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Bateszi Anime Blog

Anime fans fornever

Perhaps there is a part of me that wants to see more

After a long absence, it is time for me to officially step away from writing here (just me, not the site’s other writers). As a parting post, I would like to share my thoughts on anime that stand the test of time. Even older titles that were created with a Japanese audience in mind can still be relevant today. I was reminded of this recently when the real world seemed to imitate one of my favorite movies, Mamoru Oshii’s Patlabor 2.

Noa in Patlabor

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The first rule of Bento Fight Club is: You do not talk about Bento Fight Club

(Bateszi reviewed this back in November of 2011, I’m revisiting it in light of Funimation’s upcoming February release of the show)

A strong signal that a series is great is that you can easily summarize the concept and get someone to watch it based on that short description. Ben-To is just that kind of show. All you need to know is that it’s about fights for discount bento boxes. If you don’t get excited about fights for discount bento, I don’t want to be friends with you.

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As long as we stay here in this world all that’s awaiting us is death

On the blu-ray packaging, Funimation trumpets the Eureka Seven television series as “The Greatest Love Story Ever Animated.” Where that series is centered around love, the movie re-imagination, Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers, is all about death. In particular, it is about the fear of death. Even the crew of the Gekko, an alternate universe version of the TV show crew, spends much of the film running from death using any means possible. Renton and Eureka are the only characters who aren’t defined by their fear of death and instead, focus on love.

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Ghost in the Shell: The College Years

Ghost in the Shell: Arise marks Production IG’s attempt to reboot the classic franchise.  With multiple successful superhero and anime reboots out in the wild, it’s only a matter of time before others (certainly Dragonball) get remade. Movie and television producers reboot well loved shows to appeal to modern audiences. The story, the characters, and the special effects all get updated to how the show would have looked if it was made for the first time today. With Ghost in the Shell, a show already set in the future and one that has aged well visually, this standard formula wasn’t really necessary.

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Kickstartering the future of anime

This article is my third attempt at writing a piece about crowd funding and anime, each time I’ve tried to do so another development forced me to re-write it, illustrating just how quickly crowdsourcing is reshaping the anime industry. Kick-Heart, the anime kickstarter by Production IG, was the first big crowd funding success. It proved the crowdfunding concept, where anyone can pledge from $1 to thousands of dollars to a project, generally in exchange for some type of reward, was workable for an anime project. Not only was it an effective means of funding anime, but it was something traditionally conservative Japanese companies could embrace under the right circumstances. Kick-Heart was followed by Pied Piper’s Time of Eve and Studio Trigger’s Little Witch Academia 2 projects, both of which met and exceeded their goals. Even Animesols, a crowdfunding site mostly for older anime, has found success, first with a campaign to make a DVD set of the magical girl show Creamy Mami and now hopefully (if enough of you  pledge in the next day or so) with a campaign to release a DVD of the first season of Black Jack TV.  Does that mean that the revolution has succeeded and the age of crowdfunding is nigh? Hardly. But with the success of the Kick-Heart, Time of Eve and Little Witch projects, it’s looking like crowdfunding is one of the best and most rewarding ways to get anime today.

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Fractale: Beautiful and unfulfilling

Fractale premiered in January of 2011 as part of the noitaminA animation block on FujiTV. The series’ inclusion in noitaminA led to high expectations. The block, putting aside its lame name (animation spelled backwards), has a reputation for interesting and innovative shows, including Honey and Clover, Eden of the East, and House of Five Leaves. Fractale looked like it would fit that mold, as an original fantasy story with beautiful visuals. Unfortunately, while Fractale is set in an interesting world that is well animated, it doesn’t successfully address the interesting and timely problems posed by a world reliant on technology.

Fractale Clain Biking (more…)

Read or Die: One Last Hurrah

I’ve already reviewed Read or Die (aka R.O.D.), but wanted to provide an update now that Rightstuf is close to selling out of the Blu-Ray version. In my last review review I balked at the price of that edition, but this past December I broke down and bought it. For those on the fence I’ve included some DVD vs Blu-Ray comparison screenshots below. And for the R.O.D. obsessed, there’s a brief description of UDON’s new art book as well.

From Blu-Ray

Blu-Ray

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I Get to Burning For Nadesico

Rightstuf is on a streak of licensing critically-acclaimed, but undervalued, shows. They released Utena in 2011 and announced the future release of Rose of Versailles. My favorite recent Rightstuf release remains Nadesico. Unlike Utena, Nadesico has always been available used at an affordable price even after the ADV release went out of print, so I was surprised that Rightstuf chose to re-release it.  I think it speaks to how relevant it remains, particularly with the resurgence of another giant robot show, Evangelion. Still, even standing alone, Nadesico remains an entertaining show because of its blend of comedy, science fiction and drama.

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Cons thrive while the industry stagnates

I attended Anime Expo for the first time, earlier this year. What struck me most at the convention was the number of fans and their high level of enthusiasm. Fans crowded in to see industry panels, but they also embraced fan-run presentations like the Old School Anime panel. Based on the enthusiasm I saw, I’m not surprised that anime conventions are thriving right now. For example, Japan Expo is starting a new convention in California next year. Meanwhile, the industry is stagnating. Bandai folded last year. Media Blasters has canceled releases. Sentai and Funimation are battling in Federal Court. Why the disconnect between the health of the conventions and the industry as a whole? A cynic might say that you can pirate a DVD, but not a convention ticket. The real answer is that anime conventions give fans what they want, at the right price. It’s time for anime companies to learn to do the same.

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Lost in Transition: Gunbuster the Movie

I had low expectations when I bought the Gunbuster movie on blu-ray. The visuals looked underwhelming, as did the plot summary. Still, I felt that as an anime fan I had an obligation to watch a Gainax classic, and I’m happy I did. Gainax could have created a forgettable story about girls battling aliens with giant robots. Throw in some fan service, and the show would have practically written itself. Instead, Gunbuster is a story that doesn’t pull any punches and explores deep, emotional issues. The only downside of watching Gunbuster on blu-ray was that the movie version left out a number of scenes that were included in the OVA. I enjoyed the movie, but I’m left wondering if the original version would have provided a better experience.

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I’m scared of you, let’s have sex: Time of Eve

Time of Eve is about a Japanese society assisted by intelligent, human-form androids. It draws heavily from the robots of Isaac Asimov’s books. Asimov’s and Time of Eve‘s robots are bound by a set of three laws that prevent them from harming humans or allowing humans to come to harm. Both Asimov’s and Time of Eve’s stories illustrate how humans react when faced with superior machines: namely they react with alarm. Time of Eve explores this interaction from a Japanese perspective; ie the reaction is one part alarm, one part sexual attraction.

I’m scared of you, let’s have sex…

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Girls with Guns: Men Please Apply Within

For a different perspective on Phantom see bateszi’s review here.

After eight years, three series, six girls, and lots of guns, Bee Train has revolutionized the girls with guns genre by adding… a guy. Men, you too can aspire to be a professional assassin, the last bastion of gender inequality has officially fallen. Joking aside, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is a solid effort by Bee Train. Unlike Bee Train’s earlier series Noir and Madlax, Phantom is based on a visual novel. It lacks deep characters but the show was an enjoyable and action packed addition to the girls with guns genre.

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Veteran Creator Meets Disruptive Business Model

Captain Harlock’s recent availability on Hulu and the release of OZMA highlights the career of Leiji Matsumoto. Matsumoto had a role in seminal 70s and 80s works like Captain Harlock, Starblazers, Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato. With OZMA, Matsumoto returns with a work that harks back to his earlier successes. The series is short (only 6 episodes) and lacks the depth necessary for a proper sci-fi opera, but it’s a trip back to an earlier style. While I enjoyed the show, its importance for anime at large is less about it being a brilliant product and more about it being a prominent example of a new business model. It marks the start of the latest disruptive technical trend to hit the anime industry: cloud sourced anime translation.

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Hot Topic Meets Anime in Ergo Proxy

Remember when goth, and by extension Hot Topic, reigned supreme? Ergo Proxy is basically an anime peopled by fans of Hot Topic. The setting is gritty, and the main character wears black outfits, steal tipped boots and heavy mascara. The color palette skews towards grey and black, and even when the show uses other colors, they look muted. In the years since Ergo Proxy’s release, goth fans have moved toward the sparkly vampires in Twilight. That’s a shame because I found the ugly, dirty world of Ergo Proxy compelling. The show did not live up to the promise of its premise, but I much prefer the version of goth culture it embraces to the more recent version from Twilight.

Re-L is incapable of smiling

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Giving Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence a second chance

When I first saw Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence I left the screening unimpressed. At the time, it felt like a confusing trip through a philosophical morass. I disliked the Major’s lack of screen time as I loved her central role in the associated TV series. Still, when I heard that Bandai planned to stop releasing material, I knew I should pick up the Ghost in the Shell movies I did not have, including Innocence. Shortly thereafter I had a long trip to take and decided to give Innocence another look.

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Madlax aka What’s wrong with the anime industry

Young women with gun skills? Check. Mysterious organization that runs the world? Check. Quasi-religious mysticism? Check. Noir only lasted one season, but if you started watching Madlax and thought it was Noir Season 2 I wouldn’t blame you. Madlax isn’t a complete copy of Noir, it does tread new ground after about 20 episodes or so. And the new material is innovative in its own way. What ultimately holds it back, what has held many other shows back over time, is that it still feels too much like a rehash of what came before, rather than something fresh and entertaining.

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Does Bandai know something Netflix doesn’t?

About a week ago I posted that 2011, for all its problems, was a stable year for anime. It turns out that stability was short lived. In an interview with Justin Sevakis and Chris Macdonald on AnimeNewsNetwork, Bandai Entertainment President and CEO Ken Iyadomi announced Bandai’s decision to stop licensing and releasing shows. Some bloggers (including Charlie Maib from Kotaku via Japanator) have suggested that piracy killed Bandai. But if you look at what Iyadomi said, I think it’s more likely that Bandai Japan is to blame. And not blame in a bad way, blame in the sense that Bandai Japan (full name: Namco Bandai Holdings) made a rational business decision. It decided, maybe prematurely, to protect its profits and let mainstream fans get anime digitally.

We'll miss you Bandai

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Anime Trends 2011: At least no one (of note) went bankrupt

All told, 2011 was a stable year in the anime business. No anime company of any worth (so 4Kids doesn’t count) went bankrupt, although over in the manga world TokyoPop bit the bullet. The tsunami and resulting nuclear incident will unfortunately overshadow anything else that happened with anime this year. While there were no dramatic changes in the industry, a number of trends began or picked up steam in 2011. It is these trends, more than any anime production, that will be this year’s industry legacy.

Trend #1: Lawsuits

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