Anime Archives

Lost in Animeland: Lain, Boogiepop, Paranoia Agent

Today I’d like to look at three shows that aimed to create a roughly similar atmosphere, with varying levels of effectiveness. Serial Experiments Lain, Boogiepop Phantom, and Paranoia Agent all try to create a kind of creeping horror. Not jump scares, or sprays of gore, but a weird, oppressive feeling that keeps the watcher disoriented and in suspense. They share some storytelling and visual techniques in places, too: surreal imagery, washed-out color palettes, an emphasis on repetition and paranoia. All three have things to offer a viewer, but in my final judgment only Paranoia Agent, the late Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece, is ultimately successful as a single work. Let’s have a look!
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Lost in Animeland: Read or Die

Read or Die deserves its place on the list of Best Anime Ever, but I’ve always had a extra fondness for it, both because I identify with the heroine at times and because it was one of the first truly great anime I watched when it was actually coming out, as opposed to it being presented to me as part of the canon. I can still remember watching it for the first time (a pirated copy on my old Dell PC, please don’t tell on me) and realizing that this was something special and much better than the endless action shows I’d been watching to that point.

There have been two animated series so far (based on the original manga and spin-offs), set in the same continuity — a three-episode OVA series and a full-length TV show. The OVA series comes first, both chronologically and in-universe, so let’s look at that.
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Lost in Animeland: Hare+Guu and Nichijou

Comedy is hard. To date, I haven’t talked much about anime comedies, for a couple of reasons. First, and most important, in my experience they are much more of a subjective experience in terms of quality. There are shows that inexplicably “click” with me, comedy-wise, that leave others baffled, and vice versa. That makes recommendations, or preparing a best-of list, a tricky business.

Second, a lot of comedies — at least the sort that I like — depend fairly heavily on Japanese cultural and language knowledge. Shows like Lucky Star, for example, are only funny if you understand where the jokes and parodies are coming from, and thus are not particularly suited for a non-otaku audience.

Other brands of comedy, though, cross through cultural boundaries more easily. Here are a couple that I think are worth a look, even if you’re not steeped in anime fandom.
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[GUEST POST] Top 5 Anime That SciFi Fans Will Love

Anime is becoming extremely popular between the western world, and with their unique style of artwork and storytelling, it seems the Japanese have been on to something for a while that we westerners are only just catching hold of. Anime has a way of making the viewer identify with characters on a personal level, making it quite addictive to watch and somewhat heartbreaking when certain series come to an end.

Often based around tales of fantasy and alternate universes, Anime has many a treat in store for sci-fi fans, so today, Ash from AnimeSquad.net delivers a list of 5 anime series that Sci-Fi fans will enjoy!

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Lost in Animeland: Winter 2014, Part 2

Today we have the second half of the Winter ’14 season, alphabetically speaking. We’re now four weeks in, so I’ve seen three or four episodes of most of these shows, but I will keep the spoilers to episode one.

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Lost in Animeland: Winter 2014

Well, we’re almost two weeks into the Winter season, which has given me a chance to take a look at the first episodes. This season I’m trying a slightly different format — instead of covering every show, I’m including only the ones I either liked or found ridiculous/hilarious. Winter is traditionally a weak season (Spring and Fall are when the big-money shows air) but there’s a few shows shaping up to be good!

Side note: I’m leaving out a few shows with no SFF interest (Sakura Trick) and sequels to shows I haven’t talked about (Chuunibyou) so this isn’t 100% representative of my own viewing habits. Entries may contain spoilers, but only for the first episode.

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Lost in Animeland: Lyrical Nanoha and Gunslinger Girl

In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!

In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!

The tradition of schoolgirls fighting things — monsters, criminals, each other — is an old one in anime, going back through Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura. It’s such a common trope (especially since high school is the default setting for most shows) that it has spawned a whole set of adaptations, genre-twisters, parodies, and so on.

Someday I will get around to talking about Madoka Magika, a show that is in this genre and is probably at the top of my “favorite anime of all time” list. (It’s very difficult to write about because so much of its awesomeness is embodied in a few plot twists that are hard not to spoil. Short version, just go watch.) Today, though, I want to talk about a couple of other shows that have interesting takes on the basic concept.

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Star Wars: The Lost 1980′s Anime

Finally an answer to question: What if Star Wars was a 1980′s anime?

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Lost in Animeland: Black Lagoon and Black Heaven

This week, we have two shows that (a) are called “Black Something” and (b) fall well outside the norm for anime in terms of setting and protagonists. Anime fans apparently never get tired of high school students saving the world from monsters, or hapless guys with more magical cute girls than they know how to deal with. And while I’m certainly on board with those shows (when they’re good) it’s nice to do something different for a change. So today: Salaryman protagonists!
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Michaele Jordan is the author of the period occult thriller Mirror Maze and her stories have appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, The Crimson Pact, Volumes 4 and 5 and Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can visit her website at MichaeleJordan.com while waiting for the upcoming steampunk adventure Jocasta and the Indians.

You probably have not heard of this 2007 Korean film directed by Lee Sung-gang. Even most anime fans may miss it, since it is not a Japanese TV series about big-eyed school children slaying demons and manning giant robots. I don’t see any indication it was ever distributed in the USA, although it did appear in a few film festivals in 2008. And that really is a shame.

Mind you, this delightful film (with Ye-jin Son as Yobi and Deok-Hwan Ryu as Geum-ee) makes very little sense. Just for starters, let’s consider the prologue. We are told the history of a species of magical shape shifters known as nine-tailed foxes. There are several more references within the film to nine-tailed foxes. But there aren’t any nine-tailed foxes in it anywhere.
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Lost in Animeland: Index and Railgun

Going Forward

Now that I’ve done a once-over of the present season, here’s the plan. I’m going to talk about some shows that I have seen which (a) I think would be of interest to SFF fans, and (b) are not well known outside the anime community. Part of the stated purpose of this column is to be a sort of missionary from Animeland to SFFland, and my observation has been that many of the shows that people who live in Animeland consider required viewing are essentially unknown in the wider SFF world. So, if you’re already an anime fan, some of these are pretty old news, but take it from me that a lot of people still haven’t heard of them.

I’m also not going in any particular order, nor necessarily starting with the Best Shows Ever. (Really, that just provokes arguments.) I’m just going to talk about some shows I think SFF types might find interesting to watch, and try to explain the reasons and explore the flaws.

There will probably be some information in these columns that might be considered “spoilers” in the very strictest sense, but I’ll do my best not to ruin any big surprises, reveals, or endings. In the event that I absolutely can’t avoid it, I’ll slap a warning on the top of the column.

On to the shows!
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Anime Doctor Who!

Everything you need to know is in the title of this post.
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Lost in Animeland: Fall 2013, Part Two

Here’s my look at the rest of this anime season. Most of the shows I’d been particularly looking forward to were in the first installment, so this was a matter of sifting through the rest looking for gems — fortunately, some quite watchable stuff turned up! Once again, this is roughly in order from most interesting to least, with a few at the end that I plonked early on for idiosyncratic reasons.

Next time: some favorites from past seasons, all time classics, and more!
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Lost in Animeland! First Episodes, Fall 2013

Every quarter there’s a new anime season, with a whole new lineup of shows to take a look at! I watch through the first episodes of anything that might have some genre interest, and try to sort out what’s worth watching. Here’s the first part of the fall season, roughly from most to least interesting to me. (This isn’t all by any means — more to come!) I’ll try to say a bit about the show, and whether I plan to keep watching it.

My goal with this feature is to be comprehensible, even to the non-anime fan. To that end, there’s a Lost in Animeland FAQ and glossary which I’ll be updating as I go along. Feel free to leave questions in the comments here!
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Michaele Jordan is the author of the period occult thriller Mirror Maze and her stories have appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, The Crimson Pact, Volumes 4 and 5 and Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can visit her website at MichaeleJordan.com while waiting for the upcoming steampunk adventure Jocasta and the Indians.

Anime Alert: The Eccentric Family

by Michaele Jordan

I have discovered what may be the best sit-com ever! Yes, it’s an anime series. That doesn’t mean it’s not a moving yet comic family drama. And yes, since it’s being reviewed in SF Signal and not The Saturday Evening Post, it’s a fantasy, one could even say an urban fantasy, set in modern day Kyoto. Nonetheless, it is not about magic but about personal relationships-not inter-species romances, but the bonds between brothers and cousins and fathers, and the mystery of making these absurd connections work.
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Michaele Jordan is the author of the period occult thriller Mirror Maze and her stories have appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, Interstellar Fiction, The Crimson Pact, Volumes 4 and 5 and Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can visit her website at MichaeleJordan.com while waiting for the upcoming steampunk adventure Jocasta And The Indians.

Will We Ever Let Anime Grow Up?

by Michaele Jordan

I recently surfed past an article by Meredith Woerner touting the virtues of anime. Headlines like, “Animated movies that are better than most live-action blockbusters” tend to stop me in my tracks, and this one was no exception. I am always interested if seeing animation claim a larger, more respected share of the film market. But, alas, I was disappointed.
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I’ve talked about American animation. I’ve talked about Japanese animation (at length). It seems only fair to add a few words about French animation. The French may not be famous for their anime, but Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol made a major contribution to the genre when they gave us A Cat in Paris (Folimage, 2012).

You probably don’t know it. It did not make much of a splash in this country. Usually I would blame that on subtitles but A Cat in Paris was dubbed, and dubbed well. Angelica Huston voiced the nanny, Claudine, and Steve Blum was Nico, the thief. (You may not know Mr. Blum if you don’t follow animation, but he is a big name in voice acting. He played Spike in Cowboy Bebop, which is anime gold standard.)
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Michaele Jordan is the author of the period occult thriller Mirror Maze and her stories have appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, The Crimson Pact, Volume 4 and Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can visit her website at www.michaelejordan.com while waiting for the upcoming steampunk adventure Jocasta and the Indians.

IN PRAISE OF GENNDY, THE SAVIOR OF AMERICAN ANIME

For some time now, Japan has been getting all the credit for animation, so much so that the term anime has come to mean Japanese anime — even though in Japan the word simply means animated video — and you have to specify that it’s OE (original English) anime if it was made here. Despite the success of such gems as The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004) and WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008), Disney/Pixar studios have always aimed their big guns aggressively at children. I say aggressively, since they have made only token gestures at rendering their offerings palatable to the long suffering parents, and have apparently never even considered attempting to expand the demographic sufficiently to lure teenagers into the theaters.

This left television to make animation for an older audience, a mantle it picked up only reluctantly. Granted that Batman: The Animated Series was significantly cool and wonderfully drawn, it was hardly typical. Apparently, if a superhero was considered interesting enough for video, it was interesting enough for a multi-million dollar live action film.
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I’m one of the sad few around here who has yet to see Ghost in the Shell. I have an excuse, though…I’ve been busy waiting to post about the prequel trailer…which is now available for all you true Ghost in the Shell fans out there.

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Here is the teaser trailer for Space Pirate Captain Harlock, a film version of a space opera manga that was briefly adapted into a television show in 1978. Captain Harlock is an outcast-turned-space-pirate who rebels against Earth’s Government and mankind’s general feeling of apathy.

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