Junker Woland

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Aria – Manga Vol. #6 12/28/10

This is just a quick update, but according to Tokyopop’s Twitter and Facebook, the long overdue sixth volume of ARIA will finally be hitting retail shelves on or around December 28, 2010.

For those unfamiliar, ARIA is a slice-of-life series, set in the year 2301 A.D., about a group of females gondoliers working on Neo-Venezia, a recreation of Venice on the now terraformed planet Mars. Besides manga-ka Kozue Amano’s gorgeous artwork, the series' selling points are its light atmosphere and warm cast of characters. ARIA would be one of my most highly recommended titles available in the U.S. and is at least worth a look, even if you’re not into the more cutesy manga.

In terms of Tokyopop’s overall catalog, it’s definitely one of their best series, so if you’re a fan or at all interested, please go and support the company (and quality manga) by grabbing a copy of ARIA vol. #6 when it hits retail.

Also, for those who prefer animation, all three seasons of the stellar ARIA anime are currently available in lovingly compiled collector’s sets from RightStuf/Nozomi Entertainment—much like the manga, the anime also comes highly recommended.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Otakon 2010 – The Thrill is Gone

In case you’re wondering: that is my hand, sticking-out from a pile of squishy hotel bedcovers, and the bottle of water I was hoping to quickly empty, in a weak attempt to cure the massive hangover resulting from hours, and hours, and hours of drinking…

Last July 30th to August 1st marked my tenth (almost consecutive) year attending the “Convention for the Otaku Generation,” Otakon. I don’t consider myself a convention person, one of those individuals who waits with heated anticipation for the con season to begin, then makes the rounds to as many of these themed festivals as is humanly (and financially) possible. I do, however, generally enjoy going to such events, with Otakon having been the main attraction in my late-teens-to-early-adult years. But the ache in my bones is telling me it’s come time to say saraba to the three-day celebration of anime and manga in the city that houses the remains of Edgar Allen Poe.

Over the years, I’ve had varied participation with Otakon: I first went as just an average fan, spent a few installments as quasi-staff (thanks to my involvement with their video game room), had a quick turn as press, before settling back into fan mode for this latest run. Keeping in mind Otakon was, and by some still is, considered the premier East Coast anime/manga convention, and although my station at the con has consistently changed, it’s difficult to pin-down one exact difference that has soured my overall opinion and enjoyment of this annual gathering.

To be completely honest, one component is certainly my age. Thanks to the popularity surge of Japanese entertainment in the mid-to-late 90s, and broadband Internet’s effect on file sharing, the fanbase for anime and manga has greatly expanded beyond the older geeks born in the 70s and 80s. I have to admit, being surrounded by so many young teens—and notions that I may well be ogling a scantly-clad cosplayer, who I would not be able to legally escort to a bar and buy a drink—is a tad disconcerting. Part of me feels I’ve just gotten too old to be thrown into what now consists of the mass-fan populace.

But beyond my own fuddy-duddy disposition, Otakon has without a doubt lost a good deal of its former luster. Thanks to the extreme downturn of the domestic anime and manga market and the rise of prestigious conventions in the New York area, Baltimore’s con has consistently seen more and more of its professional talent slip or get stolen away. This year’s con had a measly four industry panels (Aniplex, Bandai, Funimation, and Vertical) and only a hodgepodge of mediocre Japanese talent—admittedly, it’s no easy task finding popular Japanese artists, voice actors, directors, and-the-like with time enough in their busy schedules to fly all the way to America’s east coast for a quick appearance, but well, obtaining such stars really is the burden of those putting on the show.

As it currently exists, Otakon is largely a convention that draws tons of regional cosplayers; it’s a place for high-schoolers to mingle and listen to brethren testify about their love of a specific anime, manga, or fetish from the panel pulpit; and it’s a con that still occasionally draws some major music talent—not so much this year, though…the Yoshida Brothers, really? (And yes, I realize Home Made Kazoku played during the dying embers of Sunday, and that Yoshiki and Sugizo did a mini-performance at the cosplay masquerade.)

For what it’s worth, I did enjoy my time this year, surrounded by good friends, but due to a lack of interest amongst the total squad, I spent more time being around Otakon than actually in Otakon. Of course, who’s to say what the future holds. If you do see me next year, with a sobering coffee in one hand and camera in the other, traipsing through the halls of the Baltimore convention center, you’re more than welcome to call me a hypocrite.

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If you’re interested in a quick aggregate of all the major anime and manga licenses announced during Otakon 2010, check-out my similar post made over at the J1 Culture Force blog.