Junker Woland

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Street Fighter II...Again!

Now that Junker Woland’s been lolified, let’s turn our attention to something completely different.

I imagine most people missed Capcom’s big announcement a couple months ago that—being utterly bereft of any true 2D video game talent—they’ll be remaking Super Street Fighter II Turbo as a download-only title for Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. The only reason this registers as news is because the game’s being completely redrawn to run in 1080p hi-resolution.

Good ‘ol Ken Masters above—sporting monkey thumbs, insane musculature, and extremely starched clothing—is the first officially released image (with emphasis on “officially released”) of this new-old outing. So here’s the question: are you happy to see an old friend return or do you wish Capcom would stop raping the corpses of their past accomplishments and get on with creating a new 2D franchise?



Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kodomo no Jikan – A Shameful Cancellation

Wondering what the signs says; well, that’s the infamous “ejaculate inside me” panel from the manga, Kodomo no Jinkan. Thankfully, North American readers no longer have to worry about this type of material reaching our puritanical shores, what with the US release having been canned.

Now that we’re safe, why not read my thoughts on the matter.

Official word finally dropped and as all signs had suggested, Seven Seas’ US release of the Kodomo no Jikan manga (re-titled Nymphet) has now been canceled. The book, which had already received several delays, was as of last Friday put on hiatus—according to a post from the company’s President on their website forum—while Seven Seas opened dialogue with retailers to better inform them on the title’s content and allow them time to cancel their orders should they so choose (the portion of the forum containing this post was deleted late Tuesday, though the same message had been released to the public earlier that same day).

You can visit this thread at Seven Seas’ forum to read the official statement from the company’s President. The aforementioned dialogue was apparently very swift and overwhelmingly negative, as it only took six days (over a three-day-holiday weekend no less) for the final decision to come down, though I can’t help but think outcome of this matter had mostly been reached some time prior.

Despite much of the nonsensical reasoning bandied around forums, the cancellation can be heavily attributed to financial concerns, which was to be expected—available solicitation material and wind of the minor online controversy was enough to dissuade many retailers from carrying Kodomo no Jikan. Seven Seas is a small company that can not afford to have any of their properties become complete failures; if brick-and-mortar stores aren’t willing to carry one of their books, then the chance is probably horribly slim that they’d break-even solely through online distribution.

Regrettably, Seven Seas itself has come to retract their own stance defending the book, saying later volumes are “indefensible” and “inappropriate”, while lugging out the age-old excuse of being too busy to closely monitor their own business and as such the task of properly evaluating Kodomo no Jikan’s content “fell through the cracks.” I fully appreciate a company’s inability to continue with certain projects once their main retail outlets have jumped ship; I can in no way, however, respect such a drastic about-face on their principles. This reeks of concession to what is essentially the winning audience, an attempt to curry favor after unintentionally offending a specific demographic. Also, it is true Kodomo no Jikani takes on darker elements as the series progress, but the material referenced in Seven Seas’ statement is no more reprehensible than anything found in the first volume.

What further irritates me has been the sudden indignation and disgust sounded from certain portions of the North American anime and manga fanbase. We are a hobbyist community that often prides itself on being open minded, accepting, and non-judgmental; this, of course, is all complete bunk, but for what it’s worth anime and manga fans are often exceedingly tolerant, even as we snicker and comment on the creepiness of other community member’s interests. Sentiments of “it’s not my thing, but I’m glad this manga/anime is getting released” are relatively common, except in this particular instance, when a book, aimed at older teen/adult audiences, is found objectionable enough to elicit comments on how it hopefully won’t and shouldn’t get published—all of which is belched forth under the faulty guise of protecting our beloved industry.

At its core, this whole flap boils down to a singular pair of issues: the age of the main female character, and that yes, Virginia, there are pedophiles.

Kodomo no Jikan (I’d rather not use the US title of Nymphet, even with it being the name chosen by the original Japanese author) details the trials of poor Aoki Daisuke—a 3rd grade teacher who’s unwillingly become the major object of desire for one of his female students, Rin.

That’s right: Rin, a nine year old third grade student, wants the teacher as a boyfriend and doesn’t mind using her underdeveloped charms to try and win him over. It’s supposed to be a humorous reversal on the lolicon (read: lolita complex) themes commonly found in Japanese manga; instead of the older male pursuing a younger female, we have a little girl with an enormous crush on her twenty-three year old educator. Sure, Kodomo no Jikan’s content pushes the envelope and panders its visuals to the lolicon subset, but regardless of how distasteful you might find the concept, it’s lack of sex and occasional veiled/implied nudity is leagues away from true pornography.

Contention still remains, unfortunately, due to the manga’s sexualized portrayal of an admittedly very young girl (though we must always keep in mind an extremely fictionalized girl who could never be mistaken visually for a real human child). So, yes, Rin’s behavior can be overly lascivious, and the art, at times, is meant to be arousing, but what, I have to ask, is with this sudden preoccupation on age?

We could easily take Rin, retain her physical appearance, place her in middle school wearing a sailor seifuku (school uniform), say she’s 13, and see this whole age issue relegated to scant lolicon jokes on Internet message boards. And before anyone intones this being far from the case, I think we should all consider the vast gallery of 13 to 17 year old anime and manga characters who perfectly fit this very description. For instance, what about the current darling of the fansub circuit, Lucky Star; one of the more recent episodes featured an extended scene of our female cast nude and bathing, while discussing matters such as pubic hair and menstruation, yet regardless of how flat chested and slim hipped these characters might be, no one raised a fuss because our Lucky Star heroines are all safely aged at 17.

Rin, on the other hand, is a disgusting portrayal of near-pedophilic content based solely on the number printed next to her age listing. People aren’t objecting to the content; they don’t mind Shana, the female protagonist of Shakugan no Shana, displayed in provocative poses and clothing—she’s shown as being the equivalent of a middle schooler, it doesn’t matter how old she actually looks. No one finds problems with Negima!’s harem of jailbait, often romping around in their skivvies, many of whom are lusting after a ten year old boy; and then there’s always Chobit’s Chi, a prepubescent looking robotic tart, whose on/off switch is located in her genitalia. I hate to draw comparisons with other manga, but the only difference I can realistically discern between many of these underage, older-than-they look trollops and Rin is that in their prospective fictional worlds, they’re perceived as middle school students.

But why is her age so important? Well, because apparently her age crosses some imaginary boundary that invokes a correlation with material preferred by real child predators. I’m not sure why this disparity exists for some; all I know is that with characters aged 13 to 17, anime/manga fans are taking lighthearted jabs at those filthy lolicons, but with Rin we’re suddenly talking about pedophiles. I’d never defend anyone desiring sexual relations with children; I also know there’s an undeniable difference between the actual impulse to want sex from a real child and the arousal one might receive while looking at an erotic drawing. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive, but thinking it best to cancel a manga due to the uncontrollable actions of a few ill members of society is ridiculous rationale. Kodomo no Jikan is neither creating child molesters nor is the decision to drop the title saving any children from being sexually abused.

In my mind, this focus on age and the allusions to pedophilia are predominately smokescreens used to obscure the actual reason so much negative attention has been paid to Kodomo no Jikan; the culprit is fear, and it’s why I’m so abashedly ashamed of many in the fan community. No matter their protest, most of the nonsense is clothed in the self-righteous aspirations of wanting to protect our anime and manga industry from all the soccer moms and bible beaters of the world? We certainly don’t want to chance tarnishing the good name of anime and manga, best be safe and bury anything outsiders might regard as offensive, or at least those things people with enough time to lament on messages boards find offensive.

People, canceling Kodomo no Jikan doesn’t benefit anime and manga in the US; the book’s not child pornography, it’s not breaking any laws, and having the release shacked in hopes of preemptively deflecting negative attention has greater potential to harm the industry further down the line. Instead of fans using sales to make their voices heard, this type of online outrage merely tells companies they need to be even more wary of the material they consider licensing, slowly turning the industry as a whole more and more conservative. It also gives license for further stunts like this to be pulled, should another title draw bad press. Fans who adamantly desire to promote positive change should demand material like Kodomo no Jikan get printed; show the companies you’re both willing to stand for First Amendment rights and support, preferably financially, the market’s expansion through a growing variety of published material. Because honestly, if all we’re pushing towards is a US manga industry filled with edited copies of Shonen Jump titles, then I say fuck it, let Rome burn.

It’s sad. For a while there in the late 1990s and early 2000s, anime and manga fandom really seemed to be making some progress; now we’re getting a glut of product, but from a content standpoint, things feel like they’re moving backwards.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mahou Shoujo Ai 3

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Kuroki Masahiro’s deliciously designed magical girl Ai would finally be returning for a third installment of the naughty eroge (read: erotic game) franchise, Mahou Shoujo Ai 3. Issues kept the game floating in the pervy ether for quite some time, but apparently the original staff will be returning—working for a new company though—to take another crack at some dirty tentacle fun. This is certainly good news for Ai fans.

Big thanks for Heise Democracy for posting this news in loving English.

Now if JapanAnime could finally get around to releasing the fifth volume of the animated series, all would be somewhat right with the world.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Odin Sphere Cometh

Just a friendly reminder that today, Atlus finally shipped Vanillaware’s gorgeous action-RPG, Odin Sphere. Ideally, it should be appearing on your local game merchant's shelves by Wednesday, May 23.

If you love 2D games, have a hankering for some mythic swords & sorcery action, with a heaping helping of RPG goodness on the side, then do yourself a huge favor and buy Odin Sphere. The only way we’re going to keep getting these types of quality, lesser known, Japanese titles are by breaking those little piggy banks every once and a while and spending on games that don’t start with the word Final.

Head over to the Odin Sphere website if you still need more convincing.



Tuesday, May 08, 2007

UNIQLO - Go Nagai & Tezuka Tshirts

Now that the Earth has turned our fair hemisphere closer to that giant ball of death ray shooting energy called the sun, it’s time again to don the uniform best fit for these sultry months—everyone’s favorite article of clothing, the T-shirt. And as nerds, there’s nothing better than gearing up with our cherished pastimes proudly displayed across our physically unfit chests, which brings me to UNIQLO, a popular Japanese clothier that relatively recently opened a flagship store over in New York’s ultra trendy Soho district.

Why should you care? Well, if you’re a Japanese animation and comic book fan like myself, and especially if you’d absolutely love the chance to own some very swanky shirts adorned with Go Nagai and Osamu Tezuka artwork, then you might consider beating-feat down to one of their locations and stocking-up. Best part, the shirts only cost $15.00.

You’ve no choice but to brave the sun’s deadly gaze though, as UNIQLO doesn’t offer us Americans online shopping, and keep in mind their only locations are in New York and New Jersey.

Hard to say what they'll have in-stock, but here's a sampling of what's on offer:
- Get some Nagai
- How 'bout some Tezuka