18 September 2014

worst kept secret

Hello all readers. Charles here, and I have a bit of news to share with everyone.

For the past 5 years, I've been writing on this site about all sorts of topics: fandom, anime, conventions, reviews, and whatever else I figured I could squeeze into the "mission statement" I posted way back before my first entries here. Back when the site was white and orange, like some horrid digital creamsicle.

Since then, I've tried my best to keep content flowing, through times when I was being prolific, to those dark months where my ennui was so crippling I forgot the password. It's been sporadic, hardly a regular deal for me, but I'm proud that I have at least attempted to keep the site going for 5 years, which is the longest I've stuck with any individual project of mine.

Recently, I've even added new contributors to the site, offering their own insights and open forum to discuss their own passions. Most of them I've met either through here, or via conventions, a stunning example of how fandom can expand your worldview, and enhance your experiences.

That said, I've been mulling over making some changes of late. I created this site in October 2009, almost on a lark. I wanted a blog to center my research around, and tried a few different names before StudyofAnime cleared the filter. Back then, that's what I wanted this site to be- a place for rumination and explorations on anime and anime fandom. I wanted to post research from my thesis, and extrapolate on end ideas from those early panels. I was so excited to tell people I had made the site, and made all these wild promises about panel notes and constant updates.

Look at my archive for 2009. Mostly con reviews and weird content I had written down at many of the cons I had gone to that year. Even after I had evolved as a person and a fan, I still kept to those early formats, and early insistences about what I wanted this site to be. And in hindsight, I really shouldn't have. Five years in, and I love what this site has given me, but not what I give back in return.

So here's the deal (damn you, Patrick, for adding that to my lexicon): I want to revamp everything. Starting in October, mission statement be damned, I will be using this site as the host for my 4th annual Horror Film Festival. Furthermore, I plan to expand what I write about to be more than just anime or Japanese culture. I want this site to be a reflection of who I am, not who I want other people to see me as. It is passion that drives the fan, and it just so happens that my passions are all over the place. So why try to constrain them into a single topic.

That does not mean StudyofAnime is going away. While I have a new domain in the works, this site will still function as it always has. I've been really happy with the content Kit has been posting. I'm also trying to get Sid to write more, and as always, I extend the offer to anyone who wants to contribute to send things my way. I want this to be more than a "private" blog.

Now I realize for most of you, this really is the worst kept secret. I've been hinting at it for a long time. But I feel the time is right for it to be formally announced. New things are on my own horizon, and a new site is only fitting for it.

Thanks for reading StudyofAnime, thanks for saying hi at cons, and thanks for being passionate fans.

(And also, thanks for your patience. I know some of my writing has been slow, but we are still chugging away.)

05 September 2014

gung-ho humor - irresponsible captain tylor

In honor of the military-themed Kantaicon and my own upbringing - whom I have mentioned earlier, in my Edge of Tomorrow / All You Need Is Kill review - I wanted to talk about an older military-themed animation.

Irresponsible Captain Tylor.

This series was one of the series that my officer father would actually condescend to watch with me. He put up with my rambling about Gundam Wing (mentioning, casually, that the emphasis on political maneuvering would make it hard to follow if someone missed an episode or two), but when I put in the first VHS tape of Irresponsible Captain Tylor, he heard the scene of a surprised recruiter asking our bumbling protagonist Justy Ueki Tylor "how would life in the military be easy for you?" and started snickering.

"In the military, all your food is freeeeee!" - which isn't incorrect.
Tylor's comment about free food isn't incorrect: in future series, we will see other characters (such as Sasha from Attack on Titan) join military organizations in hopes of at least being able to better survive. In real life militaries, food and housing allowances are often given as benefits to serving members, scaled based on where the member is assigned and that area's cost of living averages. In the case of things like healthcare and the GI Bill for educational opportunities, it's not ridiculous that someone would want to join the military in hopes of a better life.

 Yes, this is fiction, though, and of course the story in Tylor gets ridiculous: Justy Ueki Tylor's name even sounds similar to "just [barely] awake", and throughout the series, nobody is exactly certain whether Tylor is a genius, or gifted with the universe's best/worst luck. He gets in to the military, rescues an admiral, defuses a bomb - all within the first two episodes, and no one is sure what to make of him - not even his crew (which, in fine anime and movie tradition, are cast-offs, nerds, eccentrics, probable criminals, and just plain weirdos). Crispin Freeman, in an early role of his, gives an amazing and gung-ho performance as Justy Ueki Tylor, and sounds like he's having fun with the role - an unexpected hero, but a hero nonetheless! The blend of humor balanced with galactic scale plots really make it fun and easy to watch, though it is very much 1980s-in-style, starting from the opening sequence onward.

But for someone used to seeing dark, grim stories about war, or the military (think - again - Attack on Titan, or Fullmetal Alchemist, or pick a Gundam series to your liking) - Irresponsible Captain Tylor was refreshing.

The North American release originally was a Central Park Media production, but Nozomi Entertainment has now picked it up, and so the first two episodes are available to watch on Youtube (dub only) and the boxset available via RightStuf.

29 August 2014

purification and clothes

Take with a grain of salt: shrines have their own practices too, and misogi is in no way exclusive to Shinto practices, but take these as a general guideline.

First: on clothes.

In shrines, the clothing you see priests and miko wear for shrine ritual work are kariginu: modeled after nobles' hunting clothes of the Heian period (794 CE - 1185 CE). This describes the vest-like clothing with its high shoulders, the hat (modeled after what was worn at court, distinguishing court rank), and more: even the hakama-trousers are trouser style, and fitted to be easy to walk in and yet having a dignified appearance. A variant of this is the jo-e; jo-e have no pattern on them, but otherwise are cut the same as kariginu style.

More formal than the kariginu are saifuku and ikan; these are worn especially for the great formal ceremonies that shrines may have once or twice a year only. Saifuku can also be difficult to assemble and properly wear on one's own, so some priests may have need assistance to put everything on (similar to how women today may need assistance when dressing in formal kimono, if they do not already know how to do everything).

Second: on oharae.

Interestingly, even though these clothes are modeled after the Heian era, what about the practices of purification - oharae? Sometimes, oharae is done with these very formal, very ancient clothes: sometimes, oharae is done with very little clothing on.

Of course, during festivals and the great ceremonies, oharae ceremonies are done on behalf of the community and to help bring humans closer to the kami: sort of an admission of shared responsibility to help straighten and correct the root of misfortunes and to come together to bring kindness and gratitude into the world. In those instances, ceremonial clothing is used, but the residing priest will have done his own personal purification exercises and practices prior.

Practices such as misogi - the purification under running water, normally under a waterfall or somesuch - are also oharae cleansing/purification practices, and are done as close to nude as possible. Nowadays, misogi is done with a sort of white underwear on; for males it is a type of loincloth, for females it is a type of white shift/underkimono. Why might this be?

In many cultures - not just in the sacred traditions of Shinto - purity is associated with nudity. For example, in Judaism, the traditions of ritual immersion states that nothing must come between the person immersing and the water: the person must already be washed (for cleanliness and sanitary reasons), but hair must not be up, jewelry must be removed, there must be not even dirt under fingernails or toenails. This influenced the Christian ideas behind baptism: baptism is done with water (a pure substance), and is symbolic of a "new birth" - that is, a pure state. While Christian denominations may disagree on when baptism is appropriate, or by which method (sprinkling water? immersion? adult baptism only? etc), what is agreed upon is that the symbolic cleansing and immersion acts as a ritual purification by any other name.

Further reading:

26 August 2014

ruminations on conventions, meta-fandom, and bob's burgers

Hey guys. I found this outline for a post while clearing out my computer, and wanted to share it as yet another example of how I string ideas together. It's unfinished and very raw, but while rereading it, it was interesting to try to figure out my thought process while I was in the act of throwing words to the page. It was supposed to be an examination of the Equestranauts episode of Bob's Burgers from earlier this year, and how it both lampoon con culture, but also fits into it, highlighting an awareness of the fandom and meta-fandom on the minds of the writers of the show. 

I don't think it fit that intent very well. But at the same time, as a purely theoretical exercise, it's worth revisiting. And, to be honest, clearing off my open windows that should have been closed ages ago.

22 August 2014

dead man's party - obon

Note: we've been busy selling ebooks, having birthdays, preparing for conventions, putting up new websites (such as Kit's own personal one), and more! So forgive the delay.

If you're going to Anime USA 2014, you can see us all talk about Japanese lore! 


Last week, translator and writer Zack Davisson had a birthday; as did Charles, as did myself.

"Isn't it funny how we all have birthdays in or around Obon?" I mentioned the Obon Festival half-jokingly, but Obon is a curious blend of a fun festival and a somber remembrance; it comes from Buddhist teachings of hungry ghosts, and a story about a monk who saw his own mother hanging upside down in one of the hells. The mother entreated her son to say sutras and remember her, and eventually Obon became a time to remember those departed: in remembering, the spirits would be eased, merit accrued, and suffering would lessen or end.

Over time, Obon became a festival, with the Bon Odori (Obon circle dance) being one of the favorite - and most nostalgic - summer events. Different areas do different dances, and have their own ways of observing Obon. Some of them even have different times: while Obon is traditionally in the middle of the eighth month, the eighth month can be the modern July, or the modern August, depending on place and tradition. However, Obon is not counted as a national holiday according to the national calendars.

But people go to their family home or relatives' anyway, to observe and attend maybe a shrine or temple festival anyhow. You will see yukata just as easily as summer shorts or blouses or parasols/umbrellas to keep out the sun; and in the evening, when the weather is cooler, there may be more people out shopping or having fun. During festivals or the Bon dances, you may see taiko drumming also! Companies often have it as a company holiday time, and it is an expected time of year where people travel.

Obon is likened to a Western Halloween, Samhain, or the Day of the Dead of Hispanic areas; also because of Obon, and the heat & humidity of a Japanese summer, scary films and games often are released (or on special sale) in the summer to help "cool off" with the shivers the fear might create! It helps too that because of the heat, more people go out and about in the evenings and night when it's cooler, and nighttime of course is a time of boundary-crossing, things that go thump...

For example, earlier this summer, the Japanese horror visual novel/adventure Corpse Party was on sale, Higurashi When They Cry takes place in the summer, and so on.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

More information, see: