The Non-Otaku Guide to Anime

This semester is very busy; I haven’t blogged for a while. Put two and two together, and you’ll simply see me blogging about anime, rather than something more “important”. But why not? My goal hopefully is to explain to people who are not into anime, the beauty and complexity of this Japanese “art”. Are they nothing more than just “cartoons” you ask? Well, these cartoons contributed to many of my English essays back in high school (and I scored really good marks with them) so they are of some intellectual value at the least.

 

Anime is a difficult to understand art form because people generally put it down to the same level as children’s cartoons. However, I think a more reasonable way to understand anime is that it is a combination of children’s cartoons (with its imaginative design) and regular TV series (with its complexity in story elements). So essentially, many (not all) anime can be compared to everything else you see on TV, except it’s translated into cartoon animations and may have imaginative themes and elements – or fantasy, more like.

 

Anyway I’ll try to keep this short so that it won’t bore those who have a weak (or null) interest in anime. There are certain elements that each anime has which determine its appeal to the public; but at the same time these elements are probably apparent in anything else you see on TV. It is these ones which will be common to most anime:

 

Characters

Well obviously the characters are important.

Personality – For personality, it is not just about a single character’s personality but rather all the characters in the anime juxtaposed with each other. Yes I know, it sounds like English again, but this is what makes certain characters likeable. Commonly, pairing up a nice, quiet and shy character alongside one with exactly the opposite traits (loud, hot-headed, outspoken) makes for an interesting cast of characters. Obviously, it makes no sense to have multiple characters who are just like one another, it’d be like seeing the same character over and over again. But anime does well by having a wide cast of characters, all of whom have a wide variety of characteristics which complement well with other characters. Can’t think of a prime example but this one would count:

Edward & Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist

Character Development – This is by far the most important aspect for characters; that is, watching them grow as the story develops. In movies and in most TV series, characters maintain their traits throughout; most of the time there are the same character at the end, as they were at the beginning. But a series of anime can go on long enough for characters to open up a side of themselves that nobody has seen; or they can just change completely as well. Some characters change for the better, and others for worse. But part of the enjoyment in watching anime is seeing the characters “grow”. Not the best example again, but this one definitely stands out:

 

Uchiha Sasuke from Naruto

Voice Casting – The Japanese term for this is “seiyuu" which refers to the voice actor of characters. Obviously, animated characters need a voice behind them; and just like Disney carefully picks their voices actors for their movies, so it is also for the many series of anime that have aired. A character’s attitude and personality is definitely influenced by whoever is playing them and so it’s important to pick the right person for the right job. You can’t just put any voice behind any character. America is a good example of someone who does it completely wrong; just take a look at ANY English-dubbed anime and you’ll see voices that don’t match the character (just from appearance alone), ; it needs to be done right. One recent actor who’s added a lot of depth to the characters she’s played is:

 

Ayana Taketatsu (Notable roles: K-ON! and OreImo)

 

Story

Plot – Again, quite an obvious one. All anime need a plot in their story, otherwise there is no sort of “progress” in the anime; and the characters won’t really be doing or achieving anything. It makes sense that any story is easier to follow if the events follow a sequence of some sort. There are some anime that don’t have a plot but can be good, but that really depends on the audience’s taste – do they want a story, or do they just want to see characters do random stuff? In either case, a plot gives the audience something to focus on. And as for anime that don’t have a plot, their strengths must lie elsewhere:

 

No plot whatsoever:  To Aru Majutsu no Index
(A Certain Magical Index)

439px-Toaru_Kagaku_no_Railgun_Vol_1_LE_DVD

Ironically, the side story does: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun – same link
(A Certain Scientific Railgun)

Ah, better get back to work. Will update later.

Temporary Intermission

Wow I haven’t blogged for so long that I’m starting to get rusty at it, language-wise and all; but then I have been exposed to nothing but numbers over the last 2 months. Anyhow, perhaps in this moment of peace I should give an update as to what’s been happening since the absence of my presence here. The exam timetable was released and I completely devastated to find that I had 3 exams over two days (just this past Tuesday and Wednesday). I had my hardest two exams on Tuesday (which was the real setback) and my least important one the following day. In total, those 3 tests came to a total of 185% of my final marks. So in the span of 26 hours I had obtained nearly 2 courses worth of marks, how sad.

 

So for the last few weeks especially I have been stressing over how to manage that foreboding flow of exams; I (tried to) study day and night but even so I wasn’t as productive as I would’ve liked to be. I realized towards the end of last week, that temperature played a factor in my concentration. Clearly, the colder it was, the shorter my attention span was. But it was too late to reconcile for that at that point, so I made with what little time I had left and did my best.

 

My marks this semester will be at their lowest yet; but then again, second year courses are more challenging than first year ones, so it comes to no surprise that the amount of effort required for this semester should be double that of last year’s. I’ll pass, but sadly I’ll have to let go of my ambition to get the same level of marks as in high school. But that’s life.

 

Amongst other things that have distracted me while studying, the following are the top 2:

 

AnimeNFO

AnimeNFO is an online Japanese radio broadcasting from either Europe or South America (not specific I know, the point is that it’s not from Japan) which broadcasts all sorts of Japanese music 24/7. I found the site while I was at work, and wanted some anime music to listen to. The music they play is completely user requested and offers everyone a chance to hear something new (even if it’s a really old song), which is the point of a radio. This site sort of re-lit my passion for Jap music because of just how fun the site was. Below is a screenshot of what the site page looks like:

 

AnimeNfo Radio V2 -- Your BEST source for Anime and Japanese music!_1276822076094

What’s good about the site is that it shows you the playlist, including current song, upcoming songs and recently played songs, plus the album art. That’s useful information because the thing people hate about the radio is hearing a good song but not knowing what it’s called or who it’s by. This way, once I come across a good song I’ll be able to find out what it’s called (and promptly obtain it via the Internet haha!)

 

The site also allows you to rate the songs that get played, and hence gives you a rough indication on how everyone has been reacting to that particular song. There’s also the option to add songs to your personal favourite list, but that’s only available after you donate money to them or rate a total of 500 songs, whichever comes first. Ah the joys of combining anime and radio together.

 

Check it out at: https://www.animenfo.com/

 

 

Angel Beats!

The last anime series I picked up just as semester ended was Angel Beats!. I hadn’t realized it at the time but it was actually the biggest thing hitting Japan at the moment. Anyway, the series is about a bunch of teenagers who have died and are taken to purgatory (the setting is a high school), where they are meant to live a satisfying life that they otherwise were unable to obtain while they were actually alive (hence dying as youth). The characters, on the other hand, recall how horrible their lives were and instead of trying to find satisfaction in purgatory, seek to rebel against god for the injustice that he has committed on them.

 

vlcsnap-2010-06-17-21h25m47s27

 

The series provides a wonderful balance between action, comedy, and especially the deep down personal side of the story, as each character talks about the way they died. It’s that last aspect that sort of appealed to me. And this is the second time that an anime has made me legitimately cry; the first was “Voices of a Distant Star”. Anyway here’s the scene that made me cry:

 

 

Yui, the pink-haired girl, was my favourite character, mostly due to her cuteness, which was probably why I cried haha!

 

The anime is really popular and appealing also due to the fact that they’ve marketed it really well. Music has been a really strong point of this anime, the opening and ending theme hit no. 3 on the Oricon charts in its first week, as well as a number of other songs listed under the band name “Girls Dead Monster”. Wacko name for a band yeah; but three of their songs also hit the charts that same week, they ranked like below 10. But as you can see, a single anime managed to secure 4 slots of the Japanese music charts in a single week, now that’s popularity. The band technically exists within the anime itself, but they did make a real version of the band, using the same singer. Here is their first PV and also the song I’ve been obsessed over for a while now:

 

Looks like I’ve gotten back into Jap music now; probably push aside the K-Pop a bit. I realise now that the major appeal that J-Pop has to me is the strong vocals combined with an equally strong bass, makes for awesome music!

Mid-Sem Break (or lack thereof)

Well it was the mid-sem break again last week; thought it would be the same deal as last semester you know? Relax, go out and have fun, have a chill from uni work for the week. But I guess this time round it was different. From doing all those extra things this semester I’ve finally begun to fall behind on quite a lot of work, and hence my mid-sem break was devoted to trying to catch up on work, and trying to go ahead like I did last semester. It was a bit of a dismal failure because after the week I was and still am behind in work; and well I guess I’ll just have to somehow pull through from this point on. Nevertheless I did have fun on several occasions – probably should’ve traded a few of those in so that I could’ve gotten more of my work done.

 

Wednesday – Soccer

On Wednesday Jacky finally managed to organise a practice session for our indoor team along with some of his other NSB friends. We met up at Eastwood at like 10am?!?! Quite early if you ask me; in fact not many people did come that early so the four of us who were there were just mucking around really. Eventually as the day dragged on, more people showed up and we finally had a small game going on and stuff. Shame half the field was being reconstructed, so we didn’t have the full field, nor the two goals.

 

Several times throughout the day, there was this small dog – have no idea who it belongs to – but anyway it kind of jumped into the middle of our warm-ups, penalty shootouts and stuff. It was quite annoying, because it was barking in very excited way and chasing the ball ferociously. It would race for the all, jump all over it, slobber all over it, etc. I felt a bit sorry for Jacky because it was his ball, and new at that fact. But we did use the dog in our practice; just keeping the ball away from it. It was quite funny playing piggy in the middle with the dog, although at times we didn’t pay much care in the dog and kicked the ball at it a few times – didn’t discourage the dog from chasing the ball I don’t know why. A couple of times we were afraid that we might kick the dog instead because it was always so close to the ball, and hence gave rise to the risk of kicking the ball into the dog. It was still funny though.

 

Other than that, the guys who were doing construction near us had to cover the field with fertiliser so we had to clear off for a couple of minutes. We didn’t want to walk away too far, so we took our spots just outside of the field; but unfortunately not all of us were far away enough and unfortunately were swept in a mist of airborne fertiliser – smelt bad obviously, but to be catch in a mist of it is just horrible.

 

It was interesting playing with these people. They were competitive and downgrading in their language, but in an encouraging way; I guess that’s hard to describe, it’s a guy thing. But the atmosphere was good, everyone had some good laughs and soccer went generally well; we played until perhaps 1-2pm, where we all went to Cafe de Macau to have lunch. I tried to convince them not to go, but they weren’t comfortable with eating anywhere else…sigh.

 

Thursday – CBS Social

Charlie helped us organise another CBS Commerce social the next day; it was a really packed day as well and perhaps my main worry for the day was money. But then I didn’t stay for the entire social, had stupid tutoring to get back to at night so yeah. The morning started off with us meeting at Central Station, which already proved to be troublesome as some people slept in, missed the train and thus held everyone up haha. Charlie made heaps of phone calls to find out where the missing people were.

 

Eventually when it hit some time after 11am we all moved off to go to the fish markets. My first time going there ever; and I haven’t caught the tram in ages. I guess we were all really lively and social at the time so when we boarded the tram we were all very talkative and stuff; the typical social environment you’d expect. Some of the other passengers weren’t very appreciative of our noise levels, started yelling at us to be quiet and to show respect for other people. I wonder why people like them tick me off. Yeah I guess we were being noisy, but in the stead of what? Silence? And honestly, we weren’t bothering the person complaining, nor disturbing them in anyway that involved noise; unless we disrupted her thoughts – although if one cannot tolerate the noise of youth then one’s thoughts aren’t really that important.

 

The fish markets was swarmed by both people and sea gulls. I love the smell of fish, and yes I know there was a lot of seafood everywhere. We were to have lunch here; I guess that was Charlie’s plans. Me, Ronnie, Andy, Angelina, Charlie and Justin ordered a seafood platter for 4 – Ronnie said it was so massive that 4 people couldn’t possibly finish it; he was right. But for $69.90 it was quite massive and had everything: battered fish, prawns, octopus, oysters, chips, etc. We ordered extra raw oysters as well; those are pretty nice with lemon juice! Nat’s table (or just Nat really) was complaining about the seagulls attacking them and their food – those cheeky birds. There were watching all of us very carefully; but then our table never got attacked once. They only tried to get Andy once as he was bringing the food back to the table.

 

After lunch we walked all the way back to Big Echo to go karaoke. Ellen joined us at that point because she slept in, and Lin-Lee ditched us to go elsewhere. We had a huge group for karaoke, around the mid twenties, so we got two huge rooms. Interesting to see how many other people were Asian enough to sing Chinese songs. Me, Ellen and someone else did a few Jap songs, out of the dismal number they have in their database. And finally, no-one could do Korean haha! Although this video sort of says otherwise:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=279692120787

Halfway through karaoke, some people started playing Crabbs(?) because there was a lot of dice lying in one of our rooms; so a few people decided to start gambling on it, using jugs of ice haha! Not that bad of a challenge yeah. At the end of our 3-hour session Andy had a ploy to put a jug of ice down Ronnie’s back side. This was the result:

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=130508882361

I had to leave right after that due to work; but afterwards everyone went off to dinner at Pepper Lunch (dinner?) and then later to Steph’s house. But nonetheless it was already a long day, and an expensive one at the point haha!

 

So that brings about a close to my mid-sem break. I know it was only two days but yeah that’s probably more than enough to create more procrastination in me for the other days.