Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Karen Mystic`s Anime Reviews

Photo of Tokyo by
Norikazu Yamaguchi

What are Anime and Manga?

by Karen Mystic

What are anime and manga? The answer to the questions seems obvious to anyone acquainted with the terms ・"Japanese animation," for anime, and "Japanese comics" for manga ・until some people speakabout cultural diffusion. Because most anime usually starts out asa manga, the two words are congruent and sometimes interchangeablein the anime/manga fandom depending upon how different or similarthe manga and anime are for a certain story. Anime and its comicbook counterpart, manga, have obtained huge audiences worldwide.Reaching out to millions of people, the two artforms have inspiredfans to draw in "anime-style" and "manga-style" which leads to thebasic questions, "What is anime" and "what is manga?" Are theysimply Japanese art, made solely in Japan, or are they a genre, aparticular style of drawing?Anime's birthplace is Japan. What had beencalled "Japanimation" in the `60s and `70s is nowcalled "anime." "Japanimation" simply stood for animation featuredin Japan. The new word is a Japanese cognate of "animation," but ittook hold as a replacement for the original word with thedefinitions remaining the same when fans in other countries duringthe `80s and `90s considered the old word as racist. Both anime andmanga originated in Japan and were aimed directly at Japaneseaudiences; this makes them Japanese in nature.Although they are now dubbed and translated, their point oforigin remains in Japan. In the entertainment industry, they are apart of Japan's cultural identity. To call them a genre is to takeaway what has been cherished as Japanese for the past forty yearsbecause non-Japanese without any major connection to Japan would beable to participate in the fandoms. The artforms then lose theirspecial nature since they would no longer be foreign items.Some fans, however, consider anime and manga genres separatefrom cartoons and comics due to the different drawing styles. Asanime and manga spread and gain popularity throughout the world,aspiring artists who are inspired by this Japanese art are drawingin similar fashions by using the same shapes and patterns thatdeveloped over the past forty years. These artists lead some fansto wonder if anime and manga are a genre rather than a purelyJapanese art. According to the MSN Encarta, what classifies an artform as a genre is dependent upon "the basis of form, style, orsubject matter," of which anime and manga contain an extremely vastarray, making them too diverse and gigantic to be consideredgenres. If the categorization of artworks is paralleled to thecategorization of life ・a genre would be equal to a genus ・thenanime and manga would both fit under the equivalent of an order oranother group higher than a genre. According to those fans andartists, if the art looks like anime, then it must be anime; theyneglect and ignore the history of anime and its foundation, whichwould, when applied to their argument, contradict everything theysaid over the issue.Anime and manga began in Japan, but they have their deeperancestral roots in the Disney Company of America. Tezuka Osamu, whohas been regarded as the founder of anime, fell in love with Disneycartoons and modeled his artwork after Disney. However, despitethis historic fact, those genre-fans feel insulted at the notionthat anime from any age in its history should be called "Disney"or "cartoons." In light of this information, those fans seemhypocritical to consider anime a separate genre. According to theirview, the early anime must be considered "Disney" since Tezuka Osamudrew in "Disney-style." Calling anime and manga a genre also putstoo specific a label on this diverse art. Many different truegenres, such as Mecha and Shojo, exist within anime and only havetheir point of origin ・Japan ・in common. A young child's mindwould be ruined if the child thought Outlaw Star, an anime about thepromiscuous bounty hunter Gene Starwind, was the same as Hamtaro, ananime about hamsters who go on silly adventures; some people saythey are in the same "genre" even though Outlaw Star is gearedtowards adults while Hamtaro is suited to little kids. Since Disneyhad inspired foreign artists, anime ultimately inspiring otherforeign artists is unavoidable. However, those foreign artists, bysimply being foreign, are incapable of making anime or manga unlessthey go to Japan and become involved in the industry over there.Their art may be drawn in "anime-style" or "manga-style" just likehow Tezuka Osamu drew the first manga and anime in "Disney-style."In the end, the name for a broad type of artwork dependsupon the country it came from. Animation native to America must becalled "cartoons" while animation native to Japan must becalled "anime." Americans who want to make anime and manga musttravel to Japan and either become Japanese citizens or work as anemployee in a Japanese production studio. Although some fansconsider anime and manga a separate genre from cartoons and comicsdue to styles, they forget their point of origin is in Japan andthat their origin makes them different. Genre is not just basedupon style but also upon subject matter, of which anime and mangacontain a wide variety, placing them in a currently unnamed category above genre.

Petshop of Horrors

by Maturi Akino

Reviewed by Karen Mystic

This manga, Petshop of Horrors by Matsuri Akino, is really unique.It's one in which I love the story a whole lot, but I really don'tlike either of the characters; it's very iffy there. The tone ineach chapter is vastly different from the other - ranging fromhorrible and sadistic to wonderful and heart-warming. The wholemanga revolves around Count D and his customers who live in theChinatown of Los Angeles. Count D strikes me as being a strictlymoral man with very uncertain morals. His pets can either be normalanimals or mythological creatures. The pets, although animals, canlook exactly like humans and talk as well. However, only certainpeople can see them in their human forms.

The first chapter of the manga is Dream. Since this is the opening,we see all of the things that make Count D. His ambiguity in thathe shows a callous disregard for human life yet he wanted to spare ayoung teenage girl from a horrible devestating sight which couldpossibly ruin her life. D's comical side (his love for chocolate)is also revealed. I don't like the fact that D doesn't tell hiscustomers everything they should know when they buy their pets; theywouldn't break the rules of their contract if they knew what theconsequences would be. However, without the secrets, there would beno plot. I'm also wondering if the fate of the girl's two magicalbirds parallels her decision for her own future. Maybe, maybe not.While the manga does make some statements, not all of it is meant tobe insightful.

The second chapter (Despair) introduces Detective Leon Orcot,although I don't think his full name is mentioned at this point.It's a nice light-hearted chapter in comparason with the rest of thevolume, more comedy than anything else despite the title. I reallyenjoyed the character interaction here.

The third chapter Daughter is the most gruesome and also the mostunbelievable as a wild pack of rabid rabbits stampeed through LosAngeles. I couldn't stand Count D much in this chapter. Eventhough it does make a necessary and important statement which I likeabout the chapter (how kindness and ignorances combined cancorrupt), D acts arrogant and holier-than-thou. He knew what his twocustomers would do with their pet, and giving it to them was likegiving a toddler a loaded gun. Leon Orcot makes another appearance,skeptical about D's magical pets and wondering if there wassomething normal about it.

The fourth chapter (Dreizehn) is the most heart-warming, and I wasso happy at the ending. It's about a girl who was attacked andblinded. Count D gives her a dog to guard her and protect her.Even though D does some good things, I still can't bring myself tolike him after the rabid rabbit incident. Even so, I really lovedthis chapter; it just made me feel good inside. The artwork isawesome. Although the dog looks like a human, the way he positionshimself (when the girl kicked him out and when he sat near her bed) was absolutely like a dog, giving the reader a special insight into what he truly was.

On the whole, this is a good manga for people to love animals,mythology, comedy, and drama.

Speed Racer

by Karen Mystic

Although a very old anime, I doubt many of the younger generationshave watched it. In a sense, this anime's lack of audience over thedecades has made it new again and worthy of a review. I recievedthe recent release of Speed Racer as a Christmas gift, and I learneda lot about its original production and its dubbing from both theDVD and those on my mailing list who are more familiar with theanime.

The original name for the anime was "Mach Go Go Go". Dan Cooperreminded me that the name is a pun since "Go" is the Japanese wordfor "Five" There are three "Go"s in the anime. Go the Mach Five,Mifune Go the aspiring race car driver (Speed Racer), and Go theneed to hurry. It was created in 1967 roughly ten years beforeMobile Suit Gundam by Tatsunoko Productions, which was founded bythree brothers, Yoshida Tatsuo, Kenji,and Toyoharu.The special features say it was based upon their love for Americanculture, and this is certainly apparent throughout the series. Theanime focuses on cars and an aspiring driver. America values carsmore than the Japan does, so a Japanese citizen who loves cars wouldlook up to America. Also, Speed Racer highly resembles ElvisPresley, a prominent American cultural icon at the time. When Istarted watching it, I kept thinking of Elvis in a Jackie Chanmovie.Although it was based upon American culture, it still containsseveral slight fantasy elements commonly found in anime. In thefirst episode, thugs on motorcycles steal the plans for a superiorengine. Speed Racer and his dad then attack them by using wrestlingand martial arts techniques. Drivers take shortcuts near volcanoes,and villianous cars equiped with weaponry challenge the Mach 5.Also, there is a mysterious "Masked Racer" with a shameful past.At first, I thought the names like "Speed Racer", "Sparky,"and "Trixie" were the original Japanese names since they'recategorical. Categorical names are another frequent occurance inanime. However, a member of my mailing list informed me otherwise.Unfortunately, the DVD I recieved only comes in English, so I cannotcompare the dub with the original version.The Mach Five with all of its nifty gadgets is like a super car. Itcan drive over three times as fast as normal cars, it has specialblades to chop vegetation in its way, and it has underwater drivingcapability. Considering that Tatsunoko productions created the showwhen anime was still very young, I wonder if this anime is anancestor of the Mecha genre, which features superior machines(Gundams, Voltron) that characters utlize as though they were a part of the machine itself.

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