On Being an Otaku

Mahoro Andou

Yes it is true, I am a closet Otaku and have been watching Japanese Anime since 2008. I really come from a comic and traditional cartoon enjoyment background so it was just a progression from there, but prior to 2008 the only real exposure I had to anime was the children’s programmes on TV like Heidi, Transformers or Starblazers and a couple of others that I do not recall. The biggest problem that I had back then was the quality of the animation was not as slick as that of Disney or Warner Bros. or any of the other cartoon brands coming out of America. 

It is difficult to know what was my first anime; and there are two contenders: Mahoromatic or Azumanga Daioh. To confuse matters even more, the local newsagents released one of those partworks series that included a DVD and magazine for weekly purchase and I collected a few of them before giving that up because they kept on returning to the same series (Macross) which I did not take a fancy to. I am NOT a fan of giant meccha, or idiots in general and Macross seemed to embody both. At the time I was living in Randburg and there were two anime shops in Brightwater Common that I started to visit.  There was a very nice woman that worked at the one so that may have influenced my wallet and she recommended that I try either of the two shows.  There were few options open to watching anime; you could download it using a file sharing programme like Winmx or Limewire, you could buy an “official dub” or even a dodgy “fansub” or you could hope to find somebody who knew somebody that knew somebody else that had a copy you could watch. An “official dub” is loosely speaking an anime that has been dubbed into another language (usually English) by a company that has purchased the rights to it ie. an officially licensed translation done by professionals, a fansub is an anime that has been dubbed into another language by a fans and subtitled. I am hard at hearing and because most anime never reached our shores “officially” ended up with fansub exposure because of the subtitles. It also meant that I was watching the show in Japanese and reading the subtitles. This was very helpful to me because it helped with my hearing, I am now at a stage where I will not watch something that does not have subtitles and will quite happily watch a movie in another language by reading subtitles. Indirectly It has opened a whole new world to me.

Back at the grindstone I gradually expanded my viewing into different genres of anime. In my case “Slice of life” became a favourite and still is, but I also enjoyed a lot of the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres.  Anime does lend itself to the science fiction and fantasy quite well and of course you can literally do anything as long as you have some sort of a story, characters and enough fan service to satisfy any otaku. What is fan service? it is any material added in to cater to fans, it can range from huge battle scenes right down to upskirting, sexual innuendo, panty shots, boobs, shower scenes and so forth. Unfortunately anime is often seen as a pastime enjoyed by perverts, weirdos, geeks, gamers and shut-ins. Generally those are males, but occasionally there are female equivalents watching anime just as eagerly. Let’s face it, anime does have somewhat of a jaded reputation. 

Another important aspect of anime is “character traits or tropes“, the best known probably being the “tsundere“.  For some odd reason the tsundere is quite popular amongst otaku, Probably the most famous tsundere is Haruhi Suzumiya, and in my opinion is one of the more curious anime girls around (incidentally, Nagisa is a Byoukidere, they  live with some kind of terminal illness, but still manage to be cheerful and kind despite this hardship. Often, they pass away from their illness at some point during the series). The opposite of the tsundere is? There are just so many to choose from and you can find all permutation of personality within anime, although wars can break out over which character fits a particular trope because there are different levels of tropes too. Its really quite complicated but once you start watching anime you start to categorise the characters and slot them into the appropriate boxes.

(l-r) Haruhi Suzumiya, Yuki Nagato, Mikuru Asahina

I will also admit that on quite a few occasions I have been forced to reach for the tissue box because there are quite a few weepies out there that can reduce watchers to blubbering wrecks. In my opinion Clannad After Story wins the grand prize. I will not leave any spoilers here but trust me on this one. Incidentally.  Clannad also has my favourite anime girl (sometimes called a “waifu” (the origin of the word comes from the katakana word for wife; ワイフ). Nagisa Furukawa pretty much embodies many traits that make her very likeable but she is somewhat of a tragic character too, stricken with a mysterious illness that always happens at the worst possible moment. 

I do use myanimelist to record my viewing trends and have been doing so since 2008. So far I have watched  714 shows/movies/ONA/OVA/series and dropped 103.  It is a handy one stop source for all anime information although every so often it gets hacked and becomes a disaster all on it’s own. Generally anime have 12 episodes in a season or 24 spanning 2 seasons. (There are 4 seasons in a year). Although the best 12 episode anime never seem to have a season 2, or if they do it can be years after the original. It is a very fickle industry that is driven by local (Japanese) demand as opposed to overseas demand. 

Manga is the book equivalent of anime, although most anime seem to be derived from the manga. These read from right to left and can be found in English too, although they are pricey and you could end up sitting saddled with hundreds of them and nowhere to store them. The South African market was minuscule and when I was buying them they retailed at roughly R120 each (in the UK they sell for around £11.50 per volume).  When it came to disposal time I ended up with this pile of books and nobody wanted them. I also collected anime figurines and have quite a few left over from my days in South Africa. They too were pricey but the resemblance to the characters they depict is amazing. If I had been able to find them easily I would have had a huge collection, but pricewise the expense is not really warranted. And, once you have them there is no way to resell them as there is no real market.

Shirai Kuroko and Mikoto Misaka from Toaru Kagaku no Railgun

Like it or not anime and manga is not a mainstream activity that is pursued in the west. I really struggled to find like minded people in South Africa and the few internet groups that I did encounter were graveyards of activity.  And, whether you like it or not the preponderance of characters is female, young and curvy and the viewership is mostly male. There are however a few excellent male characters and Takashi Natsume from the from anime Natsume Yuujinchou springs to mind almost immediately. He is surprisingly “normal” and overall a very likeable character. Male dominated anime does have a small following amongst females, and there is an even smaller group known as Fujoshi (腐女子, lit. “rotten girl”) and they are female fans of manga, anime and novels that feature romantic relationships between men (known as Yaoi). 

Inevitably hearing all this Japanese has given me an ear for the language too and I have picked up quite a lot of words over the years although I could never have a conversation in the language. I do have an appreciation for it’s complexity and incredibly difficult Japanese written word and I will not even attempt to explain it but like most languages it is probably easier to pick up if you are surrounded by native speakers.  And, as a result of my interest in Japanese I have become a fan of the many opening  and ending music from a number of the anime I have watched. It does tend to make people stare strangely at me, but they do not know what they are missing.  

Part of my original collection

The really great thing about anime and manga is that it does not dwell on the perfect, it covers all manner of personality, sexual orientation, gender, age and imagination. There is something for almost everybody (assuming you know where to look), and even weirdos like me will find something of interest to watch. Unfortunately it does have a seedy, exploitative, sexist and ageist side to it too, although watching anime does not automatically make one a lolicon.

From my collection….

Favourites: I have many although they tend to slip down the list as I discover new new shows and in most cases the paring of male and female characters makes these favourites.  These are just a few in no particular order. (I also cannot get this table to align properly so please excuse it.)

A few favourite shows:

Natsume Yuujinchou  (all seasons)

Clannad, Clannad After Story

Kanon 2006

Girl’s Last Tour

Azumanga Daioh

Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Angel Beats

3-gatsu no Lion (2 seasons)

Another

Hanasaku Iroha

Chihayafuru (3 seasons)

Bakemonogatari

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san (2 seasons)

Bakuman (3 seasons)

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Love Live School Idol Project

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Genshiken (3 seasons)

Gunslinger Girl (2 seasons)

Saki

Hyouka

Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica

Ghost in the Shell (multiple series)

Little Busters!

Moyashimon

Non Non Biyori

Favourite female characters:

Kasuga Ayumu (Osaka), – Azumanga Daioh

Mahoro Ando – Mahoromatic

Nagisa FurukawaSakagami Tomoyo, Ichinose KotomiClannad

Katsura Hinagikuu, Saginomiya, IsumiHayate Combat Butler

Kurata Sayuri, Kawasumi Mai, Misaka Shiori, Tsukimiya Ayu, Minase NayukiKanon 2006

Sage Wolf HoroSpice and Wolf

MiyakoHidamari Sketch

Misaka Mikoto  – Toaru Kagaku no Railgun

Fuura Kafuka, Komori Kiri, Kitsu Chiri, Abiru Kobushi – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Tachibana KanadeAngel Beats

Hoshizora Rin, Kousaka Honoka, Minami Kotori, Nishikino Maki, Ayase, Arisa – Love Live School Idol Project

Violet Evergarden – Violet Evergarden series

Takanaki RikkaChuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Shiina, MashiroSakura-sou no Pet na Kanojo 

Chito, Yuuri –  Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

Chitanda Eru –  Hyouka

Favourite male characters:

Haji  – Blood+

Natsume Takashi –  Natsume Yuujinchou 

Tomoya Okazaki – Clannad

Togashi Yuuta –  Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Misato, SuguruMahoromatic: Automatic Maiden

Hinata, HidekiAngel Beats

Kanda, SorataSakura-sou no Pet na Kanojo

Kamijou, Touma –  Toaru Kagaku no Railgun

Aizawa, YuuichiKanon_2006

Kujou Kazuya – Gosick

Elric Edward, Elric Alphonse Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Oreki Houtarou,  Fukube Satoshi,  – Hyouka

Aikawa Ayumu Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?

Batou, Togusa, Aramaki Daisuke Ghost in the Shell

Naoe Riki – Little Busters!

Sawaki TadayasuYuuki Kei – Moyashimon

GinkoMushishi

Oota, Tanaka –  Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

KyonHaruhi Suzumiya series

Kirigaya Kazuto –  Sword Art Online

DRW © 2020. Created 13/06/2020. There are just so many resources out there, but I do recommend  “a glossary of anime and manga”myanimelist and of course any other places where you can find info. It is all about rooting around on the net because this is not a “one size fits all” world. Special thanks to those who create the anime and manga that we enjoy so much, and all those who voice the characters. May the Uguu be with you. 

 

Go Gamera!

Continuing with my “Rubber Monster Flick” theme I decided to mention yet another Japanese Kaiju star: the flying Turtle Gamera.
Like GodzillaGamera also started out as a black and white Kaiju flick, but never really had the following that the giant reptile did. Let us face facts; flying turtles just do not have that “believability” about them.  I only discovered the Gamera movies courtesy of MST3K, which features some of the movies: (Season 1: K04 Gamera vs Barugon, K05 Gamera, K06 Gamera vs Gaos, K07 Gamra vs Zigra, K08 Gamera vs Guiron) (Season 3: 302 Gamera, 304 Gamera vs Barugon, 308 Gamera vs Gaos, 312 Gamera vs Guiron, 316 Gamera vs Zigra). If you are able to appear in multiple seasons of MST3K then you are really doing well (or badly). The truth is that some of those Gamera movies are appallingly bad and they got worse as each successive movie came out..  
The Heisei series of Gamera movies are a different kettle of fish altogether, and they are really fantastic, with stunning special effects, a decent storyline and an overall professional feel about them. The first was Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

followed by Gamera: Attack of Legion (1996)

and finally Gamera: Revenge of Iris (1999). In my opinion Revenge of Iris is the best of the three.

The Gamera story seemed to be open ended, with hints of an invasion of Gyaos (aka Gaos), and the fourth movie in the series did not materialise. Instead we were treated to a complete new story called Gamera the Brave which was a standalone story that seemingly had no continuity with the previous 3 movies. It is a poor movie, relying on an element of comedy without the raw emotion of the 3 movies before it. It is hinted that there is another Gamera movie in the pipeline, but who knows which direction it will take (Alien vs Gamera?)  Gamera also has a cameo in Godzilla Final Wars, but he is already dead, and we do not get to witness the much desired battle between Godzilla and Gamera. 
 
Gamera started out as a third rate production, but the three gems that were made prove what can be done with this genre if you know what you are doing. Sadly though, only Toho seemed to understand it, and got it right on a number of occasions. This genre however is best not left to Hollywood because they will screw it up like they did with Cloverfield,  .
 
DRW © 2016-2019 Created 02/02/2016

Godzilla!!!!

Ok, I admit it. I am a Godzilla and “Kaiju” movie Fan. I first saw the Tokyo stomping monster in the movie “Ghidrah, The Three Headed Monster” in the 70’s. It was the first movie of this genre that I saw and I was hooked. Over the years many Godzilla movies were produced by Toho, but, alas they never seemed to appear on our screens. It was only when I went to the USA in 2000/2001 that I was able to indulge myself in more monster antics.

Bandai Godzilla bought in Hong Kong in 2008

Godzilla first appeared on the big screen in 1954 and proceeded to trash Tokyo. The westernised version of the movie featured Raymond Burr as an American reporter who tells the story of how Godzilla runs amock and how attempts to kill him with all manner of weapons fail dismally. The armour plated, behemoth with the radioactive breath was capable of frying everything in his path or flattening it with equal ease. The unAmericanised version is so much better.

 
Godzilla also had a certain screen “presence” which would endear him to loyal fans all over the world. Godzilla is supposedly killed by an “Oxygen Destroyer” in that first movie, but fortunately he crops up in a surprising number of follow up movies too. It appears as if the producers did try add some sort of thread and commonality as many of the subsequent monsters from the movies would do battle again and Godzilla would go from being the bad monster to being the good one. Alas I fear somewhere the plot was lost with the early stories, but that doesn’t stop them from being sheer escapist stuff,  Most of the early movies were “Americanised” and that just added an extra layer of cheesiness to them, but it also meant that hey became available on video and later on DVD. Most of my collection are zone 1 or zone 4.
 
The later movies (Heisei and Shinsei series) which were made, are more impressive (those tanks no longer look like plastic toys) and Godzilla is much more menacing. Destoroyah and Godzilla 2000 were full of high tech gadgets and gimmicks, yet in spite of their much improved effects and slickness they still retain a certain something that will always set them apart. Sadly Godzilla Final Wars seemed to be more of a rip off of “The Matrix” and Godzilla was no longer the main character. However Godzilla is still being played by a man in a rubber suit, and that is part of why we love him so much, he is so human.

The Showa Series 1954-1975

  • Gojira [aka “Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1954)”]
  • Gigantis, The Fire Monster / Godzilla Raids Again
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla
  • Godzilla vs. The Thing (1962) (a.k.a. “Godzilla vs. Mothra”)
  • Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster (1965)
  • Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (aka Invasion of the Astro Monster)
  • Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1969) (aka Godzilla Vs. Ebirah)
  • Son of Godzilla
  • Destroy All Monsters
  • Godzilla’s Revenge
  • Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1971) (aka Godzilla Vs. Hedorah)
  • Godzilla vs. Gigan (a.k.a. “Godzilla on Monster Island”)
  • Godzilla vs. Megalon (1976)
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (a.k.a. “Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster”, “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”, Cosmic Monster) Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

The Heisei Series 1984-1995

  • (“Gojira 1984”) / Godzilla 1985
  • Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
  • Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
  • Godzilla and Mothra. The battle for Earth (1992)
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993)
  • Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
  • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

The Shinsei Series 1999-2004

  • Godzilla 2000 (Millenium)(1999)
  • Godzilla vs. Megaguirus: G-Eradication Operation (2000)
  • Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah. Giant monster all out attack (2001)
  • Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (2002)
  • Godzilla Mothra Mechagodzilla. Tokyo SOS (2003)
  • Godzilla Final Wars (2004)

Everything else post 2004

In 2014 yet another Godzilla was released, and I watched it last night. Godzilla and the monsters (dubbed MUTO) hardly feature in it at all, and once again the movie is predominantly based in America. It is not a great movie, and frankly I do not understand why they even bothered making it. Purists will argue that it is an imitation, and not a proper Godzilla movie, and frankly I will agree with that sentiment. Along with that awful Roland Emmerich farce from 1998 it will be consigned to the dustbin of Godzilla history as yet another bad imitation. However, having said that, there are elements of it that I do like, but the lack of Godzilla was somewhat disappointing and the mania for always having battles in the middle of the night baffles me. Update: 13/02/2016 I have finally seen Godzilla vs Biollante and it was weak, however, the model making was excellent and the Godzilla figure was much more in keeping with what I saw in the later movies. The big G has put on weight and is much more menacing. It’s an interesting movie, and reminds me a lot of Godzilla vs Hedorah.
 
It seems that you cannot let a good Kaiju monster down, and the latest iteration is a CGI movie produced by Toho Animation and animated by Polygon Pictures.  There are really 3 movies in this particular spinoff and the first was released on the Netflix platform in January 2018. I was fortunate enough to see a copy of it (thankfully in Japanese with English subs) and it is not great, or not as great as some other Godzllla movies. It does however have a very modern feel about it, considering it takes place on an earth 20 000 years after the “good guys” left Earth in search of a new home. Sadly they forgot to take Godzilla movies with them to study on the way! 
I will be honest, I am not keen on a CGI version, it takes away the “man in a rubber suit” feel that has always been a part of the franchise. Would I watch the the next 2 movies? of course, assuming I can get hold of them. The next is due for release in May 2018, so I will keep a beady eye open for it.  
 
The DVD’s
I own most of the DVD’s with the exception of Son of Godzilla, and some I prefer more than others. I do not have a favourite, but I do enjoy Tokyo SOS and the Mechagodzilla movie from 2002. Godzilla 2000 is also a great movie and Godzilla vs Megaguirus is great too. The worst? Son of Godzilla, Godzillas Revenge and probably Godzilla Raids Again. Strangely enough I do prefer watching the movies in Japanese with English Subtitles, but I have seen them so often they are no longer enjoyable.
   
(Missing: Son of Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again ) I also have a copy of the original Gojira movie that was made, and it is not a rehashed Americanised version.

There are a lot of collectibles out there, but unfortunately in South Africa they were rare. My best acquisition I found in the USA in 2004, he is made under licence by Toy Vault Inc. 

He also starred in one of the My Twinn epic adventures.

And of course Godzilla was also honoured by appearing in two MST3000 Episodes (212 Godzilla vs Megalon, 213 Godzilla vs The Sea Monster).
Godzilla has been around for over 50 years, and is still as popular as always, albeit amongst fans of rubber monster flicks. He has kicked so much monster butt he can be justly proud of himself. Unfortunately he never had it out with Gamera, and that was the one movie we all wanted to be made.
 
So next time you are contemplating doing something nefarious with your nuclear waste or genetic experiments, be aware, he is only sleeping, but is always vigilant.

 

 

GODZILLA: ALL RELATED CHARACTERS AND THE CHARACTER DESIGNS ARE TRADEMARKS OF TOHO CO., LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. COPYRIGHT 2001 TOHO CO., LTD. FOR PRIVATE HOME USE ONLY. ANY OTHER USE IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
DRW © 2016-2018 Created 01/02/2016. Updated 13/02/2016, 19/01/2018, some spacings and typos fixed 18/05/2016.