Panzer starts off as a pretty tame show, but what begins to unravel once those girls get inside those thirty-plus ton tanks is a charming coming-of-age story that rivals a majority of other slice-of-life series and a unique sensation of an anime that will have you jollying along and repeating the show’s signature catch-phrase at least once, “Panzer Vor!

Honorable Mention(s): Log Horizon, Unbreakable-Machine Doll, Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~

Most Regrettably Unwatched: Chihayafuru 2

Honorable Mention(s): Uchuu Kyoudai, Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199, Kingdom, Hajime no Ippo: Rising

Most Ridiculous: Samurai Flamenco

Ridiculousness has pretty much become a staple in anime, but can someone please tell me what the hell happen with Samurai Flamenco? As a noitamina series, Samurai Flamenco received some pretty high expectations early on, but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted how seriously it wouldn’t take itself. Rampant with similarities to Iron Man, kaijuu flicks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Avengers, Super Sentai, and more hocus-pocus, Samumenco is a series not to be taken lightly, or seriously, there’s just no plausible approach to it.

Most Ridiculous Portrayal of Breasts: Fuji-san (Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san)

Guilty Pleasure: Kakumeiki Valvrave

Cards Chess pieces on the table, Code Geass was an anime series long-withstanding on my list of all-time favorites. But with Sunrise next series to be in a similar vein, Kakumeiki Valvrave, there was a like-hate relationship nearly immediately. I place the primary blame on the potential I saw in the first episode, that was all but truncated once the show began focusing on other, less endearing happenstances. Additionally, my unjustified hate takes form whenever I hear news of Valvrave topping blu-ray sales whilst other series, brilliant series, are nowhere to be seen. Regardless, there has to be some form of enjoyment from this show, even if masochistic, when the ending of each episode (in which there is an attempt to elicit emotional response by the dramatic maiming, killing, wiping the consciousness or vampirizing of a character) still somehow draws at least one tear from my eyes. When all is said and done, what I like to think is my better side won the fight and had me dropping the series at episode 22, but just that number itself is a testament to how much I lingered on. It was a guilty pleasure.

 

Best Anime of 2013:

#10. Zetsuen no Tempest

As opposed to a series that flaunts excellent source material, outstanding production values, and greatness in other such criteria; I personally feel Zetsuen no Tempest does just the opposite. Granted, at the helm of its production was Studio Bones, one of my personal favorites, there’s just something about the majority of the series that does not connect with me, mainly on a story-driven level. For the most part, I don’t find myself attached to any of the characters and somewhat find the dramatic plot less exceptional than it makes itself out to be. Maybe in a sense, this is another clear example of the production on an anime level, i.e. the studio, being the higher level of influence. There are two major categories that I rate an anime series in: conception and execution. While I can’t place the former for Zetsuen as being positively good or bad; I can say that when the two come together, they rightfully present the series as one of reputable amusement. Watching Zetsuen was a fresh walk in the park (or should I say a not so fresh walk across the world for our two protagonists), and it was a damn entertaining one.  The unconventional story of the internal conflict between best friends, the collision of the magical and everyday world both looming on destruction, and the humane searches for true logic and reason was certainly one to remember for the new year (and I usually have a disdain towards stories that make the actual act of referencing Shakespeare into a motif).

#09. Nagi no Asukara

Nagi no Asukara is a series I had been looking forward to nearly a year before it’s premiere. In the same vein as Kyousougiga, Nagi no Asukara exudes an indescribable aura that all but declares its status as an original animation. I have yet to fully understand this ambiguous distinction amongst source material of anime; but if I had to place key features; they would revolve around written structure, story-length and experimentalism. Relatively, the main reason that Nagi no Asukara finds itself in the top ten of this year’s list despite being only half completed is because it rightfully feels like a one-cour series.  Okada Mari is an infamously controversial writer in the anime industry, amongst professionals and fans; and I think she establishes some very unique ground with Nagi no Asukara. Her emotionally-manipulative writing is a craft that seems to blend well with the other great aspects of the series. The world-building is sensational and the themes are brimming with profundity. Oh, and the participation of Studio P.A. Works and character designer BURIKI and is also a huge plus in the visual and sound department. And that just might be it. Nagi no Asukara is conspicuously not a story of grand design; it’s a fluid mixture of individually magnificent elements. Or, at least it has been thus far, and hopefully will continue to be.

#08. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Railgun S speaks volumes about the light novel-adapted side of the anime industry. In its conception, it nearly rivals the literary aptness conventionally admired in novels and the emotionally-driven advents found in manga. There’s a lot to be admired about the Toaru series whether it be the breadth of its scientific background (something that you can see the author has an genuine interest in), the imaginative integration of fantasy elements, the multitude of ambitious story arcs, the wide cast of characters (enough for this series to be a character-focused spin-off of the original), or anything else. The franchise clearly deserves any and all success it has amassed over its soon to be decade-long run. That being said, I confess that the original Toaru Majutsu no Index anime series was one that I did not find intrigue in and promptly dropped. So when the anime adaptation of Railgun S came around, I can honestly say that not only did it show me the greatness of the series itself, but also the weight of an anime’s production staff. Railgun S is an anime adaptation that goes above and beyond. The action sequences are on par with the bests of this year. The art is wondrous. (Take a look at any of the landscape shots.) The soundtrack is a great earful. There are cinematographic shots that I would be amazed at even if they were in high-profile movies, which are generally more expected of such. And there is an aesthetic atmosphere to each episode. Join all these elements together with its aforementioned depth of story, characters and just general writing prowess; and I can definitely recognize Railgun S as one of J.C. Staff’s gem series.

#07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

I dare say that you will never find absurdity of this kind anywhere else; and in that sense, the series is damn faithful to its title. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a cultural icon and a historical relic. A relic not in that it’s old and outdated, but rather in that as a newcomer to a series with a long-withstanding history of appreciation, you should admire it as an archaeologist would a newly discovered artefact.  (I swear I did not intend to conceptually link this description to the premise of the Battle Tendency arc. Next you’re going to say that it was pure coincidence!) At its base, JoJo is for all intents and purposes a shōnen series but the sensation of its flamboyant character designs, personalities, styles, and dare I say stances; will have that classification being the least of your thoughts. In a way, watching JoJo will be like living the experience of shōnen anime itself, as the charisma of the characters will be enough for you to join in and throw away all expectations of any sense or convention. It’s a damn euphoric phenomenon. It is wholly entertaining in evolved ways, and that David Production was able to revitalize the flair of this series is an astronomical accomplishment in itself. For the most part, you don’t even have to be mindful to notice the creative of this adaptation. It’s gushing out of its pores (take one look at the color palette). Hirohiko Araki and David Production, a team of ingenious and innovation.

#06. Shin Sekai Yori

My expectations of Shin Sekai Yori were drastically different from what it turned out to be. My expectations of A-1 Pictures series have never bordered on the realm of such grievousness, and I recall it namely being an adventure series. Needless to say, the true face of the series was nothing short of a tremendous shock, by all means favorable. Shin Sekai Yori is arguably the most well written series to air this year, and it is at the vanguard of the army of anime series adapted from novels that is pressing me into actively reading literature once more. But of course, until then, it hurts it no way to indulge in the phenomenal anime adaptations of already outstanding narratives. From the start, let me just say that Shin Sekai Yori is a myriad of new levels reached: the content is radical, the art controversial, the structure unfamiliar, the mood thoroughly and wholly melancholic, and the generic anime tropes nonexistent. I myself found myself disagreeing with a few tidbits, but anyone with a relatively open mind should be able to see the genius at work. Shin Sekai Yori brings to the screen a prodigious fiction of philosophical themes and undeniably artistic delivery. If it was served on a dinner plate instead of a television or computer screen, it would be glimmering and gorgeous food for thought. It is a story of life, death, fear and hope all amassed into one hell of a show.

#05. Monogatari Series: Second Season

I’ve been a fan of the Monogatari series since its first anime adaptation aired. To me, it’s the only notable long-running series that isn’t straight-up shōnen, which is admirable. Though, oddly enough, with each season that it airs, there’s always one pivotal scene that reminds me wholly of shōnen nature. (Even in the one episode adaptation of Nekomonogatari Kuro, I recall the totally bad-ass line of Araragi’s: The only thing I feel for a cat-eared high school girl in her underwear is lust.) This year’s Monogatari Series: Second Season is no exception. In fact, it probably contains the most overtly shōnen -esque arc yet. What, with the transformation of a character into a god and the glorified death of a side character, I can’t imagine any sequence of events more shonen. Casting that similarity aside, Monogatari retains its best and the worst aspects in this year’s installment. The worst thing, in my opinion, being the slow build-up at the beginning of each arc, something I know is off-putting enough to make some viewers drop the show entirely. But that of course is a huge mistake, every episode of Monogatari presents content finely tuned by author NisiOisin; and when things finally do interconnect into an intricately written resplendence, the pay-off is huge. Knee-deep in the pinnacle of entertainment, what you’ll be experiencing is a dashing combination of phenomenal story-telling supported by superbly conceived dialogue mixed with culturally elegant allusions and fascinating character interactions. Concurrent minimalism and meticulousness, implementation of innovative cinematic methodology, riveting soundtrack. Studio Shaft’s alluring and stylistic production may be the signature feature of the series, but its source material is also a literary force to be reckoned with. If the Monogatari series consisted of movies instead of anime cours, it would give auteurism a whole new standard.

#04. Uchouten Kazoku

Let it be known that I never got over the way their ears were modeled in Uchouten Kazoku. But as unrealistic as they seemed to me, you can bet that the rest of the series made up for it, because, oh man, was Uchouten Kazoku the realest shit this year. It had me sympathizing with sentiments I didn’t even know made up my everyday life, and I still don’t know how that’s possible. There’s should be a proper distinction for fantasy series that integrate fantasy element as well as author Tomihiko Morimi does into real life. Uchouten doesn’t require the over-the-top themes or magniloquent tone of other big-hitters when it can centralize itself upon a singular and simple theme such as family and prove that “wait, it’s actually not that simple, its vast prospect that constitutes infinitely unique experiences and this is just one scope of emotions associated with it,” and then in the end take it all back with, “actually, it can be simple, life can be simple, as simple as you make it, and that doesn’t make it any less fun or interesting or even eccentric.” Perhaps it’s the concentration that Uchouten has in delivering that one universal message overtaking the entirety of the show’s atmosphere that makes for such an effective delivery.  Incidentally, it’s quite interesting how Studio P.A. Works chooses to present this effect by means of adaptation (the most notable I would being the dynamic of simple character designs and beautifully meticulous scenery). In describing the series, I will never not feel the need to paraphrase from it, watch it because it’s fun.

#03. Kyousougiga

Kyousougiga is the coolest show since FLCL. It has been quite the successful year for brunette female leads. The chirpiness of Ichinose Hajime (Gatchaman Crowds) and spunkiness of Yarizakura Hime (Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta) immediately come to mind. Hell, I’ll even factor good ol’ goofball, no-star Mankanshoku Mako (Kill la Kill) into the formula. But ultimately, when the hammer falls, I just have to give the highest distinction to the happy-go-lucky girl living in an imaginary world with her crazy family and, well, universe-defying hammer. Kyousougiga is a series that is only limited by imagination, but the fantastical things you see ironically give the impression of things completely beyond your imagination. In that respect, it quite literally is a field trip into the amazing minds of its creators, delightful the whole way. But it would be a huge mistake to amount the series to excellence in only that department. The premise itself is something deeply rich and abundant with themes of Buddhism, Shinto history, Japanese literature, Japanese cultural aesthetics, and more. Put alongside this the beautiful production in art, animation, and soundtrack; and there’s a winner in all respects.  Anyone who is currently watching the anime adaptations of One Piece and or Toriko should understand a long-withstanding disappointment I have in Toei Studios. But the Izumi Todo team behind Kyousougiga has effectively restored my faith that behind the commercial juggernaut that profits off the most popular animanga series in the world, there is still a passionate staff. Like the picture book that it is based upon, Kyousougiga doesn’t need the additional modes of animation, sound, and the like to tell an overtly spectacular story; but nonetheless, it does.

#02. Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin is without a doubt the year’s most renowned, celebrated, and lauded anime series, a fact you cannot escape in real life at anime conventions or even at home on the web. It’s as unavoidable as death is in the series. While the marvelous adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s work doesn’t quite find itself at the top of my own list, there’s no way I can overlook the series’ splendor. As an avid fan of the shōnen genre, I can honestly say Shingeki features some of the most conceptually thrilling and dramatically moving fights in shōnen history. Even now, I’m still a bit conflicted as to how Shingeki stands above some of the other bests. While I can perfectly say that many other series of this year were better written and structured, I have to submit to my genuine emotional response towards this show, which was pure enjoyment. Let’s just say I’m glad this is a round-up of the best anime of the year and not, say, something like manga, light novels, or any other form of literature. To be frank, I place a majority of the magnificence of Shingeki in the work of Studio WIT. The experience of Shingeki would have been less favorable if not for the dynamic blend of its excellent animation, restructured story, grandiloquent voice acting, and emotionally-stirring soundtrack. While bombast in every nature, that domineering presence of the show was an aspect that it cultivated into its signature. The show delivered its own greatness week by week, and that has obviously made its mark, especially considering the universal reception.

#01. Hunter x Hunter

From Ufotable’s adaptation of Fate/Zero to this masterpiece of Madhouse’s, it’s another year where shōnen reigns supreme. (For any naysayers out there, the Fate series is most definitely of this genre, if not a variant of it, just considering how it’s the origin of the oh-so-shōnen term GAR.) Hunter x Hunter (2011) continues into its third year and proves this year once again that shōnen is indeed not dead, in a literal and cultural sense. This reboot set a whole new standard for adaptations last year with its damn fine adaptation of the manga’s Yorkshin City arc, an accomplishment that automatically placed the series into the year’s top rankings for me at least. And believe it or not, it’s only gotten better and better, per episode and per arc. By the end of last year, my preference went to the highly deserving Fate/Zero, leaving Hunter x Hunter as second best; but that standing alone was enough to vouch for its presence.  At that point, of course, it was already an apparent near-masterpiece of an anime, but for it to possess such promise that would manifest into the undeniable masterpiece of this year’s Chimera Ant arc is something that deserves a new whole level of praise. (And this should no way undercut the similar brilliance of the Greed Island arc.) Actions speak louder than my words, and there is tons of that in Hunter x Hunter; but that’s not all you can expect in this atypical adaptation. Hunter is the quintessential best of both worlds (of anime) in that its source material is already an exquisitely and masterfully written manga and that its production studio marvelously integrates the aspects of animation into this story. The show is a heavy-hitter in all aspects of anime: art, animation, writing, voice acting, soundtrack, you name it.

Distinctive Optimism Before Aspersions- The Mixed Media of Anime and Accepting the Good, the Bad, the Cute, and the Ugly

Preface: Another semester has passed, and once again I’ve had the pleasure of writing a paper on a topic I genuine enjoy, anime, there’s no doubt about that. Incidentally, this is for a course instructed by the same professor that had me publishing my last paper as well. To sport the spirit of the season, I’d just like to say I’m thankful for this; something I’ve realized from the week of finals that have just passed for me is that although both are painstaking, I’d much rather prefer writing a final paper than taking a final exam. Yes, it’s easier in a lot of ways but more importantly it’s just feels fucking right. With a creation that you may have even completely bullshitted, there’s still such a greater happenstance that you can acknowledge it as a result of time and effort. I near perfectly confident when I say I will never take an exam that will make me feel proud in my own capability, especially if I spent the prior night cramming for material that will never apply in my actual passions. But I digress, without further adieu, here is an essay you may or may not take interest in.

Distinctive Optimism before Aspersions: The Mixed Media of Anime and Accepting the Good, the Bad, the Cute, and the Ugly

In 1963 on New Year’s Day, Tetsuwan Atom premiered on Japanese television network Fuji TV, becoming the first popular Japanese television series that embodied the aesthetic now known globally as anime as well as marking the birth of a new glorified mixed media franchise alongside the birth of a new year. Before its animated conception, Tetsuwan Atom, which would go on to become known overseas as Astro Boy, had long since been an accessible narrative in comic form. Paired with its television broadcast debut was Astro Boy’s promotional representation for chocolate manufacturing company, Meiji Seika; these two modes of disclosure rocketed the franchise into success, without the need for the eponymous character’s signature jet-powered legs. Then, as if following marketing suit, the 1979 fellow robot-themed TV anime series Kidō Senshi Gandamu, or, Mobile Suit Gundam, counteracted its initial commercial failure with immersive extensions of fan-interaction that went beyond simple viewership of the animated series. Amateur involvement consisting of encyclopedias and timelines expanding the fictional world of the Gundam series paved the series’ way towards a prosperous history and proved to be increasingly invaluable in consideration to the dozens of subsequent titles that would be added into the multiverse of the franchise. Even though Tetsuwan Atom and Mobile Suit Gundam were works similarly influenced by conventional science fiction, they would eventually be defined by their own respective, stylistic approaches, the latter being greatly contributive to the Japanese sub-genre known as mecha. Correspondingly, the upsurge of both manga-adapted and original TV anime series served as a precursor to the creation of more animanga specific standardized methods and tropes. The media has been acknowledged as more than just a lowbrow, popular culture, but rather an art-form that provides a way for its viewership to negotiate alternative identities by engaging with a wide range of colorful and edifying characters, dynamic plots, and storyboards; thereby establishing profound connections between text and individual. With Astro Boy, Tezuka sought to have the success of his series chance upon money from licensing fees for character goods and international sales. As a result, he opted for the tactic of “limited animation,” in which he radically skewed on the number of frames that had to be drawn, using few mouth movements, re-using kinetic scenes, and emphasizing still shots of dramatic poses rather than detailed action. In spite of this, Astro Boy’s grand success solidified the notion that the actual animated quality of anime was secondary to the publicity of appealing characters. This marketing stratagem was another aspect that the anime industry rigorously retained from the world’s primogenial successful TV anime series. Anime has always had alongside its rich history of a Japanese-disseminated style characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and fantastic themes, the cross-purpose of commodification by means of what Marc Steinburg calls in his Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan “media mix.” To elaborate on the concept that is already quite overt from the publication’s title, the media mix essentially comprises anime’s astoundingly broad merchandising of images and its franchising across media and commodities. In conjunction to what literary critic Azuma Hiroki details as the deconstructive movement of “the animalization of otaku culture,” media mix denotes a disparity between cultural expression of anime as an art form and its economic self-sufficiency, an ongoing discrepancy that has become exceedingly critical in the industry’s current post-modern age. Many have poised this phenomenon as increasingly detrimental, associating the virtual satiation of consumer culture enacted by the modern day otaku with societal stigmas such as hikikomori and soushoku-kei, otherwise known as “acute social withdrawal” and “herbivore men” respectively. But in truth, these associations are an inevitable result of the media branching out to new areas of form, culture and expression. Media mix is an inherent trait of anime, but its development is not something that has been inhibited by this factor of commodification, but rather something that has self-consciously grown from it.

In the mid-1990s, in response to the steady decline of manga sales in the face of competition from newer entertainment media such as video games and DVDs, publishers targeted oversea audiences as a new marketing frontier. One crucial aspect of promotion was the pitch of visual formats such as anime and interactive collecting card games prior to the actual publication of manga. This was a marketing scheme that proved tremendously lucrative, giving rise to the cultural hits in the United States such as Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon that ushered in effective manga hype. Parenthetically, the 1990s also saw a rapid decline in the importance of fiction and narrative within otaku culture. Azuma associations this stagnation with otaku activities being behavioral responses that are susceptible to sophisticated techniques of statistical control. Primarily, he refers to the Japanese noun moe and verb moeru, which translate to “affect” and “to arouse,” respectively. In his elaboration, the response to the ambiguous quality of moe, is directly associated with the transition from the supremacy of narrative to the supremacy of characters. As with many literary critics, Azuma traces the moe craze to the landmark TV original anime series Shin Seiki Evangelion and its disciplinary reflection of the infamous Aum subway attacks in Japan. In the 1980s, otaku obsession with the science fiction of earlier series such as the aforementioned Gundam was subverted when the Aum’s subway attack thoroughly shattered the post-apocalyptic otaku dream of creating a new world in which they would become heroes, or allies of justice. In its narrative, Evangelion made it clear that no one could save the world, and instead raised the issues of the individual “at least being able to save himself.” The horrifically daunting climax of Evangelion was penultimate to the final episode, which consisted of an alternative universe wherein the iconic character Rei Ayanami is seen running to school with a piece of bread in her mouth. In response, otaku essentially replaced their crushed world of science fiction, which represented “an alternative to the actual future,” with the elicited reaction of moe. As Kaichiro Morikawa, a scholar of Japanese pop culture, states, “In the broadest terms, moe has replaced ‘future.’” (Okada) In lieu of the era of the “grand narrative” that defined the pre-1995 period for anime, an era wherein the majority of the otaku community draws from the “grand database” to engaged in its consummation has all but taken over. The emergence of visual novels at this time gives an account of a modern medium being added into the media mix of anime and also serves as a paradigm for the division between narrative and character consumption, wherein these visual novels are known notably for their enthralling and sensitive narratives but concurrently encompass an interactive interface that allows for functions such as screen-capturing and scenario-pathing. The co-founder of 1998 software company Key, Jun Maeda, has scripted himself the source material for many of anime’s most renowned romance titles, such as Kanon, Air, and Clannad, all of which were originally visual novels with the innovative features of branching plot lines and multiple love interests all tailored to the player’s individual preference. Perhaps the most crucial point to be divulged here is that while this double structure divides consumer behavior into two distinct types, that is not to say that there are two distinct types of consumers. As with the occurrence of Gundam, fan interaction has long since immersed itself into the development of anime, not only thinning the line between narrative and character iconography but also between producers and consumers. Visual novels, light novels, and most obviously, dōjinshi, or, self-published works, all have origins of anime consumers utilizing different, more accessible mediums to engage in a play of interactivity and have subsequently been integrated into the media mix of the machine of commodification known is anime. While many may argue that all industries exist for the purpose of commercialization, a considerable amount of this perception is very well due to the profound developments in global capitalism supported by the transformations of Japanese media culture. To date, Japanese animation makes ups sixty percent of the world’s broadcast TV cartoons, and sixty percent of anime itself is based upon popular characters. In retrospection to this majority that essentially functions as the industry’s life support system, many contemporary creators in the field acknowledge somewhat of a love-hate relationship, perhaps the most recent grand example being the original TV anime series Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika, directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and written by Gen Urobuchi. In its conception, the series is one conscious of the moe sub-genre’s current grasp on the anime industry, in which its central theme is the intentional “mash-up of cuteness and darkness.” (Shinbo) Though this innovation of a paradigm shift is hardly the entire rationale for the booming success of the anime series itself, that subsequently spawned a proliferation of spin-off manga series, novelizations, video games, film series, dedicated magazines, figurine lines, and other collectibles, an extensive and expansive merchandising of images so very familiar with breakthrough series. In the words of Madoka producer Atsuhiro Iwakami, at the core of Madoka’s production as an original story was simply “coming up with a high-quality piece of entertainment” for “the general anime fan.” (Iwakami) While skeptics would contend that such a series could only exist in the yesteryears of anime, Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika is a series that flaunts the dedication of its producers to present something of rich narrative all the while acknowledging the current eminence of series based upon database characters. In the same vein as Evangelion before it, Madoka gives way to an over-arching grand narrative, a marketable cast of bewitching characters, and even a realm of small narratives as represented by the succeeding movie series based in alternative universes. On the contrary to the outright embracement of moe is the rise to stardom of anime film director Makoto Shinkai, who in 2001, ambitiously quit his job as a game developer to independently work on his first original video animation, Hoshi no Koe, or Voices of a Distant Star. Shinkai, for all intents and purposes, is a wild card in the anime industry; his works famous for imbuing an atmosphere science fiction and futuristic feel to elicit simple themes and complex emotions are a far cry from the industry standard of today. Furthermore, the infamous ambiguous endings of his works are a stark contrast to the preference of modern day otaku who satiate in the caricature of popular icons, nor does his own pioneered animation studio push for the intense commodification of its productions. Despite his aloofness to this database animalization, Makoto Shinkai nonetheless stands as a renowned figure that transitioned in the anime industry from consumer to producer. His status is one constantly compared to one the industry’s great legends, Hayao Miyazaki; his works receive rave reviews and are considered masterpieces in their craft; and his accomplishments stand testament to the fact that anime consumers and producers can be true connoisseurs of a cultural and artistic form.

Perhaps the most spiritually-successive of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, even more so than the similarly-themed Gundam series, are the commercial powerhouses known as shōnen series. For as long as most consumers can remember, the likes of such shōnen series as Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, and One Piece have dominated yearly manga sales. In 2012, One Piece was the top-selling manga series with an estimated twenty-three million copies sold, a figure fifteen-million more than the second top-selling manga series, though it is worth nothing that the four series following One Piece were all also shōnen series themselves and that similar statistics represent TV anime rankings. Shōnen series in the anime and manga industry represent quite possibly the most powerful and thrilling narratives, so much so hold records as being the longest published series, but they have also inherited from Astro Boy the ease of commodification. Globally, stylish shōnen protagonists are colossal forces of iconic merchandising. The year 2013 saw the emergence of a new shōnen series quite literally giving long-time champion One Piece a run for its money. Cult series, Shingeki no Kyojin saw an estimated fifteen million copies sold at the end of the fiscal year, three million short of One Piece’s eighteen million. Assuredly, Shingeki no Kyojin’s spontaneous success is not simply a case of its anime adaptation thrusting it into the public eye, though it is worth nothing that manga sales were majorly influenced by the production of its anime counterpart. What lies true for shōnen series in particular is that in addition to what Azuma and Steinburg jointly refer to as a database of characters from which producers can easily commercialize and consumers can easily draw towards is a database of motifs and themes. Despite being traditionally recognized as literary devices implicative of the narrative, themes and motifs have for some time been a defining feature for shōnen series that substitutes the necessity for depth within the grand narrative. Whether it be ninjas in the world of Naruto, wizards in the world of Fairy Tail, chefs in the world of Toriko, or anything else, the thematic has made it all the more easier to access a franchise without core knowledge of its narrative and perhaps now, even its characters. Notably, within the world of Shingeki no Kyojin, the characters are members of the military’s Recon Corps who defend humanity from the colossal threat known as titans. While franchising of the series’ characters has proved to be its own huge commercial success, fan appreciation has taken it a step further by lauding the series simply over its grand design. For example, rather than the traditional cosplay of specific characters from the anime series, consumers of Shingeki no Kyojin will simply don the uniform of the Recon Corps and essentially become a character of the series. Shōnen series are arguably the animanga industry’s oldest and still most important staple, but even it is showing signs of radical growth not only in its narrative structure but also in its thematic construction and marketability. Regardless, critical reception of new series such as Shingeki no Kyojin have been marvelous on all levels; besides being a global success, the series was also nominated for the prestigious Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize as well as winning many others. When asked about the resounding success of Shingeki no Kyojin, veteran animation studio president Masahiko Minami had to say, “as long as the manga continues and has a good story, the show will follow in suit.” (Minami) As it holds, the traditional feature of the grand narrative is still the framework that allocates for a series success. What the animanga industry is seeing today is an advancing growth that can just as easily be accepted and welcomed in upholding the art form’s cultural identity as it can be denied and labelled as detrimental.

With Astro Boy, anime drew its origins from Western influences; but in a sense, it has created its own melting pot. Over time, the distinctive climate of the otaku world has shifted its focus from an idealistic science fiction narrative to an erotic gratification from virtual database moe characters. Up until the 1980s, people who watched any form of anime, whether it be the accomplished award-winning works Spirited Away and Akira by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuhiro Otomo respectively or the week-by-week showings of Doraemon and Poketto Monsuta. In the current age, Japanese animation is so accomplished transmedially and transnationally that any individual can safely watch and enjoy anime without being labelled as otaku. Otaku have had such a dynamic history that where it stands today is an entirely different status from its origin as well as what many people are still familiar with. Some argue against the pollution of this development, wherein the ushering of new forms of erochikku games and moe anime are overtly more repugnant modes. Today, anime stands at the forefront of this media mix of itself, manga, video games, visual novels, light novels, figures, and more. Hardly is it ever the case that the production of any of these forms serves the purpose of boosting its anime counterpart’s sales, though the reverse is extremely so. As reference, the late 2011 anime re-adaptation of shōnen series Hunter x Hunter saw the manga gaining a twenty percent boost in sales from the 2012 year to the 2013 year despite being in a still with-lasting one year hiatus. In a joint interview with similarly prominent figures Kaichiro Morikawa and Takashi Murakami, anime producer, author and lecturer Toshio Okada condensed his response to the sensation of the ever-changing media mix of anime with a denotation of optimism for the industry. Okada, considered the foremost authority on otaku culture and appropriately crowned the “OtaKing” by his peers, gives credence to the quality-seeking aspect of otaku rather than the pleasure seeking aspect. According to him, “what’s survived in otaku culture hasn’t become unacceptable. It’s survived the competition because its quality has been recognized. Once something like a bishōjo game achieves a certain level of quality, you buy it even if you don’t actually like bishōjo games. Otaku are tough customers who demand high standards.” (Okada) And sure enough, the aforementioned examples each in their own way contribute as backing to the claim from this “king.” Whether it be Makoto Shinkai’s animated feature films; the hybridity of narrative and database interactivity in Jun Maeda’s visual novels; the ever-lasting dominance of Eiichiro Oda’s shōnen manga series One Piece in the international market; Gen Urobuchi’s self-conscious Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika; or even Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion that allegedly spawned moe-ism to begin with; these works that may or may not implement the media mix scheme that originated with Osamu Tezuka’s fundamental Astro Boy are reflective of a high level of standard within both consumers and producers of the anime industry that embraces innovation while continuously ensuring the retention of anime first and foremost as a mode of artistic expression, creative thinking and enriched cultural identity.

Works Cited

Hiroki, Azuma and Furuhata, Yuriko and Steinburg, Marc. “The Animalization of Otaku Culture.” Mechademia 2 (2007) 174-187. Print.

Hosoda, Mamoru. “Interview: Mamoru Hosoda, Director of Wolf Children” by Chih-Chieh Chang. Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 2013, Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2013-07-15/interview-mamoru-hosoda-    director-of-wolf-children>

Iwakami, Atsuhiro. “Interview: Atsuhiro Iwakami” by Gia Manry. Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 2011, Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2011-09-07/interview-atsuhiro-iwakami&gt;

Minami, Masahiko. “Interview: BONES Studio President Masahiko Minami” by Heidi Kemps and Lynzee Lamb. Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 2013, Web. 6 Dec.   2013. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2013-10-25/interview-bones-        studio-president-masahiko-minami>

Murata, Kazuya. “Interview: Kazuya Murata, Director of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet” by Zac Bertschy. Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 2013, Web. 6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2013-05-06/interview-kazuya-murata-        director-of-gargantia-on-the-verdurous-planet>

Okada, Toshio and Morikawa, Kaichiro. “Otaku Talk” by Takashi Murakami. Japan Society. Japan Society, Web. 19 Dec. 2013.    <http://www.japansociety.org/page/multimedia/articles/otaku_talk&gt;

Pellitteri, Marco. “Nippon ex Machina: Japanese Postwar Identity in Robot Anime and the Case of the ‘UFO Robo Grendizer.’” Mechademia 4 (2009) 274-288. Print.

Schwartz, Adam and Rubinstein-Ãvila, “Understanding the Manga Hype: Uncovering the Multimodality of Comic-Book Literacies.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 50.1 (2006) 40-49. Print.

Shinkai, Makoto. “Interview: Makoto Shinkai” by Gia Manry. Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 2011, Web. 5 Dec. 2013. <     http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2011-08-16/interview-makoto-shinkai&gt;

Steinburg, Marc. Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print.

Steinburg, Marc. “’Media Mix Is Anime’s Life Support System’: A Conversation with Ian Condry and Marc Steinberg (Part One)” by Ian Condry. Confessions of an Aca-Fan.   Henry Jenkin, 2013, Web. 5 Dec. 2013. < http://henryjenkins.org/2013/11/media-mix-is-           animes-life-support-system-a-conversation-with-ian-condry-and-mark-steinberg-part-    one.html>

Watanabe, Shinichiro. “Interview: Shinichiro Watanabe” by Hope Chapman. Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 2013, Web. 6 Dec. 2013. < https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2013-09-03/interview-shinichiro-       wantanabe>

Anime Expo 2013

Back from Anime Expo 2013 and here’s a little recap:


We had to leave late on Day 0 for our six hour drive because Justin couldn’t get the day off of work. So by the time badge pick-up ended at 9 P.M., we, well, we were somewhere between San Jose and Los Angeles, hell if I know exactly where. And by the time we got to our hotel, it was way past midnight. To make things worse, being the idiots we are, we did not sleep as soon as we possibly could have, despite needing to be awake at 7 A.M.

Needless to say, Day 1 turned out to be an exasperating day of sleep deprivation, long walks in the miserable heat, extended line waiting, and general fatigue. At various times in the day, the excitement I had from something like simply seeing the convention center was enough to jolt my body completely with energy, but not enough energy to last long. One amazing experience was a skateboard ride across this beautifully lengthy strip of land along the Staples center paved with the quite possibly the smoothest cement I have ever skated on. It was heavenly. I dare to say that was the first time I’ve felt the full euphoria of a skateboard ride. As for the rest of the day, I arrived at my Artist Alley table about two hours late, but I didn’t care about my financial success at Anime Expo far as much as I did with FanimeCon. Since it was my first time at Los Angeles and Anime Expo for a merry-making time, that’s what I wanted to experience. The Dealers Hall was a splendid experience, perfectly air conditioned and inclusive of the Artist Alley so that all shoppers could browse in the same room. Something FanimeCon could definitely take a hint off. Beyond its size and fine-tuned logistics, the Dealers Hall also hosted official booths from companies like Toei Animation, Sentai Filmworks, Funimation, Namco Bandai, and more. It was amazing, because with them, the companies brought displays that superseded the ordinary booths of independent sellers, extravagant pageantries that could compete with displays at really grand conventions like Comic-Con and E3. It was a real treat. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t able to explore the Dealers Hall in one day, especially with my own shifts, and only scouted the first one-fourth of it on Day 1. During lunch, which was actually before I even arrived at the Dealers Hall, we couldn’t find a place to eat for the life of us. Whether it was too expensive, too far, or just closed for the Independence Day period, I don’t know, but every possible restaurant was determined to make us suffer apparently. We finally decided to eat a restaurant that I don’t remember the name of. But the walk to it took so long that we decided to eat at a Popeyes we found on the way. It was a two mile walk in the scorching heat, despairing even with skateboards for the half of us. Subsequently, we discovered, or well, I discovered that food wasn’t going to cease my pain because once I took a bite out of my ~$8.00 meal, I started hurting in my head, stomach, and other various places. We spent nearly an hour at that Popeyes, trying to access its bathroom with a faulty doorknob, deafening because of its unyielding playlist of crappy showtunes, and just plain out having internal body pains. The walk back in the same weather tormented us so we finally decided to take the bus. That decision did however take much longer to reach than it sounds like it did on text. As we watched more than four buses we could have taken pass us by from the windows of the Popeyes, we somberly waited for one of us to not be lazy enough to check bus routes and times on their smartphone. Upon finally getting our itinerary, the next bus took much longer to arrive than its predecessors for whatever reason. We also had to board another bus after as a transfer. But we weren’t given transfer tickets and had to pay for twice the amount, totaling $12.00 for all of us to get back to our hotel. Yipyay. Upon getting to our hotel room, I showered, and we all knocked out for about an hour. Finally, everyone in our party was awake and recuperated, well, a little bit, and we all headed to the convention. Noteworthy is that even though I say “finally,” at this point, it was only around 11 A.M. in the day. The most eventful morning of any day I have lived this summer, barely arguably. Sure puts things into perspective though, even if it was a morning of pure suffering. After the Dealers Hall closed at 6 P.M., we were free to explore the rest of the convention. And here, again, I have to laud the convention’s decoration and theatrics, everything just looks very astonishing. In front of the convention center, there was a tank from Girls und Panzer parked right on the plaza besides the setup that was giving away stickers and pins. Superb. To end the evening right, we traveled, and I say traveled because it was indeed quite the walk, to the Gamers Hall to play our troubles away. For the most part, all we did was dabble in some classic Starcraft and Super Smash Bros Brawl. It was a pretty fun time, but the hall itself wasn’t as well prepared as FanimeCon’s. The variety of games wasn’t as abundant, and the worse part is that the hall closed at midnight. I speak for myself and every gamer when I say ending the gaming at midnight is absolutely unheard of. Heregy, heregy!! I’ll drink to that!! Afterwards, our group headed back to the hotel for some good rest and relaxation.

The next day, we were once again late. Somehow with more than three alarms every single one of us overslept. Again, I arrived at my Artist Alley table about an hour or so late, stayed there for a bit and shopped for a bit while the other half of the group went to attend some panels and nab some free goodies. I have to say, it’s only my first year doing this whole Artist Alley thing, but each experience has caught my unexpected. Both times I’ve felt the griping feeling of spiraling failure which is in turn mediated but some slight glimmer of hope. For Anime Expo, it was the honor of being commissioned by two people. It’s really nice to have people admire your artwork so much as to inquire about commissioning you when you don’t even have a sign or anything advertising such a service. Definitely a feel good moment in the city of Los Angeles. In the evening, we ventured further outside the local area of the convention center to find a sushi place called Arashi Sushi, the only restaurant that was open on the Fourth of July. Afterwards, we went back to our hotel for more relaxation shenanigans and realized that ordering delivery pizza hut to our hotel room was more convenient and less troublesome on our wallets.

The latter half of Anime Expo, we still didn’t wake up in time. We were late every single day. The first two days, we felt that things in general were proceeding pretty slow, most likely due to the lack of attending more panels, screenings, acts, and the like. As for the last two days, they breezed past. Before we realized it, we didn’t even have enough time to completely explore the Dealers Hall, the only place we were visiting every day. The last day had a very climactic end. The night before we stayed up the latest, up to around 6 A.M. myself, doing very sleepover-esque activities like beating the crap out of each other with pillow cases loaded with waterbottles and making pillow forts. When morning came, it was a rush to cover the entirety of Dealers Hall, spend lots of money on lots of goods, sell my own merchandise and artwork with Godspeed, and cease neglecting to take photographs of all the fascinating visual displays. And in the final hours, I had a very bittersweet feeling that I will try to recreate in text.

Despite many, many inconveniences and failures, I view my first Anime Expo as a success specifically because it was a learning experience. At first, FanimeCon and Anime Expo occurring nearly within a month of each other seemed hectic, but in retrospect, there’s a forlornness in me that is disappointed at how much I have to wait until the next anime convention I can go to. At Anime Expo, I didn’t go to any of the concerts. I didn’t go to any of the panels. I didn’t go to any of the screenings. I didn’t go to any of the dances. I didn’t go to any of the meet-ups. I didn’t go to the maid café. I was so uninvolved. Yet, I feel so involved. Every time I’ve gone to FanimeCon and Anime Expo, I’ve always felt this flux of inspiration within myself to do that and do that better, whether it’s triggered by walking through the alleyways filled with wonderful artwork, setting my eyes on a beautifully prepared cosplay, attending an extraordinary musical performance, hearing someone else speak of their passionate exploits, basking in the atmosphere and ambiance of tens of thousands people gathered to celebrate a culture, or skating down a long, smooth strip of land with the convention center on the horizon. I think I’m starting to get a hang of this subculture. The convention is over now, and the next one won’t come for a long while. But there’s an art in preparing for these events and I’m all fired up.

FanimeCon 2013 – Artists Alley

After a long four-day weekend of 9 to 5s (or rather, one 2 to 8, two 10.5 to 7s, and one 10.5 to 3), I’ve finally got some time to type up a blog post reflecting on just how exhausting my first Artists Alley experience was. FanimeCon was my first anime convention experience and it still remains as my most frequent. Being established in my hometown of San Jose, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to delve into the communal phenomena known as the Artists Alley.

After being rejected last year due to not registering for a table in time (I signed up thirty minutes after registrations opened and I was still immediately put on the waitlist!), I tried to make it a point that 2013 was the year for me. This year, I needed to go and I needed to go hard. Even with that resolve persisting through the year, and more challengingly, the school-year, I was only able to pump out two t-shirt designs and three artworks I felt were print-worthy. Technicalities had me frantic until all of my supplies arrived the day before the convention (my birthday), and in the end I only had the three different prints and one of the two t-shirt designs to sell. Needless to say, I was cautious as well as apprehensive about how well my first entrepreneurial endeavor would go.

And it’s at this point that I feel the need to split my experiences and sentiments into the four days of the con, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, which all had me reacting to my experience differently.

Day 1 (Friday): The first day was the most discouraging for me because it was the introduction to all of my expectations coming face to face with reality. I never would have expected that the short-lived interests of passer-bys and their inaudible comments that could only be left up to paranoid interpretation could get to me so much. When my first sale occurred an hour or three in, I was relieved but not enough to believe everything would be fine from then on.

Day 2 (Saturday): Perhaps the busiest day of the convention in general, Saturday stayed true to its bustling reputation and had me making twice as much sales as the previous day. Although I closed down my table earlier than usual because I was concerned with enjoying the best of Fanimecon’s event on the best of its days, I was happy to have prosperous results.

Day 3 (Sunday): At this point, I was enjoying the experience of tabling more as convention-goers complimented me and even asked me for business cards. More so, whatever epiphanies I had, they did good in breaking down the event to its very essence for me. I was starting to enjoy Artists Alley for what it was and is, just a really nifty place where artists could share their work with each other and the general public of supportive viewers. Before the convention, I had predicted that the latter days would be the busiest because convention-goers’ affinity towards window-shopping for the first two days until they finally decide what to spend their money on. I still don’t know if I was right or wrong, to be honest. While the first half of the day was completely lacking, I believe by the end of the day my business had equaled Saturday’s. But I was having the right kind of fun for what its worth.

Day 4 (Monday): Fatigued by the previous three days, I was excited just at the mere thought of finishing things with a bang and finally getting some proper sleep. In the end, I loved the last day, because it was the most lucrative of them all. I already had no regrets in my enterprise because of all the praise and amiability I had received from the last three days, but this particular day something happened that forced an irrepressible smile on my face. Just an hour or two before final closing, a group of convention-goers stationed themselves in front of my table for a good dozen minutes, discussing amongst themselves in a foreign language. I figured to myself that they were just debating about which of the sizes left they wanted, but it was to my total surprise, but welcomed surprise I must note, that their discussion led to the hefty purchase of eight shirts (normally amounting to $200). It. Was. Incredible. Glee.

I learned a lot about Artists Alley and about myself this past weekend. Beyond myself debating whether to increase or decrease the price of my products to cater to the public. Beyond the convention-goers would read my t-shirt’s tagline, ‘I read hentai for the plot,” and then say, “Yeah, right,” scoffing while walking away. I realized, because of the charming customers I had, the ones that I cherish right now and ever, I would unquestionably lower the price of any of my products to put it in the hands of those who would appreciate it to an extent that even I couldn’t.

Make the money, don’t let the money make you

A sales total of $1262 subtracted by an expenses total of $1012 leaves me with $250 profit, a gain that couldn’t even pay a month’s rent. But I’ll happily take photograph after photograph of my earnings so long as it represents the volition of people supporting my artwork and the certainty that dozens of people are donning my sexy t-shirt.

Tips & Tricks (Artists Alley Tabling)

Have a prominent display. You can have beautiful artwork to sell but a lot of people are keen on walking past tables without so much as batting an eye if they aren’t within a generous field of vision. A lot of people may be traversing the alleys of Artists Alley not even in search of artwork to buy, but how cool would it be if your extravagant display caught their attention anyway and gave them a reason to buy something there.

Be tall. Displays on the table or in front of the table are easily blocked by walkers and the prospective customers standing in front of your booth. Using PVC pipes is an easy and affordable way to develop an all-seeing attraction.

Have big signs, for everything. I can’t count how many times people asked me how much a certain product was or anything else that was already clearly explained on a sign. But I can’t blame them for not reading the relatively small signs I had. Make your signs as big as your actual prints if you can, especially the prices because seeing those great deals from afar is what especially brings in potential buyers.

Have business cards. It’s amazing what kind of interests people have. I never would have expected people to love my artwork so much that they would want such means of contacts and updates, and yet, “Do you have a business card?” was one of the most common questions I received, thankfully.

Consider customer appreciation. Prepare plastic sheets to put prints in and bags to put other products such as shirts in for customers. Maybe even slide in a business card in each packaging.

Be neat. A bit self-explanatory but a display that looks like a poorly built edifice is quite off-putting. I learned that the hard way.

Pageantry. Be creative in execution. Have a sign that welcomes autographs and such theatrics. Some people like hosting promotions such as freebies and discounts. Others like to attract through playing music and other kinds of sociability.

Have fun! Talk to the fellow artists and your audience. A lost sale doesn’t mean a lost friend! This is a community of fellow animanga lovers we’re talking about here, indulge in it in more ways than one!

Materials: PVC pipes, table, scissors, pen, pencil, marker, paper, business cards, products, water, seller’s permit, sign, plastic sheets, boxes, etc.

Shout-outs

Shout-out to the seemingly couple that bought a  pair of shirts together, that was so cute!

Shout-out to the friendly Aladdin cosplayer that came back the next day to buy a shirt!

Shout-out to Dante for proper criticism on my artwork!

Shout-out to the customer who asked me if I knew a particular hentai artist, thereby acknowledging me as a proper hentai indulgent!

Shout-out to the group of customers who bought eight shirts after a long and delightful consideration! The prophesied hentai party that would buy-out all of my remaining shirts!

Shout-out to the dealer who bought three shirts and complimented me on the design!