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Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Cowboy Bebop Remix

I received "Cowboy Bebop Remix" for Christmas this year from hubby, and thought I would get around to reviewing it today.  It was my first time really watching the show, so I didn't know what to expect from it.  But as I got farther along in the show it got me wondering why I never watched this on Adult Swim when it was on. (And from what I understand, it's still on -- this is one of those shows that Adult Swim shows on a regular basis in their lineup)

For anyone who might have never encountered "Cowboy Bebop" before, the majority of the show takes place in a 2071, some years after a hyperspace gate blew up the Moon and threatened the Earth with constant threats of asteroids falling down on them. Mars has become the hub of all activity, and with all the crime syndicates taking control of law enforcement it's up to bounty hunters, or "cowboys," to catch the bad guys, for a price.  The show tells the story of one group of bounty hunters on a ship called the Bebop and their numerous attempts to survive in this environment.

When "Cowboy Bebop" premiered on Adult Swim on its initial launch, it became one of the networks most popular shows. And it's no wonder.  The writing is spot on, and the characters are allowed to develop over the course of the series. Each character has their own past that they're keeping from each other, although it eventually comes out over the course of the show. And it also created one of the coolest characters in anime, Spike Siegel, who not only dresses impeccably but also has the American voice of Steven Blum, who voiced characters in shows such as Naruto and Samurai Champloo, and also voiced the computer TOM in the Toonami block on Cartoon Network.

For those who might not have picked up an earlier edition of this series on DVD, I highly recommend you do so now. The new sound mix makes the show sound fantastic.  The only issue I have with the DVDs is the sound disparity between the menu and the show.  When I put a disk in, I have to turn down the volume on the menu, then turn it back up when the show starts.  It also features "Session 0," a promotional behind the scenes video for the show, as well as several commentaries from American and Japanese voice actors as well as production crew.

This is one set of DVDs that I highly recommend you pick up.

5/5 stars

Tokyo MX First Victim of Anti-Otaku Bill

The February 12 edition of Kondasha's Weekly Gendai magazine is reporting that, because of their heavy ties to the goverment, Tokyo MX is going to have to start self-centering the anime that they have on the air due to the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Ordinance.

The channel is very popular in Japan when it comes to its anime selection, with a late-night anime block for adults.  However, that may change in the near future, with the magazine even reporting that Tokyo MX will have to rethink hiring graduates who are anime fans.

In the past it has carried such shows as Ikki Tousen, Dance in the Vampire Bund, High School of the Dead, and Strike Witches (a secnd season is currently airing).  If they're going to start self-censoring the adult anime, I don't know how they are going to broadcast anything for an adult audience.

We are now starting to see the spiraling effect that this bill is already having.  Not only does it limit content, it could possibly limit employment for Japan's youth if they happen to be anime or manga fans.

Review: Ikki Tousen

Oh, dear...what to say about this one...

Well, some facts about "Ikki Tousen." It's based on a manga, which seems almost a given in anime these days.  The show was broadcast in 2003 in Japan, and has had three additional seasons since its premiere.  I don't know who's watching this in Japan that would justify the additional seasons, but wow.

Anyway, the concept of the show is this: rival high schools are fighitng each other for dominance. Because of this, each school has their own set of fighters to defend the school.  Hakufu Sonsuru enters the picture, and doesn't realize that her destiny is to unite the schools in peace.  "Helping" her in this (a very loose term) is her rich cousin Kouyou Shuuyu, who is determined to protect her but instead becomes a punching bag each time he tries to "protect" her.

And that is pretty much the show.

I should probably save the most obvious problem of the show for later, so let's start with the writing.  What little story there is takes its plot very, very loosely from the Chinese Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Each character and story is supposed to be representative of that.  But it's just inane. The character development is sorely lacking in this show -- you can pretty much interchange any character in the story and it won't make a lick of difference to what's going on onscreen. Any character development would come from Hakufu, but it goes from "I'm a stupid character with big boobs who has no clue how the world works" to "I'm a stupid character with big boobs but I have a DESTINY!"

The voice acting in the English dub is terrible.  Which is sad because looking up some of the actors they've done some good work.  I don't blame the actors in this case so much as dealing with some inane dialogue and trying to take it as seriously as they can, but having it sound really, really stupid because of it.

The background music for the show is actually pretty decent. However, the opening theme for the show has this kind of techno/rap feel to it that doesn't quite fit the show.

The animation for the show also leaves something to be desired. The action scenes, of which there are numerous, aren't very ACTIVE.  You'll get a still shot suggesting movement, the characters attacking each other, then one character will go into detail what he's doing to the other character.  Um, aren't we supposed to see that?  If you're going to paralyze someone, shouldn't you show us how you're doing it instead of going into ridiculous detail on what you are doing to the other character? It ends up being a series of still shots with suggested action, making for a not so exciting fight.

In fact, it's almost like they blew the entire show's budget on the animation of the women's boobs.  Which is the elephant in the review and I didn't want to get into until last.

The fanservice.  The purpose of "fanservice" is to service fans. But you know how if you get too much of a good thing it can actually make you sick?  Well, that's what we have here.  According to Anime News Network's review of the first DVD release, there were 41 panty shots in the first episode alone. Ick. And the women wear skirts to school that are short enough to allow for that many panty shots.

On top of that, it's laughably ridiculous how easily the women's clothes rip and tear during a fight.  A slight breeze would cause a rip in the clothing. And it always seems to tear at very strategic places. The boobs on all the women are so huge that you can't help but wonder how they keep themselves upright at any point during the show.

Overall, avoid this one.  It's bad.  Really bad.

1 out of 5 stars.

Check out the mini-review at

Sunday, January 30, 2011

February is Memorable Anime Character Month!

Every month, the website National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) has a featured theme to get blog authors to write at least one post a day on their blog.

The theme for February is "character." So for this month I decided to dedicate this month to memorable anime characters.  I'm going to keep my selections a surprise, but starting on February 1 there will be a different character highlighted in this spot.

So watch this space to see if your favorite character is included.

Sephora and Hello Kitty -- Match Made in Heaven or Hell - o?

I wrote about this at Examiner this morning after seeing the story at Anime New Network. So I thought I would share.

Cosmetics retail chain Sephora has started carrying a line of cosmetics branded with Hello Kitty.

The line includes makeup, perfume, necklaces, purses, and other items.  If I can get this somewhere cheap, I might be able to post some reviews of the items and tell you if it's worth the money.  As it is, the range goes from $5 for nail art to $55 for full bottles of the Hello Kitty fragrance form the Sephora site.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: The World God Only Knows

This is a show that sounds like it might be some metaphysical, deep drama from the title. You wouldn't think a video game comedy. But that's what we have. And it's actually pretty good.

Keima Katsuragi is not a typical 17 year old boy.  Hes super smart, and has an interest in girls.  However, the girls he's interested in are the 2D kind found in dating simulation games. On the internet, he's known as the "God of Conquests."  He answers a mysterious e-mail one day, thinking that he was being invited to play another game.  However, when a 300 year old childlike demon named Elise shows up telling him that he signed a contract to conquer real women in order to capture loose souls in their hearts, he tells her that there was a mistake -- he'd never "conquered" a real life girl before.  But because the consequences for breaking the contract are great, Keima goes along with helping Elise, using his knowledge of dating sims to guide him on their quest.

For a premise like that, it sounds rather weak.  But the writing in this show is pretty quick.  Parodying the conventions of the dating sim is nothing new (Excel Saga did it in one episode), but the writers play with all the conventions and the different types of girls you see in these games.

I will say that Keima is a hard character to like, at least at this point in the show (a second season is set to air in April). He's a bit full of himself a good portion of the time.  But he shows in his conquest of the girls that he does have a caring side.  And he's well-written -- his arrogance just adds to the charm of the character when he makes his conquests.  I like Elsie better, because despite the fact that she's a demon she's got some moe characteristics to her that make you want to watch her.  You feel bad for her when Keima constantly insults her.

Overall, The World God Only Knows is one to catch.  You can find it right now online at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

MarzGurl: FUNimation Gets Busy

MarzGurl from That Guy With The Glasses released her latest Anime News Editorial regarding the (temporary) pulling of the show "Fractale" by FUNimation over downloading issues and their pursuit of people who had downloaded a recent episode of "One Piece" ilegally.  Anyone else find the number of people they were going to prosecute a little odd?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

20 Percent Fewer Booths at TAF This Year

According to Anime News Network, the Tokyo International Anime Fair is reporting that 37% fewer exhibitors are renting 20% less space than they did last year. The economy isn't the issue in this case, but the law that was passed last month regarding regulations on anime and manga that expanded the scope of what could be sold to those under the age of 18.

After the law was put into place (someone can correct me on this, but I think this only affects Tokyo specifically, although it's significant because that's where most of the anime and manga are made), many exhibitors pulled out of TAF, especially after it was announced that Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who was a major proponent of the law, is the head of the executive committee for TAF.

Some of those that have pulled out of the event have stated that they are going to hold their own expo on the same March dates as TAF.  Calling it the Anime Contents Expo (ACE), those who are slated to appear include some big names including Media Factory (Soul Eater, Pokemon movies), Kadokawa Shoten (Angelic Layer, Air), and Aniplex (Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach).

One that at this point hasn't committed to either event is Comic-10 Shakai.  If they don't rescind their boycott of TAF, most of the exhibitors said that they wouldn't participate in the events leading up to the fair.

It's interesting to see how this is all playing out.  What I don't understand is why Ishihara is on the executive board for TAF when he has come out in the past insulting anime and manga fans.  What the new law I think will do for anime coming in here in the United States is that it will be censored as badly as films were during the days of the Hays Code, and people will start seeking out older shows because of the restrictions put on filmmakers over there.  It's sad to see Japan take that step backwards.

ThinkGeek Pays Tribute to "Akira"

How cool is this?

I got home from my mother's yesterday and noticed that I had gotten the new ThinkGeek catalog in the mail.  If you've ever been to ThinkGeek, you know that they have a whole bunch of cool geeky stuff there.

I started laughing when I saw the cover for the Winter/Spring 2011 catalog. Hubby, who doesn't follow anime that closely, didn't get it until I explained to him the Akira connection.


An Anime Primer for Parents

(Originally posted at

It started with your son or daughter started watching Pokemon when they were younger.  And as they got older, the titles got stranger. Yu-Gi-OhxxxHolicChobits? And what the heck does "hentai" mean?

As a parent myself, I try to keep up with what my stepchildren are interested in. I have an advantage since I'm interested in anything Japanese.  But if your child has an interest in anime or mangas, here are some tips to understanding some of the more frequently used words in the anime and manga culture.

Anime -- In Japan, the word simply means "animation." So all animation is termed "anime."  In the United States, "anime" is strictly for any animation coming out of Japan.

Manga -- Japanese graphic novel, read right to left.  This can take some getting used to if you've never seen a manga before.  In the past, they were published in the American style "left to right," but in recent years more publishing companies have been getting into the business of keeping the artwork the way that the original artists intended.

Shoujo (Shojo) -- "Young Woman" in Japanese, usually under the age of 18.  Mangas and animes aimed at the shoujo audience typically have similar characteristics, such as "pretty" boys, idealized romances, flowery art.

Shounen (Shonen) -- "Young Man" in Japanese, usually under the age of 18. Mangas and animes aimed at the shounen audience often typically have a lot of humor, action and adventure, "idealized" women.

Otaku -- In Japan, "otaku" is a term used to describe someone who is a "super fan" of anything, such as anime, manga, video games, trains, etc.  It's not necessarily seen as a good thing in the Japanese culture.  Here in the United States, the term is used specifically for anime and manga fans.

Fanservice -- Typically a scene in a show or an entire show that plays to the interests of the fans.  Typically used to describe constant panty shots of women or other elements that attract young men into watching the show, but can also refer to an inside reference within the show.

Hentai -- In Japan, the term is used with people.  In the United States, it's used for certain types of anime.  It means "pervert." It's the Japanese version of pornography, but it tends to deal with subjects that American audiences might think are a little strange.

Lolicon/Shotacon -- I mention the term only because there are times I'll be using it when talking about the new bill passed in Tokyo that is related to this. Lolicon/shotacon is the equivalent of sexualizing children in manga and anime works. The term "Lolicon" comes from Nabikov's novel "Lolita" and refers to young girls, while "shotacon" is named for a character in the show Gigantor.

Yaoi/Yuri -- If you go to a convention, you'll see people with buttons referencing "yaoi" and "yuri." Yaoi is "boys love," while yuri is "girls love." Although there is some pornographic versions of both of these genres, it's not necessarily always the case.

Moe -- Pronounced "mo-ay." This one is a tough term to describe, because it relates to a feeling more than a genre of work.  It's the feeling you get when you watch certain characters on the screen and you just want to protect them.  Usually the characters are young-looking and cute.  In recent years moe has been a regular feature in a lot of anime and manga stories.

Harem -- Harem stories often involve one guy in a situation with four or more women, or one girl in a situation with four or more boys.  Usually in the story all the women will be vying for the attention of the guy, and vice versa. It's a common story element, so it will be mentioned quite a bit in reviews.

Mecha -- Robot shows, either portrayed in a realistic fashion (Mobile Suit Gundam) or fantastical one (Gigantor).

Magical Girl -- If you are familiar with Sailor Moon, you are familiar with the concept of the magical girl. She often has unexplained powers that are activated with the assistance of a magic item. An extension of this is the magical girlfriend, which often has a hapless guy who finds himself with a girl with special powers who is in love with him (Oh! My Goddess!).

Welcome To The First Post!

Welcome to Turning Japanese, a blog on anime, manga, and just general Japanese nuttiness.

To introduce myself, I am the Franklin Anime Examiner for the Manchester, NH page over at  However, because of the limitations I have in putting stories over there I decided to start this blog for other tidbits that I can't put there.

For example: over here I'll be able to do a feature that was going to go over there but it wasn't "local" enough for the site: weekly reviews of anime shows currently showing on Hulu. Since the site has over 170 anime and growing, I thought it would be a good idea to feature those shows that are online once a week to give you, the fans, ideas on what's good out there and what to avoid as you're thumbing through the anime section.

All reviews will keep parents in mind, giving general information on content.  Since I'm a parent and stepparent, I'm conscious of what some parents would find appropriate and what others want to avoid.

So watch this space for news, reviews, and anything else related to Japanese entertainment.