Anti-Scanlation Coalition vs. Common Sense?

I’m still working my way through Le Chevalier D’Eon. Hopefully I’ll have that review done before next Christmas. I’m so sorry to everyone that I keep letting down in regards to that. That said, this post is about the recent news.

Once again I am late to the party. I’m sure by now all the cool blogs have posted their thoughts and opinions on this current news, and I doubt my opinion is much different, but hey, I have a blog and I have opinions, so I may as well use this blog to express those opinions, right?

Alright, so according to Anime News Network, several Japanese and American manga companies have formed a coalition designed to combat manga scanlations. Naturally, this has the anime fan community in an uproar. Scanlations and fansubs are always a controversial issue, since some people deplore their very existence, others refuse to consume anime or manga any other way, and still others are in the middle and use them here and there, but still obtain some of their series of choice by legal means as well.

As you might guess, I’m in that middle ground. I buy a lot of manga, but I also read a fair amount of scans. I mostly read scans for unlicensed stuff, but I’ll also do it for long running shonen or stuff where something about the licensed translation or editing/censoring bugged me. In that last case, I still buy the licensed version for the sake of supporting the title. I’ll buy a volume here and there for my favorite chapters when it comes to long running shonen, too. Overall I’m very supportive of the industry and I want it to succeed.

However, this anti-scanlation coalition has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve heard of in a while. Fundamentally it’s a good thing. Going after illegal copies of their licensed material is something that should be done. That said, the way this is being handled sounds like it will ultimately create more harm than good. How?

-No alternatives provided. Even if you knock out all of the scanlation hosts, if you don’t provide legal alternatives, more will pop up in the old ones’ places. This will turn into fighting a Hydra if the coalition doesn’t figure that out fast. People go to sites like OneManga instead of buying their manga at a bookstore for a reason. If there isn’t something similar but legal in the place of these sites, then the audience for said sites won’t be served and new ones will step in to serve that audience.

-As a direct result of not providing alternatives, this feels somewhat like an attempt to stifle the fans. It’s silly, since this is copyrighted material that they’re trying to keep from spreading illegally, which is perfectly fair. The problem is that, whenever a company doesn’t listen to the fans of its product, that looks bad. Obviously manga fans want more convenient (and less expensive) ways to access manga, or else sites like this wouldn’t exist. Of course some of the people that use them really are leeches that would never buy a single volume of manga, but that isn’t the only issue here. If it was, it would be a waste of time to shut down these sites anyway because the userbases would just stop reading manga. By not giving fans more methods to get manga legally, this anti-scanlation coalition will be seen by some as a move against the fans, not a move against piracy.

-Some manga ends up censored and/or given a subpar translation. This sort of thing really just has to be done away with before doing away with scanlations will ever be a good idea. No one wants to read a manga with a bad translation or unnecessary censorship. Some people will cry “bad translation!” just as an excuse to not pay, but there really are cases of bad translations out there.

The one good thing about this news is that it sounds like they’ll more be going after scanlation aggregator sites like OneManga and MangaFox rather than scanlators themselves. That said, manga companies really need to step up their game and fast if this is going to cause any good. Viz’s Sig IKKI site is a prime example of what we need more of. Assuming it works out, OpenManga is another good thing. These really need to keep on coming, though, or else the Hydra that is scanlations and scanlation aggregators will just grow three more new heads for each one the anti-scanlation coalition cuts off.

Fall 2009 Update #2: Armed Librarians: Book of Bantorra and Kimi ni Todoke

What’s this? Two updates so close together! Preposterous! I’m going to actually try to keep this thing updated somewhat regularly.

The subject matter this time around is my first impressions on my other two fall 2009 series, Armed Librarians: Book of Bantorra, and Kimi ni Todoke. I’ll start with Armed Librarians, since I watched it first.

I really like the tanned girl 3

I really like the tanned girl ❤

The basic plot of Armed Librarians is a bit hard to summarize from just the first episode, because it did a lot of throwing terms at you and not explaining them. From what I could gather from ep. 1 and the preview guide, it’s something like this: The Church of Drowning in God’s Grace has a lot of power, and they are horribly immoral. They have started enslaving humans and turning them into “Bombs”, which is exactly what it sounds like. These people have pretty much given up on life. The group that opposes them are the Armed Librarians. They also guard “books”. In this series, when someone dies, their soul fossilizes and becomes a “book” that people can “read” by touching it. The Armed Librarians protect these and fight the Church.

Well, Katie, the other writer for this blog, had told me that Armed Librarians was crap, but I’d already downloaded ep. 1, so I figured I’d give it a shot anyway. She’d only gotten through the first half or so before dropping it, and I can quite honestly see why.  It was pretty depressing and pretty hard to follow for the first half, without really making you want to follow it. I can’t stand dropping something in the middle of an episode, though, so I kept going with it into the second half.

The second half got far more interesting. The first half was comprised mostly of a group of Armed Librarians on a boat trailing a ship of the Church. One of the bombs jumps overboard, and one of the Librarians goes to help him, but he explodes because that’s what bombs do. Then there’s a big bomb attack and a battle with a lot of usage of terms that aren’t explained, and a ridiculously emo scene with one of the “Meats” (which I assume are people that are being conditioned to become Bombs but aren’t Bombs yet) falling overboard as the ship sinks and not doing anything to save himself, not even grabbing onto something when he’s placed on it.

But the second half is drastically better. Stuff on the Armed Librarians’ side is actually explained, like the thing about what “books” are. And that really pretty tan girl showed up. I like her already. I don’t have much else intelligent to say about Armed Librarians, so in short, I like where it seems to be going, but I can’t say I’m sold just yet. I neither approve nor disapprove of Armed Librarians.

As for Kimi ni Todoke? I have not “d’awww!”-ed at an anime so much in the course of one episode in a LONG time, if ever.  It’s a shojo series, but a good one. The basic plot is that Sawako Kuronuma is an outcast in her school. Everyone thinks she’s creepy, can see and summon ghosts, etc. They go so far as to call her Sadako after the character from The Ring. None of this is true, though. Sawako is a sweet girl that just wants to get along with the others, but they misunderstand her. Well, all except for a boy in her class named Kazehaya. This boy makes an effort to be nice to her, and romance begins to blossom…

This is so cute. I love how believable the characters are. Even Sawako isn’t 100% isolated; she has a friend in a different class. The other students aren’t all total jerks, either. Kazehaya is nice, but not really perfect either. He’s too shy to admit that he likes Sawako, even though it’s blatantly obvious to the viewer. Good shojo is a bit of a rarity anymore, now that shojo’s Golden Age is in the past (The 70’s produced some amazing shojo manga and anime. Rose of Versailles, From Eroica With Love, etc…). Finding legitimately good, well-written shojo is a rare treat, and oh so very satisfied. Also the art style is unique and I really like it. The artwork and animation in the OP are especially gorgeous, hence why I included a video of it. I approve of Kimi ni Todoke.

We’re still here, I swear! Also Nyan Koi ep. 1

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Welcome to Powered by Sugar’s new home, by the way! A friend of mine recommended we do this, so I went with it. I still need to poke Owari/Katie/whatever she ends up calling herself when she signs up here to get a WordPress account, but she’ll be back, too!

So why haven’t we been posting? Well, Owari has the better excuse. She’s in college and has actual responsibilities that come before writing the blog. As for me? I haven’t really finished anything that I could write a good review on, I need to go put batteries in my camera so I can take figure pictures, I’m out of good ideas for rants at the moment, etc. I’ll still be rewatching Nodame…eventually.

But enough lame excuses out of Stringed. Here’s a proper update (kind of) for you all.

So I never really follow the new seasons of anime as they come out for whatever reason. I tried for the spring season, but got overwhelmed. Summer I didn’t even bother. But now it’s fall, my favorite time of year, and I feel energized to try again. I’m being smart about it and picked out 3 series to follow. No more, no less. The series I chose were Armed Librarians, Kimi ni Todoke, and Nyan Koi. I still need to sit down and watch the first episodes of the first two series, but last night I sat down and watched Nyan Koi episode 1, so here’s my thoughts on that so far.

The basic plot is that Junpei, the main character, is a boy that is allergic to cats, but his family loves them to bits. So does his crush, despite her being ain a family of dog people. He, however, just doesn’t get it. One day he kicks a can, which accidentally beheads the statue of Jizou, a cat deity. From this moment onward, Junpei is cursed. He can hear what cats are saying. If Junpei doesn’t do 100 favors for cats, then not only will he hear cats forever, but he will become one himself.

To be perfectly honest, Nyan Koi had me from the description on the fall season chart. I happen to be a cat lover myself with four of my own, so a series centered around cats?  Has major appeal for me. And so far this first episode does not disappoint.

For one thing, the main character, Junpei, is not your usual moe series hero. He actually has a personality from what I can tell. And the main girl, Mizuno, is cute, but not pathetic in the least. I found her dog owner mentality towards cats to be absolutely adorable. I’ve known people like that and it’s funny to watch them interact with cats and teach them the differences between cats and dogs.

My favorite character so far is easily Nyamese, Junpei’s family’s cat, though. She is adorable and her attitude puts me in mind of Garfield. The kittens in the first episode are positively adorable, too. I just wanted to cuddle them and tell them that everything would be okay~.

People, I beg you, don’t just watch the video of the opening song and assume this is just a moe show with nekomimi. This series really has potential, and no nekomimi actually have occurred in the series so far; just in the OP.  Stringed approves of Nyan Koi!

Nodame Cantabile Rewatch Interlude Post

Stringed here with possibly one of the most insane ideas she’s had yet. Mori convinced me to join in the fun of a Nodame Cantabile blogger group rewatch. So I’m participating, along with, Mori, Eternal, and Jedi I’m posting this entry because I needed something to post about, and haven’t had time to get a proper update on anything around.

Why is this insane, you ask? Well, for starters, I haven’t actually finished Nodame Cantabile yet. I’ve got 4 episodes to go still before I finish, and then I have Paris hen to tackle. As if that isn’t bad enough, I’m a horrendously slow anime watcher, and to top it off, school is starting back up in 5 days. But I still feel that I’m up to the task of this rewatch, as well as actually finishing those last 4 eps off so I can actually rewatch them.

So why am I doing this? Nodame Cantabile is quite possibly the best show to come out in the past few years (I can legitimately say this, since Gankutsuou, Princess Tutu, and Haibane Renmei are all pre-2005 titles, unless I’m horribly mistaken). I’m probably biased because of my fanaticism for classical music, but I think it has the potential to be enjoyable to anyone with any ambition, or even just people that like good character dramas. Something as good as Nodame deserves more than one run-through.

Also, I love the classical music so much that I want to go through and write down the names and composers for the pieces used in each episode and note which episode they were used in, since the anime itself does tell you what all the pieces are in those handy little text notes that pop up on screen. Thus my posts for the rewatch will contain the titles and composers of the pieces used, as well as my thoughts on them. I own the Nodame Cantabile 100 Best CD collection, so I can listen to all of the pieces used in full.

…I’m also doing this because I have a terrifying femcrush on Miki Kiyora. I fail so miserably at all things intelligent. Curse you for looking so good with a violin, Kiyora! And to revisit Masumi-chan and his awesomeness.

And a useless parting screenshot:

Damn, Kiyora’s not one to mess with, either.

All Ye Who Like Stories Gather ‘Round — Princess Tutu review

Stringed again. I fail so hard; I was planning on doing regular-ish updates, but clearly that did not work. I’ll keep trying, though! Well, if Owari’s TL;DR about the history of her internet connection didn’t scare you away, this wordy Princess Tutu review of doom probably will. The TL;DR version of the review is: Princess Tutu is AWESOME and you should watch it, preferably by actually buying it, because it is one of those series that really deserves to be bought, even if you’re not a buyfag. But even if you can’t bring yourself to pay for it, watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

(The character pictured is Rue. I don’t mention her much in the actual review because it was getting too long and her importance to the story, as well as Fakir’s, doesn’t come into play until a bit later on in the series. However, she is possibly my favorite character along with Fakir, so I felt the need to use her image.)

Modern anime (anything made after 1999) rarely breaks any molds. This is a commonly accepted viewpoint that many fans that have been fans for a long time hold. Most anime that’s being produced is a variant of a tried and true archetype that will make money for the company, but won’t do anything new or groundbreaking. Moe shows, typical shonen fighting shows, and harem shows are the majority of what comes out of Japan anymore. However, there are times when some brave souls opt to step away from this formula. Sometimes it fails miserably and the involved are left kicking themselves for taking the risk, but sometimes, they achieve greatness.

Okay, maybe not greatness; at least not in most lights. These unusual series that turn out amazing don’t usually sell well. They don’t get merchandise or huge fanbases. Often they go completely under the fans’ radar. Unfortunately, that seems to be what happened with this little gem that I’m reviewing, Princess Tutu.

This series came out in Japan in 2002-2003, though I was still a new fan back then and didn’t really hear about it until around 2006 after it had been released in America. I never ended up buying and watching it until just last year, though. But now I’ve seen it all and I must say, mind = blown. Sadly, I don’t think anywhere near enough people actually gave this series a shot, especially not out of the demographic of anime fans that actually buy their anime.

ADV really didn’t handle this series too well at first, though. There was nearly a year’s gap between the initial releases of vol. 1 and vol. 2, and the series was obviously not very well marketed, since I had no idea it even existed until the first episode got shown at the anime club that I attended at the time. By this time, the entire series was out, though there was no box set. When I finally got around to buying it, having really liked what I saw at anime club and having heard a few positive reviews of it, as well as watching the famous Håll om Mig nu AMV, the single discs were next to impossible to find. A box set was put on schedule after I’d bought the first disc, but I continued attempting to chase down the singles up to volume 3. I did so because the box set was listed for a low price, so I was afraid it was going to be a thinpak rather than the brick that it was, and ADV has a history of stripping the extras from its thinpak releases. I knew from the first disc and word of mouth that Princess Tutu had really good extras, so I didn’t want to pay for stripped discs like I had stupidly done with Azumanga Daioh. I stopped hunting singles after volume 3 since I found out that the new box set was actually going to leave its extras in tact. Also volume 4 was next to impossible to find. I still need to watch the extras on vol. 2-6, but the ones on vol. 1 were completely worth it. The English director commentary was really fascinating; it went into a lot of detail on the music used in the series.

As for the actual series itself, I already said that the end result of watching the whole series was mind = blown. I have a list of the 3 anime that I consider to be the best ever made, and Princess Tutu is #2 on that list (1 and 3 are Haibane Renmei and Gankutsuou respectively). Whenever I watch a new anime title, I judge it using those 3 titles as my standard (the exception being comedy anime. Those are judged on how much I laugh at them and that’s about it). Because it’s one of the series that I use as a standard to judge other titles against, I thought it would be best to make it my first actual series review, especially since I finished it recently (December 10th, 2008 to be exact).

The basic plot of Princess Tutu sounds so very simple. There once lived a man who loved to write stories. He was working on a story called “The Prince and the Raven”, which was about an evil raven and a prince that broke his heart into many pieces in order to seal the raven away. Unfortunately, the man, Drosselmeyer, died before he completed the story. The raven, bored of being stuck in a story that would never come to a conclusion, left the pages of the book. The prince followed, knowing it would be disastrous to let the raven wreak havoc upon the world unchecked.

From there, it turns out that somehow, Drosselmeyer’s spirit is watching the events unfold, and he is pleased. He decides that he should make things more interesting and bring another character out of the story. That character is Princess Tutu, a minor character from Drosselmeyer’s story, but the lead of the tale to unfold. He brings her into the story by offering a pendant to a mere duck. This pendant will allow the duck to transform into a girl by the name of Ahiru, and then again into Princess Tutu. The role of Princess Tutu is to return the scattered shards of the prince’s heart to the prince, who just happens to be Ahiru’s crush, Mytho. …Wait, did I say the plot was simple?

I must confess that Princess Tutu does have its flaws. There aren’t many of them at all, but still they’re there. The only one that is inherently part of the series is that there are a few dull spots. There aren’t too many, and they’re only present in the first half of the series, but they’re still there. I think they are a case of the exposition of the story stretching over too many episodes. I’m a big fan of character and world building, but even I have my limits. Though I think the biggest issue wasn’t so much that there was more character and world building going on than plot, but rather how formulaic the episodes were from episode 2 up to episode 6. These episodes all boiled down to there being a heart shard causing problems, so Ahiru transforms into Princess Tutu, convinces the heart shard to stop being defiant and return to its proper form, then she returns the shard to Mytho. That got old pretty fast, but once the series picked up, it really picked up.

This show really left a strong impression on me. It has a sort of charm that is really hard to resist once you get into the series. I felt so strongly for the characters that I feel guilty for wishing there was more, even if it were just an OAV or a movie. The reasons behind that are extremely spoilerific, but let’s just say all stories need to end. Also, Princess Tutu is a rare example of my opinion on a character doing a complete 180. That character is Rue (pictured near the top). The first half of the series has her characterized one way, but she steadily breaks out of the mold that you think she’s set herself firmly into and becomes something else entirely. That’s what Princess Tutu does so many times that it’s crazy; leads you to believe it is or will do one thing, then completely changes direction. It’s like a roller coaster that starts off with a pretty good drop, then slows down for a bit, but then it charges full speed ahead through all kinds of peaks and plunges and turns and anything imaginable, leaving your head spinning when you get off.

A lot of people passed up on watching Princess Tutu just from glancing at the cover and title. It does look and sound incredibly girly, after all. But the people that made that decision made a big mistake. Though it does have its feminine elements, Princess Tutu is primarily an extremely messed up fairytale. I don’t mean it’s along the lines of Junko Mizuno’s works; it’s not even close to that. What I mean is that it’s like the creators took the basic outline of a standard fairytale, then proceeded to turn it upside down, shake it a couple times, flesh it out far more than most fairytales ever get fleshed out, especially in character development, then spin it around really fast and see what it does. In other words, it’s a unique story in both the realm of anime and the realm of fairytales, and Western literature in general.

I urge anyone that has an interest in Princess Tutu either to buy one of the recent box sets that have been put out for it. I understand not wanting to blindly shell out cash, so watch a few episodes via Netflix, borrowing from a friend, downloading, etc if you’re not completely sold, but if you do end up liking it, it’s absolutely worth purchasing. Both the first complete collection, which I own, and the more recent one leave the extras in tact, at least according to Anime on DVD. If nothing else, these extras are worth buying the DVDs for, but as Princess Tutu is the second title on my list of the top three best anime ever made, it deserves to be purchased.

In Defense of Axis Powers Hetalia

Stringed here again, this time with a rant for an update. Anyone that knows me very well at all knows that I am a huge fan of Axis Powers Hetalia. This series, which is basically a retelling of history with the countries involved depicted as anthropomorphized human characters, has sparked a lot of controversy since it first started getting popular.

If you are unfamiliar with Axis Powers Hetalia, these links give some more information:
Axis Powers Hetalia anime – ANN
Axis Powers Hetalia manga – ANN
Hetalia LiveJournal community <– the main hub of Hetalia fandom. This is where all of the scanlations are located, etc.
Hetalia Wikipedia article
Hetalia scanlation index

Now, what is the big deal with Axis Powers Hetalia? Why is there such a huge controversy? A big issue that a lot of the people who are anti-Hetalia have with the series is that its main subject matter is WWII, and it’s told with the main characters being the Axis Powers, as if that isn’t a bit obvious from the title. They feel that this series is making light of one of the most horrible events in world history, and is thus disrespectful, etc. They argue that the atrocities committed during WWII should not be made into a joke.

I have several arguments against this viewpoint. The primary argument I have is that a lot of the people claiming Hetalia is offensive, insulting, and whatever else they state is wrong with it have never actually sat down and read a single chapter of the manga or watched a single episode of the anime. They simply read a summary or hear someone else complaining and instantly jump up and raise a call to arms against a cartoon, without ever bothering to see if it’s really as bad as they think it is.

Also, the argument about war crimes and atrocities really is not reasonable. Hetalia does not go into things such as the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. This is not because Hidekaz Himaruya (Hetalia’s creator) is trying to “gloss over” these things. It’s because Hetalia is a comedy, and Himaruya agrees with the people that are so offended by his work in the fact that there is nothing funny about those events.

Those against Hetalia also like to complain about the fact that the Axis Powers are not portrayed as wicked and evil people. “How can Nazi Germany be a nice guy and a bishounen?!” they say. The problem with this argument? Ludwig, the character for Germany in Hetalia, is NOT Nazi Germany. Ludwig is Germany from the birth of the country all the way up to modern day. Also, he is not the German government; he is Germany overall. Before and after WWII, Germany was not evil. Even during WWII, Germany was not evil. Hitler and the Nazis, perhaps, but not Germany itself. Thus, Ludwig is meant to portray Germany as a whole, not just Nazis.

People that have a problem with it ‘focusing’ on the Axis Powers, or it being written by a Japanese person need to step back and realize that the focus on the Axis Powers does not mean that they are being portrayed as the “good guys”. Hetalia portrays every single country as a decent person deep down, though they all also have negative things about them. There are no “villains” in Hetalia. They’re all neither completely good nor completely bad, which is really how it is, isn’t it? As for Himaruya being Japanese, it’s hardly fair to say that he can’t poke fun at history just because his country was on the “bad” side. Himaruya wasn’t even alive during WWII. Why should a mistake that his country’s government made in the past dictate whether he should be allowed to write a satire or not? In my opinion, it’s a bit racist to say that he shouldn’t be allowed to write WWII satire because he’s Japanese. Being Japanese does not mean that he wishes the Axis had won or anything like that. Honestly, people.

Finally, if Hetalia is so offensive to people, why aren’t other things of a similar nature considered the same? Hellsing, for example, is a Japanese series that has Nazis in it. Actual Nazis. But you don’t hear anyone complaining. The Great Dictator is an incredible Charlie Chaplain movie that makes fun of Hitler. No one complains about it, even though a Jewish main character gets sent to a concentration camp and escapes in a ridiculous way, which brings it much closer to making light of the atrocities that happened. Mecha Musume and Afghanis-tan are very similar to Hetalia, except for the fact that most of the characters are female. They don’t get hated on so hard. So really, what makes Hetalia so awful?

So if you’re reading this and haven’t actually seen or read any of Hetalia, I’d like to ask you to read some of the manga and/or watch some of the anime before making a decision on whether or not it’s offensive, and whether or not you enjoy it. If you actually give it a shot and it still bothers you, fine, but don’t try to say fans of it are immoral just because they’re not offended by something that offends you. That’s just obnoxious, honestly. Also, this post only covers one sort of argument against Hetalia. The stuff about fans only liking it for BL and bishonen because they didn’t see the comedy is too ridiculous for me to even comment on.

In closing, here’s a MAD for Hetalia that always makes me smile:

And finally it begins…Eri Sawachika 1/8 PVC figure by Good Smile Company review

Hello, Stringed here. It’s been, what, 2 months since Owari and I created this? Wow, we fail. I never had anything intelligent to update with, since I don’t watch as much anime as I really should, and I think Owari forgot this existed until I reminded her a week or so ago.

But now I’m going to actually use this blog. Can’t speak for Owari, but I want to do something with it. Hence some updates. I made a banner for us. It’s pretty bad, since I’m a Photoshop noob, but oh well. Owari made her own version which we may switch to, if she ever opts to upload it to the page. Also, we have an RSS feed now! Please subscribe? It won’t take too long to do and is easier than checking for updates!

And now onto the actual content for today. I attended Anime Central 2009, which was the most fun I’ve ever had at a con, but I have nothing intelligent to say about it, so I probably won’t post about it, unless someone really wants to hear about it. At Acen, I spent quite a bit of money. $50 of it went to a lovely new figure. That figure is Good Smile Company’s Eri Sawachika (School Rumble). GSC put out this nice 1/8 scale figure in July of 2006. I didn’t realize she was that old when I picked her up.

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She looks quite nice, especially for her age. The colors are vivid and the details are quite nice as well.

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I really like how the bottom of her shirt flares out as if it were blowing in the wind.

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Her hair does the same. It’s also shaded very well.

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She also looks nice from the back.

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A couple of my favorite shots.

Overall I have absolutely no complaints. I can’t believe she was only $50, and that was after tax. Definitely worth it. She’s not the easiest to find, but if you spot one, I’d certainly pick it up if she holds your interest even a little bit.