Feature: The Soundtrack of Yuri!!! On Ice

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“I was in a Little Chef once, and I read the menu, and it said: ‘Try one of our desserts. Go on, you only live once.’ And I thought: ‘That’s a bit of blow for the Buddhists, isn’t it?’ What a way to find out that everything you believe in is utter bollocks.” – Ross Noble

Earlier this week Yuri!!! On Ice, the hit anime series of last year – if both the Crunchyroll Anime Awards and the Tokyo Anime Award Festival are to be believed – made a slight return.

A new video (see below) promoting a forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray release in Japan was released featuring animation of Yuri Plisetsky and Otabek Altin performing a routine. It was intended to be broadcast in the show itself but never made it to air and is now being made available as an extra.

The music the characters are skating to is called “Welcome to the Madness” and is composed by Tarou Umebayashi, who was one of the main composers of the soundtrack along with Taku Matsushiba. Given this new footage it seems timely to look at the soundtrack of the anime in general (and when I say “timely”, I mean I was originally going to write about this when the anime went out, but I got distracted by other things, and thanks to this new clip I now have a decent opportunity to finally get to work on it).

Before we do, however, it is worth making a note that for once, the majority of the music for an anime has been made available in the west. It has always been an annoyance to me that so much Japanese music is not made available to legally purchase (even X Japan, the country’s biggest rock band, still haven’t released three of their five studio albums on the UK iTunes). But with Yuri!!! On Ice the entire soundtrack is available as an album, and the opening and closing themes are available as singles, released separately by their respective artists. It should be mentioned that not all of the music is available yet, because there are some background pieces not released, but most of the music is there.

Let’s start then with those opening and closing themes. The opening, “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka, certainly seems to encapsulate the series as a whole. It stands out from many other anime themes for several reasons. For starters there is the introduction played on the xylophone, which makes for an unusual choice of instrument and thus also makes the tune distinctive. Then you have the fact that the song is sung in English rather than Japanese, which again seems to be making a statement. It feels as if the anime is deliberately trying to reach outside Japan and gain an international audience by using English to attract foreign viewers. On top of this you have the unusual time signature for an OP which uses (I have been told by one of my editors, Sarah, who knows much more about these sort of things than I do) three beats in a bar rather than the standard four, making it arguably a waltz. This is fitting for a show that is about a form of dance, but on ice rather than a normal dance floor. Also, because you need two people to dance to a waltz, it makes for a possible connection between two people like Yuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov – although, as the opening title sequence also features Yurio, it does complicate things a bit.

Lastly you get to the sentiment of the song: “We were born to make history.” When you first listen, it sounds rather rousing, but as you watch the series progress, especially when the relationship between Yuri K. and Victor becomes ever more romantic, you then realise that the series itself is making history in its own way, by having what is almost universally considered to be a gay couple in a sport anime. The song suits the tone of the series, because it is jolly, stirring and moving.

The end theme, “You Only Live Once”, is performed by Wataru Hatano, who is one of the voice actors in the show, playing the role of Georgi Popovich, the Russian skater suffering from heartbreak after his girlfriend has left him. The song is sung in a mixture of English and Japanese, and indeed is the only track in this whole article that features some Japanese dialogue. The main chorus line is always sung in English, and the verses are mixed up in both languages. Personally I prefer the opening over the ending if we are just going on the songs themselves, but with the end animation the song seems to work better.

The majority of the music available comes from the album Oh! SkaTra!!! Yuri!!! On Ice Original Skating Collection, which contains the pieces that are used in the skating routines. When it was released it topped the Oricon Digital Album Charts, and came third in the CD charts too.

It begins with “Aria (Stammi Vicino, Non Te Ne Andare)”, or in English, “Aria: Stay Close to Me”, composed by Matsushiba. It is the classical track performed by Victor which Yuri K. later copies, which in turn is filmed and sparks the whole sequence of Victor coming to Japan to coach Yuri K. This track illustrates again a point made by the opening theme: the international nature of the show, because it is sung in Italian. Looking at the translation you see that it talks about two people who, “are blending together”.

Then we move onto the most famous of the tracks: “In Regards to Love: Eros”, composed by Matsushiba. This is the Spanish flamenco number that Yuri K. performs in all of his routines. Having watched the anime, in my head all I can think of now is Yuri skating. The other notable feature of it is that in a way it pans to the international aspect again, not only because it is Spanish music, but because there are no lyrics at all, so nothing hampers your enjoyment, regardless of where you come from. The same is true of the next piece, which is also the title track: “Yuri On ICE”, which Yuri K. performs in his free skate routine. In the anime, this is the track that Yuri gets his old friend Ketty Abelashvilli to compose for him, but in reality it is Umebayashi who composed it.

Then we move on to Yurio. First there is “In Regards to Love: Agape” by Umebayashi, which sounds more melancholy than the “In Regards to Love” track Yuri K. dances to, and arguably shows Yurio’s frustration with Victor. If Yuri K.’s pieces are international because there are no lyrics, Yurio’s track is is international because it is sung in a language that has no native speakers at all: Latin, and thus everyone is sharing in collective ignorance. His free skate track however, “Piano Concerto in B Minor: Allegro Appassionato” by Matsushiba, is a classical piece with no lyrics, performed by string orchestra and piano.

After this, we then get onto the other skaters in the show. It is also where we see a much wider range of musical styles. We start with young Kenjirou Minami and his jazz instrumental “Minami’s Boogie” used in the qualifying rounds, and then we move onto the Cup of China. We have Yuri K.’s old friend from Thailand, Phichit Chulanont, whose two pieces of music, “Shall We Skate?” and “Terra Incognita”, are tracks from a soundtrack of a fictional film, one in English and the other in an unspecified language. Chinese skater Guang Hong Ji performs to instrumentals: string track “La Parfum de Fleurs”, and then “The Inferno”, from a fictional action movie soundtrack. Then heartbroken Russian Georgi performs to the English song “A Tales of Sleeping Prince”, a sad track sung by an R&B singer; followed by American Leo de la Iglesia with “Still Alive”, which features a bit of rap in it. His song is also in English, but as he is American it does feel less significant.

Following on from this, we get to the final of the Grand Prix. The first track is “Intoxicated” sung in English, performed by the Swiss skater Christophe Giacometti, followed by Christophe’s free skate classical instrumental piece “Rapsodie Espagnole”. Next is the Korean skater Seung-gil Lee, beginning with “Almavivo”, a Spanish number with mambo elements; followed by Czech skater Emil Nekola and “Anastasis”, an electronic piece from a fictional sci-fi film; then the Italian Michele Crispino and “L’homme Armé” a fanfare from another fictional soundtrack, and then Crispino’s free skate track “Serenade for Two”, a ballad sung in English. After this is the egotistical Canadian Jean-Jacques Leroy and his own “Theme for King JJ”, which you cannot help but find infuriatingly catchy; followed by his slow free skate piece “Partizan Hope”. Then comes Otabek, starting with “Samarkand Overture”, an instrumental piece that pays tribute to a city in Uzbekistan, a country bordering his homeland of Kazakhstan; and then his free skate piece, a rearranged version of the second movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th symphony, with an added chorus singing in German.

Last are the two pieces for the final exhibition skate at the end of the series, the already mentioned “Welcome to the Madness”, and the finale to the album, “Duet: Stay Close to Me”, a version of Victor’s original theme, but with two singers now, and skated to by both Victor and Yuri K. Thus the album ends with a piece of music that bring the central couple together at last.

While I did say that the album has an international bent to it, the most commonly performed language across the tracks is still English. No surprise as English is the dominant language across the world, but still it shows that the anime is trying to reach out. Then it is mixed with Italian, German and Latin, as well as plenty of instrumental tracks. We also see a wide variety of genres of music played including classical, modern orchestral music, Latin American pieces, jazz, rock and pop.

Listening to the album, and appreciating it alongside the anime, the main theme that seems to run through the entire thing is diversity. You have not just the diversity of musical styles and languages, but you then have the diversity of the cast. It is a series set across different countries and featuring competitors from across the globe. Then there is the already heavily discussed diversity in terms of sexuality. Because of this, the joy with a soundtrack like this is that you will be able to find at least one track on it that you really like, one you will be able to enjoy again and again.

For me, my personal favourite tracks would be “In Regards to Love: Eros” for its role in the story; “Minami’s Boogie” for its swinging, fun sound; “A Tales of Sleeping Prince” for being the most emotional track; “Theme for King JJ” for being a guilty pleasure (the character is annoying but the tune is catchy); and the final “Duet: Stay Close to Me”, for the way it unites Yuri K. and Victor.

All of the tracks are available to download from iTunes.

Feature: Where The Fuuka Anime Went Wrong


It has been nearly three years now since
Crunchyroll added a slice of life/music manga series called Fuuka to their service. After reading the series weekly for so long and becoming very fond of it, I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when an anime adaption was announced. However, if you’ve followed discussions about currently airing anime then you’ll know that Fuuka hasn’t been received that well. With the series having now come and gone, and bitter disappointment setting in, I wanted to talk about how the adaption went wrong; how it took a perfectly good series and transformed it into something notably generic. Most importantly, I wanted a chance to convince you that the Fuuka anime was not a good reflection of the original manga.

This article contains spoilers for both the Fuuka manga and anime, although I have tried to limit manga spoilers to roughly the content which the anime adapted, unless otherwise necessary.

For those of you who aren’t already aware, Fuuka tells the story of Yuu Haruna, who is an avid Twitter user and a loner offline. He didn’t have any real direction in life and seemed content to spend his time on social media – until the day he bumped into Fuuka Akitsuki. Literally. Fuuka is ambitious, outgoing and adores listening to music. After she and Yuu become friends and Yuu compliments her for her singing abilities, Fuuka decides that she wants to start a band with Yuu and her friends Makoto Mikasa and Kazuya Nachi. During their first band practise they encounter Sara Iwami, a talented musician who also joins their band, and this is where the story truly begins.


The
Fuuka manga tells the story of the various problems the band faces as they practise to perform at the upcoming school festival and beyond – but the anime had other ideas. Instead of making the music the focus of the story, the anime decided to go down the route of exploring a love triangle between Yuu, Fuuka and Yuu’s childhood friend, Koyuki Hinashi. In the manga this love triangle is also present but of less importance than the music, especially as early on Yuu very clearly has feelings for, and starts dating, Fuuka. In the anime Yuu and Koyuki become much closer than they ever do in the manga, until Yuu finally realises his feelings for Fuuka and decides to date her instead. This shift in focus leaves the musical side undeveloped and severely lacking.

Back in September 2016 I reviewed Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad and made comparisons between Yuu and Beck’s main character, Koyuki, because neither of them had any prior experience with music until they were dragged into it by someone else. In this sense both series are about starting out in music from scratch and the difficulties doing so, something that I can definitely relate to. Yuu plays bass guitar, but while he’s practising and playing a different instrument to me it’s easy enough to understand the problems he faces. He’s never read sheet music before, he struggles to get into the correct rhythm for what he’s learning, and, most of all, his fingers hurt from the constant practicing, yet he refuses to give up. In fact, Yuu is incredibly taken by music. However, the anime chose to cut the majority of this out.

When The Fallen Moon  (the name they eventually choose for their band) practices a track for the school festival, Yuu’s struggles are largely sidelined in the anime and, at most, shown in a montage. This makes him and the band as a whole seem much less realistic in how quickly they learn to play a song together. It just makes them out as musical geniuses when, in truth, they work incredibly hard to master the song in the original manga. The anime also implies that Yuu and the others are in the band for a bit of fun, but in the manga Yuu is extremely dedicated to becoming a pro – to the point that he and the other band members drop out of school to devote their time to The Fallen Moon and its future. It makes the manga and the anime almost seem like completely different stories, which is where one of the major issues with the adaptation lies.

The anime, to me, didn’t seem like it knew what it wanted to be. With only 12 episodes to tell the story of a manga, which is currently 149 chapters long, it’s fair that certain things had to be trimmed or removed, but changing the whole direction of the series completely ruined Fuuka. To me love stories are ten a penny but it’s difficult to find stories of budding musicians who are just finding their love for music. You could argue that this type of narrative is less popular than romance-centric plots but when the manga has managed to run for over 100 chapters and shows no signs of stopping, I’d argue that simply isn’t true. If a story is good enough then there will always be an audience for it.


It’s not just in the story where the anime adaption fails to convey the musical side of the series. The animation and soundtrack are also underwhelming. The animation is often still shots of the characters practicing or framed at too far a distance to actually tell how they’re playing their various instruments. No real effort has been made to show how Yuu is playing his bass or the chords Sara is playing on her guitar, whereas in the manga it’s made very clear. Furthermore, the soundtrack limits itself largely to one track, ‘Climbers High’, which also acts as the opening theme for the anime. In the manga there are many opportunities where the anime could have included more music, even just in the form of short melodies.

With all of that said, perhaps the final nail in the Fuuka anime’s coffin comes thanks to a major story change towards the end. I have nothing against anime original content, and when it’s done well I really enjoy it, but in the case of Fuuka it simply isn’t written well. In the manga there is a death among the cast due to an accident, but when the anime gets up to the point of the accident (literally moments before) it dodges it. No one dies. The problem is that, as nice as it was for this member of the cast to live, in the manga it acted as a driving force for Yuu’s commitment to music and The Fallen Moon. Without the death the whole story loses a lot its meaning, becoming incredibly difficult to adapt in future without going completely original. If anything, the minute this character didn’t die was the moment the show died for me.

Fuuka transformed from a series about music into a generic love story with very few redeeming points. Music is extremely difficult to convey through a silent medium such as manga and I’ve always been surprised that Fuuka manages it so well, and that’s ultimately what leaves me all the more disappointed with the anime adaption. By all rights anime should be the perfect medium for a story like this with its freedom of movement and soundtrack, so why wasn’t it?

On one hand you could argue that the series didn’t have enough money behind it (the fact that there is only a limited selection of vocal songs licensed seems to suggest this), or perhaps that Diomedea, the studio who adapted the series, feared it wouldn’t sell well if the story had been left in its original form. Diomedea aren’t that well known outside of Japan (in fact you’d likely only know of them because of Squid Girl), so they probably wanted to play it safe with their adaption. Maybe if Fuuka had landed in the hands of a studio like A-1, Madhouse or BONES I’d be telling a different story right now. It’s hard to know. I’m aware that the original mangaka and the anime team always wanted a story where the character death didn’t happen, and maybe that could have still worked if the team hadn’t decided to focus on the love triangle instead of the music. With the decision the team made, it’s impossible to know. I’m not trying to say that creating anime is an easy thing to do and difficult decisions obviously had to be made, but somewhere along the line Diomedea lost sight of what makes Fuuka special.

I can only close this article by saying that if you had any interest in Fuuka, please check out the manga. Crunchyroll offer the whole thing on their manga service right now with releases weekly, but volumes are also published digitally by Kodansha Comics. The anime is just not worth your time.

© Kouji Seo/Kodansha

Feature: A Guide to the Odagiri Effect

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“If men knew all that women think, they would be twenty times more audacious.” – Alphonse Karr.

It is a question that many anime fans have asked themselves: what is it about high school male sports teams that make them so sexy? This is also probably going to be the first question put to me, if I should ever end up in court about why so many sports anime have a “special” following, in which most people think the characters are gay, and why there is so much fan fiction about these youthful characters.

The answer is something called the “Odagiri effect”, which has been around for a while, however little has been written about it in-depth. This is something that is worth looking into as it deals with many of the most popular anime series around, and it is something that has begun to influence British media as well, but no-one has talked about because so many mainstream TV critics have never heard of the term. But first…

What is the Odagiri effect?

The Odagiri effect is a phenomenon first seen on TV where a show gets a surprisingly higher-than-normal number of female viewers, because they find the male actors or characters in a show attractive.

According to The Dorama Encyclopedia by Jonathan Clements and Motoko Tamamuro, the term is named after Japanese actor Joe Odagiri, who starred in the 2000 children’s superhero show Kamen Rider Kuuga, about a masked motorbike-riding superhero. The producers noticed that the series was attracting two main audience groups. One was children, which isn’t surprising as that was the target audience. The other group was surprising: women around the age of 30. The producers discovered that these women, most of whom were mothers, were tuning in to see the rather sexy Odagiri in action.

Thanks to his performance, Odagiri went on to have a successful acting career, while the producers of the show repeated the success in the next series, Kamen Rider Agito, which had three male actors as the leads. It did attract the women, although many men disapproved of the way the show was being changed. [p. 182]

Does the Odagiri effect happen in British TV?

Yes, but because so few people have heard of the effect, most are unaware of it. There is one British TV show where a sexy male actor has boosted the viewing figures considerably: Poldark, starring Aidan Turner.

When the series began, most of the papers at the time were reporting about how many women were tuning in to see musclebound Turner and his topless scything. It was so popular, that in a 2015 poll by the Radio Times, this topless scything scene was voted the top TV moment of that year. This year, another topless Poldark scene, in which Turner is seen in a tin bath, came top of the Radio Times’s poll for the top TV moment of 2016.

Interestingly, coming third in the same poll was a scene in The Night Manager in which Tom Hiddleston’s bare backside was briefly on show, so we can see the Odagiri effect here too. Even more interestingly was what came fourth in the poll, which was Poldark again, but for something that caused a lot of anger among female viewers, as the moment was where the character of Poldark appears to commit rape. I’ll be returning to this later, but as we are an anime website, let’s turn to the animated art form.

Where can you see the Odagiri effect occurring in anime?

In my personal experience, when I first began getting into anime properly in the early-to-mid 2000s, I came across a show with a surprisingly large female audience: Hetalia: Axis Powers.

The wartime comedy manga which began in 2006 has a considerable female following, which is odd for a series featuring moe anthropomorphic stereotyped personifications of the nations of the world fighting in World War II. Presumably the women were attracted to the use of pretty boys – “bishonen” – as the main characters.

It seems that any anime with bishonen is likely to experience the Odagiri effect. According to Lauren Orsini, these tend to fall into two particular groups of anime shows: sports series, where you have athletic characters who obviously need to keep fit and look in shape in order to perform well; and musical idol series, concerning the interactions between the male characters in each group.

However, it isn’t just limited to these kinds of anime. You can arguably see the Odagiri effect in other kinds of anime too. For example, take Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, the series that parodies magical girl shows by featuring magical boys. Like the traditional magical girls, the boys are obviously made cute to appeal to audiences, but you also have the added bonus of the rather too-cute outfits that give the characters both extra appeal and comic value.

How do fans change the way the series is seen?

This is where things seem to get really interesting.

Let’s create a hypothetical example. As the main type of anime involved in the Odagiri effect tends to be sport, we will make a fake sports anime. I’m going with cricket as there not that many anime that cover it (it appears in Black Butler which is set in Britain, and baseball anime Star of the Giants has been adapted to cover cricket for the Indian market, but that’s about it).

Now, let’s imagine that this cricket anime follows a boys’ school cricket team, and you have all the students who make the team there, training, playing etc. You have all these fit guys in the show, so the Odagiri effect takes place and women start tuning in. However, because this is an anime, it is a fair bet to say that some of these women watching are fujoshi: yaoi fans, interested in male homoerotic anime. There might even be some fan service design to appeal directly to them.

Because of this, you then get the fujoshi tuning in because not only do they find the characters sexy, but they are also thinking that behind the scenes something else is happening, and that the characters might be “getting it on”. This leads me to reveal why I’ve chosen cricket as my hypothetical choice, because let’s be honest, in terms of cricket and double entendres, you have a lot to play with. We can all enjoy the sight of leather on willow, while the balls knock into those massive stumps. You would certainly need to have a long leg then, but things might be too kinky in cow corner.

Anyway, getting back to the main point. We have the large collection of women fans, and some of those are fujoshi who are of the opinion that the characters may be gay. Some of them may even be making yaoi fan works like dojinshi and selling them on. Because you have this possible homosexual element, you also attract male yaoi fans – fudanshi. Then on top of that, you may also attract men who are gay, but are not anime fans.

How has the Odagiri effect changed anime?

The main change is that now many anime are now exploiting the effect. As sports anime are my own particular area of interest I will stick to examples from here.

While my first personal experience of the Odagiri effect was in Hetalia, arguably the first sports anime to have been influenced by it was The Prince of Tennis; the manga began in 1999 and the anime in 2001. Although it started soon after the effect was noticed, it ran for so long that there was going to be some influence.

It seems that Kuroko’s Basketball was the first sports anime where the effect began to be seen, and then the swimming series Free! really began to push things with the Lycra-clad main characters, all of whom had girly names. Even coach Gou doesn’t make any attempt to hide her muscle fetish. You get even more body-tight Lycra in cycling series Yowamushi Pedal, but if leather is more your thing, you always have motorcycling manga Toppu GP.

Even making up an entirely new sport doesn’t stop the effect from taking place. Take Prince of Stride, for example, which covers a sport that is a kind of relay parkour. The fact that you happen to have the main female character giving out information in a position that is officially called the “Relationer” certainly sparks a few thoughts along the lines of, “Yeah, and we know what sort of relations too.”

However, there is a big issue when it comes to these shows: because these are mostly school sports teams and most of the characters are under 18, there is the whole question of legality. It is fine under Japanese law because there are few laws covering this kind of thing, but in the US and UK it is obviously more of an issue. There are obviously older characters in these series too, so it all depends on who is depicted. In terms of adults in sports anime, there are still some examples such as the Breakers, the all-male cheer leading team in Cheer Boys!!, which on the downside is one of the most unintentionally camp anime ever made – but on the upside, it is set in a university rather than a school, so at least all the main characters are adults and thus there are no legal issues in terms of any yaoi activity.

In the last anime season, there have been four different male sports anime series on the go: the long-running volleyball series Haikyu!!; football-based series DAYS; rugby anime All Out!! which attracted plenty of comment before it began due to the promotional poster featuring a particularly handsome backside; and the series that got everyone talking…

The Odagiri effect and Yuri!!! On Ice

Come on, if we are talking about homosexuality, sports anime and a large female following, we had to get to here sooner or later.

Any anime fan that has been following the events of recent months will be more than aware that this season we got a sports anime where the gay stuff was no longer just in the minds of the viewers. OK, it might have stopped short of actually showing a kiss fully uncensored, and Yuri and Victor may not actually say “I love you”, but even I, with my Asperger’s syndrome and thus my difficulties in understanding relationships and people’s reactions at face value, can tell that Yuri and Victor are gay. Whether it was the original kiss scene, the exchange of rings, Victor crying at the thought of the relationship ending or something else, Yuri!!! On Ice gave us the closest depiction of a same-sex relationship in a sports anime yet seen. There are also a relatively mature couple, as both characters are in their 20s.

However, there are still plenty of people out there who say that the whole relationship thing is speculation, and still refuse to believe Yuri and Victor are a couple until they actually admit it. Why? All the evidence clearly shows they are gay. Whenever someone has suggested that they are not, they can’t provide any evidence to support themselves other than the fact that Yuri and Victor never actually do “it” on screen.

Let me put it this way: all the evidence points to the fact that Yuri and Victor are gay and in a relationship, although the characters themselves have not admitted it – in the same way that all the evidence points to the fact that Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece will probably get a heart attack or bowel cancer from his almost exclusive meat-only diet before he ever becomes King of the Pirates. How much more proof do you need in order to be totally convinced? It couldn’t be more gay unless there is a second series and end up calling it something like Yuri!!! Again On Ice, for the sole purpose for giving the series the acronym “YAOI”.

There is one other thing that makes Yuri!!! On Ice stand out in comparison to most of the other series mentioned. One of the reasons why this series appeals to women is that it is actually made by women: namely director Sayo Yamamoto and writer Mitsurō Kubo. The reason so many women like this series is because the people making it know what women want because they themselves are women.

Overall, the series has sparked up debate about the depiction of homosexuality in anime and the media in general. Many were pleased to see the relationship, but some were critical of the fact that the relationship was not realistic enough, which leads me to the next point.

Is the Odagiri effect good or bad?

Well, the effect is certainly good at pulling in viewers. Some series have increased debate among the depiction of sexuality in anime. But the Odagiri effect has its downsides too.

The main one of these is that anime such as these, and yaoi in general, do not depict homosexuality realistically. For example, yaoi manga often feature rape. While a more mainstream show like Poldark that features male/female rape scenes will usually result in complaints from angry viewers, a yaoi that depicts male/male rape is often more accepted. A study back in 2008 by Dru Pagliassotti, Better Than Romance? Japanese BL Manga and the Subgenre of Male/Male Romantic Fiction, published in Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre, which she co-edited with Antonia Levi and Mark McHarry, found that out of 391 people responding to a survey on Boys’ Love (BL) / yaoi manga: “fifty percent thought that rape, explicit sex, sad endings, physical torture, ordinariness, bed-hopping, cruel heroes, and weak heroes were all acceptable in BL manga. Of the remainder, twelve percent said that rape should never be included in BL” [p. 67-68].

Another issue is the fact that there is a difference between how different audiences react to a show. To reference another section in Boys’ Love Manga, Alexis Hall in his study Gay or Gei? Reading “Realness” in Japanese Yaoi Manga, looks at the ways that we western audiences read yaoi in comparison to how it is read in Japan. He talks about one gay man, who thinks his views on yaoi are more valid than most yaoi fans because he is the sort of person depicted in the works. However, this man is American and not Japanese, so does that mean that in the context of reading a yaoi manga or anime that sexuality is the most important thing rather than ethnicity? [p. 217] It is safe to say, that I have been guilty of doing this myself.

We may think that we are more forward thinking than the Japanese in terms of gay rights because we have things like gay marriage, but for most of history it has been Japan that was more forward thinking because for most of the time they were no laws prohibiting it. [p. 218] In the 1960s, the Japanese weren’t imprisoning gay people like we British were doing at the same time. It’s just that at present we are currently being more progressive.

There is also the one other, big, glaring factor relating to whether the Odagiri effect has a bad effect or not which is this: the fact that we are talking about it in the first place. If this was the other way around, and that we had noticed there was an observable effect in which men were more likely to watch a TV show if there women actors or characters were sexy, we would probably be saying that this was sexist, or for that matter that this is something that actually goes on all the time anyway. We can probably come up with a massive list of TV shows, films, adverts, books etc. which have used sexy women to try and make men watch or read them. Reversing that and naming things that use attractive men to get women to engage with them is harder.

You also got the fact that because these shows are relying on a male cast to get women to watch them that these shows are perhaps not going to be the most feminist programmes around. It is hard to imagine any of them passing the Bechdel test.

What does the Odagiri effect say about ourselves?

What we are actually kind-of saying to ourselves when we observe the Odagiri effect is: “Wow! It turns out that women have some kind of sexual desire! I never realised that before. Turns out that women quite like men who are sexy.”

If you can get a positive out of this you could say the effect has pointed out that there is actually a lack of cultural material, across all media, that is aimed at women. The fact that this effect occurs points out that we need to do better, because whenever something using the Odagiri effect does gain the public’s attention, it shows that there is a gap in the cultural market that is now being filled.

For instance, let’s take another example of a work that became surprisingly popular with women: Fifty Shades of Grey. This is something that we have been repeatedly told that we are not meant to like: it’s sexist, poorly written, an inaccurate portrayal of a BDSM relationship etc. But let’s examine it more closely. For starters, Fifty Shades is fan-fiction. It began as Twilight fan-fiction, so it has connections with yaoi fan works based on sports anime. Like Yuri!!! On Ice, it is made by a woman for women.

Also, as is common with the Odagiri effect, the media were reporting on the surprising number of women who were buying it, even though it was supposedly a bad book. I would argue that women were going out to buy the book because there was so little else like this that was aimed at them, even though everyone else thought it was terrible. See also the Muslim community and Citizen Khan.

The point is this: it doesn’t matter if you are getting a thrill from Yuri Katsuki, Ross Poldark or Christian Grey. What matters is that people can get some enjoyment out of what they like.

What can we conclude from this?

Personally speaking, my main hope is that the Odagiri effects will be discussed wider afield, especially in the more mainstream media as it is something that seems worthy of discussion, on the grounds that it is of interest to those who work in TV, to feminists and to the LGBTQ+ community.

Also, while acknowledging the whole problem of being a western observer wishing to impose his views on a Japanese art form, it would be nice to see anime cover homosexuality more realistically. We may not get to see that in Yuri!!! On Ice, but perhaps the next generation of anime shows might cover it more in-depth.

Yuri!!! On Ice is thus more of a stepping stone to something that is perhaps going to be greater. I do suspect that there will be a second series, possibly to tie in with the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, which may explore Yuri and Victor’s relationship more fully.

One other thing to conclude is that there needs to be debate on the relationship between TV and women in general. We can conclude that little TV caters for women, and women appear to be on TV less than men, especially in formats such as comedy – a recent study shows that there has never been an all-female comic line-up on a panel game on British TV since 1967, and only once on radio during that time.

This gets to something that has annoyed me in recent weeks concerning Yuri!!! On Ice. I know there are plenty of people who are sick of the show being discussed so much, at least in our anime bubble. The big problem however is that I don’t think Yuri!!! On Ice is being discussed enough by mainstream media. If you look up any list of “The Best TV Shows of 2016”, the lists are totally dominated by shows that are in English. I’m not saying Yuri!!! On Ice should be in these best show lists, I’m saying that they need to come out of their bubble and we need to come out of ours. It feels as if mainstream TV critics can’t be bothered to watch shows “in foreign”, and the only way they would be interested is if there is some sort of British connection, like a guest appearance from some British skaters. Mind you that’s no bad idea: I for one would love to see Torvill and Dean skating just before Yuri and Victor.

Really though, we need to make more of an effort to cater culturally to women, across all forms of media.

We should also keep eye out on some anime coming out later this year in terms of the Odagiri effect striking. Two series that spring to mind are another pair of sports series, Welcome to the Ballroom and DIVE!! – both of which are being turned into anime in the summer, and both of which cover activities that already have LGBT stars: thank you Bruno Tonioli and Tom Daley.

UK Anime and Manga Christmas Gift Guide 2016

It’s currently [insert number found on this site] days to Christmas and you’re either in two camps; calm as a cucumber and ready for the big day whether you celebrate it or not, or stressing out because once again it’s the day everyone is pressured to give SOMETHING to someone and fulfil an unwritten Christmas law. We promise ever year we’d start sooner or worry less about spending as much money, but we never seem to learn the lesson.

But I’m here to say ‘don’t worry’; I have once again compiled a list full of ideas to fill your head and internet baskets up with. So put the kettle on, get comfy and open up those tabs as we get ready to cross off that Christmas list of yours!

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“I’m not made of money”
Gifts under £10

Just because you’re strapped for cash, doesn’t mean you can’t give the gift of anime or manga!

Many single volume manga fall safely into this: Tokyo Ghoul, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Attack on Titan, and much more. Introduce your loved one to a new series or get the latest volume they’re reading. Does a friend have a Kindle? They can purchase several manga omnibuses for a cheaper price, so why not get them a voucher?

Although TV series are hard to come by within this price bracket you can get the Bleach series in parts for cheap, if you’re unsure they want to dive right into a full set. Older, shorter series such as High School of the Dead sneak in here and can be a bloody surprise on Christmas Day. Even Supernatural: The Anime Series just makes it into this margin. But you’re more likely to find films for under a tenner; ranging from Makoto Shinkai’s Five Centimetres Per Second, to Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars. Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away just makes it in here too.

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“I suppose they were extra nice to me this year…”
Gifts £10 – £25

If you’re sold on getting them literature, omnibus manga is the way to go, especially for long-running series such as Tsubasa and Oh My Goddess! which can be a salary by themselves if you purchase them all. But there are also many other wonderful series to invest in; the collector’s editions of fan favourite Fruits Basket, the classic Astro Boy is out in bigger volumes, plus the Evangelion main series AND spin-offs have had the omnibus treatment. The murder mystery series Monster has all volumes out in the same format and vampire fans will love Dance in the Vampire Bund. In addition, you can grab some light novel collections, such as the yuri series Strawberry Panic in omnibus form, within this price bracket.

In terms of physical discs, a lot of newer series that are split into parts (television series for example) or are shorter in length can be purchased for this budget. The Devil is a Part Timer or part of Kill La Kill would make great little gifts. You can grab RWBY seasons 1 – 3 in steel book form for this price bracket, or DVD editions of Another and Elfen Lied if you happen to be buying for a horror fan.

For movies, Studio Ghibli has most of its library (including double play) within your budget but there’s also an eclectic variety of anime films from A Letter to Momo to The Empire of Corpses that shouldn’t be ignored. Got a friend who loves a nostalgia trip? The 30th Anniversary steel book edition of the original Transformers movie is the right way to go, or even the Pokemon movie collection to satisfy the 90s kid at heart.

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“I earnt it so I’m going to spend it!”
Gifts £25 – £50

Did a friend of yours go see Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name in cinemas and love it? Treat them to The Place Promised in Our Early Days/Voices of a Distant Stars twin pack. The Miss Hokusai Ultimate Edition would make a delightful surprise under the tree as well.

As for TV series, there’s loads of stunning Blu-ray collections to brighten up your friend’s faces for old and new shows. Just think how pleased they’ll be when they unwrap Chobits, the new Death Note complete collection, or Yurikuma Arashi on Christmas Day. You can’t go wrong with the new shinier collection of Cowboy Bebop as well, especially if they’re a veteran anime fan.

At the top end of the scale there’s also several limited editions to snag: Eden of the East, Assassination Classroom, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun make it within this budget.

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“I’m making it rain!”
Gifts £50+

Got someone special who deserves the extra few pounds spent on them? Luckily in recent years the UK has been fortunate to receive special editions of many series.

The movie collection Garden of Sinners can be snagged for £60, whereas buying just one season of Fate/Stay Night UBW will set you back easily £70 if you’re going for the Blu-ray editions.

Anime Limited have lots of lovely special editions for those with the money to splash such as Aldnoah.Zero, Terror in Resonance and The Tatami Galaxy, just to name a few.

Taking another step up the price bracket is the Ultimate Blu-ray edition of Vision of Escaflowne; 760 minutes equals £100+. The full Blu-ray edition of Full Metal Panic has all 3 seasons for a similar price. If you really want to push the boat out, however, Fullmetal Alchemist fans can practically drool over the limited edition version of the 2003 classic anime, and that’s just for the bonus features written on the web page! It technically comes out on Boxing Day, but imagine how surprised they’ll be when they see this delightful set appear on their doorstep when they least expect it.

Don’t forget about manga; if single volumes or omnibus aren’t cutting it, you can grab many box sets of several long running series. Give someone a complete collection (e.g. Claymore, Death Note, Ouran High School Host Club) or the first push into a lengthier running story (Bleach, One Piece and more).

All prices are correct at the time of writing this article.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at Anime UK News!

Leeds International Film Festival Animation Day 2016 Coverage

kizumonogatari-leading-imageThis year marks my second chance to attend the anime day at the Leeds International Film Festival. This year also marked a fairly major change for the anime day, as instead of being focused on Japanese animation the section has been renamed the ‘Animation Day’ so that it could include animated works from around the world. Like previous years, the films on offer for 2016 were fairly big titles and were as follows:

Kizumonogatari Part 1 -Tekketsu-
Kizumonogatari Part 2 -Nekketsu-
Belladonna of Sadness
The Red Turtle + Father and Daughter short
Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children
A Silent Voice

For the record, I am not providing coverage of Psychonauts due to it not being Japanese in origin. The Red Turtle will have shorter coverage for a similar reason; I’ve only included it at all due to Studio Ghibli’s involvement.

Before we dive into the anime, let’s first talk about the event itself. This year’s Animation Day was once again held in the Leeds Town Hall, which is a fantastic venue for this kind of event. The staff were friendly and helpful and I never had any issues getting around the venue to where I needed to be. A complaint of mine from last year was also addressed.  Last year I complained that the breaks for lunch and dinner weren’t long enough to actually find food (especially for those who might not live in Leeds), and this year the event did offer longer breaks. I’d had the foresight to pack some food for dinner this year anyway, but discovering that I could have had the freedom to leave the town hall and buy something was pleasing to hear.

My only major complaint this year involved actually getting to the venue. This isn’t really the fault of the film festival, but on the Animation Day there was a race for charity happening and the finish line was right in front of the town hall. Due to this it was near impossible to work out if I could access the front of the town hall to get into the venue or even where I could cross the road to get to it (due to the fact it was difficult to see where the course for the race was going). I eventually walked around the back of the nearby library and plotted a course from there. Once I got nearer the town hall I battled my way through spectators and realised that the front of the town hall was open for the festival. In hindsight I’m glad that I’d left home 10 minutes earlier than originally planned that morning, otherwise I would have missed the beginning of Kizumonogatari Part 1.

The only thing I wish we’d had from the organisers of the film festival was better signage or some comments on the social media regarding where attendees were meant to go to get into the venue. I personally know the area so I could navigate around the issue okay, but if anything like the charity race clashes again with Animation Day I do hope that the organisers can deal with it a bit differently. With that said, onwards to the films!

Kizumonogatari Parts 1 & 2

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To start off the day we were treated to a double bill of 
Kizumonogatari Parts 1 and 2. I’ve previously watched the first few episodes of Bakemonogatari but I’ve otherwise never put much time into the Monogatari series despite knowing how well loved it is, so these movies were a first for me. The movies act as a prequel to Bakemonogatari so no previous knowledge of the Monogatari series is required, which was good news for people like me!

Kizumonogatari tells the story of Koyomi Araragi, a second year high school student just living his days peacefully. One day he befriends a female classmate named Tsubasa Hanekawa, who tells him a rumour about a blonde vampire that has been sighted around the town. Later that day as he walks home after buying some books, Araragi hears someone crying out for help and stumbles upon a mostly decapitated, yet somehow still alive, blonde haired woman. It turns out that this woman, known as Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under Blade (Kiss-Shot for short), is the vampire from the rumours and she wants Araragi’s blood so that she can recover from her injuries!

Araragi agrees to give Kiss-Shot all of his blood despite the fact it means his death, but instead of dying it turns out that Kiss-Shot has turned Araragi into a vampire too! She promises that she’ll turn him back into a human later but he must first help her hunt down 3 powerful vampire hunters and take back the limbs they stole from her. Using his newfound vampire powers, Araragi fights to reclaim the limbs and to one day regain his normal everyday life.

The first part of Kizumonogatari spends the majority of its hour runtime simply on setup and some character development, which works nicely because it doesn’t feel like it drags on too long nor rushes the plot along too quickly. That said, it would have been somewhat awkward if Part 2 hadn’t also been shown because you’d have been left feeling like Part 1 was a bit of a waste – but thankfully that wasn’t the case.

Part 2 focuses a lot more on the action side of things and sees Araragi battling it out with the vampire hunters, while also offering development for his friendship with Hanekawa. Like the first part it only has a runtime of just over an hour, but a lot gets done and the action on offer is simply superb. There are moments where the movie slows down and I got a bit disconnected from it but this is a problem I’ve found with the Monogatari series in general, so I don’t believe it’s the fault of these movies alone.

Like the main series, Kizumonogatari is being handled by studio SHAFT (Madoka Magica, March Comes in Like a Lion) and has a blend of 3D backgrounds and props while the characters are still very 2D. It’s an interesting mix but one that seems to work quite well, although I will mention that the world of Kizumonogatari is very dark and made up of variations of white, grey, brown and black. It’s not a terrible thing but I almost wish there had been a tad more colour on offer to shake things up.

The music for the two parts has been handled by Satoru Kosaki, who has worked on the Monogatari series since the beginning. The soundtrack is full of delicate pieces but also much louder, more compelling tracks for the action scenes. It has to be said that out of everything I watched for the Animation Day, the soundtracks for Kizumonogatari Parts 1 and 2 were the best.

Overall Kizumonogatari works as a solid starting point for anyone not familiar with the Monogatari series. It won’t feel complete until I’ve seen the third part, but the second part made for a good enough stopping point. Now I’m just eagerly awaiting more of it. It’s worth noting for people who want more of Kizumonogatari, like me, that the original light novel has been released in English thanks to Vertical.

Score: 8/10

Belladonna of Sadness
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Belladonna of Sadness is a movie from 1973 that was inspired by the French novel Satanism and Witchcraft written by Jules Michelet. Now this is an 18 rated film and features more adult content than I wish to remember, but I don’t want to talk about that per se. I’d rather offer a little bit of background information and then explain why the movie didn’t really work for me as a viewer.

The story is based around a woman known as Jeanne. On her wedding night, Jeanne is forced into a ritual deflowering by the local baron and some of his staff members. After this event she begins to see a spirit who leads her to eventually gain the power to overthrow the local baron and those who caused her so much suffering.

What Belladonna of Sadness is trying to do, outside of the blatant sex and sexual references, is tell the story of a woman going through suffering and then becoming empowered from her experiences. I think that back in 1973 this premise was probably much more powerful and thought-provoking than it is now. It’s not merely the fact that this scenario is a bit outdated, it’s also that I think other media and films have used similar ideas and simply presented them better.

I have to admit I’m not someone who likes heavily artistic films and Belladonna of Sadness goes so far in its approach to – frankly – crazy animation that it was difficult to keep track of what was happening and not be thrown out of the story. The animation does look really pretty as it has a lot of watercolor images but the constant and graphic sexual content being depicted was enough to put me off. I don’t think I was the only one who felt that way either, as the overall feeling in the hall was quite muted. When the credits finally rolled, the friend I’d watched it with and I looked at one another completely bewildered as to what we’d just experienced.

Overall I think Belladonna of Sadness was trying to make a statement, but that point was probably much clearer back in the 1970s as opposed to the present. I also admit to potentially being the wrong audience for this type of film because it isn’t the kind of thing that I’d usually go out of my way to watch. If you find yourself intrigued by my write-up then certainly give it a watch, but as it stands I don’t recommend it.

Score: 4/10

The Red Turtle

the-red-turtle-posterThe Red Turtle is a French animated film directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, who was behind the Father and Daughter short back in 2000 – which won many awards at the time. The Red Turtle was co-produced between Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli. The involvement of Studio Ghibli is why I’m covering the movie for this article, but frankly it seems as though their involvement with it was fairly small.

The film tells the story of a man, who remains nameless, that gets shipwrecked and wakes up on a deserted island. After he has explored and gathered his bearings, the man decides to build a raft to get himself off the island. It’s not long until the raft is complete and he sets sail, but once reaching a certain distance from the island, the raft is destroyed by a red turtle. The man tries again to make a raft and leave the island but once more the raft is broken apart by the turtle. Is our protagonist destined to never leave the island?

It’s difficult to write about The Red Turtle because the movie has no dialog at all, so saying too much about the story would likely spoil someone’s enjoyment of it. However, while the plot is lacking in complexity, that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t deeply emotional – because it is. On the contrary, The Red Turtle does all the right things to make you care about this man and gives him a lot of character despite the fact that he never speaks. It’s very interesting and the mark of a good film.

The biggest disappointment that I had with The Red Turtle is that it didn’t seem to have great deal of work put into it by Studio Ghibli animation wise. The protagonist and much of the world around him were presented in CGI animation, but even when there was some traditional hand drawn animation, it didn’t scream Ghibli. This doesn’t make it bad by any means but it is worth noting for anyone who was going into it hoping for something more closely resembling a Ghibli movie.

Overall The Red Turtle is emotional and has a solid idea behind it. It’s not quite what I was expecting but that certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps it’s not something that I’d watch again, but I and the audience watching it (judging by the round of applause afterwards!) had a good time.

Score: 7/10

A Silent Voice

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The last film of the night was undoubtedly the best of the day. The 2016 Animation Day came to a close with a showing of A Silent Voice by Kyoto Animation, a film based on an award winning manga (which is published by Kodansha and is also on Crunchyroll).

The story centers around Shoya Ishida, who back in elementary school bullied a deaf classmate of his, Shoko Nishimiya. Now in high school and isolated by his classmates due to his past sins, Shoya plans on committing suicide. However, one of the things he wants to do before ending his life is to track down Shoko in order to apologise for what he did as a child. After meeting Shoko and realising that she’s still suffering due to his past actions, Shoya is determined to finally put things right and works hard to be a good friend to her.

The most important part of A Silent Voice is that it isn’t just about Shoko’s suffering, it’s about the suffering that both of them go through. After Shoko eventually transferred schools because of the bullying, her former classmates blamed and started to pick on Shoya despite the fact that they were also responsible for what happened to Shoko. All throughout middle school and high school Shoya continued to be isolated as people learnt what he’d done back in elementary school.

While the core of the story is about the relationship between Shoko and Shoya, it also delves into the feelings of Shoko and Shoya’s former classmates. Shoya wishes to reconnect Shoko with their old classmates that she didn’t have the chance to become friends with back then. As he does so, he discovers how much fun it is to have friends and how much better the world is for it.

I also really want to mention just how wonderful it is to have an anime that features a deaf character and to have multiple characters who have learned sign-language because of her. The original manga series was supported by the Japanese Federation of the Deaf due to how well it covered the subject, and Kyoto Animation have carried over that quality very well. I don’t know much about sign-language but from what is shown in the movie it seems accurate enough to me. I don’t know anyone who is deaf either, but from the way Shoko is portrayed, I believe it’s realistic to how someone who is deaf might act.

The animation on offer was beautiful, although perhaps not that much better than Kyoto Animation’s usual TV output. I think I’ve been spoilt by the efforts of this studio and the wonderful anime they’ve created over the years because I was left feeling like the animation for A Silent Voice just wasn’t that special. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still heads and tails above other animation studios, it just didn’t surpass the usual Kyoto Animation standards.

Music was handled by Kensuke Ushio, who also worked on the music for Ping Pong The Animation. The soundtrack on offer seemed like a bit of a limited selection despite the fact the official CD release comes in at a massive 45+ tracks. I think perhaps the real problem here is that the scores just didn’t stand out, or because there were many piano pieces they all blended into one another in my head. It’s not a bad soundtrack but it’s not necessarily as good as I’d been hoping for (and led to believe) going into this showing.

It’s interesting that overall I found myself in a similar situation to the previous film festival where the last movie of the day was truly the best. A Silent Voice is truly breathtaking in a way that no other film that day was. It’s dealing with very sensitive issues and did so extremely well by approaching it head-on but in a gentle, realistic manner. Anime Limited are planning on giving the movie a wider theatrical release in the future, so if it turns up near you I urge you to check it out.

Score: 9/10

Publisher: Animatsu
Type: Movie
Format: Blu-Ray
Language options: English dub audio only

Geeks, Otaku & Weeaboos: The language and range of fandom

“Those of us who are geeks, OK, real geeks, who earned our geekhood at school through sweat and loneliness and wedgies will no long stand idly by and watch our geekly identity taken from us be people who think geekhood is nothing more than wearing cute glasses and an asymmetric fringe – particularly not when they are the very people who gave us the wedgies at school!” – John Finnemore

While I’ve been having many of the ideas for this piece for some time, the main impetus for writing this feature comes not from an anime, but from the new series of stand-up comedy show Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish.

modern-life-is-goodish

In the first episode of the new series, starting on Dave on 8th November at 22.00, Gorman deals with the subject of guilty pleasures, fandom and why he is not a geek when loads of other people mistakenly think he is. When discussing fandom, he talks about those annoying groups of fans that seem to suck the joy out of a subject you might have an interest in, or as he calls them: “extractor fans”.

I would advise everyone to watch the episode, but for those of you living outside the UK and are unable to access the episode, here is a quick explanation. Gorman claims that “extractor fans” fall into three groups:

  • “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of…” – e.g., someone who is outraged by the fact you haven’t heard of a particular thing and then show off that they know all about it.
  • “Unless you like them as much as me, then you’re not a real fan of…” – e.g., annoying completists, which if you are an anime fan is troublesome because that also means the expense of importing expensive stuff from Japan.
  • “I don’t like them now everyone else likes them…” – e.g., people who hate anything once it becomes mainstream.

Now we in the anime community have our own group of annoying fans: “weeaboos”, or “weeb” for short. If we go by Wiktionary, their definition of weeaboo is: “A non-Japanese person (especially one of Caucasian ancestry) who is obsessed with Japan and behaves in a stereotypically Japanese manner.” For some people it is considered a useful term, pointing out when certain fans are being infuriating or ignorant, and perhaps should educate themselves more on the subject of Japan and its history. People must be aware that no country is perfect, and must acknowledge what they have done wrong as well as what they have done right. However, for other people the term “weeaboo” is a xenophobic word. To quote one of AUKN’s editors when I was drafting the article: “it tends to be rolled out to trash any fan who doesn’t display a cool dismissal of anime’s Japanese roots in certain communities, discouraging people from learning Japanese or engaging with the wider fan community across the world.”

Recently, I feel that the term “weeaboo” is now being misused, and no longer being used to describe annoying fans like many people do currently. I have seen on social media people calling anime fans “weeaboos” because they happen to like a popular anime. Anime-loving extractor fans are now calling people weeaboos because they like the most popular series around such as One Piece, Naruto and Sword Art Online.

One example I’ve found is a Tumblr post where an anonymous person says: “How can I tell if I’m a weeb?” The person responding says: “Easy. What is the first thing you think when you see this?” Then they post this picture.

luffy-hat

And then adds: “Thought so. Weeb.”

If this is a joke it is a rather pathetic one. What this person seems to be saying is that if you know that this hat is worn by Monkey D. Luffy, the main character in One Piece, that makes you a weeaboo and thus an annoying fan. That hat belongs to the lead character in the single most popular manga series ever made. Loads of people are going to recognise it because it is such a famous show. It is like accusing people of being annoying fans of all things American because they recognise a large stack of blue hair belongs to Marge Simpson, or you are annoying Anglophile because you know who says: “Don’t tell them Pike!” Knowing who wears that hat doesn’t make you a weeaboo – it means you have a basic working knowledge of anime and manga.

Mind you, it should be acknowledged that the snobbery can be reversed. If you are only into mainstream shows and think people who are into niche anime are being pretentious, then you are just as annoying the people who are only into the obscure stuff and shun the popular.

It saddens me to see such a term being misused, but at the same time I know that this sort of thing is inevitable. Language is constantly evolving. Words change and gain new meanings. Take the word “gay”. It used to mean “happy”, then it meant “homosexual”, and now some people use it to mean “rubbish” or “uncool”. Similarly the word “geek” had a very different meaning. A geek was originally a performer at a freak show – normally someone who bit the heads off live chickens.

The problem comes down to how you define something or someone as being geeky, something which again is dealt by Gorman. As he says, if you have seen Star Trek, that doesn’t make you a geek, because Star Trek is such an incredibly popular programme, but, “If you go to Star Trek conventions and speak Klingon”, that makes you a Star Trek geek.

Another term that has problems when defined is “otaku”. In the west, we use it to mean an anime fan, but in Japan the term is used to mean someone who is obsessive, and it doesn’t just refer to anime or manga. You can be an otaku about any subject. The term is also an insult, popularised by Akio Nakamori who is famous for his deeply-critical views on pop culture and people attending conventions. Later Tsutomu Miyazaki, dubbed the “Otaku Murderer” by the Japanese media, who would go on to make the term even more negative. Given this, “otaku” seems less of a synonym for “fan” or “geek”, and closer to our British term “anorak” in its negativity.

In terms of a solid definition, I would recommend this piece from Tofugu, dealing with the term’s origins, controversy and meaning. Here, they claim that otaku focus on the following:

  • Sharing information.
  • Possessing their passion – examining it in every detail.
  • Going further by creating their own works: costumes, fiction, art, etc.

The article also differentiates between an “otaku” and a “maniac”. The latter are “spectators in their obsession” and want to collect things, whereas the former, an otaku, combines both the physical and the intangible. They want the action-figure and to learn more about the series in question. They want the homemade, derivative products too. As a result, I would say a “maniac” is closer in definition to “anorak” than “otaku” is. After all, you don’t tend to hear about train-spotters making their own creative projects. The only example I can think of is the co-creator of the British adult comic book Viz Chris Donald who collects full-size train stations, one of which he turned into the world’s most geographically remote restaurant.

Having examined all these terms, I think it is possible to try to define and rank fandom terms more accurately. Thus I present…

The Wolf Scale of Fandom

wolf-scale

On this scale – which let’s be honest I have named after myself mainly as a way of inflating my own ego – the higher your rank, the more obsessed you are with your subject and normally the more weird you appear to be to those outside the fandom. As this is brand new, it won’t be perfect, so I would encourage debate to improve the scale in any way possible.

I would also argue that the following scale can by used on any form of fandom. This is not just applied to subjects normally considered geeky like comic books or anime, but anything. A sports fan who has an obsessive knowledge of their favourite team is just as passionate as someone who is into sci-fi. You can be an otaku about western comics as much as an otaku on manga.

-1 or 0 Hater or Disinterested

People in this rank either dislike or have no interest in the subject in question. Thus, there is little to say about this rank.

1 – Fan

The entry level. This, going back to Gorman, includes people who have watched a particular show and like it, but don’t feel the need to go beyond any level of deeper devotion. For example, the Star Trek fan Gorman refers to in his programme. No-one generally thinks of fans as being weird.

2 – Geek

This is where things start to get interesting. How do we define a geek? There are many ways, but having started this feature by talking about one comedy show, I would like to reference another one. My preferred definition of geek is taken from this sketch from BBC Radio 4’s John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme.

Thus the central elements of being a geek should be:

  1. You should, “know loads and loads and loads about it”.
  2. You should be, “a bit weird about it.”
  3. You can’t like it all.

Going by this definition, a “geek” is mostly concerned with knowledge. A geek should we willing to put the hours into their subject, to the point those outside the fandom think that you becoming a bit too obsessed. However, this is not proper obsession yet. You also need to have your own opinions. If you just like everything in your fandom then you have not been looking hard enough. I know there are certain anime and manga that I don’t like. To give one example, Cardfight!! Vanguard, which in my view is way too commercial in comparison to Yu-Gi-Oh!, which at least began as a manga before the trading card game version took off.

However, it is easy in your hatred to stray into extractor fan/weeaboo territory. You need to have a valid reason for hating something, and if you become involved in an argument with some you should not resort to any form of snobbery. We need civilised debate. People are not going to get anywhere if people suddenly accuse you of being a weeaboo because you happen to favour dubs over subs. In fact, I suspect that if you call someone else a weeaboo, then it is you yourself that are the weeaboo.

3 – Nerd

Here we start to see more practical applications being used. If the “geek” ranking is mainly concerned with knowledge, it is the “nerd” that starts putting that knowledge to some kind of use.

Think of the classic computer nerd. Here they have taken their knowledge of computers and use it to improve the design and functionality of the next generation of computers, gadgets and so on. To use an analogy, the nerds are like the people who work backstage on a film, TV show or play. They are the people who make the stars look good, getting the action caught on camera, perfecting the lighting and sound and so on.

The end result is a product that people want. At the same time, they tend to shun the limelight. They are too busy working on the next big thing to concern themselves with other projects. This therefore makes them weirder than geeks in my opinion, because a nerd will probably be too busy working to go out and have a normal social life. They would either be too busy making something or learning something new.

This is also what separates the nerds from otaku. Otaku spend their time sharing information. The nerd is alone, busy working on their projects. They are misers of knowledge, reluctant to share what they know if others unless it is worth their while. Think a nerd will share what they know if you for free? Bah humbug! Give them an incentive like a job in which they might earn money from their nerdiness and then they may progress.

4 – Anorak

If the thing that moves you up to “nerd” is the practicality, then the thing that moves you up to “anorak” is the weirdness.

For those living outside the UK, an “anorak” is normally defined as someone who obsessed with their hobbies and often being boring to those not part of their fandom. The term is most associated with train-spotters, wearing unfashionable waterproof anoraks while indulging their passion.

The key thing that moves you from “nerd” to “anorak” is you yourself moving. If the nerdy Scrooge is trapped inside with all of his knowledge, then the anorak is the newly reformed Scrooge who is willing to be friendlier after his spiritual visitation. The anorak moves away from their work and takes it elsewhere, making it public, often to the derision of passers-by. If the train-spotter is proud to wear their anorak and be humiliated, then the cosplayer should be proud of their outfit as they walk down the street, as well as the sports fan who’s painted their body in their team’s colours when going to an away-game.

In fact, not only should the reaction be one of weirdness, but possibly one of hostility. If you know that you are angering people then that probably means you are doing something right. The anorak should expect to be insulted. They should walk towards the gunfire, but they should also be ready to fight back. They know how to ignore the haters, or even better are able to come up with a way of fighting back.

5 – Otaku

As mentioned before when talking about Tofugu’s article, an “anorak” is close to a “maniac”. To reach “otaku” they not only must be collecting information, but also to be making their own stuff.

The otaku takes their passion, and with their expert knowledge change it into something they want, and then they share it with others. They share their ideas, art, stories and more. The otaku becomes a figurehead of the community, respected by others around. Not necessarily liked, as an otaku can be a divisive figure and it is only right that geeks may not like said otaku, but a figure that people know about and at least have an opinion on.

6 – Otaking

otaku-no-video-1

This last rank is purely hypothetical as there is currently no otaking.

This term comes from the anime Otaku no Video. For those who haven’t seen it, the central character, Kubo Takeshi, becomes an otaku and his obsessions take over his life. He eventually becomes annoyed by people’s prejudices towards otaku and thus decides to overturn them by becoming the greatest otaku of all, the “otaking”, which he does by setting up a garage kit business which slowly becomes a multi-million yen company. His ultimate plan is to set up an otaku-themed amusement park where otaku all around the world can indulge in their passions without fear, and thus slowly make everyone in the whole world otaku.

While this anime may be a flattering portrayal of otaku, it is mixed with a live-action mock documentary called Portrait of an Otaku which shows otaku in a negative light, and thus production company Gainax got criticism from the otaku community when it was released in the early 1990s.

The “otaking” (if you prefer “otaqueen” or some other gender neutral term, I’m not fussy) is thus a lone position. There can only be one. The otaking must be able to turn the public to their side and join them. In effect, the otaking is a world dictator, with the masses all joining in with that otaking’s passion, whether it be manga, sci-fi, sport or whatever.

Thus, the person who is closest to the rank of otaking is the one with the largest following of any sort. Therefore, in terms of who is the closest to becoming the otaking at the moment, to once again reference Dave Gorman from an earlier episode of Modern Life is Goodish: “I’m gonna go… with the Pope.” The Catholic Church currently has 1.27 billion members, so currently Pope Francis probably has the largest loyal following. You could also argue that the president of China, currently Xi Jinping is even closer as the country has a population of 1.33 billion, but membership of the Communist Party of China is just shy of 89 million, so it is probably safe to assume his following is less committed. You might even consider the General-Secretary of the United Nations for the role as so many countries are members of the UN, but again there is the question of actual support for the person in the role, which at the time of writing is currently in transition.

This then raises the question of where I would consider myself in the ranking. Obviously I’m being subjective, but I personally think than when it comes to anime and manga I’m somewhere between “anorak” and “otaku”. There are certain bits of knowledge I am still lacking in, such as not speaking Japanese. I’ve never even visited Japan at the time of writing. However, I believe my writing does help count towards the area of making my own works. I certainly suspect I will become more humiliated and hated when this article goes out.

To conclude, I would like to thank all the writers who I have used as sources and in particular Dave Gorman, who just for clarification is not a geek – well, he admits he could be a geek geek, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish is on the TV channel Dave, and airs at 22.00 on Tuesday nights. The previous three series can be watched in the UK on UKTV Play.

John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme is available to download or by on CD. The first five series are available now, with a sixth series to begin on 27th December. Episodes are often repeated on BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra.

Otaku no Video is available on a region free DVD and Blu-Ray from US distributor AnimEigo.

Autumn Anime Season 2016

 

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Autumn Season 2016 – the leaves are falling and just as we finish watching and discussing Mob Psycho 100 or Re:Zero or Sweetness and Lightning, the anime studios are already tempting us with the next slew of goodies. And there’s so much to choose from these days! (Crunchyroll and Funimation, you’re spoiling us – but please don’t stop. We’ve been the poor relations for a long while in the UK, so it’s nice to get some choice.)

But how to decide which series are the duds and which the hidden treasures? The staff at Anime UK News are here to offer some suggestions of their own. We’re not infallible, of course, and personal tastes can differ wildly! We’re always very interested to know what you think too.

IncendiaryLemon:

Going into this year’s Autumn Season, I wasn’t expecting to watch a whole lot of shows. I had one or two in mind, but after seeing what was cropping up on Crunchyroll, my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up picking up eight! Whilst everything I’ve picked up has been at least good, there are some definite stand-outs among the crowd.

euphonium2kv

My favourite from the season so far definitely has to be Sound! Euphonium Season 2. I’ll admit, it might be a little unfair to pick a show with a whole season under its belt as my front runner, when all the other shows only have an episode or two out, I just can’t deny how fantastic the first two episodes of Sound! have been, easily being on par with the first season. From the amazing animation from Kyoto Animation, to the excellent characters and drama on display in just these first two episodes, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sound! will definitely be somewhere near the top of my ‘best of’ list for the year, never mind the season.

flip-flappers

In terms of non-sequels starting this season, the one that instantly grabbed my attention from the get-go was Flip Flappers. It was a little hard for me to grasp what exactly it’s about (I hope the second episode will shed some light on that) but, from a pure animation standpoint, Flip Flappers had my jaw on the floor. I haven’t seen an anime by Studio 3hz before, but their visuals rival the greats, and I genuinely couldn’t tear my eyes away from the bright colours and fluid action on display, it was truly a marvel. If the future episodes can match the level of the animation with character and story, then I think Flip Flappers will certainly be a contender for the best of the season.

Another show I’d be remiss not to mention would be Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou li Desu Kara 2nd Season. Both the first season and this current season seemed to fly under the radar a bit in terms of popularity and I definitely think both seasons are worth a watch. More akin to a Slice of Life Comedy than you’re regular magical girl offering, Desu Kara always manages to get a good laugh out of me, and at only 4 minutes an episode, there’s really no reason not to give it a go.

Demelza:
haikyu-season-3-imageWhen I first looked at this season, I didn’t think there would be much to catch my interest. However, over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised in the vast quantity of good quality anime hitting
Crunchyroll. Thanks to the service picking up so much, so I’ve found myself watching quite a lot and already have some firm favourites that I can recommend everyone give a shot.

As IncendiaryLemon mentioned above, this season is a season full of sequels and so I’m happily watching the second half of Bungo Stray Dogs, Sound! Euphonium season two and most importantly (for me) the third season of Haikyu!. Bungo Stray Dogs continues to be an example of Studio BONES at the top of their game with some exceptional action scenes, animation and their fun blend of comedy that I always fall deeply in love with. Sound! is off to a worse start and hasn’t really gripped me but then I was never that fond of the first season, so I’m really only sticking with it because of Kyoto Animation and the hopes of things improving (they never did in Season One for me though…). By far the best of the sequels though is Haikyu! which promises to spread a 5-set game against Shiratorizawa Academy across the whole 10 episodes of the season. Usually I’d be worried about stretching one match across that many episodes, but with Production I.G at the helm and a wonderful first episode I’m just left with pure excitement for what’s to come. I truly believe that if any sports anime is going to pull this kind of idea off well it’s going to be Haikyu!.

As far as new anime goes my favourites are definitely Girlish Number, Izetta: The Last Witch and Yuri!!! On Ice. It seems as though Girlish Number is going to fill my New Game! hole by telling the story of cute girls doing cute things in an industry I’m really interested in learning about. The story is about a new voice actor, Chitose, who so far hasn’t had the chance to play any named roles, but her big break comes along by the end of the first episode and she finds herself playing a lead role! The first episode was full of good humour and digs aimed at anime adaptations of light novels, so I can see myself having a lot of fun with this. If nothing else I might learn something interesting about how the voice acting industry works.

izetta-the-last-witch-animeI think my favourite of my favourites has to be Izetta: The Last Witch. I’m sure many of our writers will pick this one as well because it’s pretty universally likable no matter what your tastes are. I love magic and witches so the show won me over on that alone, but I’m also aware that it has some of the Code Geass talent behind it and that intrigues me to no end. Set in a world currently stuck in a war with a feisty princess who wishes to protect her kingdom, it sounds pretty generic but trust me, it’s better than it sounds. The first two episodes have been busily setting up the world and cast, but pretty animation and a strong selection of characters has kept me on-board so far. If you watch nothing else this season then at least give Izetta a chance.

yurionice-png

My final pick is Yuri!!! on Ice which tells the story of Yuri Katsuki, an ice skater who loses in the final of the Gran Prix competition and begins to question what he’s even doing with his career. After a video of a private performance back in his hometime goes viral on the internet, Yuri is suddenly visited by his idol Victor Nikiforov who wishes to coach Yuri! The first two episodes have displayed some captivating animation and so far Yuri and Victor are both interesting characters with a lot of depth to them. I’m writing about this one because it was a show I passed by originally (because I’m not that big on ice skating really) and went back to watch after seeing a number of friends really enjoying. I don’t want anyone else to miss out on trying this because they overlooked it the same way I did – trust me, it’s well worth your time this season.

Sarah:

Putting aside my annoyance about not being able to watch Kiss Him, Not Me!  (because, UK) and wondering if it’s worth signing up to Amazon Prime to watch one of the series I was really interested in this autumn, Ame no Funi, I’ve found plenty to watch and enjoy. For me the stand-out so far is Yuri!!! On Ice. That OP! Such a heart-stopping blend of animation and song! (Watching this reminds me how enthralled I felt when seeing/hearing the OP of Vision of Escaflowne for the first time.) Director Saya Yamamoto deftly blends humour with the poetic, artistic side of ice skating and those oh-so-naughty teases. But in spite of the comedic moments, there’s much that will chime with anyone who has ever striven to excel in the arts or sports; Yuuri’s utter devastation when faced with his own failure at the Gran Prix Finale competition will create a strong feeling of sympathy in many hearts and minds. I can’t wait to see where this goes next…

alloutgal

Another new sports anime is All Out! Which is all about the rugby! Coming from a rugby-mad household, I couldn’t wait to see this (with fingers firmly crossed that it wouldn’t turn out to be a damp squib like Cheer Boys!!, juggling too many characters and not enough animation budget). It’s early days yet but the distinctive manga-based character designs (and an OP that shows a realistic match in the mud and the rain) are encouraging. Facts about rugby have been fed in quite subtly, so if you don’t know the game, you won’t feel left out. Typical shonen hero, first year (and short of stature) Gion, proves almost impossibly stubborn and determined to join the team, unafraid to take on the truly intimidating captain Sekizan, even though he knows nothing of the game. His new friend, timid giant Iwashimazu, has his own reasons for not wanting to play rugby ever again but somehow you just know…  This has been a fun watch so far and is well worth catching if you’re looking for a sports anime with a difference.

classicaloid

ClassicaLoid and Nanbaka although ostensibly very different, the first based around classical composers and their music, the second about four prisoners whose unusual gifts allow them to break out of any jail in the world, are both as many technicoloured shades of crazy as the animators can splash onto the screen. I’m enjoying both – because I like crazy when it’s done with imagination and even affection – but, as a musician, I’m probably better qualified to talk about ClassicaLoid.  (I’m going to cheat by quoting the Crunchyroll blurb) :

Kanae and Sosuke are two high-school students living in the suburbs in Japan where music flourishes. One day, they encounter Beethoven and Mozart, two suspicious men who call themselves ClassicaLoids. The “Musik” they play have mysterious powers, such as causing meteor showers and summoning giant robots. Kanae and Sosuke’s daily lives suddenly turn chaotic! Adding to the commotion are the appearances of other ClassicaLoids such as Bach, Chopin, Liszt, and Schubert. What is the big secret behind their powers? And are they a threat to humankind, or could they be saviors?

The first episode, in which Kanae’s amazingly eccentric house, complete with pipe organ (originally her grandmother’s) is threatened with demolition, is satisfyingly over-the-top and gets the series off to a fine start. Different teams of musicians have been given the task of arranging music from the named composers and a theme from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony gets a full-on 70s rock orchestra interpretation worthy of Jeff Lynne or Rick Wakeman. Less successful, I feel, is the second episode’s rather perfunctory interpretation of ‘that’ theme from Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ (the one everyone knows) which hardly gets any airtime at all. But will this attract any new listeners to classical music? We shall see what happens when Liszt turns up next time (in this series, Liszt is a glamorous woman, not the 19th century musical superstar who had female audiences swooning in the aisles and throwing themselves at him). And who knew that Beethes was so obsessed with gyoza…?

march-lion-1

Last but not least of my picks, March comes in like a lion tells the story of loner and seventeen-year-old pro-shogi player, Rei Kiriyama, and is a complete contrast to the other series I’ve mentioned. This is a Slice-of-Life show based on the manga by Chika Umina (Honey and Clover) and, although gentle in pace, has some striking imagery, wonderfully animated, as well as a touching depiction of a young man struggling to deal with loneliness. The lively family of three sisters (and their cats!) with whom Rei is beginning to interact provide a fascinating contrast to his solitary existence. One to watch for lovers of Slice-of-Life – and cats!

Cold Cobra:

I have to repeat what my fellow staff have said above in that I wasn’t expecting much going into this season. I was happy to find Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans once again able to be streamed straight to my TV via Crunchyroll, even if it is on a weeks delay. As a Gundam fan of over a good decade and a half I’ve been thrilled to see the property once again find its footing with another slice of war stories and drama mixed with giant robots shooting at each other. Fingers crossed this second half goes better than the second half of Gundam 00, which struggled to recapture what it created in its opening season a fair few years ago.

drifters

Continuing with the returning shows theme, I too am watching Bungo Stray Dogs, with its great mix of comedy and action. Lastly, the only new show on my personal “must catch every week” list: Drifters. I was interested in the idea of the plotline: a bunch of historical figures are plucked from their time periods the moment before they’re historically killed and forced to fight each other on two (or three, seemingly) sides. It was a good concept, and throw in the fact that it is based off of a manga by Kouta Hirano of Hellsing fame and I was in. The first episode has already seen a bit more humour mixed in with the expected gore, and some fine laying of groundwork that has me excited to strap in for the 12 episode ride to the end of the year.

I also feel I should given a quick mention to Part IV of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure story, Diamond is Unbreakable, coming to an end this season. While not a new or returning show, it’s a favourite and the fact that this is the home stretch feels like a big event for the season.

So there you have it, only three new or returning shows in this season, but three shows I’m very happy to continue to follow in the run up to the end of the year.

Publisher: Crunchyroll (streaming)
Genre: Action, Sports, Comedy, Slice of Life, Fantasy
Type: Movie
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles