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News & Views


News 9 Jan 2007

Some more reviews added in mid-2006. The news function is being transferred to the Blog, as postings in the General category.
Draft reviews will be posted in the Review categories, and later edited and put in the review & info database.
Contact with the web administrator will be via the Blog.
Miscellaneous material that doesn't fit in the database will be transferred to Features or Archive menu items

News 28 Mar 2006

Checking if anything was on satellite TV I noticed a lot of interesting stuff on Italia 1:
L'isola della piccola Flo = Swiss Family Robinson (WMT)
Let's & Go - Sulle ali di un turbo = something for toy racer otaku
Mirmo = Mirumo de Pon
Rossana = Child's Toy = Kodocha = Kodomo no Omocha
RTL2 is showing One Piece, etc.

News 15 Jan 2005

Got an interesting Daily Telegraph cutting from my parents - in it Colin Joyce reports that low wages and overseas sub-contracting is sapping the creativity that made Japanese anime great. Jonathan Clements shares these concerns. Maybe there's a point here - how many recent series have surpassed the now 10 year old "Escaflowne" and "Evangeleon"?

News 9 Jan 2005

An eventful two weeks for the site - it was taken offline for 10 days because of a denial-of-service attack discovered on Boxing Day, then it emerged that the site had been vastly exceeding its contracted bandwidth limits for months and I got hit for large excess bandwidth charges. Thanks, Yoursitehere... :-(
Now I an trying to kill the excess demand, which seems to be 90% due to image-search engines, causing accesses that leech images from the site. So you may find things not working from time to time.

News 2004

The sharp-eyed will have noticed that I have posted little news here since the site was moved 18 months ago! I was giving a low priority to generating news items even before two break-ins caused a lot of extra work.

UK Convention News 2004

There isn't any Ayacon this November, instead the organisers say they are planning a bigger one with a capacity of 1000 for 2005, to cope with the bigger demand that has been evidenced in the past year or two. This demand will have been evident to those who tried to book for a Minamicon or Ayacon months ahead and still failed to get in. Nobody has explained this surge of interest in convention-going, but it's a fact.
Meanwhile there is a new Anime convention this August, in the Midlands, with a capacity of 1000 guests.
See AmeCon, 22-24 August 2004, Leicester. www.amecon.org.

Translation software

Found Lernout & Haspie's "Power Translator Pro 7.0" on sale in LIDL for 19.99. It formerly cost 99.95. This contains a six-language European translator, and a Japanese - English translator, and an English - Japanese translator (separate programs.)
The package dates from 2000 - so best run under Win 98. Once one realises that the Japanese bits and Web translator are separate programs startable only from the Windows Start Menu it's fairly easy to get going.
The Japanese - English does work well enough to deliver the gist of a Web page with few words left untranslated. Japanese text entry with Kanji select tables is included. It's not easy to say how it compares with the similar Neocor/L&H Typhoon & Tsunami professional translator programs which were vastly more expensive. Unfortunately there is no bundled scanner software. It's certainly worth 20 though.

Aya Returns Convention 2002

A successful convention. Best anime tips: Ghost in the Shell TV, SaiKano, Ash Wings Alliance, Hoshi no Koe (SF), Yukikaze (SF), Kaidouhmaru (samurai), Nakoruru (samurai period)

Minami Con

A successful convention. The organisers for the first time used digital files as the primary source for the anime being shown. This allowed them to use software to time schedule the items and filler "shorts" automatically, reducing the need for "gophers" to manually insert and start tapes. The pin-sharp quality of the digital material compared with VHS is a revelation!
Much new material was shown, most of it quite entertaining. However the hit of the Con was probably the three-part OVA "Read or Die".
Reviews of new shows seen appear in the main review sections.

UK Convention - Nov 2002

http://www.ayacon.org.uk Anime Convention 1-3 November 2002

UK Convention - 2003

http://www.minamicon9.anime.org.uk

Battle Royale

How many of you have seen this recent live-action Japanese movie? It has had a limited cinema release in the UK, but I hear that no US distributor will touch it.
I saw it last night at a multiplex cinema in Milton Keynes.
As you may have read in the publicity, it's set in Japan in the near future, where unemployment and unruly school students have become "problems". The solution is to pick a classfull of students each year and isolate them on an uninhabited island and force them to kill each other off, the last one alive being the winner.
The film is exceptionally well-made, with none of the cheapness or cheezy feel one sometimes gets with live-action Japanese movies.
It's also extremely violent in a typically Japanese fashion, with dozens of bloody deaths on-screen. The young characters are very like real students and appear as individuals. A word of warning - those of a sensitive disposition will find this movie quite upsetting as various harmless and likeable youngsters get killed. One feels quite guilty at having been entertained by the movie.
I was left unsure of what this movie was trying to say - there was little indication of how the Battle Royale was shown to the public or how it was solving the supposed problem. Perhaps it was saying that it is in society and not in delinquent kids that the problem lies.

Shoujo conventions

Shoujocon & Yaoi Con
Shoujocon is the East Coast convention (and, surprisingly, the rare anime/manga-related convention located anywhere near New York) and is the older of the two cons mentioned.

www.shoujocon.com

I'm the asst con chair for 2002, so of course I'm biased toward this con. Information on how to register and/or volunteer for Shoujocon 2002 is already available; we're still working on guests, programs, etc. etc. The site has undergone a radical appearance and organizational change, but we're hoping everyone loves the con as much as they did the first two years. Takes place in New Jersey, USA

www.yaoicon.com

Yaoi-Con is the West Coast convention (and not alone, of course, in California). Totally and 100% dedicated to adult shoujo, and (from what I heard), the inaugural convention was much, much, MUCH fun. Takes place in San Francisco, CA, USA.
(Paulette Hodge)

My Neighbours the Yamadas

Saw this at Barbican on 3rd Nov. It's quite different from your average anime, being animated in a deceptively simple yet technically sophisticated style, and being about the everyday life of an average family. It's also very funny. Recommended.

Anime Encyclopedia

The Anime Encyclopedia, A guide to Japanese animation since 1917, Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press, 2001.
It's certainly a work that many anime fans will find essential, as it covers a huge number of titles, both TV & OVA. Some will see it as an expansion of the "Anime Movie Guide" which only covered movies and OVAs released between 1983 and 1995, but it is from a different publisher, and fresh review texts have been written for the Encyclopedia.
However, it still isn't all-inclusive, (some titles that are on my own site aren't in it), and the data (i.e. details of various OVA & movie releases) on titles that are also in "The Anime Movie Guide" also by McCarthy, are conspicuously more complete in the latter. Neither volume, for instance, sheds much light on the date, length and credits for the 6th Urusei Yatsura movie. The encyclopedia seems to have been compromised by commercial considerations, ie making a volume of manageable size, as the details are compressed compared with the earlier volume, and it is no longer possible to pick out all the details of the various OVAs, movies and TV series that may come under a single title. There are very few illustrations, and these are disposed randomly through the text. It seems that the difficulty of securing the necessary permissions is to blame for this.
The new book is a valuable work of reference, but it is also fun to browse through it to see what unknown stuff comes to light. Did you know that there is an anime of "Dance till Tomorrow"? I didn't.
For reference projects like this, Web sites have the advantage in offering searching and full illustration. In an exchange dating a couple of years back, I learned that Helen McCarthy was opposed to such a scheme replacing a book, on the grounds that it excluded those unable to afford an expensive computer and Web access.
Only one edition has been issued; the American edition, of which 2000 copies have been imported for UK distribution. UK guide price = 18.50.

America Under Attack

This site is devoted to the fairly frivolous pursuit of Japanese animation and manga (comics).
However, regular visitors to this site may have clicked on this UK-based page to see if there is any reaction here to recent events, so here it is.
I was dumbfounded and appalled by the unfolding narration of events. I had to switch on my car radio on Tuesday evening before I could really believe that what I had heard from colleagues was true. I am appalled by the extent of the death toll and the amount of devastation.
So what next? Despite the finger being pointed at Osama bin Laden, I doubt that killing him or bombing the rubble in Afganistan will do anyone much good. I can tell you that the resentment against America is very real even among moderate Muslims here. Attacks against Palestinians and Iraquis play very badly. It would be more useful to capture and execute the members of the terrorist network - which would upset very few - and "persuade" various governments to make life hot for all terrorists everywhere and also their sympathisers, supporters and funders.
The Taliban regime is supported by aid from Pakistan, and if this aid was cut off and the borders sealed, this would bring the Taliban regime to its knees as effectively as any bombing campaign.
Let there be no more support for fashionable terrorist groups like the IRA and the Basque separatists, or the Macedonian rebels. These people while claiming to fight for "freedom" merely increase the level of barbarism in our societies. Do us in the UK a favour: treat Noraid and its ilk the same way you would treat supporters of Arab terrorism directed against the USA. If this evil of terrorism is harried to extinction everywhere the victims of Washington and New York will not have died in vain.

Cheap DVDs

I have recently investigated the cheap DVDs available from the Far East, and frequently offered on Ebay and elsewhere. They're certainly cheap (sometimes cheaper than VHS fansubs), but may contain some unwelcome surprises. And the majority are appearently pirate editions, even when they say they are licensed. More detail on my Merchandise page.

May 2001

Note that there is a "Japan 2001" festival on in southern Britain this year, with many events. There's a website, whose URL I don't have to hand, though I found it on the Time Out website. Noteworthy events include Kabuki at Sadlers Wells 30 May- 9 June 2001. (www.sadlerswells.com)

March 2001

Have just returned from MinamiCon 7. First impressions: well run, interesting program. The timing seems designed for those who have the whole of Friday off and travel on Friday AM and Sunday evening. First screening was at 14.00 Fri, not much use for those who got away from work early on Friday afternoon. There are, in effect, two half-days and one full-day. Much of Saturday evening is occupied with the Masquerade and charity auction, etc. There was no anime screening between 18.30 and 21.00 Sat; rather a case of "You WILL watch the masquerade." Sorry, but not my sort of thing, and nobody who has seen a SF WorldCon masquerade will be the least bit impressed by a British anime con masquerade.
As for the anime, I saw a number I hadn't seen before, but only one or two items that were completely news to me (or, thanks to the kind permission of Dave Baranyi and CALCI) to diligent perusers of my review lists.
Hence, review updates are already in the database and should appear on-site shortly.
Guests: there weren't any that I was aware of.
Non-anime program - ask someone else, as I didn't attend any while the anime was on.

November

I still have some fansubs to dispose of, even though I have removed the annoying, and apparently ineffective , pop-up screen.

26 Aug

Digital satellite anime continues to be frustrating. I have both digital and analogue receivers, but while the analogue equipment works seamlessly with automatic recording, the digital add-on continues to frustrate with all functions manual-only. An extra satellite box is really one box too many for this installation. "Now...which satellite is channel 536 on...? Do I need the analog receiver today..?" Also, being confronted with a request to record the digital BBC Choice, I found that while I could pick up the signal OK there was no way I could view or record it even though it was supposed to be a "free" channel (ie I'd already paid for it via my licence fee). Wrong sort of digital - need a Murdoch Digibox - NO WAY!
The ideal (?) free-to-air solution [which still does not get any of the UK Digibox channels] is to have an all-in-one receiver - digital/analog/positioner/timer, but with only one example in the marketplace, costing 400, and that with wobbly software, one could be forgiven for thinking that a crateful of fansub tapes would be a more sensible solution. We await next years' cheaper and better receivers. I can however now view much more of the Italian anime scene, and while the translations and adaptions are often awful, it's a great chance to see what many TV anime, including some quite well known ones, look like.

I also got a DVD player - a Wharfedale DVD750 (Tesco exclusive) so am now future-proofed. This player is supposed to have an easy handset hack for Region 1. Please note though that most USA anime DVDs (other than Pioneer/Bandai) are not region-encrypted. So if you buy, as I did, the Sakura Wars DVD to try it out, you'll find that it works straight out of the box on a British TV and you can't even tell what conversion is happening inside the player. Presumably it also plays native Japanese DVDs. BTW, the Sakura Wars DVD has 4 episodes with dub or subtitles selectable, and surround sound, for a very reasonable 22.
Note also that though the handbook says that it will not play VCDs, this is wrong, it does play the Macross II VCDs OK, and indicates VCD on the control panel. Quality is noticeably inferior to DVD on a 28" screen. I haven't tried SECAM DVDs, which probablement ne marche pas, mais si vous voulez that facility, there is another player on the UK market that plays SECAM (you probably need a SECAM TV as well, though).

Videos

Note that Kimagure Orange Road is now available in the UK from MVM, and Bubblegum Crisis 2040 (TV series) is also apparently available. Both are dubbed as far as I know - the originals are both recommended.

UK News 5 June

News from Italy:
"Nadia was supposed to start Saturday at 16.30; instead, they aired two episodes of Pokemon and today (Monday 29) they started airing BGY in place of Nadia. ^__^"
Blue-Green Years/ Mizuiro Jidai/ Temi d'amore fra i banchi di scuola is a delightful shoujo anime series which I have seen as a fan-sub, and want to see more of. Recommended. [GC].
This could be the push that some of us need to get a digital satellite receiver. :-) Cheapest suitable receivers start at 149.

Bilingual Manga

Kodansha's bilingual manga project is impressive and just keeps growing.
Here's the run down of their current releases;
bilingual;
* The Wonderful World of Sazae-san (#1-12) by Machiko Hasegawa
* CardCaptor Sakura by CLAMP
* Division Chief; Kosaku Shima; (#1 & 2) by Kenshi Hirokane
* GTO; (#1-3) (Great Teacher Onizuka) by Fujisawa Toru
* The New Kindaichi Files; (#1-4) by Kanari and Sato
* OL; Survival in the Office; (#1-4) by Risu Akizuki

Mini sized - translated with Japanese notes;
* OL Comes of Age (#1 & 2) by Risu Akizuki
* What's Michael by Makoto Kobayashi

And it was years ago they did;
* Seito Shokun! by Yoko Shoji

If anyone knows of manga published in Japan either bilingual or just in English that are not on my page I would love to hear about it. [Susan and David]
http://www.biwako.ne.jp/~susan908/englishmanga.html

UK News 13 May
I'm informed that AB Sat & the Mangas channel (18 hours a day of the sort of anime you'd pay good money for) are licensed for the whole of Europe (including UK). WWW.sateuro.com can supply a viewing card for 118 pounds.

Cheap NTSC VCRs

The price of a basic NTSC-play capable VCR in the U.K. is now as little as 79.99. (Jan.2000, Sainsbury's) That's the cost of about four sell-thru imported NTSC tapes. At that price even more fans can afford to bypass PAL dubs. Who's going to be the first retailer to offer a free player with a boxed-set tape purchase? Weather Woman (live-action movie). There was a good write-up of this in MangaMax #10. For those of you who didn't see it, this is a very rude comedy about Japanese TV. Keiko Naganai flashes her panties to the viewers while reading the TV weather forecast and becomes an overnight sensation. She is given her own show and exploits her position to the full. However, she meets her match in the chairman's daughter, an equally brazen media tart, and the two have a struggle for power. Initially it's hilarious, but seems to be missing it's potential towards the end.


Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli/Disney have re-released a lot of their masterpieces as "Ghibli Collection", so you can now get, for example, "Majo no Takkyubin" (="Kiki") for a very reasonable Y4500, that's now about 20 or $30. So far as I can make out they're all this price, even Mononoke Hime. Of course, if you have to buy an import copy you may be charged twice as much.

Multimedia

From time to time I get comments in the feedback form requesting "Animated pictures" , "Lots more images", etc. Now I've got nothing against this, or against Shockwave, Java etc, but I just can't compete with people who are able to hire graphic designers and programmers, or have a whole semester of a college computing course to fool around in. I simply don't have the time, and I'd rather spend what time I do have in making updates to the information every week or two. (I'd also note that there is an annoying increase in sites that look good but are completely unusable and un-navigable unless the Image components are downloaded, which usually takes ages.)

Shop for Anime by Phone.

HMV have a telephone order scheme and catalogue that includes the various UK anime labels. Ring 0990-334578 (UK); or search for the HMV International web-site for your country information. Pick up the catalogue from a HMV shop.

Electronic Translation of Japanese into English

I'm currently investigating this question. It looks as though it IS possible to scan a printed text, convert it by OCR into electronic Japanese text, and then machine translate it. See the FAQ section.
I have joined this site to the Anime Ring and the Link Exchange. Sorry if the extra clutter upsets anyone, but I am hoping to boost the hit rate.

Amazing Wave of Anime TV Hits UK

Your editor personally discovered that two German satellite TV stations are transmitting daily animation programmes including up to 8 anime shows a day to Europe including the U.K. The number of hours of anime a week seems comparable with that enjoyed in Japan! Titles include LADY OSCAR (=Rose of Versailles) and GEORGIE (shoujo).
(See main index for satellite section.)
(Since this is my personal space, I'll venture a personal opinion, which is that, while shoujo anime in German may be a minority taste, for such a major anime resource to have been completely unknown is outrageous, and it shows British anime fandom in a very poor light. As for it being all in German, how many fans understand Japanese well enough to follow a storyline? And British fans have been known to collect European anime on tape - Ranma 1/2 in French is fun!)

Pirate CDs

Quite a lot of fans at Shinnenkai 1997 bought anime CDs on the "SM" label at attractive prices. These were, as it turns out, pirate CDs from Taiwan. Though the labels and sleeves look just like the real thing, the gold-coloured disc is a give-away. If you thought you got a bargain, you will be delighted to learn that in Taiwan these CDs cost $8 (about 5), and that none of the money reaches the creators and copyright owners.

Editorial

(Originally written for Anime no Nyusu column in the now-defunct CRITICAL WAVE magazine.)
One of the more interesting books to come into my hands this summer is Helen McCarthy's THE ANIME MOVIE GUIDE (Titan Books, 9.99), a movie-guide style summary of anime videos (not TV) made since 1983. While it doesn't claim to be fully comprehensive, it is in practice a fairly comprehensive listing of all the anime (except TV) of any interest to Western fans. This is a notable first - in English at any rate, for I have seen a possibly more comprehensive listing (without reviews) given away with a Japanese magazine. For the first time, we fans can see how much anime there is, and how much of quality remains to be discovered. One insight is that the material has been well trawled over by Western fans and video companies and nothing likely to gain wide popularity remains undiscovered. There is still plenty of obscure material to please the enthusiast, particularly if the enthusiast has tastes that differ from the somewhat unsophisticated requirements of the typical Western anime fan. With Helen McCarthy's book in hand, one can better understand why there is little to get excited about in Britsh anime shops this summer. The great anime, like the Miyuzaki titles recently bought up by Disney, were always far too expensive for British companies, and there is not much else of superior quality left to sell. That said, I have always suspected that, with the notable exception of the now-departed Andy Frayn, whose genius launched Manga Video, most British anime executives have the marketing skill of a dead ferret. How else to explain the obscurity of GIGI & THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, a tape whose packaging, on a juvenile label, was so unpromising that I hestitated to invest 1 in it. There was a fan's note saying that it was really 'Minky Momo' (a TV series for small Japanese girls). In fact, it's a blast, with great animation, a wild story, and a very witty dub script, better than most of the British releases this year, and even my mother thought it was "better than Disney". The charming PEEK THE WHITE WHALE which, if dubbed and well promoted should have made some headway in the family market, earlier sold a negligible quantity of subtitled tapes. Then there's WHISPER OF THE HEART, an animated film made last year by Studio Ghibli (who make the Miyuzaki movies) with a script by the master. It's about Suzuku, a book-loving schoolgirl who finds a curio shop, meets an interesting boy, and impressed by his talents decides to test herself by writing a fantasy story. Excuse me while I fall off my chair in a heap of admiration murmuring things like "Wonderful, wonderful!" "Best animated or live-action film from Japan!" "Makes all the other animation look cheap and nasty!" "How refreshing to have a story about intellectual interests!" "Wonderful recreation of Japanese everyday life!" and so on, because it really is that good. Not mass market though; no sex & violence whatsoever. Disney are said to have bought the rights, but if you want to see it anytime soon, in its original form, better busy yourself in the fan scene.

Personal Comment
Trawling through one of the mailing lists I have more than once stumbled on heated discussion of the ethics of engaging in fan-subbing, translating and tape trading. At one time few fans would make any criticism of such activities, but nowadays some fans (particularly those with deep pockets) are quick to point out that such actions are robbing the creator companies of their rights under copyright, and robbing the creators and Western licencees of revenue.
The original justification for fan tape trading is losing some of its force. (See above). The volumes of tapes traded are quite large, (one subber alone claimed to despatch 500 a month) and it would be a brave businessman who issued a video that had been the object of fan taping for months or years. Fan copying does cut fans free from the whims of distributors, but one can never assume with any confidence that a particular anime will never be released or become the object of negotiations.
As a footnote; as far as I can determine, fan taping is illegal in the US, while in Britain there are exemptions for unlicensed foreign videos.

[GCP]