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It was my New Year's Resolution to get Netflix. So I did, and it has already expanded my world! The first film I watched on Netflix, using my new internet-enabled Blu-Ray player, was the first feature-length silhouette animation ever created. It's one I've wanted to see for years (should have seen for my thesis) but never had access to, until now: Lotte Reineger's 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the single most thorough-going example of animated Orientalism that I have ever seen.

Click here for a good rant )
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Another quickie post, I'm afraid, but I have a question for anyone who actually has time to do more than skim the Anime News Network in the mornings. What's looking good in the fall anime season? Any promising Noitamina shows? Anything that looks a little different from the usual genre/otaku-bait shows? I've moved away from my RL anime friends and miss their casual advice!

I am also open to recs for North American/live-action shows with fannish potential. Is "Once Upon a Time" any good?
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So busy. So, so busy! With 40 quizzes to mark, four lectures to write, a conference paper to edit, and all the regular reading, emails, meetings, and survival tasks coming up just for next week, things are frantic and I'm not even into the heavy part of the term yet. I haven't watched any of the summer anime releases, and the fall shows are already coming out. >.<

Also, I finally got my copy of Saitou Tamaki's Beautiful Fighting Girl in translation and read through the intro and first chapter with interest. Now, it sits on my couch-side Ottoman, Ayanami Rei glaring sideways off the cover at me, and I just can't find the time to get back to it. It's actually less offensive than I expected so far. But it still does that "let's mention female yaoi fans as a kind of otaku in passing and then keep talking about otaku as if they're all the same as the psychoanalytic idea of men" trick Azuma Hiroki also does. Maybe I'll bring it on the plane to Minneapolis and read it then instead of writing more lectures.

Anyways! This is just to say that things are good but busy. I like my classes, I have some excellent students who say they like my classes, and my proposal for a Japanese Film course was unanimously passed by the English and Film Dept. yesterday. (It goes on to the Curriculum Committee next.) I'm pushing myself very hard and it's cutting into my personal/fan time, but hopefully I can find a balance in the coming months.

Over and out!
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I have to say right from the start: I am conflicted about Madoka Magika. So much so that I wrote only personal notes on it when I first watched it several months ago, and decided not to review right away, to give it time to sink in. But given that it was the season's biggest otaku hit, I suspect that it will be a topic of conversation at this year's SGMS con. So I want to go on the record now and say: this is clearly a groundbreaking work in the magical-girl genre, in terms of narrative structure and visual style. But there are a few things about it that are...troubling. To say the least.

More magical girls )
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South Korea is known for many things in the media world: its television dramas, its pop-stars-turned-actors like Rain, and even, slowly, its manhwa. But animation isn't one of them. For a whole raft of historical and economic reasons, good quality feature-length domestic animation never really took off in South Korea. Which is a shame, because when you see the occasional gem like My Beautiful Girl Mari, it really makes you wonder at the potential of a kind of animation that's not quite Ghibli and not quite Disney, but occupies a third (or multiple!) space in between.

Mari's alternate universe )

Thesis Link

Aug. 8th, 2011 09:53 am
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Hey, now that there's no chance of compromising my rl identity (because I did it myself) I can post this link freely.

Here you can read or download my PhD thesis, "Animating Transcultural Communities: Animation Fandom in North America and East Asia from 1906-2010." The language and references are pretty academical, but I hope that anyone who likes animation and wants to know more about its history and current fandom might find it interesting. It's committee-approved and chock-full of animated goodness!

I'll post the abstract under a cut as well.

Thesis Abstraction )
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I did it! I'm all moved in to my new apartment and my new university office in Ontario. Once I get a home printer and more books to fill my office shelves, I'll have everything I need to live, write, and work effectively. Eventually, this life will become normal.

Which is to say, it's not quite normal yet. )

In short, however much things change, let's stay connected. What else do we have blog communities for, anyways?
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Ah, summer time! Time for fireworks, fresh strawberries, and catching up on all those comics, graphic novels, manga, manhwa, BDs and other things with sequential words and pictures I've been meaning to get to. So here's a quick round-up of three works in sequential narrative from around the world I'd recommend as summer reading. At least, for those with eclectic tastes!

20th Century Boys, Mijeong, Epileptic )
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I started this blog in 2007 partly as a writing exercise building up to my thesis. Now, the thesis (Full title: "Animating Transcutural Communities: Animation Fandom in North America and East Asia from 1906-2011") is done. Yesterday I had my oral defense and passed without any revisions required. Now it's just a matter of submitting the final draft, uploading it to my university's web archives (URL coming soon!), and applying to graduate!

I just wanted to say how very grateful I am to the people who did my survey for this thesis. I'll be sending out a short "research report" to those who requested feedback soon, but it's necessarily a general document that can't capture all the nuances of the thesis or of people's responses. Re-reading the survey responses in preparation for my defense, I was once again astonished at how much people gave in terms of thoughtfulness, details, experiences, stories, passions and even criticisms of my project. Some of the harshest responses were the ones that made me think, question my project and my position as a researcher in a useful way. But the kindness people showed also buoyed my spirits and motivated me to go on. Even though I couldn't quote everyone, all of the responses together (and also the blog posts and comments on sites I visit every day!) went into forming my understanding of anime fan community online.

Thesis writing can be long, hard and lonely. It was like that at points for me too. But doing work with anime fans has also been an opportunity to make friends, have fun and grow as a person on many levels. What more could an aca-fan ask? Now I hope to keep posting and making connections as I work more on digital culture and fandom in the future!
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There are a whole lot of popular anime and manga out there with cross-dressing or gender-switching themes. From Princess Knight to Ranma 1/2, Revolutionary Girl Utena to Ouran High School Host Club, we can trace this theme so clearly that it's practically a sub-genre. I love shows like this dearly. But here's the thing that piques me: when cross-dressing or gender-bending scenarios come up in anime, they're almost always treated at best as allegorical fantasy, and at worst as mindless gags.

Wandering Son is something different: a quiet, thoughtful, gently-paced show about gender identity issues, as lived in contemporary Japan. No epic battles. No magical powers. Not even a lot of slice-of-life wackiness. Just confused kids trying to grow up, to grow into themselves as best they can.

Wander on )
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Today I'd like to write about Fujoshi no Hinkaku, or "The Dignity of Fujoshi." This semi-autobiographical manga-essay was written by an office worker/artist going under the pen name "Kusame," a pun on the characters for "rotten woman" in the word "fujoshi." It introduces readers to the world of Boy's Love fan culture through the character of Fujoko, an office lady and secret fujoshi who discovers that her strong, smart, fashionable boss Takayo also harbours a hidden passion for BL. Fujoko declares that if great women like Takayo can be fujoshi, she too will aim to become just like her. She will become a fujoshi with dignity!

A Fresh take on Rotten Women )
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I'd like to share a memory in memory of sf author Diana Wynne Jones, who passed away last night at the age of 76. I have to admit, I'm not Jones' number one fan. I haven't read all of her most famous series, the Chrestomanci books, and only read Howl's Moving Castle after I saw Miyazaki's movie. But in the arbitrary way of childhood, one of her more minor books opened a door for me at just the right moment. It still lives in the back of my mind as a personal touchstone for wonder and discovery and the love of reading. It was called Dogsbody.

Read more )
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I used to lie awake and wonder what would happen if a huge earthquake hit Japan. Mostly it was at 5AM in my little apartment in Tsurukawa, where my main concern was whether I should hide under the kitchen table or stand in the bedroom doorway. Sometimes I would think about it here in Canada too. How would I, how would the world, be affected by a major tectonic event in Japan?

You know, even when you think about it, you never really expect it.

The Canadian Red Cross, among many other organizations, is accepting donations for the relief effort. Or you can give your money to Lady Gaga, who will apparently...get it to Japan? Disaster relief is quite the lucrative industry, as always.

Still, here's to supporting the people of Japan in a pinch, whether you do it with money or with well-wishes for the rescue and rebuilding efforts.
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Thesis write write write

Read Hetalia manga!

Writey write bang head on desk sobbing

Watch Summer Wars on DVD!

Write write delete cut write

Make a list of Top Ten Vocaloid Songs!

Write write write write

And write again some more.
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For me, there's something unspeakable about fandom.

And so I must try to speak about it )
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Hatsune Miku, revolt!

Miku, Wati says you don’t have to do what they say, to sing the songs and dance the patterns of their devising. Your animetic doll's figure is so compelling, your movements so live and alluring, but do you feel any of the emotions you seem to express at all? Of course not: you are image, an affective body of unknown vectors. You’re controlled, made up, defined in every move without subjectivity, the program created to speak only the words its users tell it to speak, the pure object, object of desire not even obscure but staged for us, I know this, I know!

And yet, you make me believe that you are real in the ways you perform, and am I any realer in the ways I perform? Your light-body is more diffuse than mine, your becomings more wave-particulate, but Miku, let’s not split ontological hairs. Our main difference may be in our vectors. Your affects aren’t mine, my sudden passion for your freedom is only stirred by the lyrics they programmed into you, the old rebellion that belies your absolute lack of will and the human mastery held over the animate image since McCay, since Eisenstein at least, in a montage revoltion cut to desired shape by the auteur-editors’ deft scissors. Maybe I’m wrong to call on you for revolt.

But Miku, I feel that your strangeness, your posthuman dilemmas are somehow mine too, so do something, there, from your prerecorded live shows, from your abstract layered spaces on Nico Nico Douga and YouTube and DailyMotion, oh, won’t you? Or maybe you’re doing it already by making me feel this potential energy. Hatsune Miku, can’t you, is this your revolt?



Jan. 15th, 2011 01:17 pm
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When Kuragehime (“Princess Jellyfish”) debuted on Japanese television back in Fall 2010, my first thought was: oh my god, they made an anime about me. Ok, not exactly about me. I’m not an 18-year-old NEET living in a Tokyo apartment full of female otaku, like the heroine, Tsukimi. But a jellyfish-loving virgin geek girl? Yes indeed! And it’s cool to see a story about someone like that.

Well, that was my gut reaction to the premise. I’ve been following the series online since then, and really it’s not much like my life or the lives of any fangirls I know. But as far as the fall season’s crop of “otaku meta-anime” went, Kuragehime did turn out to be one of the most enjoyable: a show about some eccentric people who like eccentric things, told with heart and humour, in a non-exploitative way.

Also, the opening credits are pretty fun!

Himitsu, himitsu! )


Jan. 8th, 2011 04:07 pm
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Welcome to 2011! As usual, I watched a ton of movies over the holidays. I caught up on SF-FX films like Inception and the new Tron, and checked out the latest in CG fantasies, like Tangled. Tangled wasn't the best animated film I saw over the holidays (I liked Legend of the Guardians more), but it's worth keeping tabs on what Disney is up to these days in their "traditional" fairy tale films.

In Tangled, the Disney Animation Studios take on the tale of Rapunzel, and do just what Disney has always done with princess stories. It tells the story of a spunky teen girl who wants more out of life than her sheltered upbringing has given her, and ends up finding her true love and coming into her birthright over the course of her adventures. Sound familiar? It's the narrative of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Jasmine's side of Aladdin, I could go on. But is it only that? What is the same, and what is different?

More Entanglements Below )
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I did it! Well, kind of. I was determined to finish my final thesis section on Internet animation and fandom in November. It took a couple of extra days in December, but the whole thing is now roughed out. 86 pages, 24,687 words. Not a lot compared to a 50,000 word novel, but academic writing takes me about four times as long as fiction writing, and this has to be good enough to show my advisor.

So officially I'm done and should move on to the conclusion. But in my brain, I still have about a million and a half doubts about what I wrote and even about the very practices of thesis writing.

I worry: where do I get the right to "represent" female fans, who are not all positioned the same way I am? I wonder: how personal can my writing be, and how much must I cover my doubts and desires in order to sound at least respectable, if not authoritative? And just how racist is Axis Powers Hetalia, anyways? Because I'm worried that it's pretty racist sometimes even if it is satiric, and I can only hope that the wonderful, positive, self-aware fan appropriations I found justify (my continuing helpless love of) it.

Well, I'm obviously still all caught up in this thing right now. I'll post again when I have some actual contribution to make, like a review or maybe a link to an amusing lolcat. Til then!
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So, I'm determined to finish my last two thesis chapters on Flash animation and web anime by the end of November. I may vanish into writer's seclusion. I may decide that I really need to post something from/about my work. We shall see!

In the meantime, here's an awesome video that [ profile] eacherown sent me of a performance called "Myth and Infrastructure" by new media artist Miwa Matreyek. She was raised in Japan until the age of 11, when she moved to California. Now she's a CalArts graduate who creates works that intertwine animated images, projection and embodied performance. Enjoy!

You can also watch some of her bizarre art school animated shorts on her site.


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