21 April 2017

beyond the bugmen: part II

Part II: The Greedy Selflessness, OOO

Kamen Rider OOO, pronounced O's, is the next series in our look at the Kamen Rider franchise under a microscope. Airing from September 5, 2010 to August 28, 2011, the series follows Eiji Hino, a wanderer with a tragic sort of backstory, and a desire to help others. Soon after we meet Eiji, we are introduced to his “sidekick”: a floating hand named Ankh. Ankh is one of the Greeed (no, that is not a typo), a race of monsters that are made of coins – silver coins called Cell Medals make up their physical forms, and the Core Medals (each with its own color scheme and animal motif) make up their actual being. The Greeed create monsters from humans' desire, and hunt down their Core Medals so that they can take over the Earth, as they had tried to do 800 years ago.

In OOO, more than almost any other Rider series I've seen to date, the theme is so easily seen. Eiji represents a selfless hero, giving up all he has to save others, and even keeping little for himself outside of the fight – he believes that as long as he has a pair of underwear, a little money, and somewhere to sleep, he needs nothing else in the world. This actually starts to become a problem, as Ankh wants his Core Medals back, and will do anything to have them. He can't fight, though – which is why he helps Eiji to transform into OOO in the first place. When he starts putting innocent lives in danger, Eiji makes him promise – either he starts paying more attention, or he'll never transform again (mind you, this is while both of them are dangling from a collapsing skyscraper).

Later in the series, the emphasis begins to shift – rather than simply following the fight between Eiji and the Greeed, we see a fight between three sides of the Greeed. Uva wishes to gather Cell Medals to boost his power, Mezool tries to keep the group together and find their Core Medals, and Kazari flip-flops between the sides of the Greeed. In the end of the series, things happen that make Eiji realize that being entirely selfless is just too hard, but being too greedy is not good, either. So, he's left to take a pragmatic view on greed – want and desire for things, but do not be afraid to help others.

13 April 2017

beyond the bugmen: part I

Part I: The Half-Boiled Noire, W

Hello, everyone! It's been a long while since I was made an editor of Study of Anime, and I feel like I've done nothing with it. So, as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom (yeah, real original analogy there, self), so, too, will this site bloom with new articles. This is a deconstruction of my Kamen Rider analysis panel, which looks at every Kamen Rider series, from W to Ex-aid, under a microscope. There will probably be more added to this as we go, but for now, here we go with Kamen Rider W.

Kamen Rider W (or, as it's pronounced, Double), aired from September 6, 2009 to August 29, 2010, and was the first series in what some call the "Neo-Heisei" era of Kamen Rider. The eras mainly refer to the era of Japanese history the series was made in; however, the fandom has started to refer to any series that was worked on by the series creator, Shotaro Ishinomori, as Showa era, and anything else as Heisei. Whichever it is, W was considered the start of a 'new' era, as the series preceding it (Kamen Rider Decade) was sort of the end of a decade of series.

The series stars our main hero, Hidari Shotaro, who transforms into the "half-and-half Rider", along with his partner, Philip. Right away, the series screams "film noire" at the top of its lungs. Shotaro himself is a detective, who wears a suit, a trilby hat, and drinks coffee (we'll get to THAT little tidbit later). Film noire is a genre that tends to focus on crime films, with especially cynical worldviews. Shotaro himself identifies as a "hard-boiled" detective, which in his terms, means "Not being swayed no matter what the situation. It's a man-among-men lifestyle." However, the various characters throughout the series comment that he is half-boiled (yet another joke about the two-in-one Rider concept), and in the end, it is described as his greatest strength: a hard-boiled detective is not swayed, even for the best of reasons. Shotaro is often swayed by someone in need, and thus, is too compassionate to be truly hard-boiled.

Bringing me to my next point is another aspect of Shotaro's character that he uses as proof that he is a hard-boiled detective - he drinks coffee. In America, that doesn't seem like much - Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and various other companies started here for a reason. In Japan, though, there's a trope with the cool, "lone wolf" type character. They tend to drink coffee, properly brewed either by a drip brewer or a French press. My theory about this comes down to time. Canned coffee drinks are very popular throughout Japanese vending machines, but it's rare that we see anyone sitting down to drink a proper cup of coffee. Thus, it is used for the calm and collected characters, who have the time to sit and wait for a cup to be brewed.

Kamen Rider W is one of the most well-loved Kamen Rider series to this day, for good reason. It established many of the tropes that we'll see throughout the rest of the Neo-Heisei era, and its theming creates a world with interesting characters, with plenty of motives to keep the viewer guessing. If I had to recommend somewhere to start, it would be one of my first choices.

04 October 2016

a brief look: Earthbound

"Listen Ness. I'm going to tell you something very important. You may want to take notes. Ready? ......You're the chosen one." 

Hello, everyone! I'm Troy, also known as SymPhoenix. Since this is my first article in my tenure in Study of Anime, I wanted to talk about the moment I realized that this could be my next step for my writing, as well as one of my favorite games of all time. This won't have nearly as much academic content compared to what's to come, but it might help to introduce myself to you all.
When Earthbound was released, and even on the surface now, it's pretty plain. It's a JRPG on the SNES, in an era when the JRPG was the biggest genre, and you had the greats – your Final Fantasys, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana, to start. Against these, Earthbound looks like a child's game at first. Instead of massive monsters and huge worlds to explore, you're...a kid with a yo-yo beating up stray dogs and crows. Even from a technical standpoint, Earthbound – developed at a time when the SNES hardware was being pushed to its limits – was unimpressive.

I'll get this out of the way. I love Earthbound. I always have. I have fond memories of renting a SNES from Blockbuster (sure dates me, doesn't it?), and three games: Mario Paint, Super Mario RPG (which I'll talk about another time, probably), and Earthbound. I've never really been able to express why I love Earthbound so much, except that it tugged at my heartstrings in a way many games today haven't. I never finished it as a kid, with it being an RPG that took far too long to beat in a single week, but after recently finishing it for the first time, I think I can finally talk about why I love Earthbound.

The main thing that makes Earthbound stand out among its peers, I've already stated, was its very different setting. Our hero, Ness, is a young child with a baseball cap and shorts, not a sword-wielding adventurer. His first real adventure is into his town of Onett, and his first enemies are aggressive members of the local gang, the Sharks, at the arcade. There's some exposition at the beginning, with a prophet from the future named Buzz Buzz, but it's more like a trial-by-fire tutorial  - you're asked to help find the younger brother of your neighbor, Pokey. When you find Pickey at the site of a meteor crash, you also discover Buzz Buzz, who escorts you back to your home. Before you reach it, though, you are stopped by a Starman, a servant of the evil Giygas, who's doing some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff to destroy the world. Or something, it was always really unclear. This is where the story starts being more like our normal JRPG.

Upon defeating the Starman and bringing the brothers Pickey and Pokey home, Buzz Buzz (a bee he is not, but he definitely looks like one) is swatted out of the sky by the boys' mother, and Ness is given a Sound Stone, and told to collect eight melodies from Sanctuaries - points of great peace in the world - in order to truly defeat Giygas. Along the way, you meet three other children who are destined to help you save the world - Paula, Jeff, and Poo. The dialogue is rich with lots of tongue-in-cheek fourth-wall breaks like the one quoted above, and the visuals and music lend themselves to the quirky, off-beat charm that Earthbound is most known for.

What really makes the game interesting, though, is just how lovingly it paints a picture of American society from the eyes of Japan. Cities like Fourside and Summers are alongside small-town settlements like Twoson and Threed, all littered with burger shops, pizza joints, and pubs. I hesitate to mention this, because it seems a bit tacky, but an article that Charles wrote actually motivated me to think deeper on Earthbound, and games in general (search up his article on syncretism - definitely worth a read). The idea that Japanese developers did all of this as a way of admiring American culture, instead of parodying it (though some things can be pretty silly - looking at you, Runaway Five) is a nice thought, as opposed to our typical views of "'Murica" nowadays.

“But Phoenix,” you all may or may not cry, “why do YOU love it?” Well, that's...difficult for me to fathom. As good as my memory is, I have a tough time remembering specific details about my childhood. I remember renting this game and playing it, but not much more. I can only guess that I played it because it was different and looked cool on the box. Now, I kept going back to it because I never beat it as a kid, and as much as I loved the game, I never got a chance to beat it until recently. I think I can say now that I enjoy Earthbound because it's a charming, unique take on a genre of video game that finds it easy to stick to cliches. We see similar concepts with Ni no Kuni, a Ghibli-produced RPG with a modern-set story, and it's got as much charm as Earthbound ever did.

21 August 2015

preview: waku waku nyc

We at Study of Anime first heard about Waku Waku NYC back in June, and wondered about it: it had been a long time since NYC had its own anime/manga/Japanese-flavored event, and here was a new event coming along with an impressive list of sponsors that seemed to guarantee Waku Waku would show up with an amazing flourish. The trick though, is hoping this year goes well so it'll be scheduled again and again.

Study of Anime will be present there as an attendee (via me, Kit), so let me tell you a bit of what I'm looking forward to or would otherwise recommend:

Savory Square: I love ramen, but Japanese style iced coffee is also a thing I enjoy. So I plan to check it out if I can! If you haven't had takoyaki or Japanese style cream puffs, you might also want to check it out. I have a soft spot for takoyaki, myself, as it still reminds me of when I visited Osaka back in 2004.

Kodansha Comics is also doing an industry panel on Saturday, and even though Kodansha (as part of Random House) is based out of New York, I always enjoy seeing them at conventions and seeing what they have to say especially with regards to the localization process, as localization is one of my key interests. So, I'm interested in seeing what they have to say at their panel at Waku Waku.

There will also be an Anime and Manga Studies panel on Sunday, right in time for the new school year, so if you're a student interested in studying anime and manga this panel will be sure to help you get more insight about doing so. I've seen the presenters give a similar panel at other conventions, but the timing of this one (again, right before the new school year) and the closeness of so many schools and universities to Waku Waku's location means this might be the best panel they give. We'll just have to see. I won't be involved with this panel, but friends of Study of Anime such as Kathryn Hemmann are.

 This event is right in my proverbial backyard, so of course I'm going to try and check it out. If you're in the NYC area, or close to it, try to check it out also if you see something interesting on the schedule.

Waku Waku NYC is August 29-30, 2015.

04 August 2015

review: otaku journalist's 15 minute workbook

Lauren Orsini wants you to write.

In fact, she wants you to write about the things you care about: so much so, that she now has a workbook out for the aspiring writer. It's billed as part of her Otaku Journalism series, and you can see it here (it's currently on pre-order special until August 6): http://otakujournalist.com/workbook/

I received a review copy, expecting myself to already know the tips in the workbook. After all, I already have the Otaku Journalism ebook also written by Lauren and by now I have written for various online publications aside from Study of Anime.

I was pleasantly surprised: and reminded how little I knew.

The workbook is designed so each sheet could be potentially completed in 15 minutes or less: perfect for those with school obligations or other jobs. However, some sheets - such as finding a beat - might take more thinking and reflecting than others. Each sheet is focused, and you'll want to refer to them or amend them over time: because of that, what I'd recommend is getting a binder, printing out the worksheet, and having the worksheet in the binder with plenty of paper or notes to serve as a "master reference" as you go about your writing adventures. That way you can keep track of pitches, where you've submitted, ideas for future articles, and more in the same place as your initial thoughts on beat, resources, contacts, and upkeep.

The quality of it is similar to the Writer's Digest published books on writing reference, but Lauren is mindful of what people are using and what they want to see. And a high-quality workbook and reference for $10 is a hard deal to beat.

People come to us asking us how they can do what we do: if you're interested in the writing angle, we turn to Lauren for tips and tricks.