23 March 2015 | 3 comments
Remember a couple weeks ago, when I told you I was writing a new book? That announcement just got one step closer to reality with a final cover design:
For this design, I worked with Ben Huber, the brains behind my Gunpla 101 logo. I told him I wanted to carry over the color scheme from Kevin Bolk’s design for my first book, gave him my title, and then set him loose. The result is a bright, bold, and minimal cover inspired by manga panels and Japanese woodblock prints.
Both times I have published a book the traditional way, I have had zero control over the cover design. Following that, both times I have worked with an artist for a self-published book, I’ve been comfortable taking a hands-off approach, requesting only one revision each time. I hired Kevin and Ben because I like the work they do and was hoping for them to bring their own sensibilities to the table. Imagine if I had asked Kevin to go minimalist, or Ben to try to imitate Kevin’s cutesy style!
Your survey answers from my book announcement have heavily shaped its progress. I have chosen 12 bloggers to interview based on the people you requested most often. Out of 41 respondents, nearly everyone wanted to know “how to get a bigger audience” for your blog, so I made that a bigger section than it was previously.
Right now, I’m looking at a May 1 release date for the book. I will update you as more news becomes available to share.
18 March 2015 | 17 comments
Last Friday night, I finally watched Akira. I know, I know.
I’m part of the Toonami Generation of anime fans, sometimes known as the fourth wave of anime fandom. As a result, I came into the fandom with a pretty massive backlog, spanning the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Some of that I’ve gone back to, like 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam, and some I’ve totally missed, like Ghost in the Shell. Some would argue that this oversight makes me a bad anime fan. I don’t care if I’m a bad anime fan, and I hate efforts to police fandom.
Instead, I’d argue that the reason you should watch the classics has nothing to do with other peoples’ perceptions of you.
Remember when I was talking about the “good old days” of anime? That blog post focused on how people use the good old days as an excuse to disparage modern shows. But there’s another truth to it, and it’s that cream always rises to the top. When people are talking about an anime ten or twenty-seven years later (as in the case of Akira), the reason it hasn’t left the public consciousness is because it still holds up.
In some ways, Akira is not my cup of tea. For one thing, it is excessively and graphically violent. However, it’s animated as smoothly and vividly as today’s digital animation. It has a jarring soundtrack that still unsettles viewers today. Where many of the older shows I’ve watched more too slowly for my tastes, Akira flies by in an instant. If I’m going to watch a movie that’s not in my preferred set of genres, I want to watch a movie like that: fast-paced, eye-catching, and profound.
But I realized something while I was watching it, and it’s that maybe older generations of fans aren’t policing younger fans when they harp on the classics. There was a lot of crap anime made in the past, but ones we still remember today are often worth the watch. There’s definitely a relationship between a show’s age and its current buzz, too. If it was made in 1979 and people are still raving about it, it’s probably worth the watch today.
Just don’t confuse nostalgia for quality. I’ll always love Gundam Wing because it was one of my first shows ever, but I wouldn’t recommend it to today’s brand new fans. (Not that they’d have time for it—with a backlog spanning from the ‘70s to today, they may never have to watch anything but the top 1 percent of all shows.)
So there you go. The “good old days” of anime can be a gatekeeping concept meant to shame new fans—or a helpful trick for discovering old good anime that’s new to you. Your own attitude makes the difference.
16 March 2015 | No comments yet
Turn A Gundam is my favorite Gundam show of all, but this is my first time recommending it to other fans. Because until now, the only way to get it in English was to pirate it.
Late last week, that major sticking point finally was remedied when Right Stuf put episodes 1-25 up for pre-order, to be shipped this June. It’s the first time it’s actually been available for purchase in North America.
I theorize that Turn A Gundam never made it to America because, despite being written by the same director of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Yoshiyuki Tomino, it has a number of differences from a typical Gundam show, all of which make it great. Here are some of the reasons I love this show and think you’d like it, too.
It’s the dieselpunk show of the Gundam universe
By dieselpunk, I’m referring to the aesthetic that takes its influence from diesel-fueled technology during World War I up to the post World War II era. Turn A Gundam features airships, wooden airplanes, and early 19th century clothing styles. It’s a novel era to set a science fiction saga, and the show pulls it off beautifully.
The mecha are unique
The Turn A Gundam itself physically puts the “turn” in Turn A. Where most titular mobile suits feature a V shaped antenna on the forehead, Turn A’s antenna is at the bottom of its face, mimicking a mustache. It’s a striking touch of whimsy in a fleet of otherwise streamlined, minimalist models that get back to the very heart of Gundam. Thank Syd Mead, the concept artist behind Blade Runner, Aliens and Tron for this refreshing direction.
Loran is one of Gundam’s most likeable protagonists
Of all the pilots I could almost share a name with, I’m glad it’s Loran. Curious, capable, and upbeat, he’s the polar opposite of the typical angsty pilot with a chip on his shoulder. He may be anti-war, but that doesn’t keep him from remembering there are people he needs to protect. Still, don’t let his earnestness fool you—halfway through the series, he makes a moral decision that not only reveals his true depth of character, but sets the stage for a nailbiting conclusion. And on top of all that, he looks fantastic in drag.
The women are amazing
It was only a few decades ago that Frau Bow chided Amuro, “I’d pilot it if I could!” in Mobile Suit Gundam, a show that never considered the possibility of female pilots. Between then and Turn A, how far the women of Gundam have come! They’re tough soldiers, cunning politicians, and everything in between. They have their own strengths and imperfections—Queen Dianna isn’t a perfect leader for all her intelligence, and Sochie has a decidedly short fuse for somebody so loyal—making them neither fully good nor evil, but decidedly human. Even women in more traditional roles, like grandmother and homemaker Anise Bell, are portrayed as immensely brave.
It’s got a compelling “masked antagonist” character
It’s practically a trope for Gundam shows to feature a man in a mask whose life goal seems to be to defeat the protagonist. I can’t keep my eyes off of Turn A Gundam’s edition, the ridiculous Harry Ord. His fashion victim status—see these casual clothes, bumblebee formal wear, and star print pajamas—juxtapose with his cool, rational demeanor to bizarre effect. What’s more, he’s not hell-bent on crushing Loran at all costs like the typical masked ace would be. He’s as caught up in the confusing circumstances of Turn A as anyone else.
The music is incredible
Yoko Kanno is one of the most famous composers working in anime, and for good reason. While many fans recognize her work on Cowboy Bebop and Kids on the Slope, her unusual compositions for Turn A Gundam often go forgotten. In its twin settings of an Earth that has regressed to the early 20th century and the Moon, Turn A Gundam is a show about the promise of the unexplored frontier, and Kanno’s work reflects that with notes of country and blues. It’s incredibly different from her other work, but no less worth a listen.
It has a very clever time frame
Gundam shows take place in a number of timelines, including Universal Century (Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam), After Colony (Gundam Wing), and Future Century (G Gundam). Turn A Gundam is the only one to take place in Correct Century, but it’s fully aware of the rest of the Gundam of the body of work it is a part of, and it’s full of Easter Eggs for fans who are also in the know. Any more would be giving it away, but let’s just say that it pulls mecha design from other timelines for a reason.
Stay tuned for a full, reasoned out review of Turn A Gundam after I get my new copy and re-watch this awesome show. Until then, I’m giving the parts I love best their due.