[ return : true > paper ]

2001 - do you remember?

'tis the season to reminisce. . . (or, hey, everyone else is doing it. . .)

acquisition serenade

Acquisition season started a bit early this year for anime fans. In the past, studios have tended to hold announcements until May, or June, or even July. This year, the big bombshells were dropped late March at Fanime Con. There, newcomer Digital Manga announced the acquisitions of FLCL (Furi Kuri) and Tenshi ni Narumon, while also "accidentally" dropping the fact that Love Hina had been acquired by Bandai (surprising the Bandai rep, who at that point, didn't know himself that they had Love Hina ^_^;;).

Of course, many acquisitions have been announced since then, including Weiss Kreuz, the Aa! Megami-sama movie, Inu-Yasha, Marmalade Boy, Initial D, Vampire Princess Miyu TV, Kaitou Saint Tail, etc. However, the Love Hina surprise bomb still seems to be the biggest acquisition this year (considering the popularity of the series in Japan and in the fansub and online communities of America).

jamming with fansubs

Of course, an online community of fansubbers has made it possible to see shows from Japan relatively soon after they have been shown in Japan themselves. Watching them turn around Love Hina in 4 days was quite impressive last year as well.

The acquisitions forced fansubbers to innovate or die. Year-long lead times ceased utterly to be acceptable. Taking their cue from Love Hina's online success, fansubbers abandoned vhs in droves, embracing the infamous Divx ;-) codec for easy, virtually free distribution to all.

(Or at least, all those with fast internet connections.)

This year, our favorite shows from Japan included:

  • Comic Party (which, amongst otaku, has a "must watch" rating almost as high as Otaku no Video, for its insight into the world of Doujinshi, as well as the fact that it's based off of a Leaf H game, and has inside references to pretty much every other Leaf game made, which includes a ridiculous number of references just to To Heart ^_^),

  • Mahoromatic (more fun with fighting maids, except this time, it's Gainax)

  • X (the TV series is so much better than the movies, simply because it has the time to stick to the manga plotline, and not dive off into its own little universe)

  • Noir (which, I'd argue, takes the prize for this year's best OP song, with Kopperia no Hitsugi, a dark song that could only be fairly described as aural candy ^_^)

  • Sister Princess (based off a PC game, and taking the Tokimeki Memorial & Sentimental Graffiti premises to extremes)

  • and so many others

Notable movies included:

  • the Cowboy Bebop movie (also available on the internet for those willing to do a bit of searching in the right places)

  • the much more recent quadruple feature of the Sakura Taisen movie, Slayers Premium, a new Digi Charat adventure, and Azumanga Daioh short (which isn't yet available on the internet).

  • Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi ( amid much rejoicing, as it regained for Ghibli the coveted all-time number one slot)

commercial funk

American theatres showed some anime films as well, including the finally completed Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust movie; last year's AX favorite, the Escaflowne movie; and Production IG's Jin-Roh. This year also saw a small re-release to theatres of Akira, complete with remastered video and audio.

But where anime shone was on the small screen. As had been the case last year, Gundam was still carrying some weight, as were Poke'mon and Digimon. However, this was the year of Yu-gi-Oh (who came onto the American scene in September, and looks to be the replacement for Pokemon in popularity). Maybe it's the collectibility. Also appearing on the scene is newcomer Moncolle Knights.

But anime fans only can see one true anime that really made it: Cowboy Bebop. The other shows have been edited heavily and placed on television as relative kiddy fare. However, Cowboy Bebop was brought to television as anime should be brought to television when called anime: relatively unedited entertainment for those with slightly older tastes. Under it's Adult Swim banner, anime fans without a strong wallet got to see a series that is very well regarded in the anime community. While there were several edits for excessive violence and some nudity, the show's plot pretty much stayed intact. In its first run, 3 episodes were removed from the showing (probably in response to the September 11th tragedy), all of which are to be reinstated in the second run.

The Cartoon Network also premiered the excellent Samurai Jack, which combined a uniquely American style with familiar anime elements, to the advantage of both.

convention samba

Anime conventions in general became larger and more numerous this year. The largest, Anime Expo, had (according to their statistics) nearly 13,000 attendees in a sprawling area of Long Beach. It boasted many high profile guests, including Kikuko Inoue (seiyuu for Belldandy, Kasumi, and many other beloved roles ^_^), Yu Watase (a reunion guest attending her 3rd or 4th Anime Expo, I can't remember), Toshihiro Kawamoto (who did character design on Cowboy Bebop) and so many others.

Not to be outdone, Otakon also invited Kawamoto-san, as well as seiyuu Hikaru Midorikawa (a well respected seiyuu in his own right, playing Heero from Gundam Wing, Tamahome from Fushigi Yuugi, and Zelgadis from Slayers, making his roles beloved as well ^_^;;), and also boasting a large boost in the number of attendees.

And with the Big Apple Anime Fest, anime had an event that took over a good number of venues in New York, and even attracted the attention of mayor Giuliani (who, at the time, was making the rounds because of all the attention New York had received because of September 11th).

This upcoming year, there will be no fewer than 29 anime conventions / events in the United States, with at least 5 of those conventions happening in California.

Anime is truly still advancing into the mainstream, so 2002 will be an interesting year to look forward to.

Of course, there's more to life than just anime.

manga shuffle

Manga also gave us some surprises this year. In particular, Tokyopop has been busy acquiring a lot of manga titles, including Marmalade Boy, Initial D, Cowboy Bebop, and Love Hina, amongst many others. While their translations have been rated from acceptable to downright bad, it has to be acknowledged that they have been the company acquiring the manga everyone wants to read in the states.

Viz has not had too bad a year, either. With their continued output of the Ayashi no Ceres manga, as well as their other lines, Viz has produced some excellent translations. The only setback they've had, so far, has been in their problems with dealing with the rights of publishing X in their Animerica Extra magazine.

And, finally Tokyopop has managed, much to our surprise, to eke out a decent position among American manga publishers. They seem to have improved their relations with Kodansha, publishing Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura in the U.S. The next year seems full of promise for them, as American publishers move into the translated manga market.

Webcomics also found themselves unexpectedly respectable. Megatokyo set itself to following a plot, and the rest of the otaku community realized that webcomics were a great, wonderful, eminently entertaining waste of time.

(But we love them anyway.)

gaming rhapsody

This year focused on the 'console war' and its associated fanfare. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all had current machines, all aimed squarely at overlapping market segments, and all fed the media their own barrage of 'this has been the most successful console release ever.'

Nintendo unveiled its new portable, the Game Boy Advance, and its new console, the Nintendo GameCube. The biggest games for the 2 systems this year and next are inside franchises - continuations of Mario, Metroid, and Zelda.

Microsoft, following its corporate instinct of world domination, released the Xbox for the holiday season. To our surprise, it proved to be something other than vaporware, and instead is a fair competitor to the Playstation 2. It has its powerful release games in Dead or Alive 3 and Halo.

Sony had a lead going in to the year, since its system was released before the last Christmas season. The biggest game for the Playstation 2 this year was clearly the heavily hyped Metal Gear Solid 2, with the most recent entry into the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy X, coming in probably a close second.

This year Sega abdicated, announcing that they would stop making the Dreamcast, and that the Dreamcast would be the last console from the company. The last of the Dreamcast systems are selling for under $50 in the States (which, for those of you who do not have one, is a bargain price. Get it now, if you have not already! ^_^). They still make games, of course.

Sakura Taisen, one of Sega's most popular series, saw both the release of Sakura Taisen 3, and the announcement of the upcoming Sakura Taisen 4 games. Although it is, of course, one of the most popular game franchises in Japan, it is still a no-show in the states (and many of us wonder if it will ever show).

Konami also released upgrades to many of the Bemani games, continuing to improve the series across the board, particularly with DDR 5th mix and Beatmania IIDX 5th style.

Again, we come back to Yu-gi-Oh. Yu-gi-Oh is (in the commercial viewpoint) all about the merchandising ^_^;;. Anyone who watches the anime on the WB can tell that. Of course, Yu-gi-Oh is a Konami franchise, so that bodes well for Konami if Yu-gi-Oh can take over as the next Pokemon.

summation serenade

While the effects of September 11th were visible in all 3 cases, it certainly seems to have passed by the obvious elements of all 3 industries. The anime industry seems little affected by it, and the gaming industry, while taking some measures to adjust the violence in its games, still also seems little affected. The manga industry continues apace. We otaku should probably all be thankful for this. However, times are changing, and there's no knowing what will happen next year.

See you in 2002. Smile back. . . ^_^


life in the Big Room

For the real world, and the country we live in (the United States), the year 2001 started with the inaugration of a president. Sort of a president. A man better-known for his ears than his policies.

Japan brought in a fun-loving yet revolutionary prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, a young guy with a strange haircut and a love of J-visual rock group X-Japan. As Chris comments, "finally, a leader with musical taste." Japan was also blessed with a new princess later in the year, as Princess Aiko was born to Prince Naruhito & Princess Masako. (There was much rejoicing.)

Humans were successfully cloned for the first time this year, causing much fear and not a little amusement as Katsuhiro Otomo's work gained relevance and popularity.

Governments had varying reactions. Uniquely, Japan decided to permit human-animal hybrid cloning. Otaku began to spend more time fantasizing about cat girls. (Japan also decided to ban human cloning, unsurprisingly.)

George Harrison and Dougas Adams, two cultural monuments beloved of the staff, died during the year of natural causes. We mourned and moved on, as did the rest of the world.

The American sports world saw lots of excitement, and one very sad tragedy.

In the beginning of the year, while watching both his race driver and his son speed to victory ahead of him, Dale Earnhardt crashed into the 4th turn wall at Daytona during the last lap of the Daytona 500 and died. The racing world lost a hero of sorts that day.

But the sports world was filled with much happier times during the year. Baseball fans around the nation watched as Barry Bonds, the great slugger from San Francisco, slammed 73 balls out of the ballpark, setting a new record for most home runs in a season. Baseball fans also watched as the Seattle Mariners powered their way to a 116-win season, the best ever in the American League, led by rookie hitting and catching sensation Ichiro Suzuki. The world series games were better than they have been in many years, as a true pitcher's duel between both teams drove the contest to a 7th game, won in the last inning.

Of course, Los Angeles was upbeat, as our hometown basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers, easily cruised to a second championship (and their less noted sisters, the Los Angeles Sparks, also won their championship this year).

Many prominently budgeted movies saw release during the year, including Moulin Rouge, Jurassic Park III, Tomb Raider, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings, alongside countless other films. Otaku, by and large, noted these movies while maintaining their conviction that their time would be better spent watching anime.

The world's focus shifted on September 11th when terrorists decided to bring down symbols of United States economic power, the World Trade Center in New York City. Mass media coverage brought the tragedy to the homes of every television, keeping many people glued to their sets for hours on end.

Suddenly, everything changed. George W. found himself popular. Security in events and flights increased significantly. And the nation declared war on an enemy that has no single concentration or political body.

Terrorism aside, American cultural hedgemony proved it was here to stay, as the global trend of mergers and buyouts continued, and the strength of the American economy proved difficult to resist.

Japan, on the other hand, finally began to show signs of the weak economy economists have criticized for so long, as unemployment rose and the yen fell. Japan continued, however, to resist attempts at economic reform.

Several of the Eva pilots were born this year, including Rei Ayanami, Shinji Ikari, Touji Suzuhara, and Asuka Langley.

Time continued to pass.