Junker Woland

Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Manga Reviews, Let Me Show You Them

While strolling through center city Philadelphia, happily drinking my just procured (rather burnt tasting) Starbuck’s coffee and ebullient over my comic-book-Wednesday manga purchases, it occurred to me, “Self, you’ve been working (and I use that term loosely) at Anime on DVD for some months now, and yet you haven’t bothered posting any of your flawless manga reviews on Junker Woland.” What a ridiculous concept!

So, to rectify this gross deficiency, I here present all my current reviews to date (though you’ll likely notice a heavy focus on Dark Horse’s Vampire Hunter D novels).

Early Review:
- Yozakura Quartet Volume 1

Light Fiction Reviews:
- Vampire Hunter D Volume 5: The Stuff of Dreams
- Vampire Hunter D Volume 6: Pilgrimage of the Sacred and The Profane
- Vampire Hunter D Volume 7 & 8: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea Part 1 & 2

- Gunsmith Cats Revised Edition Volume 2
- Hellsing Volume 8
- My Dearest Devil Princess Volume 1

I reviewed Gunsmith Cats Revised Edition Volume 1 as well, but it won’t be published to AoD until the second week of February, which should also be my next piece to find its way online.

Since I’m so utterly pleased with myself over this idea, expect to see all my Anime on DVD reviews mentioned here…hopefully in a much more timely fashion.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

US Anime: Negative Apocalypse

The anime meltdown continues, this time courtesy of ADV who’s currently embroiled in some clandestine licensing fiasco that sees them potentially suspending distribution for a large number of titles. Based upon rumors and quasi-validated information, retailers, news outlets, and fans alike speculate and vacillate on the company’s possible demise.

The fun, she never stops.

I honestly never imagined being an anime fan in early 2008 would be such a depressing undertaking; if anything, I always figured the medium would steadily prosper, while of course expecting the occasional setback along the way. Instead, everything “anime” just seems to be plummeting in an increasingly tightening death spiral.

Is there any end in sight? Will the industry as a whole allow such negativity to proliferate, when even the slightest positive news would be met with opened arms and much exaltation? Will the fans ever stop senselessly complaining? These, and more, questions fill the void created by ADV’s understandable silence on this most current crisis.

In the absence of actual information, it’s near impossible to provide worthwhile perspective on such matters. Should ADV fold, there will be an increased lot of unfinished and orphaned series; though personally, I don’t believe the real impact, as in the case of Geneon’s loss, would truly be felt until the summer months, generally considered primetime for new licensing announcements. Already without Geneon I predict Summer 2008 will be a much more homogeneous affair, full of action titles, cross-media tie-ins, and shounen anime; sans ADV, I see an even bleaker crop of new anime poised for late 2008 and throughout 2009. They’ll still be some niche properties, mostly coming from small companies whose yearly releases exist in the low single digits.

Hopefully, everything will blow over with ADV coming out from this mess relatively unscathed in terms of finances and available titles. Their reputation, on the other hand, is already somewhat in the dumpster amongst portions of the hardcore, which could cause a ripple effect with casual consumers.

So as these dark days extend ever forward spreading fear and lunacy about the fanbase, I’m on my knees begging any and all corporate entities in the anime industry to please speak-up with something positive. Anything will suffice: announce a new license or two, maybe there's an interesting business opportunity you’re exploring, talk-up some growing fan contingent or area of interest. Really, just about anything would be nice (unless it’s from Bandai Visual, in which case everything they do sadly causes unprecedented amounts of angst and derision (if any BV people are reading this, however, I’m looking forward to both True Tears and Shigofumi, although you can still go fuck yourselves over the whole Gunbuster music edit)).

It’s undeniably apparent that the market is not in the same solid state it once was, but even during spats of decline, their still must be some rays of hope mustering fan excitement enough to motivate their assistance in rebuilding the industry.

Things will undoubtedly settle down before long; I’m just not so sure I’ll still be able to recognize the US anime market once finally emerging from this long, dark rabbit hole.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Anime Fans: Pay-up or Shut-up

An advanced apology for the following post being somewhat diatribe-ish, but I’ve been a bit ornery for the last couple days and felt the need to string a few thoughts together.

So please, indulge my selfish whim and click the “Read More…” link to peruse my rumbling ramblings.

Truth #1: I download fansubs, on average two episodes per day.

Truth #2: I buy anime DVDs, on average ten titles per month.

My point: while, yes, I am a fansub advocate (a point stressed in my previous post), I also actively support the American anime industry, not solely to quell my hobbyist instinct—an almost involuntary compulsion to physically own items from which I derive some tangible vestige of pleasure—but more importantly because I fundamentally understand only by purchasing those same shows and movies—the ones I so greatly enjoyed free of compensation via fansub—will I continue to see companies license titles for future US release.

Basic as this may sound, considering anime DVD sales have continued to wane over the past three years, I’m left to assume many in anime’s current fold do not share my desire to patron the industry, preferring instead to pick apart it’s body until nothing more remains than brittle, cracked bones.

2007 already saw the loss of an arm with the implosion of Geneon USA, in its wake leaving several orphaned series and a gaping abyss they usually covered with their offbeat offerings, a chasm one has to wonder whether any other surviving company will even consider attempting to fill.

And yet, in the face of tumbling sales and decreased licensing, all non-financial portents suggest anime’s popularity is increasing here in the land of cowboys and handguns, an inadequacy that has of late caused a stifling miasma of doom and gloom to pervade the US market. News is entirely too negative, and the current trend of outspoken company heads, though interesting, rarely feature glad tidings.

Bursting from this morass on its own unassailable pedestal is the digital download. Regardless of fansub or DVD rip status, the digital download churns at the very atomic core of this industry—fans love them, want them, devour them anyway they can get them; industry types gnash their teeth and hurl veiled obscenities disguised as ill omens towards those purveyors of binary contraband.

It’s really not a good situation, and frankly, being an anime fan at the dawn of 2008 kinda blows.

Now, I utterly hold to my belief that anime companies over the past few years have not shepherded the industry on the proper path. They, for the most part, chose to make a quick buck foisting their wares towards greedy, secular wolves, in the process creating a diametrically opposed consumer-base: part true fan, greater part casual consumer only interested in the most specific of products.

But, my intention is not to lambaste the corporate world. Today, I’d like to address the anime fanbase. You, who just downloaded the third episode of Wolf and Spice; you, who just posted that treatise covering the end meaning of Sky Girls; you, who just spent the last two hours scouring image boards for pictures of Yoko from Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann to turn into a sexy desktop wallpaper. Please, go ahead, continue downloading as many fansubs as you want, but do remember, the industry does not run off your stunning, and at times downright creepy, devotion to 2D characters or your ability discuss every nuance of each Bleach storyline. Eventually, you absolutely must pry your damp flesh from that oversized computer chair, put on a pair of pants, and trek down to your local video store of choice and buy a few DVDs. Or hell, let your ass graft itself to that pleather casket while you pull out a debit card or two; Mr. USPS and Ms. UPS would be more than happy to deliver a couple shiny, plastic discs right to your doorstep.

Either way, it’s time fans, as a whole, stopped pretending we’re entitled to anime, that these Japanese creators and US licensors owe us for the time wasted watching their products. Anime is not free to create, not free to license, and not free to distribute, so it certainly shouldn’t be free to own.

Again, continue watching fansubs. They’re the best way to find new, titillating shows and to keep current with the anime world’s pulse. What fansubs should never become, and what they unfortunately serve as for far too many, is a surrogate to spending money. They’re a bloated scapegoat, both for fans and for industry types. “Why spend money when I can get a show for free?” “Why spend money on new licenses when they’ll just download the show for free?”

Those who never even consider the purchase of a DVD or constantly find new, exciting, and misguided ways to talk themselves out of opening a wallet, to you all, I say, stop ruining anime for the rest of us. It’s gotten tediously old. No one cares how much you know about the genre or have many series you’ve seen, because eventually, if you and your hoard continue to outnumber those who actually care enough to financial invest, then the only shows left in the US will be Pokemon and the occasional big-name shounen release.

Because as much as I believe the US anime industry will pull itself out of the current slump, with things as they are, I severely doubt any rejuvenation will usher in atop mass multitudes of broad backed brilliant new titles. Instead, it’ll likely come thanks to repackaged, low priced collectors’ sets and cross-media tie-ins.

So to all anime watchers, pay-up or shut-up. If you’ve zero intention of buying any actual DVDs, then don’t flood message boards, chat rooms, and convention panels with your banal, silly criticisms or beat the war drums for companies to license titles you’ll never actually pay for in the first place. Being a fan always consists of more than merely liking things; generally, it also means providing some monetary support, even when what you’re paying for isn’t perfect—pretty much nothing is and expecting such flawlessness is a lie masquerading inside pure absurdity.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Need Gumshoes

Honestly, never thought I’d see a day where several trips to the local comic book shop and two bookstores would fail to uncover a manga that’s supposedly been available since the second to last week of December. The title in question: Dark Horse’s re-release of Masamune Shirow’s Dominion.

Actually, this has been something of a trend for me lately. Volumes of less than mainstream titles are now asking for notably more foot pounding to find, with certain books ultimately having to be purchased online. To be blunt, I unequivocally hate buying manga online.

I’m a real stickler for condition. Not that I’m planning to resell my collection, but I can’t stand paying for manga only to have it delivered looking like someone’s been using it for the last month to prop-up a table at Chuck E. Cheese. If anyone’s going to damage my book beyond recognition, I want it to be me, not the overpaid USPS dude or the underpaid workers in a shipping warehouse. And as helpful as many sites are in regards to replacing disfigured merchandise, the whole return process is still a giant ass fuck, even when dealing with the best Internet stores.

Cheaper prices just can’t beat grabbing a title off a shelf and knowing exactly what I’m getting. This all boils down to, I guess, being pretty amazed at how the US manga industry has grown to the point where a niche hobby actually has a substantial body of hard-to-find, marginalized titles.

I could probably go on a tear cursing VIZ for bloating shelves with their ever expanding line of censored shounen soldiers, but that’s really a matter for another day. One thing I would ask, at least to the bookstores that traffic so heavily in manga: I realize the manga glut has you cramming as many titles onto a shelf as possible, but could you please take care not to hide a series’ most recent release behind a phalanx of earlier volumes. Unlike your actual workers, I’m not being paid to re-stock your shelves every time I want a copy of Victorian Romance Emma #6.