Satsuki and Mai, together again

I picked up the new deluxe edition of Totoro, to replace our mysteriously-vanished copy. I haven’t actually watched it yet (maybe tonight) but I already know I am going to miss the english voices of my old Fox version, especially Satsuki.

My 8yr-old, who I think deserves to inherit the Fledgling Otaku label, noticed something both highly hilarious and deeply troubling on the cover of the disc box. It’s readily apparent on the cover scans on Amazon. See if you can find it.

Totoro deluxe version
What is wrong with this picture?

I can’t stop staring at it, now. Yikes. Please, let there be better attention to detail inside the box than outside! we’ll find out tonight. Somehow I am not really confident about Dakota Fanning here.

Cowboy BeBop ends

I just finished watching the final disc of BeBop. Steven said he got “mugged” by the ending (his minireview here). I am frankly, dazed.

Interestingly, Madeline Ashby at Tor.com is beginning a rewatch of BeBop, which is pretty timely! I have to agree with everything she said about the series as a whole in her first post on the first episode:

Bebop has what most live-action SF television from English-speaking countries does not: a definite end date, a genuinely compelling story, great production value, interesting speculations on technology and a merciful lack of deus ex machina. It’s a series set in the future, not about the future, and is thus liberated from making any sweeping statements regarding the future. Perhaps for that reason, the world of Cowboy Bebop is neither a sun-dappled utopia nor an unforgiving dystopia. We watch it from the point of view of bounty hunters, so we see the dirty cops and the crime syndicate lowlifes and the mom’s basement-terrorists with delusions of grandeur, but 2071 remains a recognizable iteration of our current world. Ganymede fishing trawlers can be converted to achieve escape velocity, bounties on cross-colony fugitives can be paid from ATM’s, hyperspace toll gates are vulnerable to bugs in proprietary software and need regular firmware upgrades. Its most optimistic prediction is also its most accurate: every colony from Io to Titan is full of signage in Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. There are brown people, black people and pale people with dreds, turbans and mohawks. Watanabe’s future is off-planet, and everybody’s there.

Given how strongly I loved this series and Champloo, I wonder if there’s a good label for this type of anime genre. What do space cowboys and samurai breakdancers have in common?

Anyway, my comment on the ending is as follows:

Continue reading “Cowboy BeBop ends”

Cowboy Bebop

Just started Cowboy Bebop via Netflix. It’s amazing. It’s clear how Firefly was inspired by this in so many ways. Theres not much to say at this point but it’s just spectacular on every axis – animation, story, characters. It’s really rare to see a science fiction treatment based in the Solar System and the terraformed moons and planets provide a huge canvas for the story. And yet you still have those 2001: Space Odyssey moments in the blackness and emptiness of space as well. The last episode I just watched even had a taste of Alien. It’s not all knockoffs but a really fresh take on these kinds of stories. Absolutely brilliant.

anime version of Dante’s Inferno

AICN has some trailers of the anime version of Dante’s Inferno coming out in a couple of weeks. They provide some minimal detail, but its enough to raise my interest:

On February 9th, Anchor Bay will be releasing Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic on Blu-ray and DVD. The anthology, with work from and Production IG (Kill Bill animated sequence), Dongwoo (Batman: Gotham Knight), Manglobe (Ergo Proxy, Samurai Champloo), JM Animation (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”), tie-ins to EA’s upcoming Divine Comedy inspired action-adventure game.

Interesting lineage. The Batmanime was in my opinion pretty uneven (I hated the Tekkon Kinkreet animation style used in part of it). But I *loved* Samurai Champloo‘s style (even though I never got around to doing a full review after I finished it).

the shrinking world of anime

An interesting discussion at Pete’s and Steven’s has me thinking that the trend for anime is one whihch basically dooms DVDs to extinction (and why are we even talking about VHS anymore?). The problem is not just limited to titles that aren’t available in North America, but even titles which may technically be available but utterly impractical to obtain. Case in point – my beloved, $5-from-Walmart copy of Totoro has gone missing (unwillingly, unlike last time). I decided I’d buy a new copy – preferably one with all the extras – and guess what? It’s out of print. The only way to get my Totoro fix for my kids is to download a torrent (and watch on our TV via our USB-enabled DVD player). I fully expect to buy a Roku or equivalent device this year to tap into my Netflix on-demand account, which will also open the door to torrent convenience (though the demise of Mininova is a roadblock – I’ll have to start actually participating at bakabt or some other community now). Even titles which are available at Best Buy, like the complete Kino’s Journey, are absurdly expensive and the sad reality is that the pricing of anime makes most of it out of reach for anyone who has mouths to feed and bills to pay. Without torrents, the few purchases I can afford to make – Haibane, Sugar, etc – would never have happened.

Ultimately, anime is a hobby and not a necessity. But if we are limiting anime to only those who can afford to play by the industry’s rules, then anime will die. It’s really just the torrenters keeping it alive right now. That sounds paradoxical but it’s fundamental reality about the new era of digital content. Give it away, build an audience, and then hope some of them will buy for posterity. Assuming you’re making decent quality anime in the first place…

Incidentally, this story about Boxee being forced to give up on Hulu is pretty emblematic of the thorny issues of control being fought out in the marketplace. The anime industry is just a bit player in all of this.

Osamu Tezuka

There’s a lengthy, detailed write-up at AICN on the DVD release of The Astonishing Work of Tezuka Osamu, who was one of the early pioneers of Japanese animation and manga, whose experimental short features really pushed the boundaries of art and expression. His work was clearly one of the major influences for most of the major players in anime today – Miyazaki’s constant naturalistic themes were likely influenced by Tezuka’s Legend of the Forest, for example, wich is on the DVD along with 12 other short works that span the full range of Tezuka’s career.

What are examples of Yokai anime?

At AICN there’s a discussion of yokai manga, which I found interesting:

From the preface of Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yokai Attack, “written with the Japanese characters for ‘other-worldly’ and ‘weird,’ the word ‘yokai’ has typically been translated in a great many ways, from ‘demon’ to ‘ghost’ to ‘goblin’ to ‘specter’ – all of which are about as imprecise an un-evocative as translating ‘samurai’ as ‘Japanese warrior,” or ‘sushi’ as ‘raw fish on rice.’ Yokai are yokai.” It’s a class of supernatural creatures that encompasses shape changing foxes, tsukumonogami – artifacts that come to life after existing 100 years, kappa – bowl headed, turtle-men water imps, urban legends like the kuchisake anna – “slit mouthed woman,” and many more subjects of folktales and nightmares.

A good yokai story breathes life into a murky corner of perception. It takes the fright of a dark corner, the wonder of a natural phenomenon, some metaphor or word play that sticks in the mind and gives it semi-human form. It might take some ferreting out, but one of the fascinating attributes of yokai is that they generally trace back to some mental hang-up like an unexplainable sound one hears wondering the woods or a coincidence in words and names.

This is prelude to a review of a manga title, Yokai Doctor, which they found wanting in some respects, but as a genre I am curious to see if there’s a footprint in anime too. Off the top of my head, I think Spirited Away and Mushi-shi might loosely qualify. I can’t think of other examples but I am sure there are more. Anyone have any ideas?