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THEM Anime Q&A round 2 part 1

September 26, 2011

THEM Anime Q&A round 2 part 1

Once again, we have another round of "ask us questions, and we'll answer". But while the asking process were more or less coming from our forum members, we managed to get more of our staff involved this time around. Here are the ones taking place in this Q&A session. (Also, in a little twist of irony, one of the questioneers eventually gained a staff position with us at THEM anime after the whole Q&A session has ended.)

Bradley Meek seems to be under the anime and manga spell of "perpetually late to school" syndrome, so some of his answers will arrive a little later. We've got more buckets of water ready for him for when he does.

CR - Carlos Ross
SH - Stig Høgset
TJ - Tim Jones
BM - Bradley Meek
RN - Robert Nelson
AF - Aiden Foote


Are there any anime that are too bad to review for THEM? After all, there are reviews on here for both Eiken and Mars of Destruction, how bad is too bad to review? - Ashlynx

CR: I reviewed APOCALYPSE ZERO. After having seen that, very, very little can faze me, not even hentai. Though I would of course prefer to be watching good anime.

SH: I don't think there are any shows that are too bad to be reviewed. After all, if you've already seen it, it doesn't really matter anymore. You might as well just write about it. There's definitely anime that are too bad for rewatching, though.

TJ: Depends on the difficulty of writing it. Some series I personally hated I found a lot easier to write than others. I'm typically open to reviewing anything except hentai, though.

BM: No such thing for THEM, though none of us have touched hentai in years and aren't likely to in the near future. However, I find lolicon repulsive and difficult to watch, so I'd have a difficult time reviewing anything like Astarotte's Toy without being driven to distraction by subtext. Thankfully, Tim and Stig do a good job covering those kind of things between the two of them, while mercilessly mocking them on our forums.

That said, an increasingly popular topic for anime blogs and review sites is writing about cheesy, forgotten OVAs and movies of the 80's and 90's. This Colony Drop article about the finer points of MD Geist and Paul Thomas Chapman's Vault of Error exemplify this attitude of finding value in the worst of trash. These articles are entertaining and thought-provocative in their own way, but reclaiming and reexamining that era isn't really something I can ever see THEM doing, largely because most of these articles are a reaction to the growing influence of the Akihabara set in modern anime. THEM has more or less made its peace with anime today, so sifting through the forgotten remnants of an overheated industry doesn't really appeal to us.

RN: As a whole, we are pretty professional with our reviews and seek to give the most accurate and detailed reviews possible. So, we can begin to watch any anime without too much of a problem. Finishing it may be a different story in the case of a TV series, especially if it is more than one season long.

AF: Nothing is too bad to review, really; it's quite easy (and cathartic) to write a scathing review about something that I really hated. I have watched shows not worth writing about though - plain, boring average shows are the ones I want to write about the least (Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, for example).


Do you guys have physical anime or manga collections? What in your collection are you the most proud of? - Ashlynx

CR: I used to have a much larger merchandise collection before moving to Florida, but now I find I don't have the space or time to maintain one. I do cherish my art books, though, particularly any and all Studio Ghibli art books I own.

SH: I do have a relatively sizable collection of anime and a respectable manga collection. There's no particular titles I'm more proud of owning than the others, but there ARE shows I'm delighted that I have the chance to own on DVD, like -- and I'm sure you could see this coming -- Aria in its entirety. If only I could have said the same of the manga.

TJ: My anime and manga collections are actually quite small. Anime-wise, I own a few complete series: Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!, Living for the Day After Tomorrow, the three subbed Sailor Moon movies, Taisho Baseball Girls, and so forth. Manga-wise I own all of Imadoki, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Land of the Blindfolded, Love Roma, and the 20 volumes of Sgt. Frog released in the U.S. I tend to watch the grand majority of my anime these days via crunchyroll, ANN, or Funimation's website.

BM: Since I've lived a fairly nomadic student life, my anime collection is bound in three leather cases and is rapidly approaching four. It ain't pretty- in fact, I know I own several DVDs that could fetch a pretty penny if I hadn't thrown away the covers in the interest of space- but it's functional and I never lose DVDs like I once did when I kept everything on shelves and in boxes. The pride of my collection is probably Media Blaster's release of Urusei Yatsura and all of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross.

RN: I am proud of the fact that I can use my anime DVD wallet to crush small children.

AF: I own no manga whatsoever but I have a reasonable animé collection filled with the necessities like Haibane Renmei, Cowboy Bebop, Planetes, Serial Experiments Lain, Excel Saga, Baccano!, Kino's Journey, Paranoia Agent, etc as well as most of the Ghibli movies and Satoshi Kon's movies.


Name a scene or plot line or character, etc, from an anime or manga that is still on your mind, even years later. What left an impact so big on you it still haunts your mind? - Ashlynx

CR: The entirety of GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES still haunts me to this day.

SH: I would never use the word "haunts" for this, but if there is one movie that was the first to make certain, curious impact on me, then the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" would be it. Up until then, I had mostly watched whatever Manga Entertainment put out, as well as a few harem shows a la Tenchi Muyo. My Neighbor Totoro is possibly the movie that planted the seed that would later grow into a rather extentive love for quiet, slice-of-life shows like Aria, Natsume Yuujinchou, Hidamari Sketch or even Haibane Renmei. And there is no particular scene, line or character that stands out in this case. The whole movie is what made that impact, almost from the get-go.

TJ: The bonus episode of Excel Saga, which was the most excessive thing I ever saw in anime at the time. And it wouldn't be the last time, either. There was also a scene in Kodocha that actually made me cry - a scene in an episode where Aono was bullied in school for her father being in jail, and Tsuyoshi comforting her. I don't know WHY that particular scene made me cry, but it did.

BM: The ending of Haibane Renmei. I won't say more because of spoilers, though.

RN: Not sure if any anime actually "haunts" me (as in scaring me). But there are some that even after a whole lot of inactivity in the hobby that stick in my mind. As a teacher living in Asia, I can connect very well with Great Teacher Onizuka. My hidden desire to be as great as Onizuka sticks with me and brings up my spirits when I am down.

AF: The last five minutes of Monster. Quite possibly the best ending to any animé around, in my opinion, in the way that it takes 74 episodes of ideas and wraps them up neatly in almost a handful lines of dialogue. Genius.


Have you ever watched a show that has actually lived up to its ridiculously high hype for you? - Ashlynx

CR: I really, really enjoyed the heck out of THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA, which was, for lack of a better phrase, "otaku-popular" - really big among fanboys and not so hot among casual fans. In other words, normally the kind of show that annoys the crap out of me.

SH: Two, actually. The first one is Haibane Renmei, which I tried out on a strong recommendation from the THEMers. To be honest, I was sceptical at first, but the show more than lived up to the claims I had gotten from the other forum members.

The second one is, not to sound like a broken record; Aria. In this case, the manga had built up such ridiculous expectations for the anime to fulfill, and thankfully, it did.

TJ: Gurren Lagann. Loved it.

BM: Redline got amazing hype from the anime critic set in the run-up to its DVD release in Japan. First Tim Maughan gives it a glowing review on ANN, then as the movie makes its way through the film festival circuit, seemingly every blogger and writer I follow on my Twitter feed couldn't stop talking about it. The sheer level of hype got to me, and when I finally sat down to watch it with a friend, I was ready to be let down. I wasn't- there should be a review in the near future about why.

RN: Trigun was consistently hyped by my friends and after a long time, I finally did sit down and watch it. It was certainly worthwhile.

AF: Princess Tutu. While it doesn't have a 'buzz' or particularly vocal following (besides me), it was recommended quite strongly by quite a few people who's opinions I respect (some here on THEM) and it more than lived up to the praise it has received. A work of art.


What are some of your favorite non-Japanese cartoons? - Ashlynx

CR: These days, I don't watch much animation, but I'd have to say FAMILY GUY (which is admittedly hit-or-miss and actually took me a really long time to get into) and PHINEAS AND FERB.

SH: For a classic animation showcase altogether, you can't really beat Fantasia. Just don't ask me about the short segments that were cut out. Another old favorite of mine is the Snowman, a rather amazing short movie based on the book by Raymond Briggs.

For more conventional fares, I'm particularly fond of Animaniacs, plus some of the older Warner Bros fare. Also, I have a fondness for the old Garfield animated features, especially Here comes Garfield, Garfield on the Town and Garfield in the Rough. I'm not one of the people who hate the recent Garfield strips, but I'm certainly in agreement over the opinion that it used to be better before, and the aforementioned titles are great examples of how Garfield used to be.

TJ: Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes series, for one. I also like seasons 3-6 of The Simpsons (and season 7 and 8 to a lesser extent), Futurama, Garfield and Friends, Ducktales, Pinky and The Brain, Top Cat, early 1958-59 era Yogi Bear, and the recent Regular Show.

BM: MTV dipped their toes into adult animation in the nineties, and while they quickly abandoned Liquid Television, the few shows that came out of that experiment are some of my favorites. Aeon Flux is weird and fetishistic, often for its own sake, but fun, and Clone High is goddamn hilarious twenty years later, but the best of the lot was clearly Downtown, a slice-of-life cartoon about young folks in their twenties living down-and-out in New York City, with some beautifully expressive animation that might still be the best I've seen from a television show.

Of course, there's the adult swim comedies, and in that same spirit, Archer might be my favorite comedy on TV right now. I also like some series that are clearly for kids (Adventure Time, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic) and some that blur the line (Invader Zim, Batman: The Animated Series). And, of course, I love trawling through YouTube to watch classic Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons.

RN: The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

AF: Futurama and the older Simpsons episodes.


If you could live in any anime world/universe, which one would it be and why? - Ashlynx

CR: A universe where I could travel freely between this world and another (ie. ESCAFLOWNE, RAYEARTH, etc), largely because I am obsessed with travel and nature and want to experience as much of it as I possibly can.

SH: Believe it or not, I'm quite happy with where I live. Had it been possible, there's quite a few things from anime I would have liked DOING, though; like visiting Neo-Venezia, travelling with the Three-Nine, visiting Glie, Visiting Wagnaria and having Mahiru Inami as my personal waitress.

....

On second thought, scratch that last one.

TJ: Tough one. Hmm....maybe Aria's? I dunno.

BM: Aria. No real contest- the series is the best travel brochure for an imaginary world ever made.

RN: Honestly, I can't think of an answer to this question.

AF: I wouldn't mind a few day trips to Neo-Venezia to take a ride in the Aria girls' boats. Just for the peace.


With so much anime available every season thanks to fansubbing, how do you decide what series to watch in any given anime season? - Heart of Storm

CR: When I was active, it was completely based on interest and availability. I'm sure that wouldn't change if I started back up again tomorrow.

SH: Actually, with how licensors have been so good at licensing anime I want to watch, or putting it on Crunchyroll, I've barely been having to resort to fansubs at all. And that's kind of awesome, really.

TJ: I typically go after more slice-of-life shows, honestly. High school comedies tend to be high up there as well, but I preview them first due to the high amount of them.

BM: Reviews and season previews written by better reviewers. That said, since there's so much anime available freely, legally or illegally, it's not much of an issue to watch something I don't think I'll like and go for something that doesn't provoke my interest. It makes me wonder sometimes if reviewers really have a strong place in online anime fandom.

RN: An anime series is a pretty large commitment for me. Most of the time, I just pick ones with the least amount of episodes. Kind of lame, but it works for me.

AF: I try most things for an episode or two but I have to be judicious. Productions by companies and people I have come to trust (such as SHAFT or Junichi Sato) will always get preferential treatment in terms of my time and attention but I'll usually give a chance to anything that isn't obviously rubbish or clearly outside my interest (blatant sex comedies, yaoi, etc).


We've all got anime we love and others we've dropped a couple of episodes in, but sometimes we actually see something through despite hating it the entire time. What's the worst anime you've actually finished? - Kmarple1

CR: The vast majority of "terrible" anime I've finished are four episodes or less. I feel no obligation to waste my time on truly bad anime that last longer than that. That being said, APOCALYPSE ZERO, by a landslide. Good gravy that was awful.

SH: I did once call Kono Aozora the worst anime ever made -- well, to be more specific, I said it was my new least favorite anime -- and, thanks to the ever-progressing synchro sessions, that's one I made myself suffer through in its entirety. (With invaluable help from Tim, who suffered the show with me. Thanks, buddy. And... I'm sorry.)

In reality, Kono Aozora actually shares last place with ICE, the idol-promoting,, pretentious, poorly acted, misandric bitchfest that at least was over in three episodes instead of thirteen. And Brad was the fellow sufferer with me on that one.

TJ: Although I share with Stig Kono Aozora ni Yakusoku wo as the worst anime I've ever seen from beginning to end, I'm going to say that Dragon Crisis! was worse in that regard in that it had a lot more on its plate than the garbage visual novel adaption. ArtLand is also a no-name company for the most part, and Studio Deen actually has produced some good anime. So to see them work on a show with poor animation, unappealing, moe character designs, one-dimensional characters, four unfunny comic reliefs, and deus ex machina plot devices was painful to say the least. Bad directing and writing didn't help.

BM: ICE OVA. An ignorant critique of feminism coupled with a shallow story and inane violence makes for the single most vile cartoon I've ever watched. DVD is coming out in America soon, and I'm probably going to rewatch it to make sure I didn't imagine just how awful it is.

RN: Toss up between Bottle Fairy and Cool Devices. Really took one for the team with the latter.

AF: Yosuga no Sora. I feel ashamed to admit that I watched that crap.


Have you ever been inspired to get into a hobby or activity because of anime? - Sweetpea

CR: This website is the result of that very inspiration, though I can't claim having founded it (I was merely a very long-lasting steward). Just about ten years of my life, and I regret none of it.

SH: No.

TJ: I did actually play mahjong for a bit after watching Saki, since the series makes little to no effort to tell you how mahjong is actually played. It didn't last long, though.

BM: Other than writing about it? I tried to pick up gunpla (Gundam models) once. Bought a cheap model at a convention, and tried to piece it together one afternoon. And I really enjoyed myself- until a small piece of the leg popped out of my hand and rolled onto the carpet. I never found the fucker, and never tried to make another model, though I often think it would be fun to give it another shot. That said, I am always short on cash, and can hardly justify the money I spend on video games, anime and Magic cards to myself. I'm not comfortable with the idea of picking up another expensive hobby.

RN: Yes. Comic books.

AF: Writing animé reviews.


Do you ever follow up an anime with the manga? - Sweetpea

CR: Sometimes, yes, and vice versa - I'll sometimes read the manga first and get into the anime.

SH: I have... sometimes. Usually, it's the other way around, though, but it has happened before -- with Chobits, for instance -- and it may very well happen again.

Also, when Violence Jack was made available via scanlations, I just had to read some of it, and... it's actually pretty good. It's completely different from the anime, which I'm sure will surprise nobody. It had the same dire bent to it, but without the heavy misandric attitude hanging over it.

The best example of an anime being followed-up by a manga, though, is none other than Natsume's Book of Friends, which anime was the reviewers choice of the Reversed Secret Santa project of 2009.

TJ: Yes. I've actually been doing this for the last couple of seasons to get a scope of how different the two are. This especially applies to series I thought had a lot of filler in them, and then the manga reveals they have little of it.

BM: No; I don't read manga.

RN: Yes. I did with Azumanga Daioh, Chobits and tried to do it with X (though there was too much for me to read).

AF: Yes. I did so with Fruits Basket, Ao no Exorcist and a few others.


What other interests/hobbies do you have besides anime? - Sweetpea

CR: Birding, geocaching, video games, music, watching NCAA football ... the real question is what hobbies and interests DON'T I have?

SH: I've listed those on my profile page. Outside of that, I've also made a couple of Let's Plays just for the fun of it. (The screenshot-and-text variety.)

TJ: Writing, taking long walks, and watching movies. (The latter is actually quite recent for me.)

BM: PC gaming, especially indie games (which I know isn't really a genre), strategy games, RPGs, puzzle games and old fashioned, frantic shooters, the kind that were popular before the genre became tainted with sickening propaganda and a fetish for war, not to mention streamlined design that robs the genre of a lot of its joy. MOBA games, especially Heroes of Newerth, are some of my favorites right now, and I'm really looking forward to Dota 2.

Then there's reading, watching movies, and music. I could talk all day about any of these topics.

RN: Video games, poker, ping-pong, chess, backgammon, NFL football.

AF: Film, music, books, I love anything the least bit arty; my love of animé coming as an extension to my love of foreign language film in general. That said, I just love to write - I try to be as much a creator as a consumer.


What inspires you to keep watching anime year after year? - Sweetpea

CR: Hoping to find that one great show each year that my wife and I will really enjoy.

SH: Because there are always the gems that makes it worth it. This year, it's Usagi Drop and the third season of Natsume Yuujinchou.

TJ: Well, as dumb as it sounds, it's a lot easier to check out anime online via official streaming sites than getting around the DVR-crazy place I live in. Anime is far more accessible now than it was when I got into this hobby a decade ago, and for that reason I embrace writing reviews of anime when I have the chance.

BM: The short answer: it keeps coming out with new anime holds my interest. The anime industry isn't in a good place right now, but I keep finding reasons to like new stuff. And there are a lot of excellent classics and older titles I haven't seen yet.

RN: I haven't been watching it consistently. But when I did, it was because all of my other friends shared the hobby with me. It was a nice way to bond.

AF: I watch animé because it seems to be one of the few television based media that has a reliable chance to produce shows of real quality. Of course a lot of it is terrible but animé's rate of success is way too high for me to ignore it. Great media should be cherished!


Anime at one point was considered more mature in terms of plotlines and subject matter than most live-action television, especially in the 80s and early 90s. Do you feel that live-action TV programming has caught up with or exceeded anime in its storytelling capabilities? Why or why not? - Jason Huff

CR: I feel that more and more, works need to be treated on an individual basis. In many ways, I feel that anime on the whole has actually regressed in terms of storytelling capabilities, as more and more series are aimed towards a smaller niche audience. Meanwhile, there are lots of interesting live-action series out there with over-arcing storylines - one great example of mature US television is the recently-concluded RESCUE ME, with its heroic yet horribly flawed and clearly mortal characters in often-controversial storylines. Sure, at times it's sexed-up, but the core premise is quite compelling and highly realistic, and unlike series of just a few years ago, you get the feeling that anyone can die. Same goes with THE SOPRANOS for that matter. Even GLEE has had a character death (not a major one, but enough to matter). Inversely, it feels like it's been a while since a character death has meant anything to me in an anime.

SH: I must shamefully admit I haven't really watched a lot of the most recent live action TV shows out there, but I don't really see any reason why they couldn't be. It's possible that TV shows in general has been stuck in a bit of a rut lately, due to the influx of reality shows or shows where people compete for the chance for fame. This is mostly why I watch, if anything, more documentaries or historical shows. Or movies.

TJ: Ah yes. I remember you talked about this a while back. I would say that yes, live-action has caught up with anime in terms of storytelling. Because unlike anime, which has been getting more diluted recently to appeal to a wider audience, America/British/wherever else live-action television is allowed to be unabashedly culture-specific in its content. Love it or lump it, one of the biggest reasons anime isn't more popular is because of the wide culture barrier - you have to be Japanese (or into the hobby for a long time) to understand quite a few jokes here and there, especially in comedy anime. I've actually reached the latter mark, though some things still confuse me.

BM:

RN: The capabilities to develop great storylines has always been there for live-action TV. All in the Family had great episodic storylines and touched upon controversial social and political issues and that was during the 70's. It was just easier and more cost-effective for producers to churn out the same cheesy family TV sitcoms time and time again.

When the demand for newer and more complex material increased, producers saw the new market and filled the need. Now, shows like House, 24, and Law & Order exist. So yes, I do believe that many live-action TV shows have surpassed anime TV shows.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think the viewer's market forced the producers to use skills and tools that they had but rarely (if ever) used before.

AF: I think some has. It's definitely true that most TV shows to be found here in the west until the last decade were not real quality viewing (not compared to their cinema counterparts) but things have definitely moved on (The Wire, enough said).

To be honest though, the western failing now seems to be that producers equate 'maturity' with 'adult content' and that is something that they're going to need to overcome before they truly catch up with animé. Once they make some more shows with the depth and intelligence of Haibane Renmei or Paranoia Agent then we talk about them being on the same league.


Which anime character or character's do you most closely identify with...not necessarily a favorite, just one that makes you go, "yeah, that's totally me."

On the same token, the same question holds for live action TV as well. - Servant Saber

CR: I've identified with Miwa Satoshi from MARMALADE BOY for a very long time, though I've mellowed out some since my college years.

SH: I don't think there are any characters out there that's totally me. I mentioned to someone earlier that I used to share quite a few traits with the character Alice Carroll from Aria, in that I used to be a little bit antisocial and... well, direct. The me of today, however, share more similarities with characters like Natsume Takashi or Yakumo Fujii, but not enough to mark them as my anime twins. On the live action front, I don't really have an answer for you.

TJ: Can't really think of any in either anime or live-action, sorry. I'll come back to this later if I do.

BM:

RN: Eikichi Onizuka. Yeah, I'm not extreme as him. But I am a bit of idealist like he is when it comes to teaching. Also, Leonard from The Big Bang Theory.

AF: Probably none completely but there are a few partial cases. I have a certain affinity for the whole main cast of Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko that is almost uncanny.


Which genre of anime was your favorite when you first started watching, and how have your tastes changed over the course of your viewing history. - Servant Saber

CR: Part of the problem is that, while my tastes have changed a little, the primary audience of anime seems to have evolved fairly drastically. Too many series emphasize the "moe" aspect of things, which is of virtually no interest to me. Would KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD be made today? Probably not - but that's precisely the kind of show I enjoy. More and more my demographic has been squeezed out of the hobby - 30s and married is NOT the typical anime fan these days.

SH: When I started out, I was a big horror and fantasy fan, which reflected itself in the choices I made for my first anime titles: 3x3 Eyes, Heroic Legend of Arislan, Vampire Hunter D and so forth.

Those tastes haven't changed much, but I've also picked up a love for slice of life and comedy over the years, particularly the former, and PARTICULARLY the "healing" kind, as they are described.

TJ: When I started watching, it was action/magical girl fluff. Nowadays it's slice-of-life, though I also enjoy comedy, action, and sci-fi series. I've even warmed up to mecha, a genre a decade ago I couldn't stand, with shows like GunxSword, Martian Successor Nadiesco, and Gravion.

BM:

RN: I used to be into more fighting-oriented anime such as Dragon Ball Z and steered away from shows that required deeper knowledge or more complexity. As I got older, I matured and became more interested in them.

AF: I've never really paid attention to genre really - it's never been something that puts me off - but I probably had more patience for mecha when I first started watching animé. I've kinda drifted towards softer, slower-paced series over the years.


Have you had contact with other kinds of japanese/asian media aside from anime? Which do you follow regularly? - Venus Rozen

CR: Oh yeah. Anime and manga don't exist in a vacuum - there's lots of other aspects of Japanese culture to enjoy, and I do on a regular basis, primarily JRPGs and music.

SH: Manga aside; I also tend to play a good chunk of videogames made in Japan, which includes RPGs, adventure games, platform games and fighting games. I'm not particularly into Japanese music, and I don't think my collection of OSTs and OP/ED singles is big enough to make this count.

TJ: I do occasionally watch music videos of Japanese music on YouTube, but I don't really keep up with anything.

BM:

RN: When living in South Korea, I was bombarded by Korean bubblegum pop music to the point where I actually began to like it. I've been shielded more from Chinese media due to it being mostly awful.

AF: I've watched quite a few LA Japanese movies; the old Kurosawa movies, especially, are splendid (Ikiru is one of my very favourite films). My fondness for horror has also led me to quite a few different J-Horrors that I have enjoyed to various degrees. Overall I prefer animé though.


What's your favorite anime studio? - Venus Rozen

CR: You get three guesses and the first two don't count. (Hint: Italian term for hot wind from the Sahara!)

SH: It's easy to just say Studio Ghibli here. Their products are just about almost always a delight to watch. MADhouse has made some excellent stuff, as has Bones. And SHAFT... and... oh, phooey, I can't pick just one.

TJ: SHAFT.

BM:

RN: Ghibli.

AF: SHAFT. Next Question.


What person involved in the industry do you enjoy the most? What's your favorite of his/her works? - Venus Rozen

CR: Miyazaki is the easy answer, and PORCO ROSSO is still the most perfect of his movies for me.

SH: Again; namedropping Hayao Miyazaki is the easy way, because like I mentioned above, his movies are always a delight to watch. However, I'm going to go with Junichi Sato for this one, mostly due to his shows always being a delight to watch. He has obviously taken some inspirational cues from Aria for his Tamayura series, plus he made an anime based on a PACHINKO GAME a delight. My favorite is quite obviously his work on Aria.

TJ: I love Junichi Sato; I think he's a wonderful director (though moreso a series director). Aria, the first seasons of Kaleido Star and Sailor Moon, Magic User's Club (OAVs ONLY), and to a lesser extent Pretear and Croiseé in a Foreign Labyrinth are all shows ranging from great to good.

BM:

RN: I know I'm cheesy, but I love Hayao Miyazaki's work. Hard to pick just one, but I guess I'll go with Princess Mononoke.

AF: Masaaki Yuasa and Akiyaki Shinbou are my current idols. The latter for always making sure I'm well entertained and the former for always making sure I'm well challenged.


Favorite western animation studio/director (well-known or not)? - Venus Rozen

CR: If Pete Docter makes more movies like UP, then I foresee him becoming a big-time favorite of mine.

SH: That's actually a bit of a tough choice, but I'm going to go with Peter Jackson for this one. Not only has he made some hilarously goofy indie movies, but he's also the man behind my favorite movie trilogy; Lord of the Rings.

TJ: Nowadays Pixar, though they're hit-or-miss. On television Cartoon Network Studios because of Regular Show and, to a lesser extent, Adventure Time (though that's co-produced with Frederator Studios).

BM:

RN: Pixar.

AF: Sylvain Chomet.


If you could meet an anime character in real life, which would it be? - Venus Rozen

CR: Yang Wenli from LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES.

SH: There are so many characters I've loved in anime that I couldn't possibly answer this.

TJ: Eikichi Onizuka.

BM:

RN: Eikichi Onizuka.

AF: Until they make an animé featuring Themistocles I suppose it would have to be Hitagi Senjougahara. I need to marry her.


Any particular scene that left you open-mouthed... because of how weird it was? - Venus Rozen

CR: The entirety of PUNI PUNI POEMY.

SH: I got two words for you: "Excel" and "Saga". And any particular? Yeah, only a whole lot of them. Excel Saga was one of, if not THE, goddamned bizarre anime titles I've ever seen.

TJ: Waaay too many to count, but the first really big one for me that I can recall was the lounge in School Days in episode 8. Basically, it's a place in the school where the students can hang out and have sex with each other. Well, it turns out they're being filmed, and that the people running the booth then WATCH said videos of the students.

BM:

RN: The entire second half of End of Evangelion

AF: The part of Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei when they said the Japanese Prime Minister was a Chinese Communist. That level of satire isn't something I'd expect from the Japanese (but it was very welcome).


What was your gateway to anime? - Nick Browne, our newest staff member.

CR:

SH: 3x3 Eyes. I had long been looking at the ads for anime in the gaming mags I read in my teens/early twenties, and eventually, the one for 3x3 Eyes won out because I thought Pai in her Sanjiyan form looked kind of cool. At the time, I had no idea what to expect, but I had always loved fantasy, horror and particularly the kind with fantastic creatures in them, so me and 3x3 Eyes hit it off from the start.

TJ: Oddly enough, Astro Boy. I was sick from school 15 years back; my father rented some tapes of the series from someone he knew and I watched them. And although watching Pokemon and Sailor Moon helped spark the fire, I didn't really start getting into the hobby until 2000 with Kodocha. When our place got DSL in 2005, and then Netflix a year later, that's when my anime watching exploded. And it's been like that ever since.

BM:

RN: Dragon Ball Z.

AF: It was more gradual than that but it was probably either Eva or Martian Successor Nadesico.


What makes anime "unique" for you in structural terms? What formal aspects do you find there and nowhere else, or at least not commonly? Or at least a combination of certain formalities that you don't see very often? - Venus Rozen

CR: I think it's less a matter of structure and more a matter of presentation. Japanese animation pays a lot more attention to background detail than character movement, when compared to Western animation. Apart from that, it's also the ability to tell fantastic, otherworldly series on a much lower budget than a live-action series - 2D animation is still cheaper and easier than 3D, after all - so a wider range of material can be released. So perhaps the true answer to this is less about uniqueness than variety.

SH: Since I don't really watch a whole lot of live action movies from Japan, I'd have to say the cultural aspect; speech patterns, mannerisms, ethics... there are a myriad of variations when compared to... say, my own home country. Then again, that can probably be said about most countries on this planet. You might not think much about it, but you have someone trying to portray another country's culture without doing the research, and then you end up with Mad Bull 34. I'm sure the same can be said about other countries trying to portray the Japanese, with various results.

TJ: I like anime because it can go anywhere. For a western cartoon or (mostly) live-action series, you have a set story that, for the most part, is wrapped up rather quickly. But some anime are like a novel, in that there are many chapters to go through before you reach the end. Even slice-of-life comedy anime at times look back to previous events, something most cartoons on Nick or Cartoon Network seldom (if ever) do outside of maybe clip shows.

BM:

RN: In live-action, there are restrictions on what you can have the characters do and what environments you can create. But because in anime, the characters are (obviously) animated, you can make them do basically anything you want them to. That type of flexibility is what makes it so appealing to me.

AF: It's an interesting question. Some shows have nothing to separate them; Hanasaku Iroha is a recent (and ongoing) example of a show that is not outside the realms of what is possible with LA but there are certain things which do separate animé from other media forms.

Cuteness is one of them. While not impossible, real-life actors can't really compete with their drawn counterparts in this respect. Could Erio of Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko really be played by a living, breathing human being? If so, could they really have done the part to the same standard of mind blowing moéness? I doubt it.

Backgrounds and settings also don't have the same power and effect as they do in animé. Creators have a free reign with colour palettes, lighting and imagery that a similarly budgeted LA production cannot compete with. The atmosphere of Aria? Hidamari Sketch? Studio Ghibli? I've yet to see it.

The final thing is just plain good old imagery. The dreamscapes of Paprika? The memory worlds of Kaiba? Even the streets walked on by Lain with their blood red shadows and sun-shimmering crows? There are some true magicians out there with cameras catching the most incredible images but in terms of artistry... I don't think any televisual serial medium can compete with animé's consistency. Not because, necessarily, the superior ability of the creators but more so to do with how well animation lends itself to such art.


Have you read any anime's source light novel? How did it fare in comparison to its adaptation? What about anime based on western literary classics (besides Gankutsou and those multiple series based on children's novels from the XIXth centhury)? Which have you enjoyed, have they changed the way you interpret the source material? - Venus Rozen

CR: Would you believe that the KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD 2nd movie is a vast *improvement* on the source material? I kid you not - the novel was terrible, especially in regards to the treatment of the characters! (The 3rd novel was worse.) The movie cuts out several major (and stupid) plot points, and ultimately, though it wasn't great, it was light years better than what it was based on.

Other than that, I haven't read a whole lot of light novels, as I don't really have a lot of time to even watch anime these days!

SH: The closest I get to this example is Snow Queen, which is partially based on an ancient Scandinavian folk tale. Personally, I think the anime did a wonderful job with the old tale, at least as far as I've watched it. The narrative is obviously going to differ, but I had no problems with that.

I also somewhat recently watched Katri: Girl of the Meadows, though I cannot claim to have read the original on that one. But the show did a good job of portraying the Finnish countryside and the events and problems centered around Finland during the war. This is, sadly again, another unfinished watch for me, though.

I've never read any of the Japanese light novels that has had anime based on them.

TJ: Nope, I have never ready any light novels. I've read a few Western classics here and there, but not enough to go into any big discussion.

BM:

RN: I saw The Castle of Cagliostro, but not really as a basis for Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. I thought both were good. But overall, I really haven't read/saw any source material like that.

AF: I read the first eight Haruhi Suzumiya novels and I think the adaptation stands up well. My personal bias for the written word remains supreme but I don't have much of a bad word to say about the series. The series which perhaps rivals its literary source material best is Kino's Journey though. The artwork, pacing and general ambience bring a televisual life to the source material that really adds something - making watching it worthwhile even if you have read the stories in book form.


Any videogame-to-anime adaptions that stand out in a positive way for you? Is there any videogame that you'd like to see adapted into anime form? Any particular reason for it besides "I think it would be cool"? - Venus Rozen

CR: I usually really dislike video game to anime conversions, but the anime based on the TALES series have been good-to-fantastic.

I can't wait to see the PERSONA 4 anime: those characters were phenomenal, and the story was probably the best I'd seen in a JRPG. I really hope it succeeds.

Incidentally, I'd be curious to see ELDER SCROLLS or ASSASSIN'S CREED adapted to anime format, just to see what a talented director could do with those franchises, but I know it'll never happen.

SH: Barring the whole "visual novel game" aspect, I generally tend to avoid anime based on games, but there's been a few that has at least produced some generally entertaining movies or shows. The first one I ever watched was Super Street Fighter 2, which I recently "upgraded" to DVD. It's not a masterpiece of moviemaking, but a generally enjoyable martial arts/action flick. Compared to that, the anime versions of Tekken and Toshinden are just horrible.

What would I want to see? Well, provided I could get a "it will be good" guarantee, I would love to see Okami animated. Mostly because I thought it had an excellent visual and aural presentation, and who wouldn't love a white wolf as a main character?

TJ: I respect Pokemon for getting me into the hobby, but otherwise not really no. For anime I would want to see based on a video game - well until last year that would have been Persona 4, though that's already getting made. Now it would be Thousand Arms, which has such a rich, colorful cast that I would love to see the world explored in more 2-D detail. I vastly enjoyed the cutscenes, characters, and dialogue way more than the battle system for the game.

BM:

RN: I really can't think of any that stand out in my mind. Personally, video games are destroyed when converted to an anime series. Really, they should be left alone. But the almighty dollar beckons and provides another avenue of profit.

AF: Gungrave is an excellent animé and also a videogame adaptation. Not sure if it has much to do with the game, having never played it, but it's certainly a brilliant show. Personally I feel that there isn't much point in adapting games, for the most part. I play games, I don't watch them.


Any particular series so clever and precise in its worldview that it has actually changed your life philosophy? - Venus Rozen

CR: Subtly, but LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES certainly made me think quite a bit about our own world's geopolitics.

SH: No. And no shows should ever be expected to do so.

Which is not to say that I don't think shows, anime or not, should inspire you or give you ideas or motivations to do things, but there's something off when someone says about... well, just about anything... that it "changed my life".

TJ: Anime opened me up to a world of new, imaginative animation. I certainly wouldn't say it changed my life, though.

BM:

RN: Great Teacher Onizuka. As a teacher, it makes me happy to see another teacher connect with students on a personal level no matter unrealistic it is made out to be in the anime. It's not something you see in Asian middle and secondary schools. Most of the teachers keep students at arm's length outside of class and sometimes even detest them when inside class. The show is a reminder of what my profession is supposed to be like (for the kids more than for the teacher).

AF: No. My life philosophy, in the strictest sense, is under far stronger influences than filmed or animated productions but has a show ever broadened my horizons or helped me look at something important in a new way? Definitely. I found The Tatami Galaxy's viewpoint and message incredibly refreshing and emboldening. Haibane Renmei was was only a little off a religious epiphany in its portrayal of the dynamics of forgiveness. Even Eva (a series I'm not overly fond of) had incredible insights into psychology that have become some of the most fundamental components of my understanding of human nature. Animé is no slouch in delivering powerful messages.


If you could name one anime that deserves much, much more exposure than it gets, what would it be? - Nick Browne

CR:

SH: That's a hard question to answer, because it depends on what one means about exposure. Being a fan of generally niche shows like Aria or Natsume Yuujinchou, I could always just say that all those shows could do with more exposure. But honestly, in most cases, my favorite shows tend to be the ones that don't try to please everyone. It sounds like kind of a pretentious thing to say, and I realize that most shows nowadays need to do this to at least make up what it spent on its production budget. Besides, most of the shows I love have gotten DVD releases (or Crunchyroll streams) anyway.

I still wish Usagi Drop will get enough exposure for companies to release it on DVD, though. (Or Bluray with region B compatibility, for that matter.)

TJ: Kure-nai. It was too short (and the ending was rushed), but I really enjoyed the series, especially the main character himself and his brother-like relationship with Murosaki, a rare little kid in anime who actually acts like, well, a kid. (And no, I haven't seen the OAVs, for those curious.)

BM:

RN: Azumanga Daioh.

AF: To be honest, animé as a whole needs more exposure. Even with all the rubbish that it generates, it still remains one of the most consistently brilliant media forms out there.

You're looking for one show though and if there is one show that should be spread far and wide throughout animédom from its more reserved position then I would probably say NieA_7. It was funny and almost painfully relevant when it was made and now, in the current economic climate, it is only getting more poignant as we speak.

Continued in the next part...

- Stig Høgset


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