ANIME TELEVISION SHOWS: SPEED RACER, MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, BLEACH AND ONE PIECE

TELEVISION ANIME VERSUS MOVIE ANIME

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TV anime and cinematic anime are very different. On television it's all about presenting the characters in an engaging way within the framework of a limited number of drawings and a limited budget. Kozo Morishita of Toei Animation told the Yomiuri Shimbun: "[We learned that] if you endow the female protagonist with generous breasts, it puts a smile on kids' faces. Also, we turned the limitations associated with static images into a plus by effectively employing very detailed drawings of robots and such like. Working within such constraints let staffers heighten their powers of expression. It may have been a slightly unrefined approach, but in their pursuit of each protagonist's "cool" factor, the staff helped coalesce the traditions of Toei Doga's production methods. [Source: Makoto Fukuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, June 3, 2011]

"TV anime attracts viewers through the accentuation of popular characters, whereas movies can afford to spend a long time concentrating on story composition, development and presenting a world view," Morishita told the Yomiuri Shimbun. "Within these two genres, the director's job is completely different. But when you tackle these roles, you find that it becomes easier both for yourself and for the people who come after you."

Makoto Fukuda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Morishita brought the full range of his skills to bear on Saint Seiya , which was produced in conjunction with Shueisha Inc. and its publication Weekly Shonen Jump. The project ate up large amounts of time and money: Clouds were drawn with multiple gradations, lavish action scenes were common and staffers poured their hearts and souls into the work.” Morishita recalls, "We used far too much cash, and consequently, I was made a producer so I could learn how to disburse funds appropriately." [Ibid]

In 1978, to deal with a shortfall in personnel, Morishita traveled to South Korea and trained staff there. Five years later, at the invitation of U.S. firm Marvel, he began visiting the United States to help make and direct The Transformers, the success of which brought great benefits for Toei Animation.

Websites and Resources

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One Piece Ambiance
Good Websites and Sources: Speed Racer Television Series mahalo.com/stub/speed-racer-tv-show ;Speed Racer Official Movie Site speedracerthemovie.warnerbros.com ; Mobile Suit Gundam animenewsnetwork.com ; Mobile Suit Gundam Official gundamofficial.com ; Official One Piece site onepiece.viz.com Mamoru Oshii on Internet Movie Database imdb.com Satoshi Kon Official Website konstone.s-kon.net ; Paprika sonyclassics.com/paprika ; Full Metal Alchemist fullmetal-alchemist.com ;Tekkon Kinkreet Official Site sonypictures.com/homevideo/tekkonkinkreet ; Appleseed on Anime News Network animenewsnetwork.com ; Evangelion on on Internet Movie Database imdb.com

Links in this Website: MANGA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; POPULAR TYPES OF MANGA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; POPULAR MANGA AND FAMOUS MANGA ARTISTS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MANGA FANS AND COSPLAY IN JAPAN AND ABROAD Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; OSAMU TEZUKA, MANGA AND ANIME Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; ANIME Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; ANIME FILM AND TELEVISION SHOWS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; HAYAO MIYAZAKI ANIME Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MODERN JAPANESE FILM INDUSTRY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MODERN JAPANESE FILMMAKERS AND FILMS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MEDIA, RADIO, NEWSPAPERS AND TELEVISION IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TELEVISION PROGRAMS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHILDREN’s TELEVISION SHOWS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

Good Anime Websites and Sources: Crunchyroll crunchyroll.com . Crunchyroll is an Internet portal for anime downloads that began as a free fan file-sharing site and grew into a for-profit site that charges users fees that go to the producers of the anime. Free Anime Streams on Watch Anime watchanimeon.com ; Free Anime Streams on Zomganime.com zomganime.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Tokyo International Anime Festival tokyoanime.jp ; Anime News Network animenewsnetwork.com ; Anime Books: Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle by Susan J. Napier (Palgrave, 2001); The Anime Companion by Gilles Poitras (Stone Bridge Press, 1999); Anime Revolution by Ian Condry, a Harvard professor; Rough Guide to Anime by Briton Simon Reynolds.


Astroboy
Articles and Essay on Anime: Essay on Manga and Anime aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Useful Filmography on Anime aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Essay on Teaching Anime aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Essay on Dawn of Anime aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Anime Blogs Random Curiosity randomc.animeblogger.net ; The Anime Blog theanimeblog.com ; Japan Underground Blog hamblogjapan.blogspot.com ; Anipike anipike.com/ ;

Places That Sell Anime Right Stuf Anime Superstore rightstuf.com ; Anime Corner animecornerstore.com ; Anime Nation animenation.com ; Krazy World of Manga, Anime and Video Games a href="http://www.japansociety.org/content.cfm/event_detail?eid=6ee001d9&ss=%3C05-DJJ%203%26]DO!\T4SM7CU]M7W_C%27%20^[7QQ%3B%23I%40%20%20%0A"> aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Japanese, Chinese and Korean CDs and DVDs at Yes Asia yesasia.com ; Japanese, Chinese and Korean CDs and DVDs at Zoom Movie zoommovie.com ; Animax is a satellite channel that specializes in anime. It debuted in 1998 and claims 41 million viewers in Japan and is broadcasts in 46 other countries. Among the classic that are featured are Dragonball Z, Mobile Suit Gundam, Astroboy, and Lupin III. Animex is owned by Sony. The Cartoon Network exclusively airs Japanese anime after midnight.

Otaku Urban Dictionary urbandictionary.com ; Danny Choo dannychoo.com ; Otaku Dan Blog otakudan.com ; Otaku Generation Blog generationotaku.net ; Dumb Otaku dumbotaku.com Otaku story in the Washington Post Washington Post ; Otaku History Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Academic Pieces on the History of Otaku cjas.org ; cjas.org and cjas.org ; Early Piece on Otaku (1990) informatik.hu-berlin.de ; Man, Nation, Machine informatik.hu-berlin.de ; Otaku from Business Perspective nri.co.jp/english ; Otaku Sites The Otaku, Anime and Manga Portal and Blog theotaku.com ; Otaku World, Online Anime and Manga fanzine otakuworld.com ; Otaku Magazine otakumag.co.za ; Otaku News otakunews.com ; Danny Choo dannychoo.com ; Spacious Planet Otaku Blog spaciousplanet.com ; Otaku Activities Maid Cafes stippy.com/japan-culture ; Male Maid Café yesboleh.blogspot.com ; Akihabara Book: The Best Shops of Akihabara---Guide to Japanese Subculture by Toshimichi Nozoe is available for ¥1,000 by download at http://www.akibaguidebook.com Akihabara Murders : See Government, Crime, Famous Crimes . Websites: Picture Tokyo picturetokyo.com ; Akihabara News akihabaranews.com ; Akihabara Tour akihabara-tour.com ; Otaku story in Planet Tokyo planettokyo.com

Popular Anime in the 1960s, 70s, 80s

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Mazinger Z
Astroboy was the first Japanese animation character to find a large audience outside of Japan. It appeared in the United States in 1963, followed by Speed Racer in 1967 and then Kimba and Gigantor. In the 1970s and 80s, Battle of the Planets/G-Force (known as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman in Japan), and Robotech (source of the Transformers craze) were very popular in the United States.

Speed Racer (Mach Go Go Go in Japan), Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) and Robotech were produced by Tatsunoko Productions. The company, formed in Tokyo by two brothers Kenji and Toyoharu, was unique in that it created works that were not based on existing manga. It also produced Mitsubachi Monogatari Minashigo Hatchi and Yatterman.

Tetsujin 28-go, high-tech humanoid robotknown as Gigantor in English, was was a popular animation series in the 1960s. It was created initially as a manga by the artist Mitsuteru Yokohama (1934-2004), a Kobe native, and later was made into an animated television series and films. In the story the giant robot, under the control of a young boy, fights crime and enemy robots.

A large model if Tetsujin 28-go was erected in 2009 in Nagata ward, Kobe, in an effort to attract visitors to the ward, which has never really recovered from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. The statue is 18 meters tall, the same height as the fictional robot. Thirty-eight-centimeter-tall, remote-controlled versions of the robot are sold today for $2,300 by the Osaka-based Sunpac Co.

Robotech reached the peak of its popularity in the mid 1980s in the United States. It was comprised of three Japanese series including the Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross series. The story was set in the war-ridden Earth of the future and was about the fate of refugees trying to survive.

Other anime watched by American kids included Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman) and Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato in Japan). Other popular anime in Japan included Galaxy Express 999, deputing in 1977 and based on a magna by Leiji Matsumoto, and Bubblegum Crisis a classic anime from the 1980s.

Europe also embraced anime. UFO Robo Grendizer was aired for the first time in 1976 and was a big hit, at one point posting television ratings of 80 percent and creating a big boom in Japanese culture there. It featured a hero named Duke Fleed who operated a giant robot named Grendizer. The series spread across Europe and spawned a genre of animation known as "Giant Robots."

Akira (1988) is regarded as one the greatest anime films ever. Described by Time as the Gone with Wind of anime, it is an epic about a bunch of kids in post-nuclear future produced by Katsuhiro Otomo. Akira developed a cult following in the United States after the film was released.

Speed Racer


Speed Racer
Speed Racer is a manga and anime created in the 1960s by Tatsuo Yoshida that was popular with American kids in the 1970s. It appeared shortly after Astroboy and was arguably more popular and did more to introduce Japanese anime to American audiences. From the outset it was created for an American audience. Yoshida’s brother Ippei Kuri told Japanese pop culture expert Roland Kelts, “We were surprised about the success” of Speed Racer “but it was actually what we had been planning. We had been studying American culture, and it style was something we tried very hard to emulate.”

The main character Speed is a Formula 1 driver with a beautiful girlfriend named Trixie and a pet monkey. The real star of the show was his car, Mach 5, a sleek machine with a red “M” on the front and a “5" on the side. It could fly through the air and jet through the water. When it went through a forest it sprouted spinning saws that cleared the way by cutting down trees. On the steering wheel were lettered buttons that acted as the equivalent of Batman’s belt. The button with the letter G released a robot that could deliver messages or carry things to far away places. Speed is often accompanied in adventures by his mother and father and little brother Spritle. His older brother Rex was killed in racing accident. Rex had given the sport a bad name and it is up to Speed to redeem his family’s name and his sport.

Speed Racer stories revolve around races to the death and feature engine stealing, kids taking food from strangers, corporate sabotage, attempted coups and child and animal abuse, The races were often held in extremely punishing conditions: driving over ravines that leave most the racers dead, racing 600 kilometers through a hot lava tunnel that is only open for five hours. The cars themselves especially those driven by bad guys are equipped with nasty devices such electric bolts that can be fired into rival cars.

In the Japanese version of the series Speed is known as Go Mifune, a nod to the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. His appearance is modeled after scarf-wearing Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas. Mach 5's design is inspired by Ferrari; its gizmos from James Bond’s Austin Martin DB5 in Goldfinger. Kuro told Kelts, “We in Japan saw “50s America as an ideal and we presented that in Speed Racer." Peter Fernandez, an American writer and voice actor, who was paid $250 an episode for writing and a $15 per episode for supplying voices, told Kelts, “Speed Racer had family values. It wasn’t about a hero who won in the end, or a robot. It had a family of characters all concerned about what happened to their members.”

See Anime and Hollywood, Below

Mobile Suit Gundam

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Gundam toy
Mobile Suit Gundam is an anime and manga series that featured life-like robots in the midst of a never-ending war. The series was popular as were the toys that were marketed along with the series. The toys have remained popular and were given a boost with the 1995 movie Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam.

Mobile Suit Gundam , directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, was the first robot-based anime to have a serious storyline: the agony felt by humans in wartime. Otaku writer Makoto Fukuda wrote, “It brought more depth to the genre, which had previously been dominate by simple themes such as right and wrong, causing the robot genre to be regarded as something for children.” Gundam was first aired in April 1979 and most of its fans initially, surprisingly enough, were girls. The original 43-episode series was cut short by 10 episodes. It wasn’t until the series was reworked as a three-part theatrical release in 1981 that it found its audience and was embraced by boys and really took off as a television series and a vehicle to sell merchandise.

The original Kido Senshi Gundam also known as the “First Gundam” featured robots designed by the manga artist Yun Yoga. Set in the Universal Century year 0079 at time when half of humanity has been killed by wars and survivors live in space colonies, it beings with the initiation and infiltration of spies in mobile suits---giant piloted armed robots--- into one of the colonies. The ensuing battle reveals a powerful new energy weapon and a new type of mobile suit, the experimental Gundam.

Mobile Suit Gundam was created by mech auteur Yoshiyuki Tomino, who had worked on the Astro Boy and Star Blazers series. The series was created at a time when Japan was suffering during the energy crisis and overpopulation was a concern. Tomino told the Daily Yomiuri, “I didn’t think [as deeply as I do now] about the series when I created it. But I knew I wanted to send an absolutely “correct” message to the public. There are artists who want to show their audiences something great or to show off their abilities. I never had that ability. But, at least, I knew we needed to send a message.”

The Gundam series centers around fighting robots and the humans who control them. The war is between the principality of Zeon, a breakaway group of space colonies, and the Earth Federation. The main character on the Earth Federation side is Amuro Ray, the son of the designer of the Gundam prototype. The Zeon side is complex with a number of leaders.

Impact of Mobile Suit Gundam


The Gundam series has been popular with both children and adults. It had a huge impact on the toy industry with the toys themselves often referred to a Gampura, a combination of the words a Gundam and plastic. There are many Gundam series in the market and on television. Manga was adapted from the anime series rather than the other way around. Transformers began as toys released in 1980 by Japanese toymaker Takara (now Tomy). The cartoon was produced in the United States and was first broadcast there. The Japanese versions first appeared in 1985.

The 12th Kido Senshi Gundam (“Mobile Suit Gundam”) was released in 2007. Set in the year 2307, when the sun is utilized as an energy source and world is divided into two, battling major powers, the story revolves around four young people, called Gundam Meisters, who operate Gundam robots and are part of a militia called Solestal Being that aims to end the wars and achieve world peace using their robots to fight against the major powers.

Mobile Suit Gundam has inspired robot makers and environmentalists. It has been behind more than two dozen films, television series, manga titles and video animations. More than $450 million worth of plastic Gundam model kits and merchandise have been sold. ANA flies a 777-300 with an image of Mobile Suit Gundam on the side.

In 2010, an 18-meter-tall “life-size” model of Mobile Suit Gundam was erected in Higashi Shizuoka Plaza near JR Higashi Shizuoka Station. It was one of the main attractions of the Shizuoka Hobby Fair which organizers hope will bring visitors to the town which aims to win recognition as a major center of plastic model manufacturing. Over 4 million people came out to see an 18-meter-tall statue of Gundam robot RX-78-2 when it was shown for a month in Odaiba, Tokyo. Organizers were expecting only about 1.5 million people . One couple was even married at the foot of the statue.

Space Battleship Yamato


Space Battleship Yamato is an anime that debuted in 1974 that is credited with launching the trend that would ultimately prdice Mobile Suit Gundam and Transformers. In the series the battleship Yamato travels 148,000 light years to the Planet Iscandar to save Earth from radioactive pollution. [Source: Makoto Fukuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 12, 2010]

Makoto Fukuda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “When Space Battleship Yamato was first broadcast in 1974, few people paid much attention to the show. Viewers were instead tuning into the much-loved Heidi, the Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki anime airing in the same time slot on another channel. Yamato's run was cut short, from a planned 39 episodes to 26 episodes, and only ran for six months.” [Ibid]

“But, as often is the case, Yamato had found a fanbase among young science-fiction fans who grew up on TV anime. Small fanclubs were established nationwide, and fans flooded the producers with requests to rebroadcast it or turn it into a film. It was released under the name Star Blazers overseas. The anime's producers responded to demand with the theatrical release of 1977's Yamato . The film was revolutionary: Despite having been based on a series that once was deemed a flop, it turned out to be a box-office smash.

“Back in 1974, the creators of Space Battleship Yamato could not have known the incredible influence their TV show would have on what would become the global phenomenon of anime. If it were not for Yamato and the success it experienced, there likely never would have been such great sci-fi series as Mobile Suit Gundam or New Genesis Evangelion .

In December 2009 Space Battleship Yamato: Revival was released. It was the first Yamato film in 26 years. Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the film's director, said,"I want people young and old to watch Yamato and empathize with Susumu Kodai [the protagonist], who has a mission in life," he said. Nishizaki, who was the producer and one of the writers of the original Space Battleship Yamato television series, died in November 2010, reportedly after falling from his boat while preparing to swim from it to a port on Chichijima island. Fittingly, the boat was named the Yamato. Space Battleship Yamato, the first attempt at a live-action version of the classic anime, starring SMAP member Takuya Kimura as Kodai, was released in November 2010, The $22 million film has been called a visually interesting adaption of the U.S. series Battlestar Gallactica with a poor story.

Macross Robot Series


Chiyono Sugiyama wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Even among the many robot-themed series that populate the world of anime, the decades-old Macross franchise is in a class of its own. Fast-paced space combat, transformable fighter jets (known as Valkyries), pop music and a love triangle have been essential to every Macross series since it debuted back in 1982 with Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which was quickly dubbed and released in the West as part of the popular Robotech series. [Source: Chiyono Sugiyama, Daily Yomiuri, March 4, 2011]

Director Shoji Kawamori has been involved with the Macross series since the beginning and has directed many of the films. On the most recent series Kawamori said"The Macross Frontiera4 series was well known for its variety of elements. Each of them could become their own movie---be it one about a love triangle, or fighting aliens, and so on’so it was a real challenge for us to figure out a new and interesting way to effectively combine all of the elements into a single movie."

Sugiyama wrote: “Music plays an important role in the Macross franchise. Yoko Kanno's compositions are effective in evoking feelings of speed, particularly during Valkyrie battles, which are made all the more exciting because of it. The series' two divas, meanwhile, display the musicality needed to successfully deliver Kanno's pop tracks.” Some of the fight scenes are very fast and intense: blink and you might miss any one of films tricks. “

The films are often peppered with “Easter eggs” for longtime Macross fans. Sugiyama wrote that in the 2011 film, “One such "present" happens during this prison scene: Ranka's backing band is called the Lovely Bomber, a nod to the band Fire Bomber from Macross 7 . There are even homages to Osamu Tezuka at the beginning of the film, with characters such as Black Jack and Astro Boy making brief appearances.” At a press conference for that film, Kawamori said: "This film is a showcase of all that is possible in anime."

Macross Frontier: Sayonara no Tsubasa was released in March 2011. It is a sequel to the 2009 film Macross Frontier: Itsuwari no Utahime and last installment of the Macross Frontier series, according to director Shoji Kawamori. The films are based on the 2008 TV series Macross Frontier, in which a fleet of human colonists in the year 2059 are searching for a habitable planet near the center of the galaxy. The story follows young pilot Alto Saotome (Yuichi Nakamura), pop star Sheryl Nome (Aya Endo) and Ranka Lee (Megumi Nakajima), a teenager aspiring to become a singer. [Source: Chiyono Sugiyama, Daily Yomiuri, March 4, 2011]

Chiyono Sugiyama wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “While the first film was essentially a rehash of the TV show's storyline with new footage, Sayonara no Tsubasa adds new elements to the plot and includes a different ending and new songs, with changes to some of the characters. Sayonara no Tsubasa picks up several months after the human fleet is attacked by the Vajra, a race of powerful, fast biomechanical insectoids. As the war is coming to an end, Ranka is rising rapidly to stardom, while Sheryl, contemplating her own death, strives for new heights as a singer. One of the new mysteries involves the Vajra's connection to the two girls' singing voices.”

“The film starts off by jumping straight into a concert by Sheryl (singing performed by May'n), who resembles Lady Gaga and helps bring the audience into the world of Macross Frontier...My favorite scene in the film involved Alto cross-dressing in goth-loli as he accompanies Ranka and others to an island prison in an attempt to bust out Sheryl, who is being held on espionage charges. All dolled-up, Alto---a former kabuki actor specializing in female roles---was sexier than either of the female leads.

Anime Television

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Dragonball
Popular anime that ran as television series include Akira (a teenager with supernatural powers who is into motorcycles and obsessed with destroying Tokyo), Sailor Moon (featuring cute girls dressed in sailor suits), Dragoball Z (with a half-pint samurai who battles dragons and other manifestations of evil), Barefoot Gen (about a girl in Hiroshima after the explosion of the atomic bomb) and Aeon Flux (a buxom sci-fi female action hero).

The Dragon Ball series was based on a Weekly Shonen Jump manga story and late evolved into Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball starts off as a heartwarming tale, but as the protagonist, Son Goku, grows up, he becomes involved in numerous fierce battles. This change in narrative direction, coupled with Toei Animation's depiction of the resultant action scenes, increased the show's popularity.

Classics include Astro Boy and Galaxy Express 999. Anime creator Yutaka Yamamoto is the creative force behind hits including Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star.

Anime versions of classic and popular novels such Hugo’s Les Miserables and A Dog of Flanders by British writer Ouida (1839-1908) was a big successes. Rascal Racoon, adapted from a Sterling North novel, and A Little Princess, adapted from a Frances Burnet novel, were very popular as television series in Japan from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Sailor Moon was very popular as a manga and anime for a while. It features “giggly, shopoholic schoolgirls dressed sailor-style schoolgirl uniforms who become saviors of the world.” Created by Naoko Takeuchi in a manga entitled Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, it was turned into a popular anime that found a big audience in Europe and North America and ignited Sailor Moon mania in the 1990s. The story is basically about insiders and outsiders and being accepted into the group. For a while school bags, dolls and other Sailor Moon products brought in more than $250 million a year.

Uchu-sho e Yokoso (“Welcome to the Space Show”), an anime by Koji Masunari released in 2010, received high marks. It is about five children who save the life of Pochi, a dog-like alien, who shows his gratitude by taking the children to his special world on the moon. The artwork is stunning. Different animals add their unique touched to different scenes.

Live-action film projects like Naruto and Akira have been joined by a recently announced reality TV series based on Pac-Man. (Don't ask.) Even the Japanese live-action movie Gantz, based on a popular manga and anime series, received its world premiere in the United States.

Dog of Flanders

Japanese love The Dog of Flanders, story set in Belgium about a boy named Nelo who wants to be painter but is falsely accused of arson and is driven from his village. Accompanied by his dog Patrasche, Nelo endures snowstorms to makes his way to Antwerp where he sees a Ruben’s painting he saw in his dreams before he freezes to death. The book was written by British author Ouida under the pen name of Marie-Louis Rame, in the 1870s. It is little known in Europe where it tends to seen as story of the death of “a big loser.” In the United States it has had been made into movie five times, each time with a happy ending.

Explaining the popularity of the story in Japan, the producer of a Dog of Flanders film, An van Dienderen told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The Japanese people, they think they reach a certain level of nobility by accepting defeat or failure in order to preserve things like loyally, friendship dedication. This is exactly what happened to Nelo and Patrsche. Their death exemplifies such values of the Japanese people.”

Popular Anime Television in Japan

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Bleach cosplayers
Crayon Shin-chan is sort of a Japanese version of The Simpsons. Shin-chan is little, obnoxious five-year-old, sort of like Bart Simpson. He enjoys using cheeky adult slang and mooning anyone who will look. He uses his short stature to peak up women’s skirt and his little mouth to make crass jokes and insult and publically humiliate his parents every chance he gets. As is true with Bart, Shinchan is very popular with irreverent kids of all ages and the bane of their parents. For a half dozen years in a row Crayon Shin-chan has been voted by Japan’s national PTA as the worst show for children.

Crayon Shinchan first appeared in 1990 three years after The Simpsons made their debut. Some regard Shin-chan as a Bart Simpson rip off. But there are really a lot difference between the two. Shin-chan is younger and if anything is more vulgar. He likes groping middle-aged women talk about genitalia, usually his own but frequently his mother’s. One if his favorite gags is taking his mother’ lipstick and drawing an elephant between his legs.

Yoshito Usai, the creator of Crayon Shinchon, was found dead below a cliff on Mount Arafune in Gunma Prefecture in 2009. It is believed he slipped while taking a photograph. His digital camera was found near his body and it contained picturers of a rock face which he is believed to have fallen from. The camera was on when it was was found. The detached strap, which appeared to have been pulled off the camera, was found attached to Usai’s wrist.

Conan is about a detective named Jimmy Kudo whose is poisoned by gangsters with a chemicals that shrinks him down in size and make him look like a child. To keep the bad guys from realizing he is still alive he adopts the name Conan Edogawa, a homage to the mystery writer Sir Conan Doyle. Conan has all of Jimmy’s skills and insight but because of his appearance is not taken seriously by the adult public. As a result he does his detective work through his sidekick, Richard Moore, a clueless, slacker detective. The plots are often very complex and implausible. The manga version Meitantei Conan runs to 60 manga volumes,

Rupan Sansei (Lupin III) See Monkey Punch, Manga

Doraemon, See Children’s Television Shows

One Piece


In the early and mid 2000s, One Piece was the hottest anime and manga in Japan and one of the best-selling manga of all time. As of 2008 140 million copies had been sold. Volume 27 alone sold 2.63 million copies in its first printing alone. One Piecefirst appeared in 1997 in Shukan Shonen Jump, a weekly magazine for boys.

The main character is named Monkey D. Luffy. His main ambition is to become a great pirate and to obtain the One Piece, a treasure left by the legendary pirate Gold Roger. After eating a cursed Gum-Gum Fruit for dessert when he was small, Luffy gained the power to stretch his whole body like rubber. It made him, however, unable to swim---a mark against one who want to become a pirate. With his crew of Straw Hat pirates---which includes the sexy navigator Nami, cute Tony Tony Chopper and the swordsman Roronoa Zolo---Luff sails the world’s oceans in search of the legendary treasure, escaping from numerous scrapes with his courage, special power and good luck.

The One Piece manga by Eiichiro Oda is popular among teens and adults, and has sold 200 million copies as of 2011. One episode revolves around Monkey D. Luffy and crew searching for his straw hat. Chiyono Sugiyama wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Waking up one morning to discover his hat---given to him by Shanks and which he regards as vitally important---has disappeared. He and his fellow pirates are frantically searching for the precious headgear when they see a large eagle fly by with it in its mouth. Meanwhile, Usopp and Tony Tony Chopper rescue aging pirate Schneider as they search for the hat. Very sick, he mumbles "Buzz," the name of his dog. The crew of the Thousand Sunny follows the eagle and ends up at the Grand Line, a danger zone for pirates.” [Source: Chiyono Sugiyama, Daily Yomiuri, April 1, 2011]

The 2009 smash-hit Strong World is regarded as the best One Piece movie. The scenes featuring Luffy's rubberlike body twisting this way and that are especially good. However, anybody expecting to enjoy a full-scale Luffy adventure may end up disappointed.

Bleach


Bleach is a highly successful manga series and a TV series that has become an in an ever-growing franchise that includes four films as of early 2011. Ichigo Kurosaki, the protagonist of Bleach, is a tough dude who doesn’t quite fit into the mold of American superheros. On the 2011 Bleach film, Chiyono Sugiyama wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Surely nobody would choose to go to hell---except Ichigo Kurosaki.” He jumps straight into the underworld, a place even a shinigami---a grim reaper---is forbidden to enter. [Source: Chiyono Sugiyama, Daily Yomiuri, November 26, 2010]

Bleach was created by Tite Kubo. It first appeared in manga magazine Weekly Jump in 2001. The series, which has filled 47 volumes as of early 2011, has become one of the most popular anime titles in the world.

On the film Bleach: The Hell Verse , Sugiyama wrote: “The story begins when the gate to hell opens up over Karakuracho---the home town of Ichigo (Masakazu Morita). Shinigami Rukia Kuchiki (Fumiko Orikasa) and Renji Abarai (Kentaro Ito) investigate as masked men dressed in black attack Ichigo's high school. The boy and his classmates attempt to repel their mystery assailants, who they soon discover to be condemned sinners led by Shuren (Toru Furuya). But Ichigo and his cohort are overpowered by their attackers and two of Ichigo's younger sisters are taken hostage. Another sinner, Kokuto (Kazuya Nakai), shows up and helps one of the sisters escape, only for yet another sister to be snatched. Ichigo and his friends mount a daring rescue attempt and head "south." But this is perhaps the first time in that long history we get to see Ichigo driven by emotion as he tries to save his sisters from a life in the underworld.

The film's main battlefield is hell, a topic that has not yet been dealt with in the manga series. The filmmakers decided to avoid cliche and chose a rather simple image of a multi-layered Hades that includes a world in which desperate sinners hide behind cubic structures to avoid being eaten by the giant skeleton keepers of hell. Another layer consists of a desert made of sinners' bones. The battles are fast-paced and powerful, particularly after Ichigo's body is taken over by his "hollow," or his evil alter ego, losing control of his own actions.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica


Unofficial otaku spokesman Makoto Fukuda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “One of the latest anime series to cause a stir on both TV and the Internet is the new Puella Magi Madoka Magica . At first glance, it appears to be just any old anime populated with young, pretty girls. Yet it is the unforgiving storyline in which girls fight each other that has left many fans astonished and hooked. I'm no different: I wait each week for the next installment with baited breath. [Source: Makoto Fukuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 4, 2011]

The show starts the way any other so-called magic girl story would begin: A middle-school girl named Madoka and her friend Sayaka are approached by a strange creature named Kyube, who offers them magic powers, which they must use to battle evil witches. In exchange, each new magic girl will receive a single wish. Bewildered by the prospects, the two girls decided to accompany an experienced magic girl named Mami on a witch hunt. [Ibid]

After learning that the characters were designed by popular mangaka Ume Aoki (Hidamari Sketch), I immediately jumped to the conclusion the show would be pure moe---fetishistic cuteness. But in Episode 3, however, the story took a shocking turn when Mami was slain by a witch. At this point, a number of other magic girls enter the picture, including Homura, a transfer student who tries to stop Madoka from making her witch deal, and Kyoko, who tries to take Mami's place. Sayaka decides to join the battle to obtain a wish to heal her childhood friend, with whom she has fallen in love. [Ibid]

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the work of Gen Urobuchi. As a game scenario writer, Urobuchi is noted for heavy, often gruesome, storylines and a devoted following. Urobuchi said he was tasked with creating a serious anime that contained an element of surprise. He decided to apply his usual style to the often cliche magic girl genre. The anime is directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, whose works include Hidamari Sketch, So long, Mr. Despair and Bakemonogatari. He is known for his distinctive direction, characterized by the inclusion of small surprises throughout his work. The witch and space design is by the Gekidan Inu Curry art duo. [Ibid]

Proving popular with anime fans is the eerie Kyube and the expressionless countenance the character has when pressing these girls into service. In any other series from this genre, Kyube likely would have been the show's mascot. Many fans on the Internet see the mysterious character as an evil salesperson who reveals the price of wish fulfillment only after these girls agree to become magic girls. These same fans, however, are convinced Kyube does not mean to harm anyone, but merely has a fundamentally different set of values than humans. They see Kyube as an embodiment of the manga, which has its own approach to dealing with things that are alien.

In the story, all of the girls are fated to become witches sooner or later. They are unable to set themselves free from the darkness of despair as long as they hold onto the hope they will receive a wish in exchange for defeating designated enemies. Upon seeing Homura cornered by Warupurugisu no Yoru (Walpurgis Night) in an attempt to protect her, Madoka makes a decision that carries with it consequences. [Source: Makoto Fukuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2011]

I am sure Madoka will go down in the annals of Japanese animation. I would like to express my deepest respect and gratitude to director Akiyuki Shinbo, character designer Ume Aoki, the Gekidan Inu Curry art duo---who designed the witches and space scenes---and the rest of the cast and crew for bringing us such a masterpiece. I was moved to tears. The final episodes were cathartic, at the same time tying up all the loose ends. The lush score, composed by Yuki Kajiura, is heavy and eerie, and an important part of the production. The final two episodes---11 and 12---are particularly dependent on the music. Had the score been different, the installments may not have worked.

New Anime and noitaminA

In 2011 a number of original anime programs have had successful launches on other TV stations, such as Maho Shojo MadokaMagica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and Tiger & Bunny. "The TV anime industry has started to change," producer Koji Yamamoto said, adding that he sees the trend as kind of an endorsement of his own work.

Fuji TV's noitaminA showcase debuted in April 2005 has steadily developed a loyal following. The unusual title represents a desire to overturn the standard approach to TV anime--noitaminA is "Animation" in reverse. Executive producer Koji Yamamoto said, "I've always liked anime. When I was a student, the late-night shows on Fuji TV were eccentric and fun. I've admired those kinds of programs for a long time.” [Source: Makoto Fukuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 14, 2011]

When he first joined the noitaminA team, the team would select for broadcast were often adaptations of popular manga, such as Hachimitsu to Kuroba (Honey and Clover) and Nodame Kantabire (Nodame Cantabile). This approach changed drastically after Fuji TV aired Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East) from April to June 2009. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the noted director of Kokaku Kidotai: Stand Alone Complex, Higashi no Eden was noitaminA's first stand-alone anime not adapted from an existing work. It spawned two films, and its narrative focus on social issues provoked strong reactions among the viewing public.

In April last year, noitaminA expanded from 30 minutes to an hourlong, two-feature showcase. The program has produced original anime such as Anohi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We still don't know the name of the flower we saw that day), aired from April to June this year, which took an intimate look at a group of high school students.

"There've been a few times when we've been faced with losing the show. Every time, we submitted piles and piles of documents to win the management over," Yamamoto said. "We've been able to be successful by persisting, and by building up relationships of trust with production companies, sponsors and others who are directly involved in creating anime. "As a result, we're able to launch high-risk original pieces that aren't necessarily guaranteed to be big hits."

In October 2011 noitaminA presented the first episodes of two new series, Un-go and Guilty Crown. Un-go is based on a novel by Ango Sakaguchi (1906-1955), Meiji Kaika Ango Torimonocho (Ango's detective stories from the early Meiji period). The bold adaptation comes from director Seiji Mizushima and writer Sho Aikawa, who previously teamed up to create Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Fullmetal Alchemist).

Guilty Crown is an original story created especially for noitaminA. Set in the near future, it features a high school student with a mysterious talent who gets caught up with a group of resistance fighters. It is directed by Tetsuro Araki, who was also behind the anime version of Death Note. "It's hard to get content that is relevant to social issues like politics and the economy unless we create it from scratch," Yamamoto said. "Now, artists who have something to say want to work with us."

Image Sources: YouTube, Wiki Commons, Sense of Cinema, exorsyst blog, Japan Zone, Goods from Japan

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2012

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