Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, Father of Anime (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

(pictured: Yoshihiro Shimizu and Smithsonian Translator: Ms. Wakoko)

December 11th to 13th was the last of the Tezuka events. The title of the panel was called Tezuka and the History of Anime.

The last panel speaker was Mr. Yoshihiro Shimzu, the general manager of Tezuka Productions. He gave an in depth discussion of how Tezuka's work has continued to inspire a new generation of anime and manga fans.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, Father of Anime (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

From November 13-15, the Smithsonian Freer gallery had a panel discussion relating to the work of Osamu Tezuka. Below are some photos and sound bites I took during the event.

In attendance were: Frederik Schodt, Helen McCarthy, Natsu Onoda Power, Ada Palmer, and Tom Vick of the Smithsonian Freer Gallery.

Friday, November 13th - Introducing Astro Boy
(pictured: Tom Vick and Frederik Schodt)

Saturday, November 14th - The Film is Alive: Osamu Tezuka Filmography
(pictured: Natsu Onda Power, Ada Palmer, Helen McCarthy, Frederik Schodt, and Tom Vick)

Sunday, November 15th - Marine Express
(pictured: Helen McCarthy, Frederik Schodt, and Tom Vick)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Animation Gear (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

Many animators also rely on special pencils when creating their work. COL-ERASE Pencils comes to mind as a vital tool for animators. Most animators use two colors (red and blue) when creating an animated character, background, or FX. What is great about the COL-ERASE pencils is the ability to be easily erasable. Plus it is much clearer to see the images on the animation bond paper using the pencils.

An artist wouldn't be without his or her trusty sketchbook. Several paper companies try their best to give what the artist needs. One company in Japan, Maruman, has been a faithful companion to artists in Japan for over 50 years. One reason why the Maruman sketchbooks are so popular is the quality of the paper and the price. Many artists in Japan usually have one or two sizes of Maruman sketchbooks in his or her book bag.

When you have completed the thousands of drawings, you then need to check how smooth the animation will look. You could spend hours and hours scanning the images on a computer or you could do it the old fashion way and use an animation lunchbox and camcorder. Animation Toolworks' animation control panel is the perfect tool when making a low budget animated short. When the lunchbox first came on the market it was just a cool toy for animators to play around. Jump a decade later; the folks behind the lunchbox now have a steady stream of supporters. The lunchbox is widely used in schools and by independent animators. The mechanics behind the lunchbox are simple and easy to use. The lunchbox has a counter for telling how many frames to shoot, a playback feature, and other features an animator needs to create his or her masterpiece.

Designing and constructing animation requires a lot of hard work and dedication. It pays to have the right tools at your disposal.

Animation Gear (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

Animation like all art forms is in a constant state of flux. Equipment and techniques that were relevant 50 or even 10 years ago are not applicable in today's fast paced industry. The newest 3-D animated movie or FX driven 2-D anime show could enthrall audiences today, could be antiquated relics a year or more later.

Cell paint, for instance has been replaced with computer aided coloring programs. Sleek digital cameras have put the bulky Film cameras out to pasture. With the introduction of newer and faster tools at a studio's disposal, there is one thing that keeps things constant, the animator. An animator is only as good as their tools. It doesn't matter if a person works for a studio, like Disney or Studio Ghibli, or is an independent animator; you still need to have something to work with.

For all animators around the world relies on one thing, which is paper, more specifically animation bond paper. Culver City, California based animation supply company, Cartoon Colour, have been supplying animators vital animation equipment for over 50 years. What is special about animation bond paper as a posed to regular paper is that animation paper is thinner and more translucent. It can be easier to see when making an animated character.

Another key feature of animation bond paper are three small holes on either the top or bottom of the paper. These holes are called animation registration. The animation registration can be held together with something called a "Peg Bar." The animation holes have a three-lined pattern with a circle in the middle. There were two popular kinds of animation registration, Oxberry and Acme. The Oxberry holes were a lot rounder than the Acme, which were more slender. The Oxberry style was eventually replaced by the Acme system. A more in-depth diagram of the animation registration is located on Finnish animator Jan-Eric Nyström's web site ANI-MATO! Coincidently Acme is also the same name of a fictitious company that supplies various props to the Warner Brothers cartoon characters, most notably Wile E. Coyote, created by Chuck Jones.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Astro Boy (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

There are also some memorable one liners that will have probably have passed over the youngsters. "Is this thing on?" comes to mind when Donald Sutherland's character talks as a robot. Samuel L. Jackson's booming voice says "I'm old school " would bring cheers to the audience. Mr. Jackson is also the voice of Afro in the series "Afro Samurai." It was difficult at first to notice that Mr. Jackson did the voice of the construction robot, "ZOG."

This is sure to be on the shelves of many fans next year when the movie is released on DVD and blu-ray. One can hope that the Japanese dialogue will be in the DVD version.

Astro Boy (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

(Some of the comments stated below contain spoilers. Please don't read if you haven't watched the movie.)

Friday, October 23rd was the US release of the highly anticipated animated movie, "Astro Boy." Astro Boy is the creation of the most well respected anime and manga artist, Osamu Tezuka. In the US, the movie is ranked 6th with a total ticket sale of $7 Million.

The movie had the best animators from Japan and the US. They also had some talented voice actors, such as Nicholas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Lane, and Charlize Theron. The film had the makings of a great-animated movie. The animation used some of the most cutting edge technology that can be used today. The story stayed faithful to the original series created by Tezuka.

Since this is a movie geared toward younger kids, much of the scenes that involve death were substituted with something less objectionable. One scene that comes to mind is the death scene of Toby. The boy was vaporized because of a rampaging robot. There was no body to be found, Dr. Tenma (Nicholas Cage) used a single strand of hair found in Toby's hat. Bill Nighy (Dr. Elefun) was the voice of reason to Dr. Tenma during the construction of Astro. Mr. Nighy was a good choice for the good doctor.

The likeness of Tezuka and his work were widely displayed in the movie. One of the scientists in the movie looked like Tezuka. One of the billboards had one of Tezuka's famous characters, a pig called Hyoutan-tsug, which was created by his little sister.

It was interesting to see and hear some of the veteran actors, such as Donald Sutherland, really get involved in the voice acting. It was refreshing to see the lighter side of these actors become the characters. At the same time you can sympathize with the actors during the low emotional points in the movie. For instance, you can tell the inflections of remorse and pain in Nicholas Cage's voice when he looses his son. It was also very impressive to hear Freddie Highmore's voice has matured as an actor.
You can hear Asto's pain when his father dejects him. For some younger audiences those scenes may be boring, but this might hit a nerve with their parents.

Nathan Lane was the comic relief as the sinister Ham Egg (In Japanese it would be translated into Hamu Tamago). It was nice seeing Mr. Lane act as a villain. You are so fooled by his coy personality that when you realize what has happened, it is too late.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anime Music (Part 3)

By: Brian Mah

Recently, a number of foreign and Japanese artists composed lyrics for the Osamu Tezuka inspired anime music video, Ravex. Some well-known Japanese artists, such as Anna Tsuchiya, Namie Amuro, and Yuuko Ando contributed some music. In addition Monkey Majik, DJ Ozuma, BoA, and Lisa were some of the foreign musicians who added their own musical styles into this CD. The basic premise behind the Ravex story focused on three musicians (Fantastic Plastic Machine, Shinichi Osawa, and Taku Takahashi) who try to revive a fallen comrade to help fight the citizens of Tezuka's world from an evil alien race. Some of Osamu Tezuka's greatest creations, for instance Astro Boy, Black Jack, and Princess Knight aided the three musicians.

Puffy is a perfect example of how popular Japanese groups have broken into the US market and had some success to get a wider audience. Tokyo born Ami Onuki and Osaka born Yumi Yoshimura have created catchy tunes in Japan since 1996. They haven't been renown in the US until they got a chance to sing the theme song for Cartoon Network's Teen Titans. In response to the popularity of the Teen Titans song, Puffy was given a chance to acquire their own TV series. The series was called Hi! Hi! PuffyAmiYumi. The series centered on the cartoon adventures of Ami and Yumi on their road trip across the US. The series can also be seen on Cartoon Network's sister station in Japan.

Hikaru Utada made her name in the Japanese music scene in the early 1990's with her New York-influenced music. Ms. Utada is perhaps most familiar among anime fans for singing the opening song "This is love" for the OAV (Original Animated Video) Freedom. Katsuhiro Otomo, the famous creator of Akira, produced the OVA.

Mari Iijima is perhaps most recognized among anime fans as the voice of Lynn Minmay of the hit anime series Macross. Ms. Iijima is currently an independent musician in the Los Angeles area. She reprised her role as Minmay for the English dubbed version of the Macross series. She is currently writing music and performing in the LA area.

Many of these musicians have acted as bridges to help spread Japanese popular culture to many fans around the world. Through their hard work and dedication many of the anime series have found a voice in these talent musicians.

Anime Music (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

The most well known collaboration between artists and musicians in Japan were between the robotic clad techno duo, Daft Punk and the master of the sci-fi anime genre, Leiji Matsumoto. They created the musical masterpiece Interstella 5555. The combination of the fluid sci-fi animation of Mr. Matsumoto and the digital styling of Daft Punk made the anime an instant classic. The basic story of the Interstella 5555 centered on a group of musicians who entertained their planet with digital music. An evil alien stole the musicians and sent them back to earth. A fan of the group, who was also a solider, tried to get them back to their home planet. There were a lot of references to some of Mr. Matsumoto's earlier works, such as Space Pirate Captain Harlock.

Rapper/Producer, Kanye West and Independent artist Takashi Murakami teamed up on the video, "Good Morning." Kanye created the original story and added the audio soundtrack. Kanye's technique complemented with Murakami's use of bright psychedelic colors and unusual anime character designs. The premise of the video was a bear trying to make it to his graduation. The futuristic setting in the video was homage to "Back to the Future Part II."

The British Indie group, Bôa, was best known for the opening song, "Duvet", used in the anime series Serial Experiments Lain created by Yoshitoshi ABe. The approach of how Bôa harmonized together with Mr. ABe's characters and story was a hit with fans that still enjoy listening to the song.

Korean born artist BoA is another foreign musician who entered the Japanese music scene. BoA exploded into the Japanese music scene back in 2001. It wasn't until she sang the closing song "Every Heart" for the anime series Inuyasha that anime fans took notice.

Anime Music (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

In Japan, music and anime have been together since the beginning. Just as their counterparts in the West, much of the first animated films in Japan relied on live musical scores or simple audio tracks during the screening of each film. TV made it possible to combine complex music with animation. Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy is a perfect example of how music and anime blended together. The opening sequences of the original Astro Boy is the genesis of how the anime industry has used music in their TV series and films.

Adding modern music, made the shows more appealing to a wider audience. For instance, Space Battleship Yamato, Macross, Gatchaman, and Cowboy Bebop are some examples of how modern music and anime created a global fan base.

Musicians from the entire world have added segments of anime series into their music videos. For instance, in the Michael and Janet Jackson video, "Scream," incorporated sequences from the series Akai Kōdan Zillion. Matthew Sweet utilized sequences from the anime series Urusei Yatsura in the song, "I've been waiting", and Space Adventure Cobra in the song, "Girlfriend." Both songs were broadcasted numerous times on MTV when the videos were released in the late 1990's.

Maid Cafe (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

Another notable cafe is Pinafore. These ladies always have a smile on their face. They have two cafes. One cafe is near the Akihabara Yodobashi Camera. The maids are very friendly and they serve the best cup of coffee (500 Yen). The bartender, Suzu, can make a tasty parfait. Her pigtails add more to her cuteness. Pinafore was also in the movie, "Train Man", starring Takayuki Yamada and Miki Nakatani

If you want to bring your camera and take pictures of these nice ladies, you are forbidden to do so. Wakana, an experienced maid at Pinafore explains when the cafes first started there were some not so nice folks who took pictures of these talented ladies in pink. She said some of the ladies were displayed on tobacco products without the consent of the maid or her cafe.

In addition to the various maid cafes, there are an increasing number of butler cafes. These cafes are more for a female clientele. The butlers are girls dressed up as a male servant. It is similar to the Tarazuka Revue, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. The most well-known butler cafe is Swallowtail, which is located in Ikebukuro. Another butler cafe is Checkmate.

Detailed listings of the various cafes are located on the Akibanana web site. It gives a detailed listing of what each cafe specializes in, the cafes range from the basic maid cafe to a clinic-style cafe where you get a head massage. If you are wondering what the name of the massage place, that massage place is called Reflangel. Tabi, Simona, KイKイ, and Gina are the web-mistresses who maintain the website.

So, if you are tired from shopping at all of the anime stores in Akihabara, make sure you stop by at one of these cafes. By the way, the cafes can take a picture of you and the waitress of your choice. Who in turn will decorate the photo for you. These gracious waitresses are here to make sure your stay in Akihabara is a memorable one.

Maid Cafe (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

You see them walking around Akihabara. Cute girls wearing big frilly Goth-Loli dresses or maid costumes. They hand out flyers along Chuo Street along Akihabara's "Electric Town" with a smile saying, "Onegaishimasu" (please). These are not full sized Victorian dolls, but rather the hard working ladies behind the maid cafe.

The concept of the maid cafe started in 2001. The first owners of the maid cafes found a niche market with the weary anime and manga fans that had no place to call their own. The girls at the various cafes provide companionship, a lively chat, or maybe a place to play some cards with the socially impaired men who walk around the vast streets and side streets of Akihabara.

The most popular is the cafe @Home. This cafe is always busy, even on weekdays. When arriving to @Home on the weekends, long waits are expected. As the customer gets seated, one of the brown and pink maids will seat you. One of the maids, Nicole, is happy to explain the menu to you. The English speaking maid is normally on duty from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm. Customers can play a game or have their photo taken for an additional charge of 500 Yen ($5). When the food comes, the maid plays a game with them called "Moe, Moe, Moe." Moe means to love something deeply, usually an inanimate object. After the patron is done eating, the maids gives them a point card. The cards are determined by the customer's level of "Otaku-ness." The cards range from the following levels: Bronze (Lv. 1 My Master), Silver (Familiar Master), Gold (Eminent Master), Crystal (Glorious Master), Platinum (The Paragon of Master Excellence), and Black ("The Legend").

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

AKB48 in NYC (Part 4)

By: Brian Mah

Many of the audience members shouted “Encore! A-K-B-48! Encore!” The members finally arrived on stage wearing “I love NY” shirts on stage. The crowd loved the shirts and began to cheer. They sang two Encore songs, “Ju Nen (10 years) Sakura” and “Oge Diamond.” These were very well known among the hardcore supporters. The group left the stage and had a second Encore. This was much to the jubilation of their dedicated fans.

After the concert, many of the Japanese and NYAF press converged to the front of the hall. The group appeared and they took pictures of the group. AKB48 then turned to their fans where they waved. They then boarded their big white bus.

The concert was a once in a lifetime opportunity for AKB48 to venture outside Japan to meet their international fans. Maybe AKB48 will travel to other US cities and meet their ever-growing fan base.

Many sincere thanks to the people behind NYT for organizing this fantastic concert for the dedicated fans of AKB48. NYAF also did a fantastic job having an anime convention in the NYC area for 6 years. Afterwards NYAF will merge with NY Comic Con later in the year.

AKB48 in NYC (Part 3)

By: Brian Mah

After the introductions the group broke up in the separate units. Each set up varied between each group. There was the tropical wearing group singing “Cherry Boy.” They all danced together during the catchy dance song.

Various veteran members, lead by Sayaka Akimoto, wore leather short-skirts and other heavy metal accessories during the performance of the song "Blue rose." The mature sultry dancing and hard-core singing had a positive reaction with their followers. Incidentally, NYC is still a place where hard rock musicians like Blondie and Pat Benitar are still respected.

In contrast to the leather clad team K was a team dressing in animal clothes and dancing to the song, "Ame no Doubutsuen," much to the delight of their supporters. The next set had some other members dressing up as robotic ballerinas. No doubt the mixing of robots and idols has long been a staple in many anime series, such as Macross Plus' Sharon Apple to the newest virtual idol, Miku Hatsune.

The group then re-organized wearing black and white dresses. They asked all of the audience members to get out the red scarf they got before the event. When the group sang some of their most popular songs, such as Sakura Hanabi Okachi, they waved together with the group. At the end the group said, “We wish to come to NYC again,” which drew a huge response from the audience. The group left the stage. The crowd began to chant.

AKB48 in NYC (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

In the concert the audience was a mix of age groups and genders. The audience was enthusiastic and grateful that AKB48 had their first US concert in NYC. The audience was allowed to enter the concert area at about 5pm. The VIP guests were escorted to the upper level, while the general audiences were in the lower level in the pit.

They were cheering and had a lot of energy during the start of the concert. The concert started a little later than planned, but that didn’t bother them. Many of who were waiting patiently to view their favorite group.

The dancers and singers arrived on stage with the loud vocal approval of their admirers. The first number was the song, " Aitakatta!" The first costume change for the group had the members dressed up in Scottish-type school uniforms. The group sang and danced in unison like they would in their Akiba show.

They sang their most popular songs, "I love you baby" and their rendition of "Happy Birthday." Each set drew louder and louder cheers. In the end of the second song, each member introduced themselves in their best English. The youngest member, Misaki “Wasami” Iwasa (14), Research Student, said,” I will put all of my energy in the concert.” That drew a loud roar from the crowd. One of the veteran members, Sayaka Akimoto (21), team K, said to the crowd, “I will do my best. Enjoy the show!” She also said the mission of AKB48 in English, which is “Idols you can meet everyday around.” Many other members were in awe of coming to NYC. “NY is very exciting,” sums up the words from another team K member, Sae Miyazawa (19). Tomomi "Tomochi" Nakatsuka, team B, admired the NYC skyline. “I love beautiful night in NY,” she said in English. One of the more humorous moments in the introductions came from Reina Fujie (15). She said, “I am very surprised with how big the drinks are.” That drew a few snickers from the older audience member. She was probably referring to the huge size of soft drinks are in the US compared with the size of soft drinks in Japan.

AKB48 in NYC (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

(Outside the famed Webster Hall in Lower Manhattan, NYC)

On Sunday, September 27th was the American debut of the hit Japanese Idol group known as AKB48, which was sponsored by the Japanese satellite company, Sky PerfecTV. AKB48 had a private concert located in NYC’s famous Webster Hall, where many noted musicians played. New York Anime Festival VIP and New York Tokyo guests attended the exclusive concert. The concert had over 500 fans from the New York metro area, other locations in the US, and fans from Japan. Many fans waited for several hours before the doors open at 4 pm. Several members of teams A, B, K, and Students got the opportunity to travel to NYC.

AKB48's home theater base is located on the 8th floor at Akihabara’s Don Quijote building. AKB48 always draws large numbers of fans. To buy tickets for their Japanese concert, the tickets have to be made in advance through the troop’s web site.

In addition to the fans, there were a number of Japanese press people. A number of the well know TV stations in Japan, such as MTV and NHK, were on hand to film the concert. In addition to Japanese press, there was also a reporter from South America. A few South American countries, such as Argentina, have a large dedicated fan. Several small US press agencies, such as Project Nippon, were on hand to record the concert.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mandarake (Part 5)

By: Brian Mah

(Note: All photos were taken with permission of MANDARAKE INC. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)

(The Mandarake store in Akihabara.)

When asked where Mandarake will be in 5 years, Mr. Naotsugu predicts that there will be a lot more stores around Japan. He also thinks that the Nakano store will not move to another location, but rather expand to other shops in the shopping mall. Mandarake is very loyal to the Nakano area.

With stores in almost every region of Japan, there appears no slowing down for this humble bookstore. Mandarake has come a long way from its simple beginnings to being one of the most well known stores in Japan today.

Mandarake (Part 4)

By: Brian Mah

(Note: All photos were taken with permission of MANDARAKE INC. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)

(Various cosplay dresses at the Nakano store)

Along with anime and manga, there are shops devoted to video games. Many of the Mandarake stores are stocked with old Famicom, Super Famicom, Neo Geo, and Sega Genesis game consoles. There are rows upon rows of old game cartridges. Tucked away inside a private area in the video game store in Nakano was a shelf of gold plated game cartridges.

These game cartridges are in fact, according to Mr. Naotsugu, "game trophies." Game trophies were awarded to the lucky gamer who got a high score when they participated in a video game competition. When asked if these gold plated games can be played on a video game console, Mr. Naotsugu chuckled, "Yes these can be played, but only a little bit."

In addition to the video game consoles, there are various types of watch battery operated video games. Most commonly called "Game and Watch." Throughout the early 1980's Nintendo created these tiny game systems. They were the predecessors of the Nintendo DS. Now these systems are valued over 10,000 Yen (US$ 100). One game, "Ball," is valued at 26,250 Yen (US$ 260).

Mandarake (Part 3)

By: Brian Mah

(Note: All photos were taken with permission of MANDARAKE INC. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)

(Vintage mech figures at the Akiba Store.)

The more popular items are in the front of each shop, while the not so popular shows are stored in the back. When asked what is the number one selling item among foreign fans. Mr. Naotsugu states, "Whatever was shown in their home country." He goes on to say that the French are fans of the anime series Saint Seiya. For many North American fans, the Transformers are still very popular.

Japanese fans have many different tastes like their counterparts in other countries. One series that stands out for many fans is the series Kinnikuman. Kinnikuman was a show that involves wrestlers with weird special abilities. The series was very popular among fans. The items that made Kinnikuman so popular were the Gachopon Keshigomu. These were essentially 100 Yen toys that came out of vending machines. Gachapon is the sound a capsule makes after it hits the metal tray. The most valuable Kinnikuman at the Nakano store is the figure Satan Kurosu. The value of that item is 105,000 Yen (US$ 1,000). Last year Kinnikuman celebrated it's 29th anniversary. The number 29 can be read in Japanese as "Ni-Ku." That year there was a DVD box set of the entire series of toys, which retailed for 100,000 Yen (US$ 1,000). The same used box set was valued at 10,000 Yen (US$ 100).

Mandarake (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

(Note: All photos were taken with permission of MANDARAKE INC. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)

(Cute vintage dolls from the Kakano store.)

Presently, Mandarake is the HQ for anything still popular in Japan. Inside the vast Nakano Broadway shopping mall there are smaller stores each containing collectors' items from many popular series. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragonball, Sailor Moon, and Star Wars are some of the more popular series. Mandarake also features work by famous artists, these include: CLAMP, Range Murata, Masamune Shirow, Rumiko Takahashi, and many more.

In 1980, Masuzo Furukawa and a group of friends founded Mandarake. It first started inside a small storefront corner within the Nakano Broadway shopping mall. Of the original people who started with Mr. Furukawa only two people remained: One is Mr. Fukuda, head of publishing the store's catalogue, Mandarake Zembun. The other is Mr. Imairai, who is in charge of anime cels.

Mr. Kazuki Nabeshima of Mandarake's press office, recalls, "No one thought of the idea of selling used books would catch on." Nowadays, Mandarake is the ultimate store for buying new and used items from the past. For example, Blythe dolls are recently one of the most surprising items that are becoming popular.

The Hasbro Toy Company created the Blythe dolls during the early 1970's. The dolls are characterized by having a big head, big eyes, and a small body. Mr. Kouno Naotsugu of the international office reveals, "The dolls weren't popular at first, but one of the female employees was a fan of the dolls and wanted to sell them." Mr. Naotsugu also adds, "The dolls later became so popular that a Princess from Thailand (Her Royal Highness Princess Srirasmi) became a fan of the dolls. Now we get a lot of buyers from Thailand." In the Nakano store there is a whole shop just for the dolls. Within one section of the shop people can pose their dolls. Some of the prices of the dolls range from 20,000 to 40,000 Yen (US$ 200-400).

Mandarake (Part 1)

By: Brian Mah

(The broken clock front entrance of the Mandarake Shibuya's store.)

(Note: All photos were taken with permission of MANDARAKE INC. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)

(The vast manga from the Mandarake Akiba store.)

If the reason for traveling to Japan is trying to find every memorabilia from what first got you interested in anime or manga, whether it was Godzilla, City Hunter, Transformers, Macross, or Saint Seiya, you have probably investigated endlessly at all of the stores along the Kanto or Kansai region. Look no further than the anime and manga vintage superstore Mandarake .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old School (Part 15)

By: Brian Mah

What advise would you give to anyone who wants to break into your industry?
Patrick Macias: Study Japanese language, culture, and history and try to develop your own voice or vision using what you’ve learned.

Rikki Simons: Find a good school and make good friends and all that, but more over: love what you do and don't be a work-a-day stiff, even if you have to find a day job. A job is a necessity, sure, because of money, but there are many ways to make money, and you can always find a way to make money at what you love. Not because you're greedy, but because it gives you the power to make more of what you love.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: Never give up! Try not to burn yourself out or get too overwhelmed, learn how to pace yourself. Being a successful artist takes time and complete dedication and you can't expect it to happen overnight. Also, don't be shy to show your art and try to network with fellow artists. The best thing for any starting artist is to get exposure and these days with the internet, the skies the limit with so many places like Deviant Art to showcase and critique your artworks. Most importantly, try not to get discouraged or bullied by what you're trying to achieve. There's a huge difference in a helpful critique as opposed to an insult. Give respect to other artists and try to learn from one another. You're never too old or too young to learn or enjoy something new or different. And there's always something new and different in anime and manga.

Jan Scot-Fraizer: Decide what you want to do, and pursue it with great conviction. The anime industry in Japan is in terrible shape so it's definitely not the time to move over there and go for it right now. The industry in the US is hurting terribly and it's going to change tremendously over the next couple years to survive. It might not even survive, being absorbed into much larger entertainment companies who REALLY won't care what fans think but I don't think that's likely. If I was running one of those companies I think I'd bail right now to be honest. I can't see a real solid revenue stream because of downloading and I can't see new products in a different format suddenly hitting big during a time of economic trouble. I think I'd close up and do something else until the economy swings back and something new that couldn't be swiped effortlessly was available.

If you want to make comics, start by making your own. If you can't tell your story with stick figures then it's not a good story after all...

Living vicariously through your favorite artists is one thing. In order to be a great artist you need to live through the high and low points in life to achieve that goal. Hard work, creativity, and the ability to work with others is the key to be successful in any industry.

Old School (Part 14)

By: Brian Mah

(The last batch of questions are words of wisdom for the next generation of artists and writers. These new artists should heed the advise of their elders because they also had the same worries and expectations when they first started out.)
What has impressed you the most about young artists you have met at anime conventions?
Patrick Macias: Their passion for pop culture that is foreign to America.

Rikki Simons: Their lack of fear. When I was a child, making the decision to draw cartoons over realism was a decision that could mean limited career choices in the United States, and having an anime or manga influence meant the possibly of having no career at all. That's all changed. Kids draw what they want now and they feel this will not hamper their future in any way. The down side is that it's made some of them smug.

Jan Scot-Fraizer: I really enjoy seeing the artists who have developed their own style and are doing their own comics and illustrations. There are some really talented and dedicated folks and there's something about anime/manga that really brings an energetic creativity out of people.

Old School (Part 13)

By: Brian Mah

Besides downloading, what are the other biggest hurdles for artists today?
Patrick Macias: Money, exposure, language and culture barriers.

Rikki Simons: Large publishing houses with connections to management firms and Hollywood demanding creator's movie, TV, and ancillary rights, and the demands of those same publishers to give up your moral rights: it's not worth it. It's not worth giving up your freedom for a lousy $20k advance. Prose, manga and comics and web comics are the last places where a creator can control their work and render their visions without producers or contemporary establishments there to water them down for mass consumption.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: Finding the right attitude. I'm a very humble artist and it still shocks me whenever I encounter other artists with big egos. Too many times I encounter a new artist out to "prove" something, instead of actually honestly enjoying their art and craft. I think a lot of respect is lacking these days towards fellow artists. I still call classic manga mentors "sensei" when most of this generation merely refers to them as "mangaka".

Jan Scot-Fraizer: Originality. I see rehashes of rehashes of rehashes and it's tiring and uninteresting. I find this is a great difficulty with the creators of today, particularly the children of mass media and entertainment as commodity. Tezuka and Disney and Jack Kirby were inspired by radio shows, classic films, classic literature and their own boundless imaginations. The next generation grew up on the work those folks created and the classics as well, which gave them an even larger horizon. The next generation lost the classics and by the time they were teenagers the magic of going to a movie in a theater and reading a great old novel was mostly gone, replaced by home video and hundreds of movies pumped out purely for profit. The next generation grew up on their own replacements of the earlier replacements and I think that their stories have lost a lot of the dynamics of the older stories. There will always be great movies and great stories but so much stuff is dumped in the market now it's hard to find them. The worst part of it is that folks are merely repeating what they've seen before rather than analyzing it to find out what makes them like it so much. Without that you can't create a great story because great stories are about exploring themes and ideas deeply.

Old School (Part 12)

By: Brian Mah

What are your opinions regarding digital downloading? Is there a way the industry can police it?
Patrick Macias: On one hand, illegal downloads have helped to spread otaku culture. On the other, it has definitely had a negative impact on the parent industry. From a realistic standpoint, policing is probably impossible. There needs to be an alternative that serves everyone’s needs and things seem to be moving in that direction.

Rikki Simons: Until the fundamentals of digital material itself changes, such as computers evolving into quantum computers. I don't think you can stop digital downloading. I think the only solution is to make your work
available online for free and sell advertising and merchandise to
support it, just like web comics creators do.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: If it's the internet then it is next to impossible to police it. The only time I get upset is when there's an art thief. Luckily, I've only had to deal with this personally once on-line. Someone had the nerve to repost on their site an image of the ShutterBox cover art to volume number 1 I had rendered in a blue color scheme, and tried to claim that they had colored it. I sent this person an e-mail declaring I was the original artist and that what they posted I use for business cards and they most certainly did not color it. I asked them to please remove it from their site at once. This person complied by removing their entire website without further incident. I didn't even get a "sorry".

Jan Scot-Fraizer: Man, I hate this question. It strongly affects the industry in a negative way and it would be nice if it were to stop but it's not going to and it's not going to abate. Downloads are virtually effortless, free, disposable, free of physical format and specific player and everything is available. People will not voluntarily turn off such a cornucopia.

Old School (Part 11)

By: Brian Mah

(Now, after that bit of warm up, here are some more serious questions regarding the industry. The next set of questions were debated heavily among industry and fandom a like.)
With The advent of computers being more present in anime, do you think the art of animation, such as cel painting, have been lost?
Patrick Macias: Definitely, but it has also opened up new storytelling possibilities.

Rikki Simons: It may be lost as far as being an assembly line staple on large commercial productions. It's difficult to justify the cost of using cel painting on a commercial production. It will always have a place as an art form practiced by individual creators, however.

Jan Scot-Fraizer: Although I like to have cels as souvenirs and I taught hundreds of people to make them, I was extremely happy to help replace them with digital production systems. When I had my studio, I LOST money every time I did cel work because the materials were so expensive. Gallons of heavy latex paint in 327 colors, heavy acetate cels that can be scratched beyond easily, a trace machine that's effectively a big laminator and costs $70,000 but I had to learn to rebuild it all myself because their "support" cost a fortune and they wouldn't go to other countries to fix machines. That tip of the iceberg versus a $500 scanner, some computers and the software. No more benzine fumes, no more expensive retakes, no more paying thousands to move heavy paper, acetate and paint between countries. I introduced the Animo system to Japan to help get past all that so our little companies could survive.

My concern about the real art of animation is mostly that hand created backgrounds don't disappear. I always wanted my backgrounds to be an organic part of the little world I was creating, no matter what tools they were created with.

Computers won't be replacing directors any time soon but if you find one that can replace a producer let me know and I will buy it at any cost!

Old School (Part 10)

By: Brian Mah

(A question was requested to Jan regarding animation production.)
What have you seen in recent trends in terms of anime content and production?
Jan Scot-Fraizer: I don't feel any kind of strong inspiration from any of the shows I see other than some movies. I don't see anything that's so original and interesting and well-executed that I am drawn to watch it much anymore although I continue to do so with movies and books.

During your time in Japan, have you gained a better respect on how the Japanese do their production work?
Jan Scot-Fraizer: I did production work there for 14 years and it formed me as a production worker and as a producer. It made me learn to work with a tight budget and make the best thing I could, to get the best team I could and motivate them strongly, to walk my talk and to keep at it until it's done.

I hear a LOT of talk from people saying they want to start their own company, do their own comic/TV show/movie, get some sort of major creative project off the ground and so on but I don't see much of it materialize. A couple years ago I decided to make a couple of rock albums for charity but I had NO idea how it was done. As a Japanese-taught producer, I hunted down the people who could do the best job of helping me make it happen, scratched the money and gear together, put together a band, recorded in 5 different states (and a cheap hotel bathroom), and put the first one together in 5 months. The second took 2 years but it was a much bigger project. What I learned from anime production and from running my own production company allowed me to be able to do this.

Old School (Part 9)

By: Brian Mah

(Rikki was asked a question regarding Invader ZIM. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series. GIR was the insane robot companion of an alien by the name of ZIM (voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz). GIR is also a huge fanatic about eating Mexican food, such as Tacos. ZIM is bent on taking over the world. Unfortunately all of his plans fails.)
Do you sometimes do the voice of GIR when you are in situations to break the ice, such as a long silence?
Rikki Simons: Oh, God no. GIR is just my voice pitched up. It's my inflections that make some of that character's mannerisms unique. I don't speak in a manner that is all that different from the character, as far as inflections. I don't go around shouting about tacos, if that's what you mean.

(A similar question was asked to Tavisha, Rikki's wife regarding GIR.)
How many times does your husband (Rikki) talk like GIR? Do you ever respond back to him in Invader ZIM's voice?
Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: LOL. He will hum like GIR around the house, but mostly he talks like GIR at the request of someone at one of the conventions. This usually being when stuck in an elevator with fans. We have a "taco song" we sometimes would sing around the house, but that song never made it into ZIM.

Old School (Part 8)

By: Brian Mah

What is your all time favorite manga series?

Patrick Macias: Violence Jack by Go Nagai.

Rikki Simons: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (YKK) by Hitoshi Ashinano.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: Candy Candy ~mid 1970's by Yumiko Takahashi (artist) and Kyoko Mizumi (writer). Presently, Death Note by Takeshi Obata (artist) and Tsugumi Ohba (writer)

Jan Scott-Fraizer: I had so many I loved... Urusei Yatsura.

Old School (Part 7)

By: Brian Mah

(Since Jan was in the animation production industry for many years. An inquiry was made if she knew any of the people around the anime and manga industries.)
When you were in Japan, did you get a chance to meet any of the great masters, such as Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Tezuka, Kenichi Sonda, Rumiko Takahashi?

Jan Scot-Fraizer: I met Miyazaki once in a park in 1988 briefly. We lost Tezuka before I was involved in the industry. I had the chance to meet Takahashi at San Diego ComicCon once but she looked so stressed out and overwhelmed that I didn't want to add to it. I'm friends with Kenichi Sonoda and we've known each other since 1990. I worked for Noboru Ishiguro for years and he was my business partner. I got to know Mamoru Oshii, who was my greatest directorial inspiration, when I worked at IG, which was great for me. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of people in the industry there.

Old School (Part 6)

By: Brian Mah

What is your all time favorite anime series?

Patrick Macias: Space Battleship Yamato.

Rikki Simons: I'd have to say it's Dennō Coil.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: As a child, Speed Racer, Kimba the White Lion. As a teen, Uchu Senkan Yamato, basically ANYTHING Leiji Matsumoto sensei created. As a young adult; Macross and the Macross Movie; Do You Remember Love and Kiki's Delivery Service. As an adult; Revolutionary Girl Utena, Sailor Moon, Giant Robo and Evagelion. More presently, FLCL, Denno Coil and Death Note. As you can see, I have all-time favorites in every decade of my life and I can't choose just one.

Jan Scott-Fraizer: I'll go with Cowboy Bebop. What a great show!

Old School (Part 5)

By: Brian Mah

Who are your favorite anime and manga artists?

Patrick Macias: Leiji Matsumoto, Go Nagai, Shotaro Ishinomori, and Hayami Jun.

Rikki Simons: Yoshitaka Amano, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Hayao Miyazaki, Yoshitoshi ABe, Hitoshi Ashinano, and Fumito Ueda, to name a few.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: Yumiko Igarashi, Yoshitaka Amano, Haruhiko Mikimoto, Leiji Matsumoto, Minako Narita, Yasuhiko Yoshikazu (Yaz), Kaori Yuki, Chiho Saito, CLAMP, Mamoru Nagano, Takeshi Obata, and Naoko Takeuchi.

Old School (Part 4)

By: Brian Mah

What book got you interested in manga?

Patrick Macias: Rather than a manga, it was Frederik L. Schodt's Book Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics.

Rikki Simons: I don't remember the circumstances, but I believe it was Nagano Mamoru's Five Star Stories.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: It was actually my Kimba obsession that lead me at age 7-9 to make up my own illustrated stories to give Kimba and his jungle friends further adventures. It wasn't until I started reading the shoujo manga classics Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda and Candy Candy in 1978-1980 that I started to seriously pay attention to costumes, panels and pacing.

Old School (Part 3)

By: Brian Mah

What show got you into anime?

Patrick Macias: It was kind of a perfect storm of Battle of the Planets (Gatchman, Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato).

Rikki Simons: In 1983, there was a hobby shop where I lived in Riverside, California that sold models imported from Japan, specifically models of the bio mechanical mecha from the anime called Dunbine.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: I'm very old school and my earliest memory of enjoying anime is mostly from Osamu Tezuka sensei's (original black and white) Astro Boy and Wonder Three series. Also, Eight Man and Marine Boy. And later on, I couldn't get enough Kimba the White Lion and Speed Racer.

Old School (Part 2)

By: Brian Mah

How long have you been an artist?

Patrick Macias: I was first published professionally at the age of 19.

Rikki Simons: Well, when I was five, I told myself I was going to "make
Cartoons" by the time I was 30. I turned 30 when I worked on Invader ZIM.

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons: I was discovered at an artist alley at the first Anime America convention in Santa Clara, CA in June of 1993. I created my first 32-page comic called Vampire World; Upon a Black Spire, It was published in 1994 by Acid Rain Studios.

Jan Scott-Fraizer: I did animation production work full time from 1987 to 2002. I do some consulting occasionally but I mostly write and occasionally do comics now. I'm still involved with the industry.

Old School (Part 1) (Patrick Macias, Rikki Simons, Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons, and Jan Scott-Fraizer)

Otaku's Voice 2.0

By: Brian Mah

When you think of the words "old school," what words come to mind? Some examples include: Retro, vintage, the movie, or some words in between. Old School can also mean veterans of a certain industry.

Patrick Macias, Rikki Simons, Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons, and Jan Scott-Frazier are veterans of the anime and manga industry. They have contributed greatly to English speaking fans in North America and Asia.

Patrick Macias is a Tokyo based writer for Otaku USA. Otaku USA is a monthly magazine devoted to showcasing some of the best in anime and manga from Japan. His daily blog centers on current popular trends in fashion, anime, manga, and popular culture. He also has entries about several vintage Japanese movies from the 1970's, such as WOLFGUY, staring Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba.

Rikki Simons is a voice actor and writer best known as the voice of the robot GIR in the animated TV series "Invader ZIM," created by Jhonen Vasquez , which aired on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2006. He is also known for writing science fiction graphic novels such as Ranklechick and His Three Legged Cat and Super Information Hijinks: Reality Check!

Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons is an independent artist who along with her writer husband, Rikki, created the popular Shutterbox book series released by Tokyopop. In addition to writing comics, Tavisha has also created character designs for Tokyopop and Digital Manga.

Jan Scott-Fraizer has been in the anime industry since the mid 1980's. Jan was one of the first foreign artists to work as an animator in Japan. She has worked on RikiOh 2, Locke the Superman, Shurato, Bubblegum Crash and Tottoi. In 1994, Jan co-founded GENESIS Digital Publishing Company with Izumi Matsumoto (Kimagure Orange Road) where they created Comic ON a CD-ROM manga compendium in which Jan made her manga debut with her original digital graphic novel Transcendence. In 1995 she went to work for Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Blood) as the president of Production I.G. USA and a producer and technical director on the Japanese side.

Their past experiences help forge what they are today. Some of the anime and manga series you might know, while others are entirely new. You might want to check them out if you get a chance to travel to Japan.

Otaku's Voice 2.0


This is the home of Otaku's Voice 2.0. The original Otaku's Voice was printed on the Anime News Network website from 2001 to 2002. The articles will come monthly.