Asano Inio on Madoka Magica (Comic Natalie)

Asano Inio did an interview with Comic Natalie on Madoka Magica in the presser lead-up to the third movie. The process of how they arrived at that particular person for that particular interview subject is quite fun, and outlined in the article. The main body covers how Asano came to try the series and which parts stood out the most to Asano personally. Nothing too revolutionary in the article itself, but it’s just generally fun to get great creators’ perspectives on great things, involvement be darned.

The interview is conducted in the leadup to the third film, so Asano hasn’t seen it as of this interview, though it does come up. As an amusing aside, while googling to see if it had been done, this article erroneously citing it as a source for Asano’s approval of the movie popped up.

Original Article: http://natalie.mu/comic/pp/c_madoka_magica

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Poll: Kicking Around a Bunch of TL Prospects

As of last Friday, I was only about 40% done with my little vanity translation project. Now it’s at about 80-something and progressing rapidly. I would be legitimately shocked at this point if it weren’t up by, at the latest, the end of next weekend. This project involved about 20,000 characters worth of Japanese and will probably cash out in the neighborhood of 6000-7000 words if my fuzzy math is right. In the course of working on it, I’ve been able to streamline the hell out of my process and I’m itching to try it out on something smaller-scale.

Since my current “short anime/manga articles I want to take a stab at” list is about 50 deep, I thought I’d toss this one to the crowd. Here’s a list of 10 articles, with links, that I’d be super-hype to translate after finishing my current thing. I’ve googled all of them to check and I don’t believe any has been done yet, so they should all be fresh. And a there’s a poll so you can vote, of course. I’ll definitely translate whichever article gets the most votes, and anything that gets votes I’ll think about doing. Poll will stay open until I finish my current project, and then I’ll get cracking on the leader.

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Animetics Podcast: Crunchyroll Manga and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Part 4)

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The Animetics podcast is back! Albiet with apologies for our primative recording software and about 200% more duwang. This week, Drew and Sam spitball on some moderately interesting news, one piece of really interesting news, and Hirohiko Araki’s favorite installment of his all-time-top-ten manga franchise.

Download: http://www.mediafire.com/download/ktkjzt2yych3bc3/Animetics_Podcast_4-CR_Manga_and_JJBA_Part_4.mp3

Listen Online: http://www.mediafire.com/listen/ktkjzt2yych3bc3/Animetics_Podcast_4-CR_Manga_and_JJBA_Part_4.mp3

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Fun With Numbers: Scarce Demand for Simulmanga

This past year, viz media pulled off a first for the non-Japan manga industry. I’m referring to Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital “magazine” offering same-week release of the chapters of some 11 Weekly Shonen Jump manga. It’s pretty cool, and at 26$/year for 48 issues (and a buck per back issue), it’s not a totally unreasonable subscription fee. But that specific business model, one of same-week releases for official translations, is unfortunately not something that’s likely to be transferable to the majority of manga. Especially seinen and josei series with smaller fanbases. If you’ve ever wondered if the manga translation industry will catch up to where the anime industry is now with simulcasts, this article discusses the depressing reality of the situation and why such an outcome is relatively unlikely.

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Lists Are Fun to Make: Mangaka Off the Top of My Head

I thought it’d be a fun little exercise to try and pull out as many mangaka names as I could without relying on references. This is that list, written on lockdown mode and complete with the reasons why I remember them.

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Fun With Numbers: Critical/Casual Slants

It’s one of the oldest conundrums in the anime fandom that the shows that get the most attention are often not the best-made shows, the ones that blow people’s minds when they see them. In a vaccum, that’s pretty confusing; shouldn’t we be giving the most attention to the shows we’ll enjoy the most? Why do some shows get high ratings and languish in the proverbial basement popularity-wise while others get abyssmal scores but receive tons of attention? I found a quick and dirty way to dig into this problem using my set of seasonal anime data and got a set of results that was equal parts depressingly predictable and pleasantly surprising.

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Fun With Numbers: A Numbers-Based Way of Picking Out the Best Anime of the Past 8 Years

You know the old saying; “Stats don’t lie, except when they do.” Using stats to argue point son anime is kind of tough, as any individual figure, be it Japanese sales, TV Ratings, merchandising fees paid, or online ranking site figures, only reveals a small part of the overall picture. Since I compiled a rather large database containing multiple stat lines for 95% of the anime to air over the past 8 years, I might as well use it to numerically classify true-blue-chippers.

Allow me to introduce a very exclusive society, the Hit-L-Double-Double (HLDD) Club. It’s the list of anime that have accomplished 4 feats, 3 of which are very difficult individually. Specifically, it’s the list of anime that have sold 10,000+ units per volume in Japan (megahit sales territory), been licensed overseas (international sales viability), and have myanimelist rankings and popularities in the top 100/double digits (esteem and popularity overseas).

This is a list of the unequivocal successes, the things that have amassed not only megahit status in Japan, but also a significant English-speaking fanbase and critical praise. These are numerically irrefutable successes, at least in theory. You could call it the “talk to anyone” list, because you could talk to anyone in the industry and they would agree with you that it was a rock-solid commodity. From 2005-2012, anyway (that’s the era I have all the data for). All the members from that period are listed below, along with their statlines. Sequels are excluded to keep it tidy, and because they’re rarely much different from s1 stats-wise.

This list is not meant to be very surprising. It’s just a slightly different way of thinking about blue-chip anime.

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Lists Are Fun to Make: Favorite Anime Episodes by Title

Full Disclosure: I like making lists. This particular list is the result of an afternoon of me sitting down and trying to list all the anime episode titles I remember. This correlates pretty well with my actual favorite anime episodes, because I’ve seen most of them enough times to remember their titles. When making this one, I set myself a limit at 60 and reached it fairly quickly. After making the list, I actually ranked them. So yeah, had a lot of fun with this one.

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A Music Fan’s Perspecitive on Anime Soundtracks

[Two claifications that I couldn’t quite fit elsewhere in this article and though of afterward: when I say soundtrack, I’m not including openings and endings for the purposes of this discussion. They’re different. Also, as a music fan I know that music is subjective.]

A bit of background first. I’ve been really into music since age 5, when my dad played Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits for me, and music has pretty my been my favorite thing since then, my taste and knowledge expanding greatly every year since I was 13. Anime on the other hand, I hated until I was 14 and my best friend finally convinced me to watch Full Metal Alchemist with him. It still wouldn’t be a real hobby of mine until I was 16 or 17 and watched Samurai Champloo. Even then, it’s only a major use of my time only since entering college. Just some context for my music knowledge compared to my anime knowledge.

Anyway, an opinion I hold that seems to be controversial among other anime fans I talk to is that anime music sucks for the most part. Soundtracks default to a 5/10, and this is because I’m generous, and only take off points if it’s actively bad or doesn’t fit. But before I get too edgy and pretentious, let me explain what I mean.

To me, judging a good soundtrack is not that different from judging good music. All the same elements are there, just certain ones are more in the foreground for a soundtrack. One of the signs of good music is it’s ability to set a scene or mood. I tend to really get into it, so it isn’t hard for me to imagine things when I hear quality music. This is a sign of good music in general, but in soundtracks, it’s critical. Mood is their first job. Though, a good soundtrack should be able not only to fit the mood, it should enhance the mood of the scene, and be able to set the mood on it’s own if need be. Even bad direction can be saved to a degree with a good soundtrack. However, to be truly good soundtracks must also actually sound good to just listen to, the primary goal of regular music. This is especially true, since a song will often be played multiple times throughout a series.

To me, being good implies going above and beyond. “Not failing” isn’t good, it’s good enough. There’s a huge difference. And this may just be because music is so important to me, but a scene loses or gains a lot depending on the music with it. Haibane Renmei wouldn’t have been nearly as emotional if the music weren’t so beautiful and perfectly fitting. It really helped in my mind to establish setting, which the best soundtracks are able to do.

For some examples of mood, let me refer you to some of my favorites, both in regular music, and soundtracks. Spiderland by Slint is widely considered a classic of both post-rock and (real, not shitty modern metal) post-hardcore. It’s an incredibly powerful album with a distinct feel to it as a whole. Just listen to the opening track “Breadcrumb Trail”. I don’t know how to describe the mood, but it is powerful. Approximately 1:24 into the song is one of my favorite moments in all of music. The album also contains “Don, Aman”, one of the most strangely unsettling pieces I’ve ever heard, with lyrics I can relate to far more than I would like to. It’s only guitar chords and vocals, but no song I’ve ever heard conveys that sense of alienation, fear, and paranoia nearly that well. Also, “Good Morning, Captain” is one of the few songs to make me cry the first time I really heard the lyrics.

On the almost opposite end of the mood spectrum, is a band I’ve listened to a lot recently, Zebrahead. Probably one of the douchiest bands ever bands to exist, they’re a pop-punk band with a rapper and a goal to have zero “depth” or “meaning”. They’re fairly inconsistent after their first couple albums, but Waste of Mind and Playmate of the Year are awesome. There’s no deep emotional description I can give, but check out the songs “Someday”, “Playmate of the Year”, “I’m Money”, and “Into You”. Perfect for summer and hanging out and partying with good friends.

Anyway, back to anime soundtracks, very few of them seem to have any emotional impact, or carry a mood well at all. Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an exception, using really great classical music, and not just for the sake of using it; only classical fits the scale and tone of the series. It always comes in at the right times, and always has a mood fitting what’s happening on screen. Whether you’re watching it or hearing the music, you can tell what’s happening. You can tell that a scene is dramatic and tense, or sad, or more rarely, happy. Coming together, it’s clear why Legend of the Galactic Heroes is considered a masterpiece.

Another example of perfect soundtrack is Samurai Champloo. The instrumental hip-hop perfectly complements the whole theme of the series, itself being a combination of hip-hop style and samurai action. One of the things I find incredible about it is that despite being almost entirely one genre, it covers a wide range of moods, and works well for action, comedy, and drama as well, but still maintains a really chill coolness throughout.. The soundtrack was done largely by Nujabes, well respected as one of the foremost instrumental hip-hop artists ever for the great beat with what I consider the best melodies in the genre. Sadly, he died in 2010, but his legacy certainly survives him. Check his stuff out.

Most soundtracks at least do their most basic job of keeping tone and mood to some degree, but I feel that if I’m going to call it good, it has to stand out to me as I watch the show because of at least a few tracks I enjoy as music. This, I think, is the only area where I would say OreImo is better than Kaiji. Furthermore, as much as I really love the stuff from Shaft that Shinbo directed, the soundtracks have never impressed me. I’ve watched Madoka 3 times, and I can’t remember a single song from it, but music from Green Green, an awful show I barely made it through once, still goes through my head. I only remember one track from the Bakemonogatari soundtrack, and that’s because it sounds like a ripoff of “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Hidamari Sketch music I think I only like because I associate it with Hidamari Sketch. Keep in mind that most Shinbo directed stuff I’ve seen I gave an 8 or 9 out of 10.

Basically, most anime music sounds really generic to me, fits the mood, but does nothing to enhance it, and just doesn’t sound good to listen to by itself. It wouldn’t set a mood on it’s own, or be good musically on it’s own. So much of it is just lacking the passion, emotion, and energy I’ve come to expect from music. I’d like to see more anime music succeed not only as a soundtrack, but also as music, but so many seem to forget that part and write it just as a soundtrack, but ignore the fact that as music, first and foremost it should be music.

Good anime soundtracks:
Samurai Champloo (10/10)
Legend of the Galactic Heroes (10/10)
Haibane Renmei (10/10)
Baccano! (JAZZ!)
OreImo (A lot of it is ska, various style too)
Air Gear (Similar to Jet Set Radio, one of the same people worked on both)
Lupin III (More jazz, what else fits Lupin?)
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (I don’t really know what to call this)
FLCL (A bit overrated, but still good)

My criteria for a great soundtrack:
-Sounds like it could be actual music
-Consistently keeps the tone of individual scenes
-Specifically notice the music making a scene more emotional in some way
-At least 2 tracks stand out as good when I watch it
-Plays a role in building the setting, and could do so on its own to some degree

Adventures in Sound Direction: Your Folk Blues Are Real

So a while ago I wrote about veteran Sound Director Katsuyoshi Kobayashi’s wizardly handling of Space Brothers’ audio. At the time, I had to look up his name on ann, but I didn’t check his specific creator page. The other day, I went back and finally did. It turns out this isn’t the only anime-of-the-decade candidate* he’s worked on with a director named Watanabe. In celebration of this individual who’s handled a number of sublime auditory anime experiences and yet has to date zero comments or favorites on his myanimelist page, I’m going to spend this column by talking about the musically crafted battle sequence to trump (almost) all others, the last 6 minutes of Cowboy Bebop.

(This post contains obvious ending spoilers for a 15-year-old show that you either have watched or will find yourself watching the moment you inform someone who has that you haven’t. So there.) Continue reading