I spent last weekend at Otakon 2005, catching up with college friends and keeping vaguely in touch with anime fandom. (This is tricky for me, because I haven’t been part of an anime circle since college, and trying to keep up with new releases these days is like trying to drink from a fire-hose.) The con itself was a success, I gather, with attendance on the order of twenty thousand. Pretty good for an organization founded twelve years ago in the backwoods of Pennsylvania.
I didn’t make it to any panels this year, nor did I spend any time in artists alley, despite the presence of several people whose webcomics I read regularly. I did get sufficient sleep and food, which is not always a given at events like this. I even ran into someone I know from a non-anime context, which is pretty impressive, given the number of people there.
Capsule anime and manga reviews
Where I spent most of my time:
Steamboy, the latest from Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). A steam-punk tale set in Victorian England which argues that science should not be used to create ever-more destructive weapons. Very impressive to look at, but the story felt a bit thin.
Genshiken (げんしけん), a comedy centered around the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, a college club which brings together otaku of various stripes. This was great fun to watch in a large group. It pokes fun at fandom while remaining sympathetic towards its characters. (A comparison to Otaku no Video would be appropriate here, but it’s been too long since I’ve seen it for me to draw any conclusions.)
Haré+Guu (ジャングルはいつもハレのちグゥ), “a surreal and outlandish comedy about a boy named Haré whose free-spirited mother brings home a gelatinous, mind-reading, magic-wielding, omnivorous, short-tempered being with a dimensional portal inside her stomach. Hilarities ensue.” I really can’t do any better than that. This one must be seen to be believed—which is worth doing.
Scrapped Princess, a fantasy whose protagonist is, according to prophecy, destined to destroy the world. She and her older brother and sister wander the land trying to avoid the various people working to kill her. Interesting.
Midori Days (実鳥の日々), a comedy whose protagonist—a high school delinquent whose good nature is so well hidden that seemingly every girl his age is afraid to date him—wakes up one morning to discover that his right hand has somehow been replaced by the one girl with a crush on him. Funny, but I was annoyed by the heroine’s lack of self: her real body is in a coma, she’s attached to a guy’s arm, and her biggest concern that she might be a burden to him.
Otogi-jushi Akazukin (おとぎ銃士赤ずきん). Several characters, including the young warrior Akazukin and her companion Val, a silver wolf, travel to our world. Akazukin’s quest is to prevent the evil witch Cendrillon from breaking the seal which separates the world of science from the world of magic. I didn’t actually see much of this, but the animation is impressive and the main characters have potential. I suspect I’m older than the target audience, though.
Otogi Zoshi (お伽草子), a historical drama set in Japan’s Heian period. The samurai Miyamoto is assigned a quest to retrieve the Magatama, a mystical artifact which can heal the capital city. Unfortunately, he falls ill and his young sister must impersonate him to fulfill the quest. This is actually played pretty straight, even though its premise sounds like it could be a lost Shakespearean comedy. A nice change from the usual big-eyed, squeaky-voiced stuff.
Tenjho Tenge (天上天下). Two high-school thugs transfer into a new school and try to take it over, only to discover that many of the students are supernaturally-good martial artists. I didn’t much care for this one. Aside from the emphasis on the female leads’ breasts, there’s a sequence where the girlfriend of one of the thugs is attacked by an agent from the student council as part of a effort to teach them a lesson, which everyone seems to think is an acceptable course of action.
Planetes (πλανητες), a laid-back, near-future science fiction tale of a team of astronauts who work to clear debris orbiting Earth. Since it’s near future, the technology isn’t very far beyond ours and the protagonists must deal with the frustrations of living in a closed environment (you think it’s hard finding a smoking area on Earth?) in micro-gravity (better exercise, or your bones will atrophy). I picked up a few volumes of the manga on the recommendation of Ben Hauger, and after reading the first volume I went and got some more. I also caught the first two episodes of the anime, which unfortunately added some cheap humor and a bucket of sentimentality.
FLCL (フリクリ). I won’t try to describe this here. I picked up the first two volumes of the manga. So far, it’s actually less linear than the anime. (So far as I’m aware, the name doesn’t mean anything. Which, I suppose, is how we ended up with the same title getting transliterated as “FLCL” for the manga and “Fooly Cooly” for the anime. Just one of those oddities that makes being an anime fan so