Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Books On My Manga and Anime 101 Syllabus

Hosted by: The Broke and Bookish

 What would be on my syllabus if I taught Manga and Anime 101?  Well funny you should ask that.  Needless to say, a lot of these titles are going to start sounding very familiar to my regular readers students.  In fact, a good portion of these are probably going to be discussed later in the semester, so be prepared! ;)


Why?:  Because it is practically peerless when it comes to character development, world building, and plot.  This is also a great anime (and I'm assuming manga although I haven't read it yet) for someone new to anime because it is so strong as a show and because it doesn't have a lot of the quirks (that can often feel like an inside joke that you aren't getting when you first start getting into the medium) that many other animes have.  I have a thing about anime opening themes, and this is definitely one of my favourites.


 Why?:  This would be good for a later class because you need to have at least a small understanding of shoujo manga for it to work.  It's a great dissection of shoujo manga because it's a satire, but never in a way that ridicules the genre in a mean way, just playfully points out how ridiculous it sometimes can be.

 While neither of these shows are really up my alley, nor would they be the ones I would generally recommend to a friend, they are incredibly important.  These shows are what brought anime into Western culture.  Without these shows, I probably never would have had the opportunity to even see an anime! 

Why?:  To show that audience divisions in anime/manga are not so clear cut (Hint: Despite appearances, this is not in fact a shoujo series).  It would also be good to point out how powerful anime can be - they actually created a band for the show that went on tours. (Also, the music is AWESOME. I bought the entire soundtrack.)

http://images-cdn.moviepilot.com/image/upload/c_fill,h_236,w_507/t_mp_quality/19hm-cowboy-bebop-fan-cast-jpeg-95386.jpgWhat Avatar: The Last Airbender Character Are You?

This would be great for a discussion on what makes something anime or not (plus both shows are fantastic).  Cowboy Bebop is Japanese, but feels very Western, while AtLA is technically not anime as it is not Japanese but actually a Western created show that relies heavily on Asian artwork.


Why?: For one, I don't have any other josei on this list. For two, it's one of the best anime/mangas I've seen.  It's also pretty progressive as far as manga goes - it features a cross dresser and as far as I've seen it's done pretty realistically (as in the character isn't just used to be a punchline.  In fact, he's probably the most normal character in the series).  I'd recommend this one for newbies to anime/manga!  Also, it has one of my favourite openings ever. 

Hana Yori Dango by Yoko Kamio


Ok first let me get this off my chest. I much prefer Yoko Kamio's Cat Street. I think it is better in every possible way as I have some SERIOUS issues with Hana Yori Dango.  But if we're going to talk about influential manga, it would be incredibly remiss of me not to look at this one.  There's something to be said of a manga that is over a decade old and is still the best selling shoujo manga of all time.  It has been adapted not only into a manga and two Japanese live dramas, but also three Taiwanese dramas, a Korean drama, an Indian drama, and even an American remake.  It's influence on shoujo manga as a whole and on other cultures is immeasurable.

Too bad it couldn't have been Cat Street instead.


 xxxHolic by CLAMP

Why?: The artwork is without comparison the best I've come across in manga, so this one would be a good one to focus on the visual aspects of the medium.  It's also created by an all female group which is awesome.  It's got a great opening as well.


Why?:  I feel like it's impossible to do a class mentioning anime without looking at Miyazaki's work.  Really any of his works would be great - most people I know found him through Howl's Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke is I think one of his most iconic works, or there Nausicaa of the Valley, which is also a manga incidentally. (But I haven't watched/read either yet).  Spirited Away is my personal favourite (closely followed by Princess Mononoke, or if we open it up to any Studio Ghibli work, then The Cat Returns), but really you could choose any of Miyazaki's films because they're all beautiful.

Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura


Why?: If I were going to try and get someone to read a manga, I'd do exactly what my friend did to me: trick them by having them watch this anime until they're hooked and HAVE to know what happens.  I could wax poetical about how Kyoko is one of my all time favourite heroines ever, or how Ren and Kyoko are probably my ultimate OTP, or how as a musician I relate to the story line here about acting so much but those have less to do with teaching and more to do with me.  So I guess really...it's because it's my favourite and just everyone should read it!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Anime and Manga 101: Introduction

In the long while I've been off the blog, I seem to have been spending all my time working practicing crying over the misery that is making reeds watching a lot of anime.  I've mentioned my love of anime/manga on the blog before, but my recent descent into almost exclusively watching anime and a brief conversation on Twitter with someone who mentioned they wished they had a guide to anime and manga got me thinking.  In short, I have a new feature (do I have other features? Is this a thing I do?), and without further ado let's begin our first class!

First, a little background on your teacher.  (You may call me Sensei.) I didn't grow up reading manga or watching anime, and although I'd say it's definitely growing in popularity (well, at least the latter) it's definitely not a part of mainstream American culture.  In fact, the only reason I started watching anime at all was because I was horribly, horribly ill my sophomore year.  I was vomiting every 10 minutes for a full 24 hours (Literally. I timed it.) and when you're that sick it's pretty much impossible to focus on anything at all.  It just so happens that it was during one of those short breaks on tv where all the shows are on hiatus for a couple weeks and I was desperate for ANYTHING to take my mind off being that sick.  As I was browsing through Hulu, I stumbled across a show that I remember a middle school friend of mine being totally obsessed with - Inuyasha.

Let's just say it's a miracle that I ever watched anime again.*
*Don't watch Inuyasha. Just don't do it. Seriously.

Luckily, I am a plucky heroine and started Fruits Basket after like 23904812021342334 of Inuyasha NOT GETTING THE FREAKING SHARDS. SERIOUSLY HOW LONG DOES THAT TAKE???? and a new love was born!  While I hadn't actively avoided anime growing up - a combination of having no time and not being allowed to watch tv for most of my childhood did that - I did actively avoid manga.  I thought it was something only really nerdy people did (and well...to be honest, I'm not sure that's entirely wrong. I know people who only watch anime, but the people who really love anime are the ones who read manga. And I don't know anyone who only reads manga).  Well, not long after my love for anime was solidified, a friend HORRIBLY DECEIVED me (but that's a story for another day) and I got drawn into manga.  In his defense, it's still my favourite ongoing manga, so I suppose I should be thanking him.

But Sensei, you might be thinking, why are you wasting our precious class time with this story?  I use it to show you that I didn't find anime until I was well into adulthood.  (Ok, technically I guess I'd only been an adult for a year or two. WHATEVER. DETAILS.) And while I didn't grow up with anime, I have definitely spent the past six years making up for lost time.  So what does that all mean?  I guarantee you there is an anime out there for you.  That's right - I used the words GUARANTEE.  So, put your trust and faith in me, and I will lead you to the anime for you!

Teach me the way of the horse sensei!. . Hill Wm MIN? BEEN’ THINGS. MY SWEET Mill SHAH HUN FEM}!. Colt sure has grown up.

Before we get started on specific anime, we've got some basics we need to get covered.  Most people have many misconceptions about anime.  Point in case - my father's reaction upon hearing that I was watching anime:  "WHAT?? You mean that animated PORN???"  (Despite my many attempts at explaining that anime does not equal porn, that would be like saying all literature is literotica I'm pretty sure he still believes that anime is animated porn.)  The other main stigma is that it's only for children, but as most of my students here are young adult bloggers, I'm guessing that won't be a hard stigma to overcome.  Anime is just as diverse as our literature - there's anime out there for any age and any interest, and you'll pretty quickly learn what you like and what you don't like in your anime.

When you start watching anime, or particularly when reading manga, you'll probably notice some terms while searching for new stories (and occasionally in the manga itself) that you won't recognize.  We're going to start today's class by touching on what some of those terms are.  Today we're only going to focus on the terms the Japanese use for which audience the manga or anime is being marketed to as it's a good place to start when looking for manga.

Audience type is decided by which magazine publishes the manga.  In Japan, where the mangas are first released, they're released chapter by chapter rather than entire volumes.  (I'm not well-versed enough in comics to know if that's how we do it here too).  Each chapter is usually around 30 pages, and they're released anywhere from a weekly to bi-monthly basis. (Don't be concerned that you can only get a chapter at a time - if the manga does well enough they're published as volumes like we do with graphic novels).  The magazine each manga is published in has a specific audience they market to - Shojo Beat, for example, publishes chapters from manga that is  marketed for girls.  As we know from our giant blend that is young adult, audience level often has little to do with what type of story you are going to find, so while I give you generalizations for each audience level below, just keep that in mind.  In fact, in researching which mangas were what I was surprised to find that many of the ones I had thought were for men were for boys and that quite a few I had thought were for girls were actually marketed for men.  So while I give these terms for you as a good place to choose your first story from, I definitely recommend using the manga or anime you choose as a springboard for choosing your next one rather than sticking exclusively in one audience level.

This image (courtesy of Ningen) is from El Cazador de la Bruja, a fun anime with some kickass ladies.

This is manga typically geared towards boys (below 18).  It usually has a low emphasis on romance, a male lead,  and usually encompasses more sci-fi/fantasy/action genres.  That being said, don't think because this is a younger genre that you won't encounter mature themes - any of you who recognize Death Note or Attack on Titan wouldn't consider those light fare.  It's just like Young Adult fiction - you get a wide range of subject matter.

You might know: Pokemon, Attack on Titan
My favourites: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Darker Than Black

This image comes from Koi dano Ai dano (but is redrawn by Yabuki-you) which is tied with Skip Beat! for favourite ongoing manga.

This is manga geared towards girls (below 18).  The artwork tends to be much more delicate than shounen or seinen (and it usually has a lot of flowers and stars thrown in for good measure haha!)  It is almost entirely comprised of either magical girls (think Sailor Moon) or more contemporary/slice of life plots.  They almost always have a school setting and have a much heavier focus on romantic relationships than shounen or seinen.  The latter stories (which are the bulk of the genre)  are directly comparable to our contemporary YA novels, and as with our contemporary YA the stories can range from fluffy and cute to more serious slice-of-life stories.

You might know: Boys Over Flowers, Fruits Basket
My favourites: Skip Beat!, Cat Street

This is another all time favourite (and incidentally has one of my favourite opening songs).  This is a good one for newbies - it doesn't have some of the tropes/quirks you come to expect in anime and manga!

This is manga geared towards women (18+).  It takes on a much more realistic view on relationships (and may delve into more mature subject material where that is concerned, although it's rarely extensive or graphic), whereas shoujo is more idealized relationships.  It also focuses more on careers and familial and platonic relationships as well.

You might know: Honey and Clover, Nodame Cantabile
My favourites: Princess Jellyfish, Nana

xxxHolic has by far my favourite art out of all the anime and mangas I've seen.  I want to frame like every cover and inner color pictures because they're all so gorgeous.  Seriously - google image xxxHolic. The entire search pages is freaking beautiful.

 This is manga geared towards men (18+).  It's pretty much all-encompassing when it comes to genres, and to be quite honest I usually mistake mangas in this audience for other audiences.

You might know: Berserk, Battle Royale
My favourites: xxxHolic, Angel Beats!

You might be thinking, well this information sure is interesting and all, but I still don't know where to start! Should I read the manga or watch the anime? Where do I even get all these things? And wait...hold on...isn't everything in Japanese????  Well don't panic, I've got you covered -


Unfortunately due to this unexpected fire alarm (aka blogger deleting a full week's worth of work so I had to start the whole bloody lesson plan over from scratch), this week's class has been cut short.  But no worries, I promise next class we'll talk about where to start and how to get there!  Your homework is to think about what anime you think you'd like to start!  While this is a level 101 class, so it is geared towards anime newbies (especially these first few lessons), all levels of otaku are welcome and accepted and as always class discussions and recommendations are always welcome below!  (And remember, class discussions help to keep your participation grades up!)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Musings: Social media, screaming into the void, and stereotyping grandmas.

I'm sure many of you have heard about what happened with Katie M. Stout, author of Hello, I Love You over Twitter last week (wow I started writing this a long time ago!).   I feel like almost all bookish drama goes over my head because I so rarely get on Twitter, but that consequently every time I get on Twitter I just see this huge spiral of negativity as people attack other people, and then defenders of said victims pile on top of the attackers and it just snow balls from there.  And it's not only book drama - it's just easier for me to ignore the rest because A. I'm not in any way involved in said life drama and B. It's usually not about someone who I care about or know.  (Not that it makes it any better in any way - it's just easier to emotionally remove myself from the situation).  I get really, really stressed out when it comes to conflict.  If I've got a problem with someone I'm generally pretty direct.  I like to resolve things quickly because conflict stresses. me. out.  Twitter is basically a breeding ground for misunderstandings - it's easy for people  to get upset when things are taken out of context, and at 140 characters, it's like EVERYTHING is out of context.  (Not that people aren't straight up offensive on Twitter - they totally are, but I feel like the limit often makes both statements and reactions seem more extreme than they were intended to be and it just spirals from there).

On top of all of the dog piling, it often feels like there are millions of people all talking at the same time and they keep trying to be louder than everyone else and sometimes they're yelling to you or the universal you or they're having a semi-private conversation but talking over every one in doing so and it's just so overwhelming.

 I want to be sure that I add that this has nothing to do with any users or Twitter users in general, it's just that I think I'm so ill-used to dealing with so many people talking at one time that I'm at a loss at how to process it.  Twitter is, well, loud.  And with so many people talking at one time, it's not only overwhelming to try and follow what everyone is saying, it's completely intimidating to try and break into.  I'm not very good with large crowds of people, and that doesn't change when it's a virtual environment.  I love that people get to interact with all sorts of people they wouldn't ordinarily be able to talk to, but it's intimidating to talk to people I don't know and just sort of...interrupt a conversation. (I'm getting better about this. I think?) And it's scary when you see how quickly conversations can turn into an internet mob, and it makes me feel constantly on guard in a place that seems geared towards casual conversation, which gives a weird feel to the whole thing.  It also feels like anytime you try and break through the mass of people you're just bulldozed down by millions more people.  This feeling on the fringe also brings out a side of me I thankfully rarely see. It's like I revert to all the awkwardness and insecurity I had when I was in middle school. And frankly, it's painful to behold.  Any time I'm on Twitter, I inevitably reach a point where I'm like "Why isn't anyone responding to me? They think I'm dumb don't they?! They're right I AM dumb.  I'M SO UNCOOL."

Anytime I have to remind myself "Chill Elizabeth, you're not in middle school anymore you are a GROWN ASS WOMAN", is at least one time too many.

That being said, I've had some fantastic experiences with Twitter too.   I'm taking part in OTSP Secret Sister, which is the whole reason I've been on Twitter so much in the past couple weeks at all.  If you guys don't know what it is, it's basically like a 6 month long secret santa project, but with an emphasis on positivity and letter writing and good vibes, and is basically really fun. Not going to lie, at least 20% of my brain has been on this project for the past couple weeks, seeing all the bonding that's been going on between bloggers, and of course planning what to give my secret sister (and what clues to drop her in my letters).  I'm applauding my self restraint in having only written one letter so far - I want to at least wait until she's gotten the letter before I write another haha!  (She isn't at the address she gave yet, so I've been waiting on TENTERHOOKS.)  It's been so much fun so far, and I definitely recommend giving it a go for the next round!  And regardless, the ladies from On The Same Page are wonderful and definitely worth knowing, regardless of your interest in OTSP Secret Sister!

I also took part in #LLRGirlsNight hosted by the girls at Live, Love, Read and that was definitely a lot of fun too!  It's basically like an online movie night - you get to watch a movie and chat about it on twitter while you watch! It's all the plus sides of not having to leave your house to watch a movie and getting to talk about said movie without pissing off your co-watchers haha.  Last month our pick was Sweet Home Alabama, a classic chick flick for those of us born in the 90s and I met loads of new awesome people (and got to talk swoons and sassy Southern girls, always a bonus).  It's going to be a monthly thing, and this month's movie night is going to be this Friday actually!  Voting is still ongoing for a Disney movie pick - you can vote and see all the details here. Even better? You can sign up for e-mail reminders (I think they come out day of or day before) for those of you who are forgetful like me! (I missed the first one because I totally forgot so this is perfect haha!)  In any case it's a lot of fun and went a long way into making me feel more comfortable on Twitter, which despite my what must be close to a year on the site now is only something I've been feeling comfortable with in the past month or so.

And of course a shout out to LaLa who tweets something positive my way almost every Friday (and for the better part of the past year is probably the only reason I ever got on Twitter in the first place!).  She's a guarantee my Friday is going to have a feel good moment :)

So where does this leave me?  Well, for better or worse I'll be sticking around Twitter as it's part of the fun of the #OTSPSecretSister Project.  I'm trying to limit my (already fairly low) usage of Twitter - if I'm starting to feel middle school-ish I make myself get offline.  And I'm hoping the fact that I'm using it so much will continue to make it feel more comfortable for me and just erase my middle school person for good.

It's also definitely made me more sympathetic to (typically) older generations who struggle with newer technology. If I, at 25, have a hard time with Twitter - a technology I have been acquainted with for almost a year now, and whose technological foundation has been created during my teen years - it's no wonder that technology that is moving so fast would baffle a lot of people for whom it's been practically the blink of an eye.  (I also realized I have a selective memory - I didn't move onto Facebook until 3 years after it's founding - dinosaur years in technological time - and flatly refused to have a smart phone until it was the only cheap option by the time I hit grad school.  Which might not sound that bad until you realize that was only three years ago for me.  So clearly I have never been particularly good about embracing new technology.)  But before I go and say it's the older generations only who have trouble with new technology - I dropped the kids I nanny off at their grandmother's house a few weeks ago, and she was happily sharing photos with friends on Instagram (an app/site/I don't even technically know what it is).  So really it comes down to what you find important in your life - not your age.  So, like many others who struggle with technology, at the end of the day I'll have to figure out what I think makes life easier, and what is merely a distraction - and we'll see if Twitter makes the cut.