Sunday, December 16, 2012

How Visiual Novel Anime Series Affected My View of Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate wasn't as good as people said it was.

Controversial way to begin this blog post, but I stand by that statement.  Disclaimer: This is my opinion, and I'm entitled to it.  You don't have to agree or disagree with it.  While I was disappointed, I do think that Steins;Gate is one of the better series I've seen in the past year which says something, so don't take this as a OMG, HE THINKS STEINS;GATE IS THE WORST!!!! HE MUST DIE!!!!!  It is a good series.  I just feel it isn't as phenomenal as people make it out to be.

The main reason I didn't enjoy this series as much probably has to do with other visual novel series I have seen over the years.  To anyone who hasn't seen or watched any of these, you should probably stop reading here, partially for potential spoilers, partially because you will have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.

Gosh, their eyes ARE far apart...
When I think of visual novel series, I, like most people, think of Key visual novel anime.  They have brought us such classics like Air, Kanon, and Clannad. Whenever you talk about series based off of games, these are typically the ones that come to mind for most fans of anime.  Kanon was the first one I watched and at the time, I thought it was a masterpiece.  Since then I've been exposed to more series and tropes, and while I still think it is a pretty good series, I wouldn't go as far as to say it is a masterpiece.  My feelings for these series, though, isn't what this article is about.

After watching both Kanon and most of Clannad (I still can't watch it past the "everyone is depressed and dies saga.  Yes, I know it turns out alright, but man...waaaaaay too much emotion going on there.), I found that the series seem to be formulaic, meaning that the characters, plot setup, and feel of the series began to get predictable.

Again with the eyes. Once you see it, you can't unsee it.
Sadly, over time, this started to bleed over into other series as well.  There have been some questionable series, like Happy Lesson, where after seeing a couple of episodes, I knew where this was going to go.  Ai Kora was also a bit ruined because each girl had a specific body part and eventually had her own storyline.  Every time a series comes around that is harem-esque, I have to ask myself, "Is this a visual novel series?".  I think I have this wiring in my brain that tried to logically figure out series before the episodes actually happen.  Sometimes I would be surprised, sometimes it would end up ruining a series for me.  Unfortunately, that happened to Steins;Gate for me.

I greatly enjoyed the first half of the series.  It had a great blend of science fiction, action, suspense, nerd humor, and conspiracy theory in it.  Episode twelve, where the series was split up for American release, ended on a cliffhanger that had me wanting more.  Sure, it wasn't the best I've ever seen, but for what it was, it was good.

Eyes aren't as bad here. Man, I need to focus on something else.
I kept myself unspoiled of the plot, but began to conjecture when the second half of the series was on its way to my home.  I started to think about the characters.  The main character is a self-proclaimed mad scientist.  A girl who is ditsy, but kind always hangs around.  A girl who is initially cold, but warms up joined the group.  Some dude that is into hacking that had little to no relation to the girls was there too.  A time jumper, male wanting to change genders, girl who communicates mainly through text messages, cafe  Why does this sound familiar?  Why are there so many women?  Why is there just the main character and his friend who is a perv, but seems disjointed from the story...

That's when it hit me. This sounded fairly close to Clannad, in a few ways.  All the women seem to be connected to the time device, all were somehow affected by the messages...I began to wonder.  Then I got the second half and while it was good, it sadly confirmed my fear.  In order to get a good ending to the series, each of the original messages needed to be negated.  How is this accomplished?  Through each girl/confused male getting her/his own storyline!!!!

Though the series tried to throw a few curve balls, I couldn't help but feel like this was, though not Key or a romance story, a visual novel series.  It started off so good.  A lot of excellent potential.  In the end, it was thrown away to predictable storylines, plot, and sadly, a diminished experience for me.  Again, the series is good, it just was more transparent with the plot device than I hoped.

Yes, I know there are differences between Key series and Steins;Gate.  Romance isn't the motivating factor, the main male character isn't as two dimensional as the others, it had a good ending.  The problem came when the plot unfolded, and I correctly predicted several "twists" without knowing the plot in advance.  It is like playing the New Super Mario Bros Games.  Formulaic.  Predictable.  Diminished experience.

So that is why I feel Steins;Gate isn't the megaton series most say it is.  Again, it is very good, and I encourage anyone to check it out.  I'm just saying because of my nature, the experience was ruined for me.  I was hoping for more original setups and advances in plot.  That is my honest opinion, and please remember it is just an opinion.  A few other things bothered me about this series as well, but that was the main contributor to my disillusionment of the series.  Keep an open mind, and form your own thoughts.  That is today's lesson.

Now on to The World God Only Knows.  Going from series that was supposed to be original to one that makes fun of series based off of dating sims.  I'm in the perfect mood for that.

A Long Awaited Return to the Anime-zing Funtime Blog

I won't waste time with excuses or personal messages on here. This is a blog about anime, manga, and Japanese culture and will keep it as such. True, I put my personal spin and opinions on it, but this is, by definition, a single topic blog. I'm not planning on moving to Tumblr anytime soon. Too weird for me to catch on yet.

First off, Anime Vacation is happening! It is just a week away and I am seriously stoked to see the event. Several great guests are lined up including Samurai Dan (He's been at every convention I've gone to, not that I'm complaining. Really entertaining guest!), Greggo and his game shows that I saw at Motaku, Samantha Inoue-Harte, whom I've seen at Visioncon a few years ago, and last but not least on this particular list, Carrie Savage! I'm still majorly concerned about attendance, but my hope is that is goes well. I should be there barring medical or personal emergencies.

As far as my viewership of anime, I haven't been watching as much with broadcast TV taking up what time I have. I do plan on watching plenty during the winter hiatus of those shows, so I'll have more to talk about. I've watched the recently released Digimon Season 1 set and Steins;Gate. I have talked about my history of anime, so watching the series was just me scratching that nostalgic thing called childhood. Steins;Gate I'm honestly conflicted about. I feel compelled to write a review on it. Maybe in the future, assuming world lines are jumped to and fro.

My wallet is also hurting because of the deals I've gotten on anime. I've bought a lot of series I would not have gotten had it been for the sales. I actually blind bought a little series called Read or Die. I've heard a lot of great things about it, and hopefully I am not let down.

I'm also getting a plethora of series I pre-ordered from several months ago. I'm really excited to watch Shakugan no Shana II and The World God Only Knows. I'm hoping to watch the latter this week and the former over my holiday time off. I have a huge backlog of sets to watch. Hopefully I can get them in soon!

I hope to see some of you at Vacation Anime this weekend! Will be posting again in the future that hopefully isn't Dystopian.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Vacation Anime?

First, before I get into the meat of this post, I just wanted to say I totally jinxed myself when I said "Work shouldn't be as demanding in the coming weeks" because I've had to spend several late nights trying to get deliverables to clients, and I was told the coming weeks are going to demand more time.  So THAT'S why I'm paid with salary and not by the hour.  This has seriously impeded my anime, video game, and just plain free time since Motaku.  Le Sigh.

Anyways, an interesting development is taking place the past week as far as anime is concerned.  As you read from my previous post, I wasn't really planning to go to any more cons this year.  The only ones that might happen are A2F - Fall edition, and G.A.M.E., though the latter is a gaming convention and not so much an anime con, which is why I haven't mentioned it on here.  I doubt I'll be going to A2F this November because it will be a busy time, and there might be a new toy coming out that I will rather spend time with.  Also, I think I'm supposed to be in Virginia for a week sometime soon for work, possibly, so those are the reasons I might not go to the fall festival.  Unless they have a guest I'm dying to see, I will probably skip it and just return in the spring for the next one.  If I decide to go, I'll definitely let you guys know.

However, that interesting development I teased in the previous paragraph without talking about it thus making it a poor first sentence for said paragraph that I'm too lazy to fix, is that there is going to be another attempt at an anime con locally!  As I have previously posted, a couple years ago there was a push to get not only one, but two anime conventions in the Ozarks, but sadly they both went by the wayside over time.  I had lost hope that just trying to get an anime social group started in the greater Springfield area would be impossible.  Then, on the Facebook group I am a part of, someone posted about an upcoming anime con in the area.

I was not getting my hopes up.

Will it happen?
So after doing some research, I found this guy.  Honestly...I'm shocked.  Something strikes me as odd about this convention.  One, is that I have not heard about it until now.  There are no listings for it on con sites, it does not come up in search engine results easily, and no one really seemed to know anything about it, even in those who seem more connected than I am with local events.  Why is it being kept in the dark?  Why isn't it listed anywhere?  I would think the con would want word of mouth to spread, but oddly enough, not much is being said, which raises my suspicions of it happening at all.  Two, are the dates, December 21-23.  I know I'm new to the con scene, so let me ask this:  Why is it on the weekend just days before Christmas?  Won't it make it difficult to lock in guests?  Also, the winter weather down here can be unpredictable, so there could be a risk of bad driving weather.  I know that seems to be an odd issue to bring up, but consider this.  This will be the first iteration of the con if it happens, and say that some bad weather happens that impedes traffic and prevents people from showing up.  If the con doesn't pull in attendees, then the likelihood of it happening again are slim.  Don't get me wrong, I want to see it succeed, but this concerns me a little bit.

Interestingly enough, going off the news feed, this looks like it may be partnered with the same folks who do A2F.  The reason I suspect this is two fold.  First, the same guests seems to be lined up for both events, and secondly, the same name seems to be adding the news items on both sites.  Am I overthinking this a little?  Sure.  But I'm hoping my investigative skills will pan out lucratively some day.

So all in all, I want to see this happen.  Am I holding my breath?  No.  When it gets to be a couple of weeks before the con, I will start getting excited.  It has gotten this close to a con in the area before and I've gotten burned, so I'm going to see if it happens.  If it does, you bet your sweet grits I will be there!  Here's hoping.

Anyone involved with the con or has more info on it, could you let me or others know?  I will do my best to keep up to date on the news for the event!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Motaku Madness

So as I mentioned in my last post, I am heading to Motaku, an anime convention in Kansas City next weekend on Friday and Saturday.  So far it doesn't look like it will be as frantic as Tokyo in Tulsa was (not complaining, just an observation.  That weekend was exhausting to say the least), but it should be fun.  Even though I live in Missouri, I haven't been to Kansas City in a couple of years, so this will be fun and interesting.  Voice actors Chris Cason and Tia Ballard will be there, so I'm getting some things to be signed by the both of them.  There aren't a lot of panels I am planning on going to until I see some more information on a few I'm on the fence with, so at least I won't be running around like a chicken with my head cut off like Tokyo in Tulsa.

Funny fact, the hotel where Motaku is being hosted and I'm staying at is the same hotel I stayed at for a national competition called Skills USA.  At least I know where some places to eat are located, and I know there is a semi-sweet arcade downstairs.

One thing I really need to post on is the conventions I went to this year.  Arkansas Anime Festival, Tokyo in Tulsa, and now Motaku.  Sadly, Motaku is my last planned con to go to this year, and probably won't be going to another con until February (Might go to one in October, but the anime section there is small.  It is more of a gaming convention).  So at least I'll have time to write these up before next year's wave of cons happens.

I'm also not planning on going to all the same cons again next year.  I will probably drop either Motaku or Arkansas Anime Festival for another one somewhere else.  My goal is to go to as many different ones as possible before I get tied down with adult responsibilities.  I also know there is a fall Arkansas Anime Festival con in the fall, but I doubt I will be able to make it, unless they manage to lock a guest in that I actually really want to meet (Seriously, if any cons have Luci Christian, Leah Clark, Kari Whalgren, or a few others "on my list" I will definitely change my mind).  I am looking into other nearby venues to get my social geek on.

So Hopefully you can expect some neat-o posts on my convention experiences in the future on here.  Thankfully work will be a little less demanding for a spell, so I will hopefully be able to commit more time for anime and posting on here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anime Cooling Off Period

And four months later guess who still remembered he had an anime blog?

This guy, that's who.

So I have been completely sidetracked with life lately.  Work has been claiming more free hours than I would like, and when I get home from programming, blogging is one of the last things I want to do, to be honest.  But on top of that, I've not had much to talk about in the realm of anime, mainly because I haven't watched any in a while.

"Wait?  I thought you were an anime freak!", you say.

Well, I am, to some extent.  It's just a couple of things have been keeping me from enjoying anime series.  One, no one is really releasing any I particularly care for, and two, I recently invested in Netflix, and while it has a nice anime section, I'm more concerned about watching previous episodes of Top Gear than I am in watching a so-so series. 

You see, I know some fans are very gun-ho on anime, practically making it a way of life instead of a hobby, but I am more of a hobbyist.  I collect series and manga as I see fit, and the same goes for watching anime.  Don't get me wrong, I still love anime more than I do many other things, but I have interests outside of anime as well.  I've recently gotten back into retro gaming.  I plugged my N64 back to life after a 10+ year slumber, and I have been spending more time on that than my Wii.  It's funny how hobbies work.  One time I'll be massively into Mario Party, the next I'll be deeply immersed in a JRPG or modern reinterpretation of a classic series.

Same goes with anime.  I go through hot periods, and cold periods.  This has been a cold period, probably the longest since I've started the hobby.  Again, I account for work and other distractions keeping me from enjoying it as much as I used to, but that is the nature of the beast.  I'm hoping for things to simmer down soon so I can reclaim some time I've desperately needed the past month.

That being said, I'm sure I'll be back into the swing of things before you know it.  I have the rest of Madoka Magica that I have somehow kept myself from being spoiled on, and I recently acquired the last Hetalia set as well as Fractile, as well as the first half of the second series of a particular popular girl band that irritates me to death.  Seriously, have you seen my Twitter comments yet? (Come to think of it, it was the last thing I watched before I slowed down my intake...Now it all makes sense...)

I'm hoping to get some quality time in this weekend, because the next month will be madness.  Work will be on my case until the end of the month, more than likely, especially since I'm going for some certification.  However, next weekend, the 20th - 22nd, I will be attending Tokyo in Tulsa, then August 18th - 20th I will be going to Motaku in Kansas City.  So at the very least I am still vying for the social interaction that goes with conventions, and I am very much looking forward to those events.

So that being said, I'm hoping to make some posts on here in the future, but they may be a few and far between.  Don't give up on me, 'k?

With that, I bid you goodbye until the next entry!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Going to A2F

So I will be going to the Arkansas Anime Festival (Hereto after known as A2F) this weekend. I'll be at the event Friday and Saturday and will be hanging out with some friends and going to some panels. I'm looking over the schedules now and am making an attack plan. If you're there, give me a shout here or on Twitter and perhaps a meet up could be arranged. I will be sure to give you as full of a report as soon as I can.
This is one of the few images from the A2F website.  A fox boy groping a feminine pocky-loving elf?

Also, I am planning on attending Tokyo in Tulsa in July and Motaku in August this year.  I'm finally trying to get out and socialize more.  Now if I could only get that local club to work out.

I'm also watching Okamisan and Her Seven Companions and if I can get the time, I will post a review.  The next few days will be busy, so we'll see what pans out.  Hopefully pics and stories to follow!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Banner!

Not that this really qualifies as a full blown entry or that it even needs one, but I thought I would let you know that I changed the banner image on the top of the screen because I changed some width properties of the blog and it just didn't look right after that.  I added all different characters and series this time, and somehow I made it look busier than before.

So what series are being represented on the banner and for bonus points, what are the names of the characters on it?

Stuff I Checked Out Lately

So I wanted to talk about some series I have watched lately.  My thoughts on any of these alone don't warrant an entire entry yet, but I think I can stretch these out enough to make it worth one entry.

First I want to talk about is Fairy Tail.  I just received my volume 4 copy and watched it all in one part.  This one closes out the Tower of Heaven story arc (Thank freaking goodness.  Too much emo kids in that one) and the entire Fantasia/Loxas Takeover story arc which I found more engaging.  In fact, I found I prefer the arcs that take place in Magnolia rather than ones that don't.

I won't make the obvious Super Saiyan comparison to Dragonball here, but I will imply that he looks seriously constipated here.
Volume four is the last volume planned for now from Funimation and I sincerely hope more is on the way.  Despite some of my preconceived notions about typical Shonen Jump series being generic and predictable, it is fun to watch.  The story arcs are nice and contained as well as not being completely necessary to watch.  I can skip that stupid moon rain arc if I wanted to and not really be affected by the rest of the mythology of the series.

However, I do have some reservations about the series as well.  For one thing, it is like a typical Shonen Jump series in several aspects.  Some episodes focus a ton on the combat aspect of the series, and every time it seems to push the characters to their limit.  Also, the last arc includes a tournament of sorts, which also screams typical Shonen title.  Looking ahead, I know there is just more of the same coming down the pike, but I can tolerate it, for now.

It's like they are begging me to make a Dragonball reference here, but instead I'll sing a line from a favorite AC/DC song of mine.  "I've got big balls, they're such big balls.,,"
All in all, I say give the series a shot and see for yourself if you like it.  It does borrow a lot from Shonen titles, so that can either be a plus or minus depending on your preferences.  I actually can't stand series like Bleach, Dragonball, One Piece and the like, but I can see me getting more volumes of this series should they come out.

Next is a series I think a lot of people on both sides of the giant puddle are crazy about.  I landed the first Limited Edition run of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and holy monkey was there a lot of stuff in that set.  Now as for the series itself, it is the first third of the series and honestly it seems a little slow in a few places.  Now I preface that by saying that I saw the first four episodes subbed before this was released so there wasn't much in the way of new things aside from a shiny English Dub and extras, and I have yet to see the final eight episodes and have kept myself vigilant in being non-spoiled about what happens, so the next volume may get a better appraisal than just a mention.

Character art by Jin Kobayashi, creator of School Rumble, a personal favorite series of mine.  I literally squeed when I saw this.
The items in the limited edition are well worth the money, in my opinion.  All preview images in postcard form (seriously, what numbskull would use those?), double-sided poster, a nice booklet with extra comics, illustrations, sketches, and notes from the director of the series.  Also, a soundtrack was offered in the package that has several key pieces of background music from the series.  My main complaint would be the lack of opening and closing credit music, but we'll either get that later or not at all.  Also, there isn't much in the way of extras on the DVD/Blu-Ray.  I wasn't expecting much, but footage from stateside events or something from Aniplex USA would have been a nice addition.  The dub is decent, but nothing to write home about.  The series itself, so far, is excellent.  It is easy to tell how it got a nice foothold in anime fandom and I make the analogy that what Watchman did to the Superhero comic genre Madoka Magica did to the Magical Girl anime genre.  Trust me, there is much more than meets the eye with this series.  If you aren't hooked by the end of episode three, then you make me sad :(

I was disappointed when I heard Bandai was not going to be releasing a series I looked forward to watching called Nichijou.  If you were a fan of Azumanga Daioh and/or Pani Poni Dash, then you HAVE TO CHECK OUT THIS SERIES!  It is school comedy/slice of life at its finest.  The series involves a group of girls in a high school who all have some kind of quirk, but try to live lives as normally as they can anyways.  One is a robot with a crank sticking out her back, another is basically Tomo from Azumanga Daioh, another is like Ichijo (the class rep) from Pani Poni Dash, and the final member is a girl who likes to draw Yaoi manga, but otherwise is the most level-headed of all the characters of the series.  There is also a professor who is actually a kid (Becky from Pani Poni Dash) and a talking cat (Um...Pani Poni again?), as well as a large supporting character list that would take too long to type out.

 The main cast at the dump.  Why?  Because someone can draw it, that's why!
The series is funny, unpredictable, and quite surreal at times.  Sometimes I will be watching a segment on the show and will be saying "What the crap?".  It can screw with your mind several times but if you are in the right mood, it can be a lot of fun.  I've been conservative about watching this, only a couple episodes per day most of the time, and that seems just right.  I have a feeling that this series is not one to marathon all the way through.  The episodes are just a bunch of skits put together and there isn't a continuity that the show follows.  It is just like a sitcom in which anyone can jump in at any time and enjoy the series.

The artwork and animation are superb.  Don't let the simplicity of the picture fool you.  Kyoto Animation did a fantastic job keeping the series style simple, yet complex when the script calls for it.  Just check out either of the opening sequences (Especially this one) to see what the animation is like for this series.  The background music is orchestral and a welcome addition compared to the dullness some series use.  The plot is not really engaging and once in a while is quite predictable for a seasoned veteran that watches this type of series, thus my suggestion to watch it in small chunks.  Also, SOMEONE LICENSE THIS SERIES IN AMERICA!  PLEASE!

Fairy tales and moe.  This really should not have caught my attention, but it did.
Finally, I blind bought another series (Madoka Magica volumes 2 and 3 are a leap of faith for me) called Okami-san and her Seven Companions, an anime series that spoofs classic fairy tales (Almost spelled it "tail" there since I'm used to talking about Fairy Tail. *Sigh*).  The series seems interesting enough to warrant a look.  I saw the first episode subbed when Funimation simulcasted it and enjoyed myself quite a bit.  They recently released a few minutes of an episode and Brina Palencia is voicing Okami-san while Luci Christian (hands down one of my absolute favorite voice actresses) will be the snarky narrator.  If that isn't a recipe for success, then I'm completely off my rocker.  Don't worry, a lot of people accuse me of that.  I look forward to my copy coming soon.

And that's it for recent anime activities from myself.  What have you checked out lately?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Frustrations of an Anime Fan - Lack of Local Activities

I want to do a regular column on a blog I infrequently update.  I know, lots of sense being made here, right?  The column is called "Frustrations of an Anime Fan" and will tackle topics as I see fit, from fandom to elitists from close mindedness from the general public to close mindedness in the industry, and much more.  I'm hoping you will read these and start some feedback.

I am a introvert by nature.  My happenings don't revolve on a ton of people being around me or going to popular places.  Bars are out of the question since I don't drink and can't carry on a proper conversation with the crowds of people yelling at each other.  The same problem can be with clubs, parties, and raves.  Coffee shops just don't have much of a fun atmosphere as it does a hipster one with libraries being its unattractive mother.  Arcades have essentially all but died except for the museum-type ones.  It just sucks for a virile young man in modern America trying to even make a few friends.

Last year, being tired of the same old, I went to a convention that some of my friends told me about at college.  Being the introvert I am, I had heard of it from before and just never went, but I decided that I am a full fledged geek and that I would fit in just fine.  That weekend was one of the best ones I've had.  I met so many different people, new friends, and found out my hobbies of games and anime weren't as obscure as I thought.  The convention I am talking about is your generic sci-fi, geek gathering spot.  Not a lot of one thing (table-top gaming, art show, media rooms, anime room, video game room), but enough to thoroughly entertain one's self for the length of the convention.  Sure, I'm not (yet, who knows) LARPing or and of the table-top gaming things, but I do enjoy cartoons, anime, cosplay, among other things.

I befriended the anime chair at the convention and we talk from time to time.  For a con in the middle of southwest Missouri, he does a great job finding things to watch and do.  He even managed to get Stephanie Young to speak and do an autograph signing this year.  That's pretty big for a smaller operation than Comic-Con.  However, one thing that has hindered any real activity or growth is the fact that the convention is not an anime convention.  Imagine a full-fledged anime convention.  Voice actor speeches, cosplay dating, art show purely with anime themes, anime video games, and many other things.  It just doesn't belong to a generic convention.  So for the venue, it works.

Just for a little background for those who don't know me, I live in southwest Missouri also known as the Ozarks, probably the belt buckle of the Bible belt.  The small town I live in only has a Wal*Mart Supercenter to really hang out.  A bigger metro city is where the generic convention takes place.  It has most major chain stores, a thriving urban/downtown area, and lots of people.  It is actually the city where I work five days a week, and when I get off, I can go shop somewhere that is not a former employer of mine.

One thing I really want to see in the next few years is a primary anime convention take place in the Ozarks.  I have an itch to meet local people and rave about our favorite series, have intellectual conversations behind deeper meanings of some series, and just discover some new things to check out and make new local friends who I can hit up from time to time and have an anime viewing night or something.  Sure, I know this is all idealistic, but I think it still could be attainable.

Last year we had two anime conventions try to start up in the area.  For whatever reason, both of these eventually folded and neither happened.  You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that neither would be happening.  So close, yet so far.  It seems like nothing is going to happen here for a while.  Right now, the closest anime convention is 100+ miles away and it looks like I will be forced to go to one of those to get my con fix.

One of the conventions still remains as a social group on a popular social networking website.  However, unless there is another convention going on or someone talks about a major motion picture or series coming out, the group seems stagnant.  The other convention has a message board that still works and there were so few posts on it.  I also look at the convention that is in operation now and see the same thing, not much activity on there.  You would think geeks would want more social interactions online than that.

I also did some research for groups, clubs, anything anime related in a 50 mile radius that I could join or meet with once in a while.  Nothing.  There was a group a couple years ago, and another a couple years before that, but now?  Nothing.  No groups, no meet ups, no clubs outside of high school and college-exclusive clubs.  Nothing.  Is anime that unpopular down here?  I really can't believe it, but either that is the truth, or people aren't stepping up to the plate.  The only way I found out about these conventions is because of either Internet specific research or word of mouth which is hard to come by nowadays.  Is there a group I don't know about that is hiding under a rock?  Am I the only one that experiences this?

One solution would be "Allengator, if you are so passionate about local social anime functions, then why don't you make one yourself?"  Good question.  I am not a leader.  I am not a planner.  I am horrible with money.  I don't like making calls or talking to people I don't know.  I am just not that person.  I am a follower.  I am a (lack of a better term) cheerleader.  I am that stupid mascot that dresses up as a cow in front of an electronics store that you don't like.  I tell all my friends about events and conventions going on.  That's all I feel comfortable doing.  Have me on your side, and I will fight for you, just don't make me in charge of the whole shebang.

So yes, I'm frustrated that nothing is going on here.  Another convention is trying to make a mark down here, however it is a furry convention, and while I have my own opinion on the subject of that area of fandom, it makes me wonder.  Can a furry convention really succeed where multiple anime conventions failed?  I thought that furries were a more niche market than anime fans, so what gives?  I wish the convention good luck on becoming a reality, truly wish it the best, and I'm sorry for this logic, but if a local furry convention makes it before a local anime convention does, I will be saddened.

So speak.  What can someone do to get a local anime group to become a reality?  How about an anime convention?  Anyone from the Ozarks want to see something happen?  Hit me up and we can talk about it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

And For More Sad News

The American anime industry seems to be getting itself in more trouble.  Since the last post, things just seem to snowball more and more.
New Strategy or on its way out?
First, Media Blasters is laying off 60% of their staff, and according to the latest ANNCast that 100% of their production team has been let go, meaning either that they aren't planning on staying around for too much longer, or that they are planning to outsource the production to another team which, unless there is some kind of digital strategy involved, or any strategy actually, will end up like Bandai.  I'm sorry for being such a downer, but this is reality, and you don't come to this blog to sugarcoat news.
This is five minutes of PAINT.NET.  Totally worth it.
Second, just when things couldn't get worse, two of the bigger North American distributors are coming after each other.  Funimation is suing Sentai/Section23/other random companies that used to be ADV.  According to Funimation, Neo-ADV as I like to call them, owe them around 8 million dollars back before the discombobulation of ADV.  It's a complicated legal matter, but I feel I should chime in my two cents. 

In my opinion, Neo-ADV dodged the law by exploiting a loophole, basically dodging creditors by breaking up into smaller companies.  Seriously, they are fooling no one (Section 23 is the actual law they exploited to get out of their mess).  While this has allowed them to stay in the American market and license some nice anime series, I think that some kind of justice deserves to be brought to them.  Now, I am not siding with Funimation nor am I against Neo-ADV, but I think that the companies that got the short end of the deal, Japanese anime companies, distributors, and the like, should get some sense of justice from this oversight. 

However, it doesn't matter whose side you are on.  In the end, this is not good for anyone, especially the fans.  Imagine if Funimation wins this (I give them better odds between the two).  This could be the final nail in the coffin that is Neo-ADV, or plain old ADV.  Then that will leave restructured Media Blasters, Funimation, and Viz, as well as higher end distributors NIS, Aniplex, and assorted others.  If it comes down to Viz vs Funimation, then again this means less titles to be released, more chances to the anime industry in America becoming a monopoly, and in the end, us getting fewer titles legally and Japan passing on opportunities of giving their titles a chance over here.

Perhaps Neo-ADV can split up again as another company...

In the end, this news isn't good for anyone.  Not for the people losing jobs, not for their families, not for the fans.  2012 has been one bad year thus far.  Let's hope for a better rest of the year.

Monday, January 2, 2012

FATALITY: Bandai Entertainment Gets Knocked Out

This really is sad news, but according to Anime News Network Bandai Entertainment plans on stopping distribution of DVDs, Blu-Rays, and Manga, plus it does not plan to grab any more licenses.  I feel mixed on this news.
More like, Ban-died.  Get it?
First, the jerk reaction.  THIS IS COSMIC JUSTICE FOR THE SCREW UP OF HAYATE THE COMBAT BUTLER!  I'm sorry, but the fact is that Bandai just never got the hang of doing non-single disc volume releases and right now is not a good time for a company to do that.  I am a budget anime collector and it just seems impractical for me to purchase a single disc for the same amount I could get a partial or whole series.  Then again, this could be applied to any R1 anime company that isn't Funimation or Section 23.  So the question is what is the difference between Bandai and say....Viz...or Media Blasters?

I really don't have an answer for that.  I am looking at the price of Bleach DVDs and they seem to be $50 for 10 episodes.  Squid Girl is 6 episodes for $25.  Madoka Magica is $40 for 4 episodes. *grumble* Hayate the Combat Butler is $40 for 7 episodes.  So pricing, while it is a gripe, probably isn't the problem.

Releases weren't too bad.  Par for the course, really.  Roughly released volumes every other month, just like everyone else.  True, sometimes titles may have been delayed, but we've all been there.  Media Blasters actually has a worse track record than Bandai, in my opinion.

The only real difference I can see is dubbing, but heaven forbid that I should even insinuate that this attributed to Bandai's problems. (hint hint: I think it didn't help things)
And yes, still so, so bitter about this.
So, what else could it be?  Perhaps the series they licensed just weren't popular enough.  Let's see: Haruhi, Lucky Star, tons of Gundam, K-ON, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Code Geass...I could go on and on.  So the hits are there.  Sure, there are some flops, but overall not a bad lineup.  People screamed for K-On, people praised Haruhi, people lusted for Gundam....actually, that sounds really really wrong. 

Honestly, you can't really pinpoint one exact problem that caused this to happen.  However, here is a short list, perhaps I can elaborate on it later, on what I think caused this:

1) Started subbing more series
2) Delayed series box sets way longer than they should
3) Pricing model was pretty bad
4) Virtually no digital presence (iTunes, Amazon, hulu, proprietary video site)
5) Slacking off on advertising
6) Japanese parent company can make Bandai seem redundant.
7) Few television deals
8) And I can't stress this enough.  PIRACY.

So one big problem was presence.  The more presence you have with an audience, the more they remember you.  Look at Funimation.  How many times have you seen banners for their series on any given website compared to Bandai?  A lot more.  More advertisements, more presence, give customers more reasons to not illegally watch series.  Funimation several times puts out an episode or two of a series online, for free, to show people a series.  This has caused me to buy series like Eden of the East and Baccano.  If you don't offer some form of streaming in this day and age, you are really shooting yourself in the foot.

Also, anyone who even casually pays attention to the American anime industry should have seen this coming long ago.  When Bandai started to push more subbed-only releases out the door, when Bang-Zoom employees started to work more with Funimation, when the Bandai online store closed its doors, when they screwed up Hayate, when fewer series was being licensed, when the Lucky Star OVA was subbed, when they decided to license Boo Boo Kaga Boo manga series...this wad inevitable.  Bandai was showing distress signs for years and now it has come to a head.

Now putting the analyst away in me, I will offer this.  This sucks.  There are no two ways about it.  Even though Bandai was my favorite punching bag, I have to admit that I am saddened by one less licensor out there.  Now it will be up to the other companies if we ever want to see more Gundam, or K-ON, (or Hayate to get a box set, HINT HINT).  Also, this is going to affect a lot of people and jobs.  I'm not just talking the people that work at Bandai Entertainment, but also for the companies that helped with distribution.  Bang Zoom was a major Bandai supporter so losing that anime chunk will mean less work for voice actors and producers.  Also, Bandai was involved with some manga series which...well, I personally won't miss, but I know others will.  Now we won't get the gag series of Lucky Star's Kagami turning into a chibi pig sort of a relief (seriously, aside from die-hard fans, who would buy that? I'm a pretty big Lucky Star fan and even I think that premise is too ridiculous to check out.)  Also Gosick which I looked at a few days ago and really wanted to see.  Now my only hope is someone rescuing it.

In the end, I will miss Bandai, and this sucks for people in the American anime industry and fans alike.  I also have to switch from picking on Bandai to picking on Media Blasters because...well, they aren't much better and if I were to put money on another American distributor biting the dust, it would be them, not that I wish that at all.

While you are just fading away and not outright leaving the industry, I still feel like I can end this post with a cliche trope:

R.I.P. Bandai