The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 134 – Tokyo Revelation

November 23, 2015 by  
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Tokyo Revelation 1

Continuing from last week, we look at another, mostly forgotten title which is now only really available second-hand, but is still available to buy on DVD. It was once again purchased in my local comic book shop.

Released in 1995, Tokyo Revelation is a two-part Original Video Anime (OVA), a bit like last week’s title Landlock (No. 133). However, the episodes are shorter in Tokyo Revelation, with the whole thing being only an hour long in total. It is also rather different in tone: this title deals with the occult, and thus is a lot darker. There is gory violence, lesbian sex and human sacrifice. Also, while it does not look it on the surface, this anime is part of a series that would become something much bigger.

The story starts on an aeroplane, where student Akito Kobayashi is writing a computer programme on his laptop. The programme however has a satanic function, which Akito uses to bring the plane crash down, with him the only survivor. The reason for his survival is that he has entered into a deal with Satan, planning to release demons across the world using his programme. In order to do this he need to collect a strange element called magnetite, which is in the soul of every human, some more than others.

A week following the crash, Akito joins a new school where one of the pupils is an old friend: Kojiro Soma befriended Akito when they were younger because Akito got bullied, and together they began their fascination with the occult, wanting to bring for demons to defeat their bullies and such. It takes some time however for Kojiro to discover just how far Akito’s plans for the world go. Kojiro finds himself having to battle against Cerberus himself, while Akito demonically possesses Kojiro’s friends in order to get what he wants. The series ultimately finishes with Kojiro, enforced with a special demonic power, being left to destroy the forthcoming satanic horde.

On the surface it would seem that Tokyo Revelation is a bit rubbish, and it does have its problems: the dialogue and the plot are amongst them. For example, one of Kojiro’s friends is saved by a pair of modern-day ninja. Where ninjas fit into the world of the occult I don’t know. There is also the graphic violence and sex scenes, which include two couples having lesbian sex to summon demons, and one of the central female characters being killed as a human sacrifice. Some people will be put off by these scenes, while others who wish to see this sort of thing might find it a bit tame in comparison to other anime at the time, especially the infamous Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend (No. 49) with its depictions of tentacle rape. The ending is also rushed too: the last moments are told when the credits roll and they try and pack too much into it.

However, if you start reading into the background of Tokyo Revelation, you begin to see that this is just one small part of a larger story, a story that has since got better. This series is actually a remake of an earlier anime from 1987 called Digital Love Story, which is actually based on a novel. Tokyo Revelation is actually a tad more faithful to the original work. Digital Love Story however is more famous as the basis of a video game, which became known as Megami Tensei. This series of game has become rather successful, mainly because of the spin-offs that it has produced, most famous of which is the Persona series, of which there have been successful anime adaptations of as well, particularly of Persona 4.

Therefore, while Tokyo Revelation may not be the greatest anime ever made, it is important to note that it can be seen as an early footstep toward something that became more successful. Plus, it is not as bad as other anime at the time: it is certainly better than Landlock. At least Tokyo Revelation is set where it says it is in the title.

Tokyo Revelation is released on DVD by Manga Entertainment.

BBC: Give us new sitcoms, not a nostalgiafest

November 16, 2015 by  
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Porridge 1

Next year the BBC is launching a Landmark Sitcom Season, marking the 60th anniversary of the TV debut of Britain’s first modern sitcom, Hancock’s Half Hour.

Several things have already been announced: there will be a completely live broadcast of Mrs. Brown’s Boys, a comedy drama detailing the making of Dad’s Army, and several documentaries are to be expected.

However, most of what has been revealed so far are remakes and new editions of classic sitcoms. The ones confirmed at the time of writing include Porridge, The Good Life, Keeping Up Appearances, Up Pompeii! and Are You Being Served? There have also been rumours that Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em might be revived too. This brings up an important question: is there any chance that the BBC might commission something that is brand new?

Of course I like these old sitcoms, some more than others admittedly, but I do like them. The problem is that it just comes across as lazy if the BBC just digs up old sitcoms and gives people a nostalgiafest. You know, indeed everybody knows, that these revived and remade sitcoms won’t be as good as the originals.

The BBC reviving sitcoms is nothing new and sometimes they are successful: see the final three episodes of Only Fools and Horses. But more recently only two have really been brought back with true success: Birds of a Feather and Red Dwarf, and in both of these cases these were originally BBC sitcoms whose revival they turned down. Birds of a Feather was brought back by ITV and became a ratings success, and Red Dwarf was recommissioned by Dave, where it will be extended to at least Series XII. Both of these sitcoms do have one major factor as to why they could be brought back successfully, which was that all the major talent involved is still alive.

Out of the sitcoms that the BBC has certainly revived, the only one which arguably still has most of the major stars still alive is Keeping Up Appearances. Patricia Routledge, Clive Swift, Josephine Tewson and David Griffin, who played Hyacinth, Richard, Elizabeth and Emmet respectively, are thankfully still around. Sadly Geoffrey Hughes who played Onslow died in 2012. If Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is confirmed though, that would at least seem to be better, as both Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice are still performing too, and they were the only stars of the show so you have everyone on board. Also, I must confess that I do quite like that idea of Crawford still trying to do his stunts even though he’s in his seventies.

However, in the other cases, most of the original cast are no longer around. We no longer have the talents of Ronnie Barker, Richard Briers, Paul Eddington, Frankie Howerd, John Inman, Mollie Sugden and the countless others who made these shows the icons they are. That still didn’t stop the BBC in 2013 bringing back Open All Hours without Ronnie Barker. Luckily, Barker was the only major star no longer with us involved with that show, and they did their best to make sure his presence was still felt. Which is also the problem – you know that something is still missing and nothing can be done to bring it back.

What would be really good to see is a season of new sitcoms, trying to encourage new ideas, to try and find a new BBC sitcom gem. The problem here is that the BBC is unlikely to make such a risk, and certainly would never give it as much attention as these old revivals.

I think what we need is something like Seven of One. This was a series of seven sitcom pilots, all starring Ronnie Barker, made back in 1973. This season of pilots resulted in the creation of both Porridge and Open All Hours. A third pilot, My Old Man, also became a series, but it moved to ITV and starred Clive Dunn instead. Perhaps if the BBC created a season of pilots starring a big, popular figure in the world of comedy, it may result in the creation of a hit series, starring a big name. It is a plan worth exploring, because at least we might have something that is actually new rather than something old that has been slightly redecorated.

The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 133 – Landlock

November 16, 2015 by  
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Landlock 1

Past columns here have concerned anime that I came across in my local second-hand comic book shop in my hometown of Stockton-on-Tees, Sub-Zero Comics. This anime comes from a new business off-shoot from it, Tinker Harley, where I got a few obscure titles of which I had little knowledge of before hand to see what this lesser-known series are like.

Landlock is a 1996 two-part Original Video Anime (OVA) set in a fantasy world, an old-fashioned story about good vs. evil. The VHS release of it states on the front cover: “From the creator of Ghost in the Shell Shirow Masamune”. Ghost in the Shell (No. 83) is probably the greatest cyberpunk anime series made, and Shirow is one of the most notable manga authors. You can understand why they would boast about such a name. However, when you read the blurb at the back it says: “featuring character designs by the world renowned Masamune Shirow.” Not only is the role of Masamune being overblown by the front cover, but they swapped the order of the names around around.

Landlock is set in the land of Zer’lue, which is currently under attack by the evil Chairman Sana’ku and his Zul’Earth army. The only person who can seemingly stop him is a young boy named Lue’der, who has a magical red-eye and who can also control the wind. However, Sana’ku wants to stop him and uses his own daughter Aga’lee to capture him, and who also kills Lue’der’s father. Lue’der then discovers that Aga’lee’s sister Ansa has a magical blue eye and takes it as a sign that they should escape together. One of the other people who escapes is Aga’lee, who learns that she is not Sana’ku’s daughter. She is actually Lue’der’s brother and she has killed their own father. Together Lue’der, Aga’lee and Ansa unite to stop Sana’ku’s plans for world domination.

It must be said that Landlock is poor, and it is not just the overblown clams on the cover. For example, there is the issue with the character names. Originally there no apostrophes in the Japanese version, but when it was translated into English the apostrophes were added, something which the third edition of The Anime Encyclopedia by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy describes as: “pretentious”. I describe it as: “disorientating”.

Also the plot is rather convoluted, the voice acting is poor, the English dub is shoddy, and the general quality of animation is dodgy. The only reason why this anime is notable is because of the Masamune Shirow connection. In terms of the character design, it is typical of Shirow, in that the female characters tend to be big breasted and not wearing much.

This is a title to avoid. It is not an engaging story, the advertising misleading, and even the title is misleading. There is a scene where Lue’der and Aga’lee appear to be on the coast. Landlock isn’t even landlocked!

Landlock is available on second-hand DVD from Manga Entertainment.

The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 132 – The Flowers of Evil

November 9, 2015 by  
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Flowers of Evil 1

Most anime tend to follow a particular standard style of animation, but there are always those series that buck the trend. Adult comedy Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (No. 19) uses a more western style; while short film The Diary of Ochibi (No. 104) uses stop-motion. The animation in this series however is designed to make the series look really realistic.

Psychological drama The Flowers of Evil ran as a manga between 2009 and 2014, created by Shuzo Oshimi. In 2013 the first part of the series was turned into an anime, and the end of the series expressed an intention to make more. The anime is noted for its use of an animation technique called “rotoscoping”, which involves the animator tracing over every frame of footage to create a much more realistic depiction. This style caused anger from fans of the original manga who thought it deviated too far from the source material.

The story follows schoolboy Takao Kasuga, who has two main passions in life: his crush Nanako Saeki, and obscure literature. When it comes to the later, his favourite book is The Flowers of Evil by 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire. One day he remembers that he has left his copy of the book back at school and goes to collect, but when he does so he also discovers that Saeki has forgot her gym kit. Takao takes the kit, planning to return it to her in the morning, but in reality he just steals them.

The next day Takao learns that Saeki has reported the kit stolen, and to make matters worse there was a witness to the crime: Sawa Nakamura, the most badly behaved girl in the class, always disobeying teachers and swearing at everyone. Nakamura decides to blackmail Takao by making him enter into a “contract”. Nakamura therefore forces Takao to do all sorts of acts otherwise she will expose Takao for the pervert he is. Tasks ranges from writing essays, to going on a date with Saeki while wearing her gym kit under his normal clothes.

As the story progresses, Takao becomes increasingly conflicted: should he confess to what he did? How involved should his relationship with Saeki be? Should he help Nakamura with her dream of leaving town? Whether he can cope with the pressure is something to be seen.

As stated, the use of rotoscoping is what makes this anime stand out. Many people were angry about the use of it, and when I first watched it I was annoyed by the fact that the animation was not as fluid as it is with most anime. However, it all makes sense when you combine it with other elements, such as the psychologically twisted plot and the ambient soundtrack that it all slots into place perfectly.

To give an example, at the end of the show’s seventh episode Takao seems to finally “lose it” as it where, and with Nakamura commits this huge act of rebellion. The start of the eight episode continues directly afterwards, and shows the two of them walking around town, hand-in-hand, in very dirty clothes, in the early hours of the morning, without saying a word. The only sound you hear is sombre, ambient music. The scene is over five minutes long. Now, often when it comes to anime I get annoyed by scenes that are too slow, but The Flowers of Evil shows that you can make a slow scene work brilliantly, because that scene is one of the best I have come across in any anime. There are other scenes that work well on a technical level. One episode is mostly set on a mountain road at night, so the episode is almost entirely in darkness, making for a more atmospheric and gloomy watch.

The Flowers of Evil therefore is a series for people who want to try something radically different to most anime that they have come across. If you want something experimental, this is one to try.

The Flowers of Evil is released on DVD by MVM Films.

Why Let Us Entertain You made for uncomfortable viewing

November 4, 2015 by  
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Dominic Sandbrook

WARNING: This article contains strong language.

Having seen Dominic Sandbrook’s previous BBC Two documentary series, Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction, I was at first looking forward to seeing his new series, about how Britain’s main export is now culture rather than the manufacturing industry.

However, a few weeks ago I came across a review of the book which accompanies the series. The review was in Private Eye, so it’s not that surprising that the review was rather scathing. After all if it is not scathing, then it doesn’t deserve a place in the Eye. It was mainly attacking Sandbrook’s right-wing viewers, washing over certain aspects of culture like punk for example. Perhaps this attack was not surprising giving Sandbrook’s own attack on satire he make during the second episode in the series, and how he argues that it single-handedly fails to bring down the establishment – and indeed it relies on the establishment to survive.

When I came across this, which occurs in the second episode of the series in which Sandbrook claims that the British public’s favourite subjects are the posh, the wealthy and the privileged, I was heavily conflicted. When Sandbrook claimed the humour in That Was The Week That Was was not that good, the phrase that came out of my mouth was: “Cunt!” However, there is that part of me that agreed with him on satire. Most satirists, and indeed most comedians, are left-wingers attacking right-wing governments. I myself I should point, tend to lean to the left too. However, in the fourth episode where Sandbrook champions self-made icons and liberal individualism, he claims that celebrities rather than politicians have given more opportunities to women and gay people. In the early 20th century no-one dared come out as gay. In the early 21st century no-one dares come out as Tory.

American satirist Tom Lehrer said that satire died when they gave Henry Kissinger a Nobel Peace Prize. I say it was only wounded. Satire will certainly die however if the next General Election is between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Johnson became popular of the back of the satirical Have I Got News for You, and most satirists will never mock Corbyn because they would support him. The whole thing is FUBAR.

Another aspect across the whole series is Sandbrook’s claim that our modern cultural dominance all comes from Victorian values. As stated in the second episode, there is our love of the privileged, which manifests itself in stately home TV shows like Brideshead Revisited, Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs and the sitcom To The Manor Born. The third episode however deals explicitly with Victorian values such as charity (Live Aid), exploration (Doctor Who), and the changing role of the working class (the novels of Catherine Cookson), and our fears of power (The Lord of the Rings).

Watching the series, I became increasingly both annoyed by the idea of how supposedly culture is something you make by yourself and how we look back to Victorian values, and treasure things like the monarchy (I for one am no monarchist). Sandbrook also talks about the popularity of novels set in Victorian boarding schools, with the central boy removed from his parents either by living way or the fact they are dead altogether, like Harry Potter whose parents are murdered.

However, there is also that part of me that cannot deny that aspects of this are true. This something I know due to my knowledge of Japanese animation and comics, which I regularly write about for this website. Japan’s manga comics, arguably that country’s biggest cultural export, started when the Victorian British first came to the country with magazine’s like Punch. Sandbrook talks about the impact of London’s Swinging Sixties in establishing British coolness around the world. Also in the 1960s, Japan’s most famous toy was created by someone living in London at the time, and to this day Hello Kitty is a Londoner. There are various Japanese street fashions modelled on the Victorian look, and many of Japan’s most popular manga are set in Victorian Britain. If I were to adapt any manga for British television, it would be the hugely popular Black Butler, which features a 13-year-old Victorian earl whose parents are murdered.

Part of my anger comes from the fact that Sandbrook talks about how we don’t really have industry anymore. Where I’m from in Teesside, our steelmaking industry has recently collapsed in Redcar, and I don’t think any form major cultural change is going to happen any time soon. If it does it will probably be no better than when Channel 4 coming to my hometown of Stockton-on-Tees to film Benefits Street, because that is seemingly all we deserve by the look of things.

The problem here is that I feel the hypocrisy creeping into me. I want everyone collectively to help each other, but deep down what I want is respect for other people for myself, to prove that I have the knowledge to make myself respected as either a critic, a writer, an expert or some other influential figure, and I know that it won’t come about unless I do something about it like those self-made Victorians and celebs, by standing out of the collective and somehow trying to prove I’m better than everyone I should supposedly see as below me.

I want your fucking respect, and I fucking hate myself for wanting it. I think I might be one who deserves the label of: “Cunt!”

Dominic Sandbrook: Let Us Entertain You is broadcast at 21.00 on Wednesday nights. His book that accompanies the series, “The Great British Dream Factory”, is out now.

The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 131 – Another

October 31, 2015 by  
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Another 1

As today is Halloween, here is a special column covering a horror anime series.

Another is an adaptation of a novel by Yukito Ayatsuji written in 2009, which was adapted in a 12-part anime series in 2012, with an Original Video Anime (OVA) straight-to-DVD prequel episode released later that year. The series combines horror with mystery, dealing with suspicious and frequently horrific deaths that have affected the same class at one particular school for years.

The story begins in 1972, where in the town of Yomiyama a very popular girl named Misaki suddenly dies part-way through the school year. Everyone in her class, Class 3 of Year 9 at Yomiyama North Middle School, is horrified by the death. In an attempt to help the class one teacher said that Misaki is not dead and that her empty desk is still “occupied”. As a result, everyone in the class ended up pretending that Misaki was still alive. Even during the graduation an empty seat was left for her.

The tale then moves forward to 1998, where 15-year-old Koichi Sakakibara transfers to Yomiyama North Middle School, having moved into town from Tokyo to live with his aunt and grandparents. He misses the very start of the school year due to illness and while he was at the hospital he encounters a girl with an eyepatch and carrying a doll, a girl he discovers is in his class: Class 3 of Year 9. However, Koichi sees that the girl’s desk is badly kept. Not only that, but everyone in the class seems to ignore the girl. Koichi however decides to talk to the girl, named Mei Misaki.

Koichi then seems to find that the other students in the class are taking a dislike to him after he begins talking to Mei. Soon though Koichi learns from Mei about the story from 26-years-ago and the death of the original Misaki. Mei tells Koichi that following the “calamity” as it is known; it is now the belief that in order to stop any more deaths, one student in class every year is ignored as if they dead and didn’t exist. That way, because there has already been a “death”, no-one else will be killed that year. If someone in the class acknowledges the “dead” student, the calamity begins again, resulting in possible death for anyone in the class or their near relations.

Koichi however doesn’t believe in the calamity, but things change when one girl in their class is killed. The class is shocked, but Koichi still refuses to believe in the calamity. Then the nurse who helped him in hospital dies, followed by another student death. The blame is put on Koichi for talking to Mei, and soon Koichi finds himself being ignored in an attempt to solve the problem, but when this fails to work Koichi finally seems to realise that the calamity really is taking affect, and has to find a way to stop it before everyone is killed.

The appeal of Another is two-fold: firstly is the element of mystery in the story, as Koichi, Mei and the other characters in the story attempt to figure out how to stop the calamity. They try to go through records, meet former students, and are also guided by the teacher of the original 1972 class, who is now the school librarian. It ultimately leads the class to find the exact cause, but at the same time the calamity also misguides many into making wrongful accusations.

Secondly, this series is certainly scary. The deaths in Another a wide-ranging in terms of the variety. Some incidents are simple, like heart attacks, asthma attacks, and bumps on the head. Others are really gory, including murders and suicides. In fact it is best not to describe the exact causes of death in order to heighten the effect, but it is safe to say that most of the time there is a lot of blood. It is the suddenness of the deaths that really grips you. For a lot of the time you tend not to see it coming.

Another is a gripping show and not one for the faint-hearted. It makes for entertaining viewing for those who want a shocking experience.

Another is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on MVM Films.

Jekyll & Hyde: A Censorship-Related Outrage Checklist

October 27, 2015 by  
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Jekyll & Hyde Image 1

It would appear that 500 people complained about the recent Jekyll & Hyde series debut airing in an inappropriate time slot.

This article should not be necessary. Are people really still complaining about air times and ratings and whether something is appropriate for themselves or someone else at some point in time?

We should be past the idea of censorship by now. It always boils down to the same basic points. Please see below for your handy ‘Censorship-Related Outrage Checklist’

  1. If you’re finding something unpleasant, stop watching it.
  2. If you’re finding something inappropriate for a nascent mind, do you job as an elder and intervene.
  3. If the nascent mind refuses to accept aforementioned intervention then they’re probably not as nascent as you thought they were or your intervention methods require review.
  4. If you’re concerned the nascent mind will view material outside your supervision then either see point 3 or acknowledge that your current supervisory methods leave something to be desired.
  5. If the very existence of what you view to be inappropriate material troubles you then you should remember that neither you or your offspring are made of glass, people are not binary in their response to stimulus. We’re capable of more than simply crying or laughing at everything, we can consider things in a detailed manner.
  6. If you’re concerned about the ‘way humanity is going’ you should realise an individual is only one tiny percentage of humanity and your view should be treated as such.

This should not be a debate, I’m not even going to go into the scenes that were highlighted as making the timeslot inappropriate because they’re beside the point. TV shows – like galleries, movies, books, comics, music, theatre, board games, computer games, puppet shows, shadow puppet shows, sculptures, and cave paintings – are a form of art and should be allowed to exist wherever and whenever it wants to exist.

The next episode of Jekyll & Hyde goes out on Sunday at 19.00 on ITV.

The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 130 – Outbreak Company

October 26, 2015 by  
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Outbreak Company 1

When it comes to comedy, anime covers a lot of different types: surreal, adult, non-PC, tragicomic, etc. There is also comedy anime that deals with anime itself. This fantasy series is such a show.

Outbreak Company was written as a series of novels in 2011 by Ichiro Sakaki, and became a 12-part anime series in 2013. It is a harem series – the genre in which one main character is surrounded by characters of the opposite genre – but most of the comedy comes from making reference to and mocking anime, manga, and the culture that comes with it.

The central figure, Shinichi Kano, a devoted anime fan, or “otaku” as they are commonly known. His expertise on the subject lands him a job at company that sells anime and manga products, but just as he is having a celebratory toast with his new boss Jinzaburo Matoba he finds himself drugged. When Kano wakes up he finds himself in a room with a maid: something that gets him pretty excited, but not as excited when he discovers that he is no longer in Japan. He is in fact a totally different world, inhabited by dragons, dwarves, and elves. Even the maid, Myucel Foaran, is half-elf and half-human.

After Kano is given a magical ring by Myucel that allows him to understand the local language, he learns that he is in the Holy Eldant Empire, a land which has been building a relationship with Japan following the Japanese discovering a portal to their world near Mt. Fuji. Kano learns also that Myucel is to be his personal maid, and he is also to have his own bodyguard, a buxom private in the Japanese army named Minori Koganuma who has a passion for homoerotic manga.

Kano comes to understand that his new boss Matoba has sent him to this land because the main thing that seems to interest the locals is otaku culture. The people have a fondness for manga, anime, video games and such, and thus the Japanese have been using it promote greater ties with the Holy Eldant Empire. With his knowledge, Kano has been put in charge of promoting otaku culture in the country, reporting directly to the emperor, who is a 16-year-old girl named Petralka Anne Eldant III.

Kano faces several problems with his task: most of the population cannot read, and there is a caste system with elves and dwarves considered lower than humans. Kano starts by trying to overturn people’s prejudices and establishing a school were children both learn how to read, but also be taught about anime. He also has to deal with rivals from other lands. For example, he comes across a werewolf spy named Erbia Hanaiman, but he protects her by making her his personal artist. Eventually Kano builds trust, but still has problems of making the locals happy, his bosses happy, and keeping up the growing demand for Japanese products.

At first this series may be intimidating, because much of the humour comes from referencing other series. If you are a newcomer, you are probably better of starting with something more accessible. However, the DVD release of this series does come with useful notes to help spot particular references. This is particularly useful, because as explained in other series such as Bakuman (No. 9), Japanese copyright law is so strict that they have to tweak titles of series they reference. They cannot refer to Attack on Titan (No. 11), instead calling it Attack on Giant. This is just one of many different series that get mentioned, and it is not just limited to Japanese stuff: comics and TV series from the west also get the odd mention too.

The comedy is not just limited to name-checking however. There are also hits of mockery of certain aspects of the anime fandom, in particular the more pervy side. One scene sees Kano and Minori in a classroom, teaching rather adult anime terms to youngsters. These include “absolute territory”, which is defined as the gap of flesh you see on a woman between the skirt and over-the-knee socks; and “son-uke”, a term in gay (yaoi) manga for a guy who always ends up as the submissive “bottom” partner. There is also the comedy gained from the locals becoming more engrossed in anime. One joke sees Petralka’s male cousin and aide, Garius, being led by Minori to become a yaoi fan.

The other comic element is the “harem” itself between Kano and the four main female characters that he builds a relationship with; Myucel, who Kano teaches to read and protects from prejudiced people; Petralka, who likes Kano’s willingness to say things others in her land find shocking; Erbia, who Kano protects from being arrested on accusations of spying; and Minori, who provides moral support.

Outbreak Company is not a series for everyone. It is a series to come later to in any collection, for those who find themselves enjoying their anime. Once you find yourself liking a couple of shows, then this maybe be one to look into.

Outbreak Company is released on DVD by MVM Films.

The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 129 – One-Punch Man

October 19, 2015 by  
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One-Punch Man 1

The new anime season started this month, and there has been one series in particular that has gained the most attention. It has already been considered by many as possibly being the best anime of the year, although it is only a few episodes in.

Superhero comedy One-Punch Man started off as a self-published webcomic in 2009 by an artist working under the name of ONE. It gained so many fans that it was eventually remade and went into print in 2012. The series has already attracted acclaim, being nominated for awards, praised for its mixture of art styles, and for its lead character: a hero so strong that he doesn’t know what to do with his life.

Three years ago, a 22-year-old unemployed guy named Saitama saved a boy with a massive chin from a crab-like supervillain. As a result of this he started training as a superhero for fun, going on an excessive exercise regime to make himself strong – and it worked. Now in the present day, not only does he have many of the standard superhero traits like flying and lightning fast speed, but he is so strong that Saitama can knock out all his enemies with a single punch.

However, his training has left Saitama with several problems. One was that all the training has had adverse effects on his body. He does not look like your typical superhero, being thin, emotionless, and completely bald. Saitama’s main problem though is that because he is so incredibly strong, all of his fights last a few moments. An enemy appears, Saitama punches him, and Saitama saves the day. Thus Saitama is unbelievably bored.

Things start to change however when another superhero arrives: a cyborg named Genos, who admires Saitama’s strength so much that decides to make himself Saitama’s disciple. Saitama and Genos then start to work together, with Genos trying to hunt down an evil cyborg that killed his family, and Saitama simply trying to find an opponent worth fighting.

There are many elements of interest to One-Punch Man, the first of which is the origin. Unlike most of the series covered in this column that ever started off as anime or are adaptations of print comics, novels or video games, One-Punch Man began as an online comic, completely run independently and anonymously. Very few anime are based on webcomics (examples include Hetalia: Axis Powers, No. 26), and I personally don’t recall any being started independently from a publisher, but the series became a huge hit.

This in turn leads to another interesting element of the series, which is the art. In the original webcomic the art was drawn deliberately crudely and simply. When it moved to print another artist was brought in with a new illustrator named Yusuke Murata, and while the art in most places is more professional-looking, at other times the art is cruder for comic effect. This also happens in the anime: at one moment you are watching a spectacularly animated battle, the next you cut to Saitama with a very blank expression on his egg-like face.

Lastly there is the role of the central character. It is a brilliant idea to have a hero who is so strong that he easily beats everyone around him, and because of this the hero in question seems to be inflicted with a state of ennui.

If there is a problem with the show, it would be that in the UK it is being streamed by Animax, which is owned by Kaze, the least popular anime distributor in the country. You can therefore expect that when this series gets released on disc that most anime fans will be importing Region 1 copies rather than by from them because their reputation is so bad.

One-Punch Man is streamed on Animax, with new episodes going out on Mondays.

Goodbye Stephen Fry, now ex-host of QI

October 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Features


It was announced today that Stephen Fry has resigned as the host of QI. This announcement has come completely out of the blue. It has been a total shock for me personally.

Now it should be pointed out that I am a big QI officando: I maintain the guide to the series of the British Comedy Guide, providing details on every single fact there has been mentioned on the programme; maintain the BCG’s entry for the programme’s Radio 4 spin-off The Museum of Curiosity; and created the Wikipedia article on podcast No Such Thing as a Fish, presented by the show’s researchers, the QI Elves, with whom I am on friendly terms on. It is thanks to these shows that I know, in the words of my family, “a fountain of shit”.

QI is arguably the most successful comedy franchise in the UK today, covering TV, radio, podcasts, and releasing several best-selling books. It is proof that people like intelligent comedy. The show has always followed the guiding principles of the BBC’s motto: “To inform, educate and entertain.”

To see Stephen Fry leave the show after 13 series does feel like a huge loss. It sounds overdramatic, and it is, but part of me wants to mourn, like somehow it is signalling a death. Of course this is nonsense. Sandi Toksvig has already been confirmed as the new host of the show. She will make for a wonderful host of QI, and has plenty of experience, having hosted The News Quiz on Radio 4 for a decade. Plus, this makes her one of the few women to host a TV panel show, and certainly one of the women comedians to do so, which is brilliant. Hopefully she will keep QI’s standard up, and her performance will improve the general lot for women on panel shows, which has come under fire in recent years following claims of sexism.

The strange thing about Fry’s role on the show is that it came out because of necessity. Fry was not the first choice: that was Michael Palin, with Fry the head of a clever team and Alan Davies (who it should be pointed out is still very much taking part in the show) the head of a dumb team. However, Palin turned the job down, so Fry had to host the pilot (available as an extra on the Series A DVD). Since then however, Fry has arguably become almost as iconic in this role, as he has with his work alongside Hugh Laurie, his roles in Blackadder or reading Harry Potter.

I hope too that Toksvig becomes as loved in the her new role as Fry was. No doubt she will face some hardships at first, and I fear there may well be some sexist comments from some unsavoury quarters, but Toksvig will need support as she takes on this new role, especially as she will start her job in the year of the BBC Charter Renewal. In my few, QI displays plenty of the evidence that you need to show that the BBC needs protecting.

Good luck Stephen in all your future endeavours.

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