Lessons in Boy Adolescence: Goodbye, Don Glees!

I believe that the appeal of anime and manga stems partly from its willingness to tackle a variety of genres and subjects, and “I can’t believe they made an anime out of this!” is an old and common refrain. But just because anime creators are willing to go places doesn’t mean every type of story gets the limelight, even if such stories might be more prominent outside of this particular sphere. Case in point is the animated film Goodbye, Don Glees!, which can best be described as a coming-of-age teen story more akin to the 1986 movie Stand by Me than the kind typically seen in and around anime.

Goodbye, Don Glees! focuses on the lives of three teenage boys in a rural Japanese town who call themselves the Don Glees (the meaning of which is explained late into the film). Roma and Toto have been friends since they were little, bonding over being rejected by their classmates. Shizuku, nicknamed Drop, is a more recent addition, having befriended Roma while Toto was off in Tokyo for middle school. Toto is back home for the summer, and Roma is eager to continue their tradition of having their own fireworks party because the other kids don’t want them around to see the big one everyone else goes to. But when a series of mishaps occur, the Don Glees are wrongfully blamed for a forest fire, leading the trio to take a long journey to retrieve evidence that could prove their innocence.

I don’t know how I would have viewed this movie as a teen, but as an adult, it definitely inspires memories of that time. While I never ventured through forest to find a downed drone only to get chased by a bear and find myself lost, what Goodbye, Don Glees! captures is the way everything feels so eternally consequential as a teenager, as well as the sense of how oxymoronically important and silly it all is. The way each of the three guys have their own perspectives and hang-ups at that pivotal moment in their youth leads to butting of heads, airing of closely guarded feelings, and a closer look at how fleeting life can be.

The director and screenwriter is Ishizuka Atsuko, who is also behind the utterly fantastic and near-flawless A Place Further than the Universe. The two works definitely have their similarities, but come across at two distinct works with their own pacing and priorities. Goodbye, Don Glees! doesn’t quite have the emotional wallop of Ishizuka’s older title nor the wondrous nature of its detailed voyage to and across Antarctica, but it tells a memorable story nevertheless. At times, it can get a bit too cheesy, especially when the music hits and it’s a sappy tune (in English!) that feels like it time-traveled from another period.

Goodbye, Don Glees! provides an experience rarely seen in anime, but rather than trying to imitate contemporary live-action film, it feels like a flesh-and-blood work from a bygone era. It successfully captures the topsy-turvy nature of being a small-town teenager, but it’s also not so generic as to blend in with the rest. This might be the one to show your anime-skeptic friends, but that accessibility isn’t where it derives its strength.

Thoughts from Girls und Panzer das Finale Part 3

As Sentai Filmworks gradually releases the Girls und Panzer das Finale films, I look forward to watching them and following the tank girls on this last endeavor. This time, it’s Part 3, and it continues to bring the things that make the series memorable.

To call them films is perhaps a tad misleading, as they usually have about 60-minute run times, and there isn’t really a complete narrative arc from start to finish. It’s probably better to think of them like hour-long OVAs, or perhaps even old black-and-white serials a la Flash Gordon.

das Finale is surely not meant for anyone but veteran fans of the show: The fact that episodes end in mid-match cliffhangers means they have to quickly establish the situation or rely on the viewers to remember where they are. Here, the movie begins with the heroines of Ooarai Academy engaged in a surprisingly difficult battle with the previously weak Chi-Ha-Tan Academy. As the story progresses, evidence of character growth (mainly in the arena of tank combat, of course) relies on having prior knowledge of how they behaved in the prequel works. Case in point, seeing the first-years team start to come into their own in Part 3 means knowing where they started. And while it’s technically not personal development, seeing Mako in a night battle acting hyper-alert—in contrast to her lethargic daytime self—is something I can appreciate both as a gag and a story element for a fight.

Even more than the TV series or der Film, das Finale focuses on tank battles. The willingness to more or less portray protracted fights and not skip around is appreciated. Although the matches between the non-Ooarai teams naturally get less screen time, the ways they show one school overcoming another (as well as how and why) puts the brain-centric combat of Girls und Panzer on full display.

If there’s one thing to take away from Girls und Panzer das Finale Part 3, it’s the way that it emphasizes the importance of protagonist Nishizumi Miho, whose tactical mind is arguably unmatched in the series. The question it presents in this context is whether the rest of Ooarai can step up to the plate when needed. I expect the later films to make this an increasingly prominent theme as we get closer to the end, and I have faith that the team will shine.

The Language Barrier of Tsukino Mito

Tsukino Mito is one of the first Virtual Youtubers under the popular Nijisanji umbrella, and one of its most successful. At over 900,000 subscribers, her position is enviable. Yet, for as big a deal as she is, I had found it odd that Mito has not already cracked the million-subscriber mark, despite the fact that four other Nijsanji members have managed to achieve that milestone. I believe her to be one of the absolute funniest VTubers out there, but I’ve come to realize that Mito’s strength, that amazing sense of humor and delivery, is kind of a double-edged sword when it comes to her growth.

Reaching the million-subscriber mark as a VTuber generally means having some kind of reach beyond Japan. Perhaps they’re already fluent in another language, like English or how Kobo Kanaeru got so big in Indonesia, her songs are being played in live settings like in the video above. Maybe they sing and dance on a regular basis. Or they could be really expressive, and the emotions they display while streaming reach across language barriers.

Mito, however, doesn’t really have any of those traits. That’s not to say she isn’t talented or hardworking, and 800,000+ subscribers is nothing to sneeze at, but the essence of her humor makes it harder for non-Japanese speakers to latch onto her. Her whole gimmick is that she’s supposed to be a class president who sounds very prim and proper, until you realize that what she’s actually been discussing can be incredibly dire. 

In other words, if you just listen to how she says something, Mito sounds perfectly normal, or at least soothing in a Bob Ross sort of way. In contrast, someone like Hyakumantenbara Salome plays the obnoxious ojousama role to a tee, while distinct voices like Oozora Subaru and Sakura Miko are entertaining just from how their voices sound. The example of this difference that really caught my attention was from Haachama’s video about her trip to Enoshima—many of the comments are people saying that they can’t understand a thing Haachama says, but they still love her energy. 

Mito has even mentioned being told that it’s hard for overseas fans to get into her (only 3% of her viewers are from abroad), and it’s because she does the long zatsudan chit-chat streams. She’s a very fast talker, and combined with her gentle-yet-deceptive delivery, it can be difficult for non-Japanese-fluent viewers to latch onto anything she says. She inadvertently winds up relying on the clippers to grab snippets of her streams and make them digestible, but even that involves a greater amount of work compared to clipping other VTubers.

Watching her original introduction video, Tsukino Mito said her initial goal was to get 1,000 subscribers. While she’s far surpassed that marker of success, the fact that she’s still not broken that million-subscriber mark shows the point at which the language barrier starts to become a real obstacle for the majority of non-fluent viewers. Nevertheless, I hope she can hit that milestone someday.

What if “Legendary Defender” Voltron Became a Soul of Chogkin?

On occasion, I like to entertain the notion that the Voltron from the Netflix Legendary Defender series could someday become a Soul of Chogokin figure. 

I know the audience isn’t quite there. The kinds of fans who flocked to Legendary Defender in the 2010s are not like the fans who were drawn in the 1980s to Voltron: Defender of the Universe or the original Beast King GoLion in Japan. And from what I understand of the Legendary Defender fandom, the show left a really bad taste in the mouths of some of its most ardent supporters that might make any sort of subsequent merchandising futile. I can dream a little, though.

It wouldn’t be the first American work to have the privilege of being rendered into premium collectible format through the Soul of Chogokin line—that honor goes to Gipsy Danger from Pacific Rim. But when I look at the 2016 release of the SoC old-school Lion Voltron and marvel at its presence (as well as the almost-as-cool 2019 Dairugger/Vehicle Voltron release) I think about how great it would be for the new-school Voltron to be standing in display cases and on shelves in people’s homes. While I’m not as big a fan of the more recent design compared to the original, I’d be confident that the Soul of Chogokin line would make it look like a million bucks.

The main barrier, as already mentioned, is that the majority of the Legendary Defender fandom couldn’t care less about how cool the giant robots are. What fueled its popularity was the characters and their relationships (both real and imagined), and there isn’t a strong enough connection between those characters and their mecha for there to be a strong emotional bond between viewers and robots—like with many Gundam series, for example. A 2018 post on the Voltron subreddit meant to drum up votes for an SoC Legendary Defender barely garnered any support. Maybe if the Soul of Chogokin release came with plenty of material based on the characters (perhaps much more detailed human figures than what you’d typically get from SoC releases), it could bridge the gap to an extent.

There are also plenty of past series that garnered unexpected fanbases who cared far less about the giant robots. God Mars built up a significant female audience due to its handsome characters and drama, and it debuted the same year as GoLion in Japan. Granted, God Mars also had impressive toy sales that contributed to its success, and it came out in a different time, place, and culture, so the comparison between it and Legendary Defender is limited at best.

The audience for a Soul of Chogokin Legendary Defender Voltron needs to be there to be justified, and the best hope in that sense might be to play the long, long game. While the main fandom for Legendary Defender skews older, there are probably young kids who have watched it on Netflix and like the robot action. It would probably be decades before they reach adulthood and have the disposable income to afford figures costing hundreds of dollars, but perhaps their nostalgia (not unlike the nostalgia that fuels the SoC line in general) would still be running strong.

So, see you in 2035?

Falling Falling Let’s Enjoy: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for September 2022

The summer of 2022 is starting to wind down, and it feels somehow different from even recent years. Maybe it’s that Japan hit a milestone with Comic Market 100 this past month. Maybe it’s the prospect of COVID-19 Omicron-centric booster shots potentially making me feel safer and more comfortable with traveling—including to Japan itself at some point. Or maybe it’s the passage of the largest climate bill in US history, as well as the announcement of a massive student loan forgiveness plan, that gives the vague sense that humanity can do something.

I hope this is a positive turning point, and that we’ll all be in a better position to do the things we love and plan for the future we want to see.

Thank you to my September 2022 Patreon subscribers, notably the following:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from August:

Shattering the Old Baltimore Ceiling: Otakon 2022

A huge chunk of the blog this month has been dedicated to Otakon. You can find my thoughts on it, as well as links to interviews, here.

S-M-R-T! I mean, S-M-A-R-T: “Fist of the North Star Side Story: The Genius Amiba’s Otherworld Conqueror Legend”

An amazing premise for an isekai parody starring a second-rate villain from Fist of the North Star.

Mother of Mercilessness: Everything Everywhere All at Once

The rare portrayal of an Asian mom as action protagonist touches on so many aspects of the Asian diaspora.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku talks on Twitter about how he’s bad at doing panty shots.

And here’s a look at the Spotted Flower version of Angela Burton.

Apartment 507

An early review of Love Live! Superstar!! Season 2, focusing on the concept of the senpai.

Closing

As the seasons change and cooler weather (hopefully) arrives, I also want to think about revisiting some old projects. I keep meaning to do more Gattai Girls, but a lack of time and to some extent motivation has hampered that. I also wonder about continuing the Fujoshi FIles after many years of inactivity, but have to consider the possibility that it’s not my place to discuss how “rotten” fujoshi characters are. I’m not that BL and saw the characters with fascination, and am still wondering if I should let those closer to the fandom take over this sort of endeavor. I’m still entertaining the notion of a fan wiki, but who knows where it’ll end up.

Shattering the Old Baltimore Ceiling: Otakon 2022

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center. A large redstaircase cuts through the middle, with escalators on each side. Blue signs saying "Registration" and "Photosuite" show that this is Otakon.

Out of all fan conventions, I consider Otakon the one can’t-miss event. There’s certainly a sentimental component, as I’ve been attending for about 15 years at this point, but I think their approach to the concept of the anime con is vitally important: a celebration of anime fandom that’s not for profit and also gives respect to both the creators of the works and the fans themselves. This year, Otakon 2022 shattered its attendance record with a whopping 40,000+ (roughly 6,000 more than the previous record), and I’m glad to see it thrive after a combination of a risky move to Washington DC saw an attendance drop and the arrival of a global pandemic threatened its very existence.

COVID-19 Measures

Anyone who follows Ogiue Maniax knows that I do not take COVID-19 lightly. I’m a firm believer in the science that says vaccinations provide significant protection against severe disease and death, and that good-quality masks are an important tool for mitigating spread. I’m also not so naive as to think COVID couldn’t possibly be at the convention. So why did I still decide to attend, especially with the Omicron variants being so infectious? There are multiple reasons.

First, above all else, is that Otakon’s COVID-19 policy reassured me that they take the pandemic seriously. Much of the US has been opening up in rather unsafe ways (if they had ever closed down at all), and some other notable conventions had tried to roll back their masking and vaccination policies despite the prevalence of the Omicron variants. However, Otakon maintained that attendees must either be vaccinated or present a negative PCR test result, and that masks are mandatory. A few more things could have been done, like requiring vaccinations and boosters, period, but it’s understandable that some people still can’t get vaccinated for reasons other than hesitancy. In my view, Otakon cared more about people than attendance numbers.

Second, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center is quite spacious and has tall ceilings that can help keep air circulating—it’s being in stagnant air in small, enclosed spaces that is especially high-risk, and I could do what I can to avoid those situations and/or make sure I didn’t take my mask off under any circumstances.

Third, I trusted my own risk management. In situations that are too crowded around me or where the mask usage rate is clearly lacking, I could make the decision to change plans or abandon ship and head back to my hotel. Although it might mean not getting to see something or someone I was looking forward to, it was something I was willing to accept. You can’t do everything at Otakon anyway. I did eat out with friends once, but it was on a Sunday when the majority of attendees had already left DC.

A dish consisting of egg, sea urchin roe, and salmon roe.

Of course, COVID safety only goes as far as whether people actually follow them. In that regard, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of people wore masks of some kind and wore them over their noses like you’re supposed to. It wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of ineffective cloth masks still being worn, but I think having the firm requirements come from the con itself might have encouraged attendees to follow their example. I also literally saw security go after someone with no vaccination/COVID-negative wristband in a reassuring sign of vigilance. Score one for mandates. 

Issues

That’s not to say the con ran 100% smoothly, however.

I enjoy getting autographs from creators, and Otakon is often good at inviting a variety of interesting guests from Japan. However, ever since the move from Baltimore, the autograph area has been in the same space as the Dealer’s Room, resulting in a less-than-ideal situation. Attendees wanting to get their stuff signed have to deal with the massive crowd trying to get into the Dealer’s Room to shop, and I thought about giving up on more than one occasion because I was worried about being surrounded by people and increasing the chances of infection.

Exacerbating this was the fact that there was a major pedestrian traffic jam in the underground tunnel connecting the Marriott to the convention center on Saturday. Normally, this is the ideal way to get to the con if you’re staying at the hotel (as I was), but the huge delays meant I couldn’t return to my room and retrieve something I hoped to get autographed until it was too late. However, that was fairly small potatoes compared with the fact that those trying to make their way through the tunnel could be stuck in there an hour or even longer. There were also lines snaking out from the Marriot and at the convention center, and on a hot summer day too. It seems like the culprit is a confluence of factors, including the gigantic boost in attendance numbers, some confusion over COVID-19 protocols, and some mechanical failures that meant inaccessible escalators. Whatever the case may be, I hope Otakon is prepared to deal with this next year

An autographed copy of Bionic Commando for the NES.

Fortunately, I actually did manage to get a couple of things signed in the end: an old family copy of NES Bionic Commando from back in the 1980s, as well as a special edition of a My Youth Romantic Comedy novel from the author and staff (not pictured).

Interviews

After my hiatus from interviewing last year, I managed to speak with some guests for 2022. Check out the following interviews:

Ise Mariya

Gugenka, Inc.

Industry Panels

Furukawa Toshio & Kakinuma Shino

A photo of Kakinuma Shino and Furukawa Toshio at their panel. Next to them is the host and the interpreter.

If you ever want to hear from voice actors who love their craft and want to prepare the next generation, it has to be these two industry veterans. Furukawa is famously the voice of Piccolo, Moroboshi Ataru, and Portgas D. Ace. His wife is probably best known as Naru (Molly) from Sailor Moon. Together, this husband-wife voice team provided insight on how they train talents at their school, the ways they introduce emotion to their roles, and how to sound like you’re moving around without actually doing so (because the mic won’t pick everything up). One insightful thing I learned is that COVID-19 has upended the tradition of having everyone in the same room to record a scene (which made for better recordings, in my opinion), though important dialogues might still result in a two-person session.

I actually interviewed them back in 2017, but forgot to ask them about one of my favorite works: Zambot 3, where Furukawa played Shingo. This time, I got the chance to make up for that omission, and Furukawa answered that Tomino had very meticulous instructions and planning for voice actors, and he’d talk with each voice actor one by one. Furukawa said it was a very theatrical experience compared to other roles, though I don’t know if “theatrical” is a euphemism for something else.

Studio Trigger’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

While it wasn’t my first choice for aTrigger anime screening, I was still curious to see what they had in store for the first episode of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. I’ve never played Cyberpunk in any form, but I was glad to see that the studio’s approach emphasized the dystopian qualities of its, well, cyberpunk setting over the “cool factor.” The stark class differences and crushing hand of capitalism make the hero’s anger all the more poignant. 

After the screening, the staff showed some of their early character design sketches. The two things that stood out to me were the degree to which they had to revise to match the Cyberpunk video game creator’s vision, as well as the fact that they straight-up said the main girl character (who barely shows up in episode 1) was inspired by Motoko from Ghost in the Shell as they explained the big influence that cyberpunk as a genre had on them as artists.

At the end, they teased the SSSS.Gridman + SSSS.Dynazenon movie, which I’m eagerly awaiting.

Bigwest’s Macross Panel

A photo of the Macross Panel showing the introductory slide that says "Welcome to Bigwest's Macross Panel"

When I found out there was going to be an official Macross panel at Otakon, I felt it was my duty to attend. After all, official Macross panels have never really existed in the US prior to 2022, with the closest being whenever Kawamori Shoji is a guest. One of the biggest moments of the panel was when they showed a video of the various Macross anime (narrated by “Maximillian Jenius” Hayami Sho), and a loud cheer erupted around Macross 7. The panelists mentioned that the title would have induced silence not so long ago—a sign of the changing times. Personally, I think that similar to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, anime fandom had to catch up to Nekki Basara instead of the other way around.

This panel has since garnered a bit of controversy due to the fact that Otakon announced that there would be something special. To Macross fans, that can mean all sorts of things because of its unusual history when it comes to licensing and the legal issues with Harmony Gold/Robotech. Speculation ran rampant: Could it be Do You Remember Love? A new Macross? Something completely out of left field?

It turned out to be the very first US screening of Macross Frontier Short Film: The Labyrinth of Time, which was originally shown before the Macross Delta Zettai Live film. It was a treat to see and it was downright gorgeous, though not quite the first thing to come to mind as a special surprise.

Discotek Media

If ever there was a US anime company with a catalog made for me, it would be Discotek. Even when they’re not licensing titles off my wishlist, they’re giving others similar dreams. While Machine Robo: Battle Hackers is not everyone’s first choice for long-sought-after anime, their willingness to put out such obscure works is appreciated.

By far, the two big titles announced here are Space Sheriff Gavan and the complete Urusei Yatsura TV series. Neither hit me on that deep level, but the audience went bananas for both. I’m well aware of the significance both shows have to tokusatsu and anime fandom, and I’m looking forward to checking both out. 

At a dinner with friends, I learned that Gavan is such a big deal in Malaysia that it’s become a part of the language itself. Using the word “Gaban” there means to describe something as epic or to evoke an image of bravery. I have to wonder how many works of television and film can make similar claims to fame.

My Panels

I’ve done plenty of panels at Otakons past, but this year is the first time I’ve had to do two back-to-back. I had considered asking for one of them to be moved, but the prospect of getting them both out of the way in one fell swoop was appealing as well. Thankfully, the vast majority of the panel rooms were in close proximity to one another this year, making the transition a relative breeze.

The first panel was “Hong Kong in Anime and Manga.” The idea was to explore different ways in which Hong Kong’s people, culture, and environment are portrayed in anime and manga. There was a technical hiccup at the beginning that delayed the start by five minutes, there were no real issues otherwise. I was surprised that there were very few Cantonese speakers in the audience, but that just meant I had underestimated the need to explain the language aspect of Hong Kong, and could adjust on the fly. I also noticed how big a reaction a clip of Cantonese-speaking VTuber Selen Tatsuki received, which gave me an idea of her extensive reach.

I hope people enjoyed the panel. I managed to briefly talk to a couple of folks who enjoyed the panel (including a longtime reader!) before I had to hoof it out of there. I was also informed that I might have made more than a few people interested in checking out G Gundammission accomplished.

The second panel was “Mahjong Club: RIICHI! Ten Years Later.” It was the revival of a panel I last presented in 2012 alongside Kawaiikochans creator Dave, adjusted to take into account the many opportunities English-speaking anime fans have to play Japanese mahjong compared to a decade ago. One big adjustment we made was to deemphasize some of the nitty-gritty of the rules and to better convey the excitement and tension of a game of mahjong. For the most part, the audience was new to the panel (but not necessarily new to mahjong), so I hope we were able to give something for everyone who watched us.

There was an issue with text on our slides getting cut off; it’s something we can fix when we do this again in another 10 years (?).

Fan Panels

A History of Isekai

Isekai is the elephant in the room when it comes to modern anime, and a panel about its history could easily strike a shallow cord. Luckily, this one focused primarily on the works leading up to Sword Art Online, mentioning the mecha isekai of the 1980s, the shoujo isekai of the 1990s, and the outsized influence of The Familiar of Zero. It’s debatable whether something like Urashima Tarou can count, though if it does, then it’d be amusing to show the anime Urashiman. Of course, not every title can be mentioned in an hour, even if it means missing out on the fantastic opening to Mashin Hero Wataru.

Digital Anime Fansubs: 2000 to Now

This panel was about the rise of digital subs around the turn of the millennium, and it focused mainly on the changing formats+file sizes, the brand-new frontier of getting anime straight from Japan within days (as opposed to months or even years), as well as the ways that fansubbers tried to establish their identities through practices like fancy karaoke effects. It was probably a fun introduction to this era for people unfamiliar with it, though I wonder if there would be a way to establish a more detailed history. It wouldn’t be easy by any means, due to the fact that this sort of subject isn’t really recorded, but maybe collecting anecdotes from fellow fans (or fansubbers themselves, if possible) could be cool.

A Sophisticatedly Unsophisticated Look at Fanservice

This was a panel by Gerald from the Anime World Order podcast, and I actually saw a fledgling incarnation of it ten years ago at Otakon. It was interesting to see him tackle the topic again, and there were definitely shows I remembered—namely the infamous Manyuu Hikenchou. This time, the panel had a more concrete idea of what it wanted to show, which is fanservice in terms of being things that are gratuitously superfluous. In that regard, the panel did take things to the next level, though I thought it still didn’t quite hit the mark on what would be considered traditionally “fanservice for girls,” which I think is more rooted in context and relationship dynamics than jiggling bits and crotch shots. 

Showings

Otakon 1994 AMVs

One of the pleasant surprises this year was that the con decided to screen the original Anime Music Video Contest from the very first Otakon 28 years ago. It was a window into the past, particularly in terms of the shows that were being used (Riding Bean, Bubblegum Crisis, Detonator Orgun, and so on), and it’s even more impressive when you realize that digital video editing was still in its infancy back then. 

There was a particular video that was considered “non-competing” that seemed to grossly revel in detailed depictions of violence against women. While I could see the argument against showing it at all, I do think having it available as a sign of what the fandom was like, warts and all, has at least historical merit. I would say I hope this isn’t a thing anymore, but I don’t typically watch AMVs anyway.

Wada Kaoru and Hayashi Yuki Sunday Concert

A photo of a concert from far away.

Despite the prominence of K-pop at Otakon this year (enough to have Hangul on the front cover of the physical guidebook for the first (?) time!), the only concert I attended was for the music of composers Wada Kaoru (Inuyasha, Yashahime) and Hayashi Yuki (Haikyu!, My Hero Academia). I wasn’t familiar with a good chunk of the songs, but the contrasting styles between the two made for an interesting experience you usually don’t get when the focus is on a single act. The real treat was during the encore, when they played along with the combination orchestra+rock band.

Cosplay

Conclusion

So that was Otakon 2022! It had some hiccups that made me remember that attending a convention is a conscious choice that requires risk assessment, but I definitely had a great time overall. I’ll leave off with a gallery of cosplay photos I took throughout the event. Cheers to another fine year, and I hope all my fellow attendees made it out healthy in the end.

PS: If you want to hear me talk more about Otakon 2022 (even after this massive review), I was a guest on the Otakon 2022 episode of Anime World Order!

Know Your Role and Open Your Mouth? Beastars Season 2

WARNING: SPOILERS

There’s no denying that Beastars is a very horny series. It centers around a carnivore and herbivore falling for each other despite the kaleidoscope of social and physical taboos, and it’s not afraid to get freaky in all the more predictable ways as well. With respect to this premise, one of the more compelling aspects from Season 1 of the anime is the notion that to fully follow or defy one’s own instincts is faulty, and that a balance is necessary. I did not expect Beastars Season 2 to push that idea to extremes.

At the end of Season 1, Legoshi the wolf has recently rescued Hal the rabbit from the Shishigumi, a lion mafia that was planning to eat her. They aimed to consummate their love, but their instinctual relationship as predator and prey make that impossible. Now back and school as classmates, they’ve gotten closer, but there’s still a palpable awkwardness. On top of that, a killer is still on the loose at school, and Louis the deer (who was the academy’s brightest star) has disappeared. But while Legoshi devotes himself to protecting herbivores and transforms himself so that he can fight like them, Louis re-emerges as the new leader of the Shishigumi. The carnivore has taken the role of the herbivore and vice versa.

Legoshi and Louis are opposites through and through, and nowhere is this clearer than in how they view what it means to be strong. To Louis, carnivores like Legoshi are the epitome of power. They’re aggressive attackers by nature who overwhelm their targets, and there’s just no substituting that with hard work and wishful thinking. To Legoshi, however, Louis’s ability to inspire others and stand tall in spite of his inherent limitations as an herbivore is the very definition of strength.

At the climax of the season, however, the two end up taking their traditional roles, albeit with a twist. In order to defeat a common foe, Louis literally offers his leg to Legoshi to devour as a way to power him up. Louis tries to shift the burden entirely onto himself by saying he’ll declare Legoshi innocent, but Legoshi counters that he won’t let Louis take on all the responsibility of this decision. They both arrive at their “natural” relationship, but instinct is only a part of it. In the face of an enemy who threatens the peace, they find a compromise of sorts. It’s their valuing of the other’s archetype-defying strengths—Legoshi’s kindness and Louis’s boldness—that allows them to arrive at this controversial decision. They do the wrong thing in service of a greater good.

An added layer is that the lower leg Legoshi eats also was the last physical proof of Louis’s darkest secret: He was originally meant to be meat to be illegally sold on the black market. Ironically, by becoming what he desperately sought to avoid, but by doing it on his own terms, he is fully able to break away from that same past. Louis’s actions simultaneously reinforce and challenge the carnivore/herbivore dichotomy.

The way that Beastars and its characters defy the expectations placed on them is what makes the series such an unusual and fascinating work. They refuse to fit neatly into any categories or stereotypes, and any attempt to box them in is met with such vigor that it practically jumps out of the screen. Reason and instinct once again both factor prominently, but their relationship and distinctions are further blurred, just like with carnivores and herbivores.

White House ga Abunai: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for August 2022

I’m back from Otakon in DC, and hopefully without catching COVID or the five million other diseases currently making life miserable for everyone. Did I make the right choice going to an anime convention? I guess my body will tell me soon. I’ll have a review of the event coming up this month, including my logic as to why I decided to attend despite the obvious risks involved (hint: taking steps to be cautious can go a long way).

By the way, the title of this month’s update is a reference to Jack King from Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo.

Thank you to my August 2022 Patreon subscribers, notably the following:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from July:

Dance Dance Danseur, Ted Lasso, and Healing Masculinity

A look at two series that challenge toxic masculinity.

We’re All Stars: Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club Season 2

A post about how Love Live! Nijigasaki puts the spotlight on unexpected characters.

La+ Darknesss, Dance, and True Power Levels

This Hololive VTuber has an unexpected side to her that makes things all the better.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter this past month was pretty light, but I definitely enjoyed finding out his thoughts on various movies, both anime and non-anime.

Apartment 507

Some thoughts on the soccer anime Ao Ashi.

Closing

The summer heat has been harsh here and around the world. I hope everyone is doing what they can to stay cool, and that the people with the power to actually change things don’t just sit on their hands while they watch the world burn.

Keep Chugging Along: Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion Z

I never got the chance to watch all of the first Shinkalion anime. I discovered it a little late, and the way episodes would be up on Youtube for only a week meant that a busy schedule could derail my hopes of keeping up with it. And let’s face it: The series is pretty generic in a lot of ways. Still, I wished I could have kept pace with it better.

In 2021, Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion Z debuted, and I saw this as my opportunity to do what I couldn’t before. I decided to keep up with the series week to week, not expecting my world to be rocked or anything. 

The basic story is that years after the events of the original Shinkalion, a new boy named Arata Shin becomes the driver of the new Shinkalion Z E5 Hayabusa. Unlike the original main character, Hayasugi Hayato, Shin is not a train otaku but rather a cryptid enthusiast. Alongside him is a new friend, Usui Abuto (named after the Apt trains), who is the train fan but can’t drive Shinkalions for some reason. Together, along with other allies, they have to fight against the forces of the extraterrestrial Teoti.

Shinkalion Z doesn’t dazzle, but it’s fun and it has a few twists and turns that add some welcome tension and drama. Also, it has a grade schooler version of Maetel from Galaxy Express 999. In a way, part of watching Shinkalion is seeing their argument for being the most ambitious crossover, as the meme goes.

One of the issues with Shinkalion in general is that the characters and the mecha themselves both feel kind of bland. I know I’m not the target audience, and I’m not saying they need to look amazing, but there’s something decidedly milquetoast about the aesthetic. In particular, the fact that all the Shinkalions have basically the same design with minor differences and even transform virtually the same way makes it less exciting than it could be—imagine if they had unique transformation sequences a la Precure or Sailor Moon. I’m sure it makes for convenient toys, though.

Shinkalion Z makes some improvements in both regards, though nothing mind-blowing. Abuto has some depth to him, while a Shinkalion driver named Taiji is hard to forget because he’s this weirdly muscular little boy from a family of lumberjacks or something. The inclusion of a big-bodied lady as a side character that doesn’t fall into fatphobia is also worth noting. As for the robots, there’s one that can turn into a centaur, which is the most eye-catching thing to come out of this franchise so far.

The show winds up being 41 episodes long, a bit unusual of a number, and it makes me wonder if the show got cut short. Of course, that means it’s in the company of many classic robot anime—First Gundam, most famously. Between this and its toyetic, “for kids” feel, perhaps Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion is the purest mecha series of all.

Ogiue Maniax Panels at Otakon 2022

Otakon 2022 is this weekend, July 29–31, and I’ll be heading back to my favorite anime convention of all. This year, I’m running two panels: one by myself, and one with an old partner in crime.

Hong Kong in Anime and Manga 

Friday 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM / Panel 2

I was motivated to do this panel because I wanted to celebrate the culture of Hong Kong but also critically investigate how it is used in anime and manga. Those who’ve been to my panels will know that I tend to take a more scholarly (yet still fun) approach, and this is no exception, I hope

Mahjong Club 
(aka Riichi! Ten Years Later)

Friday 5:45 PM – 6:45 PM / Panel 5

It’s been ten years, the Japanese mahjong panel is back! Once again, it’ll feature myself along with Kawaiikochans creator Dave. There are more riichi mahjong players outside of Japan than ever before, and more easy ways to play too! Whether you’re an experienced hand or someone who only knows mahjong by name, this panel has something for you.

See you in DC!