18 Years of Anime Fandom

When having a clear-out this week I was reminded that it is now 18 years since I became an anime fan. In 1990, Liverpool, England, there was a SF convention where a substantial amount of Japanese animation (sent over as a box-full of tapes by American anime fans) was shown. Ranging from Studio Ghibli to tentacle porn, it made quite an impression.  After seeing anime like Nausicaa for the first time, I was converted. As much as anything, this event kick-started the creation of a British anime fandom, and in the months and years following, there arose magazines such as Anime UK, anime conventions devoted (unlike current US conventions) to the screening of raw tapes and fansubs, and various clubs.

Those bitten by the bug were prepared to seek out their anime from anywhere, at any price, and at any tape quality, with or without subtitles. I’ve just thrown out scores of sheets of distribution lists of tapes once held by other fans – this is how one got most of one’s anime tapes in those days.  Strange as it may seem today, I once paid good money for some obvious bootlegs, and once paid over £30 for a half-hour retail tape. Quite a lot of my earliest  fan tapes were without subtitles, and  despite this got played over and over.

Once commercial releases started to appear, there was  criticism of the quality of dubs and the choice of releases. Manga Video got the kind of bashing earlier directed at Carl Macek’s Streamline in the USA. The argument over subs vs. dubs ran and ran, dying down only with the advent of the multi-lingual DVD

Being an anime fan seems less social these days – no need to write to anybody for fansubs, and no particular need to attend a convention in order to buy stuff or keep up with what’s new. The biggest change is in the volume of  video which can be acquired with little cost or effort.

Anime Network and ADV Problems

It occurred to me the other day that the demise of the ADV-backed Anime Network UK TV channel at the end of last year was related to ADV’s recently revealed problems. There was a singular lack of information about why the plug had been pulled on this channel, until the hosting channel company (Propeller) revealed in an answer to a fan’s e-mail that they would have been happy to carry on, but ADV had withdrawn from the deal.
ADV were using Anime Network to broadcast dub editions of some of their recent product, which could *also* be bought on DVD. I don’t think this practice is unique, which makes it look like the argument that fansub downloads = bad, fansubs = lost DVD sales is overly simplistic. As it happens, one of these shows was Kurau Phantom Memory, which was cut off in mid- series. And this is one of the shows to which ADV no longer holds the rights, because of its unfortunate dispute with a major investor.

Anime Network UK – BskyB 195

Strange events on Anime Network this weekend! With no prior announcement the two presenters didn’t appear. Both posted apologetic but uninformative messages on the Forum afterwards. Seems they won’t be returning. The anime programming wasn’t as expected either. There wasn’t a new “shoujo” anime, but we did get, in 25 minute slots, two Azumangas, one Poni Puni, and one Kurau episode, and a British short art animation.

I didn’t watch beyond the first 5 mins on Sunday, but it seemed to be the same story.

No official announcements AFAIK. Since I set a timer record for Kurau, I’d like to know what future scheduling will be! As I wrote before, it’s ominous when a channel can’t be bothered to update its on-line program guide.

FYI, we had “shoujo” repeats last Thursday and Friday including Kurau 5 & 6, so tonight there will be ???

Anime on Sky 195 & 199 – No program info

The websites for the UK broadcasts of Anime Central and Anime Network don’t carry any up to date program info any more. Doesn’t look good. As if the broadcasters can’t be bothered to upload it, and the registered audience aren’t sufficiently interested to bug them about it. I suspect that these channels, which carry little advertising, may not be around for much longer. Which would be a shame.

Anime DVD release schedule for UK

Reported anime recent and forthcoming releases in the UK:

1 October: Red Garden V1 (ADV), Shadow Skill V3 (ADV) Black cat V1 (MVM), Robotech Complete Collection (Manga), Ninja Scroll: Tin Set (MVM) Tokko: Box set (Manga), Basilisk V3 (MVM), Ergo Proxy (V2) (MVM), Ah! My Goddess V5, (MVM), Azumanga Daioh Collection (ADV), Speed Grapher (V4) (MVM.

15 October: Oban Star-racers V2 (Liberation), Chrono Crusade Complete Collection (ADV), 009-1 (vol.1) (ADV), Afro Samurai (Studio Gonzo)

22 October: Moon Phase V3 (Revelation) Mushi-shi (V1) (Revelation), Noein Complete Collection (Manga), Suzuka V1 (Revelation), Negima V5 (Revelation)

24 October: KARAS V2 (Manga), KARAS double pack (Manga)

29 October: Brave Story (Optimum)

5 November: FullMetal Panic! Complete Collection (ADV), Elemental Gelade V4 (MVM), Innocent Venus V2 (ADV), Triity Blood V3 (MVM), Samurai 7: Complete Collection (MVM), Sayuki Reload V6 (MVM), Kurau Phantom Memory V2 (ADV), Naruto the Movie, Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (Manga), Berserk V2 (MVM)

19 November: Poni Poni Dash! V3 (ADV), BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad v2 (Revelation), Peach Girl v3 (Revelation, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronichle V2 (Revelation), .hack/roots V4 (BEEZ), Mushi-shi V2 (Revelation), Le Cevalier D’eon V4 (ADV)

26 November: Tales from Earthsea (Optimum)

1 December: Planetes Box Set (Beez)

V = Volume.

Phew! British anime fans needn’t complain there isn’t anything to buy…

Two new anime TV channels in the UK

With little fanfare, two new channels broadcasting anime in the UK have recently launched:

Anime Network: Sky channel 195, two hours from 8pm daily. Details here: http://www.animenetwork.co.uk/index.php?nps=y. Currently showing Coyote Ragtime, Evangeleon, Guyver, and Elfen Leid. Also, on different days, a more shoujo-ish programme whose titles I haven’t to hand. (all dub)
Anime Central: Sky channel 199, nine hours from 9pm (with repeats, only 6 different shows) Episode numbers advance daily. Details here: http://www.animecentral.com/whatson/index.aspx?dte=30/10/2007

Includes GitS SAC, Planetes, Escaflowne, Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach and Transformers Masterforce (all dub).

If nothing else, a chance to preview anime you can buy in the UK on sub/dub DVD.

Japanese -English translation software

There does not seem to have been much development in this area in the past decade. Neocor has disappeared and Lernout & Hauspie spectacularly imploded. Kanjikit has been withdrawn. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Lernout & Hauspie’s Professional Translator Pro 7 at a supermarket.

There is some free software of the word-processor/dictionary variety (for example jwpce)

As for Japanese- enabled OCR (essential for speeding up translation work), there is little choice and none of it is shareware or freeware.

With translation software, the good news is that there are free Web translators available, the bad news is that if you require the convenience of a PC-based translator, there is little choice and again none of it is shareware or freeware.

Translation Tips

Sieg Heil Iconographers

Sieg Heil Iconographers by Jon Farmer

Savoy Books, the most banned publisher in England, presents the history of their house, part III

Mike Butterworth, co-founding publisher of one of the UK’s most notoriously iconoclastic publishing houses, Manchester-based Savoy Books, has been in touch to let us know about the latest title from Savoy: Sieg Heil Iconographers, by Jon Farmer.

“…. it’s a new and alternative opus on all things Savoy to follow its two prequels, A Tea Dance at Savoy by Robert Meadley and A Serious Life by D.M. Mitchell.

“Perhaps the most eccentric yet, this split-personality manifesto has a text that exalts the intense and the neglected, and a parallel story of rare and arresting visuals scintillatingly designed by John Coulthart.”

Mike tells us that the book is a gatefold trade-paperback, weighing-in at 600+pp, which contains “the usual wide range of eclectic personalities: Moorcock, Mr. Punch, Cervantes, Cawthorn, Ruskin, Mosley, Lash LaRue, The White Stripes, Nietzsche, Adolf, Borges, Ian Brady, Guidio, Eliot, Colette, Butterworth, Fenella Fielding, Harrison, Orwell, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, Lord Horror, P.J. Proby and many more.”

For more, see www.savoy.abel.co.uk

MySql & OpenOffice Base

At first sight this may seem to have nothing to do with Japanese animation, but read on…

The OpenOffice suite is an alternative to Microsoft Office, and has the advantage of being free. OpenOffice 2.1 now includes a database, Base, which can potentially be used instead of MS Access.

MS Access isn’t included in the entry level versions of MS Office because, to be frank, unlike Excel it’s a “developer” rather than a “user” program. The same applies to OO.org Base. I’ve tried to start a database development using Base and found that:

1) it does work.

2) It’s more clunky and awkward to use than Access and even when it can do things it can take some work to find out how. And I was not impressed by the Reports.

The interesting thing, however, about Base is that it was inconspicuously included in the early OpenOffice packages before OpenOffice had its own database engine. So how did that work??

To cut a long story short, Base can be used as a front end for any database engine, i.e. MS Access, MySQL, and lots of others, by linking to them as “data sources” with the aid of a suitable driver.

If you are running a MySql database on your local computer or network, you could download Open Office here,

read the instructions here,
install the JDBC connector/j driver downloaded from here
and (if you have also installed the Java Runtime Environment), fire up Base and link to your named database.

Once you have got this far, you can soon knock up a handy form that will let you inspect and add data to your MySql tables. And why is this useful to anime enthusiasts? You might have a MySql database on your website, and a mirror of it stored on your local computer.

A final, but important, tip. The import to Base isn’t perfect, and you may find that the form wizard won’t see some fields, e.g. your Blob text fields. Before you use the form wizard, look at your tables in Base, in the edit mode, and check that the field parameters make sense. e.g. change Image[Blob] to Memo[Mediumtext].