Tag: Anime

Week of Geek: Form Vortex Post!

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Hiya Geeklings!  It’s August!  Excited?  Sad the summer’s half over?  I say enjoy it while you can!  (Even if we’re getting a lot of rain lately)

So let me tell you about my latest discovered fandom.  I am way late to the party on this one, but who cares?  I found it eventually.  I kept seeing it in places like Tumblr, Pinterest and my usual nerdy online hang outs.  And then a few nights ago, on a whim, I decided to watch the first episode, just to see what the fuss was about.  I finished the first season last night.  Holy heck, it was SO GOOD!

So what is it?  Voltron: Legendary Defender!

Some of you may be asking What the heck is that?  Bit of a story there.  You see, back in the 1980s (yup, we’re going there again; it’s all the rage these days), what some television studios liked to do was to take Japanese anime and heavily edit it to make it an almost entirely new show on the cheap to sell toys.  Cynical?  Maybe. Do people still have fond memories?  Totally.  As this article details, that was the same for Voltron.  It took the anime Beast King GoLion and tweaked it, though not by a whole lot.  The first series made for North American audiences was Lion Force Voltron or Voltron: Defender of the Universe.  It featured five pilots of space ships shaped like lions that could combine into a giant robot named Voltron.  That was another thing that was huge back then: giant robots.  (See: Transformers)  These five pilots used Voltron at the behest of Princess Allura to battle the evil King Zarkon, his minions and his own giant ‘ro-beasts’.  Admittedly I don’t recall watching this when I was a kid but it had, and has, a pretty passionate fanbase.

(Ah, 80s Anime.  Nothing quite like it.)

Fast forward 30-odd years, past a few other versions of the show, to now and to Netflix.  Voltron: Legendary Defender tells a similar story but with updated characters and animation.  Five humans – Shiro, Keith, Lance, Pidge and Hunk – get swept up in galactic intrigue when they end up becoming the new paladins for Voltron, meaning they fly the lions and form the giant robot.  They’ve been recruited by Princess Allura and her majordomo Coran to fight against Emperor Zarkon and his Galra Empire that’s conquered most of the galaxy (think the Empire from Star Wars and all the bad that comes with it, except the Galra have had thousands of years to get it right).   The paladins each have their own unique personalities, hang ups, goals and strengths, and they must learn to work and fight together if they’re going to save the galaxy.

The animation style of Legendary Defender harkens back to shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra; shows that were produced in the United States but have very clear Anime influences.  No surprise for the comparisons; Legendary Defender‘s showrunners worked on both Airbender and Korra.  Similar characteristics exist in each show, such as a good mix of humor and drama, exaggerated facial expressions and some pretty epic action scenes.

It’s colorful, it’s funny, it’s inclusive, it’s compelling, it’s gorgeous.  I recommend it, and I’m definitely not the only one.

So if you don’t have Netflix, how to get in on this?  The first 2 seasons have just been released on DVD, so we’ll look into getting it into our collection, but in the meantime we have the graphic novel series on Hoopla and we have some of the episodes in book form.  Anyone else seen it and would recommend it?  Any naysayers?  Post away in the comments or over on Write It.

Have a good week Geeklings.  Keep your eyes peeled for news about this September’s Fan Con, and until next time, End of Line.

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Week of Geek: A Brief History of Anime Fandom

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Hiya Geekling!  Enjoying the warm weather?  Ready for summer (and by extension, school to be over)?  I know I am.

So I just got back from Anime North this last weekend.  Had a lot of fun, learned some new things, got a little puppet-type critter that I hope will sit on my shoulder during my visits with the public and will delight young and old alike.  Good times.

But one of my favorite things I did this weekend was attend a panel on anime fandom in North America, presented by these guys.  I like fandoms, I like fans, I like history, and I like anime so this was a win win win win.  And in the interests of public service, I thought I’d pass some of the interesting tidbits I learned on to you guys, ’cause I’m nice like that.

So first of all, fandom for Anime on this side of the globe is much older than most people would expect.  A lot people think that it really took off in the early 2000s (or if you’re old like me, you peg it somewhere in the 1990s).  North American fans of anime have been around for about 60 years.  WHAT?!  But one of the reasons most of us may not know that was because being able to access anime was much more difficult back then than it is now.  You basically had to hope it was on broadcast TV or you had to know a guy if you wanted to see it.

One of the big things to kick it all off was a little show called Astro Boy.  It aired on NBC in 1963 and actually beat The New Adventures of Superman in the ratings.  It was followed by Speed Racer in 1968, and then more shows followed, so a lot of Baby Boomers grew up with anime shows.  Funny thing; we had protesters on Sunday convention, but the panelists pointed out that that was nothing new; there were protesters back in the 60s.  TV watch groups wrote a scathing review of Speed Racer back when it first aired.

So there’s that.

In the 1970s you got giant robots coming on the scene with Shogun Warriors.  These were toys that were popular even without a show to back them up.  The first mini festival for anime fans was held in that decade.  The first English language manga, Barefoot Gen, was published.  After Star Wars became huge a lot of related-anime was released, like Battle of the PlanetsGalaxy Express was the first anime movie to get a theatrical release in the US.  The show Star Blazers aired in 1979 and became so popular it spawned it’s own fanzine and it’s own mini cons.  It was during this decade that you got to see the first anime cosplayers at these events (though the term ‘cosplayer‘ didn’t really come into use until 1984) and where you got the first real divide among fans between heavily edited and dubbed English versions and the original Japanese versions of anime.

On to the 1980s.  Now we have Japanese arcade games and laser disc games coming onto the scene, as well as home video in 1984.  Voltron aired that same year.  Yamoto Con was the first official con in North America.  More magazines, model kits and shows came out during this decade.  You could conceivably come home from school and watch an afternoon of anime shows.  The term ‘Japanimation‘ was first coined in the 80s.  Akira was given a theatrical release in 1989 and that was a pivotal moment.  It was a film that made even the staunchest of critics, the ones who insisted all of this was ‘just for kids’, take notice and realize we had a genuine art form on our hands.

Then the 1990s, when things got even more mainstream.  It was rough for the first part of the decade because of changing economics in both the US and Japan, making it more expensive to buy and produce shows.  Some toy stores went out of business during this time, and despite studios attempting to crack down on them, bootlegged VHS tapes, merchandise and fan dubs were pretty rampant.  But when production costs went down things got much better.  Stations like the Sci Fi Channel, Toonami on the Cartoon Network, YTV and Global were all known for airing anime on television.  Sailor Moon and Pokemon came out during this time and exploded in popularity.  We had anime-inspired movies like The Matrix.  It was starting to take off globally too.Image result for anime meme sailor moon

In the 2000s though, pretty much any barrier that had existed to keep you from getting into anime dissolved.  In the early part of the decade you could still watch stuff on TV and in cable packages.  We had new franchises like Cardcaptors and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which was the #1 show on Cartoon Network across all demographics, even with a Japanese theme song (that hadn’t happened before).  DVDs and Blu Rays changed the game, as they took up less space, were often less expensive and could include both subtitles and dubs.

And then came the internet.  Good heavens, the internet.

That brought anime fans together worldwide, and made it so much easier to promote conventions.  Before we had search engines we had websites like Anime Web Turnpike, which listed all the anime-related sites you could visit (back in the days when the internet was small enough you could list certain sites on one page).  Fansites and webcomics exploded.  From 2000 – 2006 there was a huge spike in peer-to-peer file sharing and fan subs.  There was also an explosion of conventions and memes.

Then from 2007 to 2008 there was an anime crash, due to low-quality and much too expensive DVDs causing certain companies to fold, including Bandai.  But what emerges from that?  Crunchyroll.  We now have other online streaming services like Funimation, Netflix and Amazon Prime, often airing their episodes within a few weeks of them airing in Japan, or sometimes the next day.

And that brings us to now.

WHEW!

OK, that was REALLY fast and short, but you get the idea.  Anime in North America has a long and rich history, not just confined to the last couple of decades.  And the main thing to realize now is how much more accessible everything is; we can now watch and discuss these series as they air, which is really cool.

Anything else I left out?  Post away in the comments.  Have a great week Geeklings, and until next time, End of Line.

Week of Geek: Ani-May, My exploration continues…

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Hiya again Geeklings!  Hope your May is going great.  I mentioned before it’s MerMay, but did you know it’s also Ani-May?  A celebration of all things Anime and Manga?  It’s true!  And with Anime North coming up this weekend I thought I’d check back in with my Part-Time Otaku status and see what else is out there apart from my usual go-to series; Sailor Moon, Black Butler and Yuri on Ice.  Still love ’em all, but… what else we got?

A lot, it turns out.

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So, what’s new?  Well, as a teen librarian, I try to pay attention to new teen books coming down the pipelines (makes sense), and one I keep hearing about is a new (at least to North America) manga series called Isekai Izakaya “Nobu”.  The description immediately caught my attention.  It’s set in an Izakaya, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of a pub.  But it’s front door opens onto a parallel world, some sort of European-esque fantasy type realm (there are two moons in the sky, so it’s not here).  So the people who live there get to try these Japanese dishes they’d never get access to otherwise.  I haven’t read the manga yet, but there is an anime version of the series on Crunchyroll, Isekai Izakaya: Japanese Food From Another World.  I watched the first two episodes; the actual animated part is pretty short and the episodes basically consist of a couple of guys losing their minds over the food and drinks at this pub.  But the way they describe the food is delightful, especially from the perspective of people who’ve never had these kinds of dishes before. I’ve talked about food before on this blog, but really is there ever a bad time to talk about food and fandom?  I think not!

And in honor of that I’ve updated my Geek Cooking list.  Plus, we’ve got a ton of books on Japanese food.

I’ve also started a series called Magical Girl Ore (or Mahou Shoujo Ore).  This is a weird one, but a totally tongue-in-cheek and hilarious play on the Magical Girl trope.  It centers around Saki, a 15 year old girl who discovers that her mother was a Magical Girl, and is passing the torch on to Saki (along with a gruff Yakuza-type ‘sidekick’).  But when Saki transforms for the first time she… well, she turns into a guy.  A very muscular guy still dressed in frills and bows.

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That’s just one of the many ways this series subverts it’s own genre.  I’m five episodes in and I’ve discovered it also plays with love triangles, cute demons, things with tentacles and even making anime itself.  I’ve laughed out loud quite a few times and I’m loving the characters.  (A couple words of warning though; I haven’t been able to find a rating on this series, but from what I’ve watched there’s swearing, some violence and it can get pretty suggestive, so head’s up.)

And for manga, I’ve started reading Blue Exorcist.  This one’s got more of a horror element to it, as it features a boy named Rin who discovers that he is literally the spawn of Satan.  But, deciding he wants none of that, he agrees to train to become an exorcist so he can defeat the demon within.  That alone would be enough to peak my curiosity, but as I’ve been reading I’ve discovered there’s also family secrets, a really elaborate and quirky school and interesting characters.  Colour me sold.  (Funny though, I’ve had to re-read a couple of parts because I’m still getting used to the right to left style; ‘Oops, wrong order, try again’).  It also has an anime series if you want to give that a try (Crunchyroll has both subtitled and dubbed versions).

So in the spirit of all of this I decided to look at some sources online and find some great anime series and manga titles that teens (you guys!) can start out with if you’re just dipping your toes into the format.  I’ve compiled two lists.

Any favorites of yours, Geeklings?  Post away in the comments or on WriteIt.

Here at VPL we’re hard at work on year 2 of Vaughan Fan Con, so keep an eye out for that.  Have a great week everybody, and until next time, End of Line.

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