Mama Is a 5th Grader???: Galaxy Express 999’s Maetel in Shinkalion Z

I don’t necessarily feel obligated to write about every crossover character in the Shinkalion franchise, but when she’s a rendition of one of my favorite heroines from one of my most beloved anime, I just have to say something.

Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion Z has continued the propensity for surprising cameos by introducing a new character based on the mysterious Maetel from Galaxy Express 999. Given that she comes from a manga that prominently features a space vehicle shaped like an old steam locomotive, Maetel is arguably a more sensible guest character than Shinji from Evangelion or Hatsune Miku. However, the fact that she turns out to be a Shinkalion pilot feels like an even bigger (but still welcome) twist.

Maetel, in this case, is not the charming and motherly figure who gives an orphan boy a train pass to go on a never-ending journey to the stars. Rather, she’s an 11-year-old from Hokkaido who has trouble talking in person but likes listening to ham radio and 70s enka. In the story of Shinkalion Z, she learns about Shinkalions through a broadcast by a confused and forlorn antagonist from the first series, and discovers the existence of the Shinkansen Ultra Evolution Institute that commands the Shinkalions. Key to this is someone who’s clearly the commander of the Institute from the first series, thinly disguised. Having made a handful of appearances since Episode 20, she reveals her own Shinkalion in Episode 28: The Shinkalion Z H5 Hayabusa.

It’s pretty much impossible for Shinkalion Z to have kept any of Maetel’s original backstory, so I understand why they went a very different route. Her Shinkalion is also the spiritual successor of Hatsune Miku’s, the latter of whom has a connection to Hokkaido through the annual Snow Miku festival—but I’m not sure if there’s any such relationship this time  Somewhat like Miku (who uses a different kanji for Hatsu-ne in this anime), her name is slightly off in Shinkalion Z: Her full name, Tsukino Maetel (“Maetel of the Moon”), is a sideways reference to Hoshino Tetsurou (“Tetsurou of the Stars”), the main character of Galaxy Express 999

While the aesthetic of Shinkalion is quite different from Galaxy Express 999, I hope they can incorporate the latter somehow. The gimmick of Shinkalion Z is that the bullet-train robots can combine with other trains for upgrades—could the H5 Hayabusa get some steam-locomotive arms?

Shinkalion Z episodes are typically only available for free on YouTube for a week or two, so that’s why I’m posting this now. In a rare moment, Episodes 21 through 27 are available until the 30th of November, so if you want to see more of Tsukino Maetel, now’s your chance.

Yamato vs. 999 and the Makeup of a Journey

By necessity, a journey involves “movement.” However, the act of moving from one place (or dimension or time) to another by itself does not constitute a journey. Characters in Dragon Ball Z travel across the Earth and even to other planets, but the more humble adventures of young Goku in Dragon Ball feel far fitting to be called “journeys.” The more the individual stops carry significance, the more a tale of travel becomes a journey. However, the longer each significant stop is, the less it becomes a journey as well.

The details of how a journey narrative unfolds—and the meanings carried by it—can come from what elements are in the characters’ control, and which ones aren’t. From this perspective, it is interesting to compare two of the greatest “journey anime”: Space Battleship and Galaxy Express 999.



Space Battleship Yamato

Galaxy Express 999

Between these two series, we can see two major archetypes: the journey of necessity, and the journey of discovery. Both series are about reaching a destination and overcoming death (the Yamato flies to obtain a device that can save humanity from radiation, Tetsurou boards the Galaxy Express 999 to obtain an immortal robot body). However, Yamato’s journey is more about what imperils the heroes, while 999 is about discovering new worlds and seeing how life differs from place to place.

As a result, while both series don’t spend long amounts of time in any one location, the reasons for the brevity of their respective planetary locales are substantially different. Because the Yamato is in a race against time, there is a constant sense of urgency. They’re being pursued by the enemy, all while the fate of the human race rests in their hands. How long they stay anywhere depends on how long it takes them to get out.

In contrast, the length of each stop for the 999 is determined by the day cycle of a planet. This provides both narrative variety and something to chew on (e.g. what does it mean to live day to day on a planet where days are only a few hours?), but in terms of the mechanics, it essentially means that the characters’ schedules, the amount of time they spend on each planet, is dictated by the 999.

In Yamato, the characters must pull their vessel along, and the length of stay is their responsibility. In 999, the characters are pulled along, and their responsibility is doing as much as they can within a time frame. These differences transform the similar developments that the protagonists of each anime go through. By the time both Kodai and Tetsurou emerge from their journeys, they are wiser and more mature, but the former reaches adulthood through constant conflict, while the latter achieves the same through experiencing new perspectives.

Between the journey of necessity and the journey of discovery is the journey where discovery is necessary, but when I try to think of examples the first thing that pops into my head is ironically not really an anime that takes its viewers on a journey at all. Instead, what comes to mind is the series Mahoromatic, which is about a former military robot that becomes a maid in order to spend the rest of her short remaining life atoning for her previous role. Much like Yamato, each episode ends with a count of the days Mahoro has left. Despite Mahoromatic mostly revolving around a static home and environment, Mahoro’s desire to discover what it’s like to live as a human as her life winds down conjures up the well-worn cliché that “life is a journey.”

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.



Push vs. Pull: Thoughts on the Attraction of Characters


I’m generally not a fan of yandere characters, but I feel that I can understand why some people love them.

In a lot of my favorite characters there is a kind of intensity that emanates from them. Whether it’s Ogiue from Genshiken‘s withering stare, or Urabe Mikoto’s eccentric behavior in Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s like their very beings pierce my soul and linger there for a while.

From there, it’s a hop, skip, and jump towards tsundere, and then eventually yandere as well. In other words, yandere characters exist on a spectrum where powerful emotions (sexual or otherwise) are valued, and their feelings are so overwhelming that it warps their minds. “Deep love” they call it.

This intensity has gotten me to think more broadly, past the typical labels, such as yandere, genki girl, Kansai native, etc. What I’m beginning to form is a theory of character attraction that takes a lot of these categories and places them into two distinctions: “push characters” and “pull characters.”


Push characters are like many of the ones stated above. It is as if the characters’ attitudes, visual look, and other qualities invade your space. They pierce and break down the barriers in your heart. Kurosaki Rendou, creator of Houkago Play and other racy titles, specializes in this type of character for both guys and girls. Akashi from Kuroko’s Basketball is also what I’d call a “push character.” They can perhaps be called aggressive characters as well, but I don’t think that it fits entirely neatly. Rather, in shounen terms, it’s more like they’re the “strong fists” of Rock Lee from Naruto or Raoh from Fist of the North Star.


Pull characters, then, are more like the “gentle fists” of Hyuuga Hinata (Naruto) or Toki (Fist of the North Star). Rather than striking actively, their auras are passive and receptive. It is as if they have a gravity or magnetism that draws you to them. Softer, kinder characters would fall into this category, such as Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura, Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, or Teppei from Kuroko’s Basketball. It’s as if their warmth envelops your being.

Now there are a few aspects I’m thinking through as I bring out this half-formed way of considering characters. The first is that, many characters probably don’t fall into one category or the other. Sort of like a Myer-Briggs personality test, the “lesser” quality still exists. For example, I’d consider Koizumi Hanayo from Love Live! to be a “pull character” because of her typically shy personality, but the excitement of her two main loves—rice and idols—is enough to transform her into a “push character.”


Second, perhaps this distinction is actually entirely subjective, and one person’s “push character” is another person’s “pull character.” Does this render the terms meaningless, or is it more like moe where a broader understanding exists but the minutiae can get incredibly personal?

Lastly, to what extent do these terms match up with the idea of “seme” and “uke” characters in BL. Would “push characters” be those who tend to be seme, while “pull characters” are more commonly uke? If that’s the case, could this be a way to translate those terms to other types of relationships, such as heterosexual, yuri, or whatever other combinations can exist?

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The Melancholy of Anime Openings

As I imagine is the case with many fans of anime, one of the first things about anime that caught my attention, one of the things that helped make me into a fan, was the quality of openings. Whether it was the music itself or the animation that accompanied it, anime openings felt like they blew the cartoon intros I was accustomed to out of the water, not to mention the dubbed anime openings which populated American TV. This is not to say that anime music is the best music ever, but once upon a time I often felt that way.

Recently I began to reflect on this feeling. What was the appeal? What was different about them? The more I think about it, the more I believe that it has to do with the sense of melancholy, angst, and forlornness that often appears briefly in anime openings.

A lot of anime openings make the viewer feel as if they are privy to the characters’ inner turmoil. In some cases, this is almost the entire point of the opening: see, for example, the “Tsubasa Cat” arc from Bakemonogatari (warning, it’s kind of not work-safe). The Galaxy Express 999 opening above doesn’t even have characters in it. In others, this feeling will be concentrated into a single, perhaps introspective moment. Think of the first Gundam W opening and Relena in the snow, or the Slayers NEXT opening when Lina reaches for Gourry. This melancholy is even mildly present in the opening to Fist of the North Star until it roars into overdrive during the chorus, accompanied by images of Lin, Bat, and the other destitute wanderers.

However, its ubiquity doesn’t end there, as it will appear in shows you might not expect to care about that sense of melancholy in the first place, such as Bistro Recipe (aka Fighting Foodons) and Medarot (aka Medabots). The openings for these anime both feature brief scenes where the main characters appear to be lost on an emotional level, despite the fact that they’re largely absurd comedies vaguely built around the concept of competition. It even shows up in one of the openings to the Japanese dub of the 1990s X-Men cartoon!

On some level, I wonder if openings might be a make-or-break moment for some as to whether or not they become anime fans. It’s the kind of thing that can easily cause someone to exclaim from the rooftops that anime is the best, or to dismiss it for not being as aggressively powerful as, say, the 1990s X-Men opening!

This is not to say that having this quality automatically makes an opening better, even if it is what likely caught my attention every time. Rather, just the fact that so many openings in a whole slew of genres utilize it at least to some extent feels like it speaks to something more deeply ingrained into, if not Japanese society, then how anime is viewed by society. Anime has gone from having openings designed specifically for the show itself to becoming vehicles to promote musical groups and back again, and consists of both shows designed for large audiences and hardcore fans, and yet somehow these melancholic moments have persisted over the years through all of these changes. I can only believe that there is a tacit assumption that anime openings, more often than not, should on some level evoke a strong sense of sympathy in the viewer, and this influences their structure.

Definitions of Lolicon

If you’re into anime and aware of the concept of lolicon, then you probably have an idea of what the word means and the kinds of characters associated with it. Lolicon, after all, means the eroticization of very young characters, particularly female ones, right? It turns out to not be so simple, and I don’t mean in terms of “she looks 10 but is actually 500.”

I’ve been re-reading Sharon Kinsella’s Adult Manga lately (which is one of the best academic texts on manga and the manga industry), and in one chapter she writes about lolicon and doujinshi creators, as well as their relationships to professional manga In it, she gives the definition of “lolicon manga” as manga which “usually features a young girlish heroine with large eyes and a childish but voluptuous figure, neatly clad in a revealing outfit or set of armour.” It’s still pretty consistent with the current general conception of lolicon, but the “voluptuous” trait might seem a little strange.

Kinsella points out Gunsmith Cats as a lolicon title, but unlike the idea that it’s lolicon because of Minnie-May Hopkins and her child-like figure (see above), the example given is of the older-looking Rally Vincent.

Furthermore, she discusses the lolicon-esque qualities of Ah! My Goddess, but like Gunsmith Cats she isn’t just talking about the younger Skuld but also Belldandy and Urd, who, Urd especially, seem to go almost entirely against the current conception of lolicon used by people. Other titles from Monthly Afternoon (home of Genshiken!) mentioned as lolicon which seem to defy that definition further are Seraphic Feather and Assembler 0X.

Ah! My Goddess

This could be considered merely a rather broad definition of “lolicon,” but there are three things keep me from drawing that conclusion. First, according to Kinsella the influence of lolicon-style on the manga industry is somewhat acknowledged by professionals. Second, the character designs of Azuma Hideo, the “father of lolicon,” are very much in that blurry territory of the “child-like but voluptuous.” Third, is a conversation I’ve had with ex-manga editor and current Vertical Inc. editor and frontman, Ed Chavez.

According to Ed, one of the most significant lolicon characters ever is Lum from Urusei Yatsura, a character known for her sexy figure, and he also considers the origin of lolicon to actually be Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, a character notable for her mature and motherly qualities. I remember finding his categorization a little out of the ordinary, but when taking Kinsella’s words into account as well, it starts to make sense. It is that intersection of youthful but in certain ways adult, where for example the body is more developed but the face remains youthful, though neither is necessarily at any extreme.

Lum (left), Maetel (right)

Given this idea of lolicon, one of the most fascinating lines of thought to come out of this can be summarized with the following: if we go by this older definition of lolicon, even many of the fans who consider themselves vehemently against lolicon, who try to avoid it like the plague, would be categorized as lolicon fans themselves. Again, characters like Rally Vincent and Belldandy have been presented among fans for years and years now as the positive counterpoint to their respective series’ younger-looking characters, but they too now fall under the same umbrella.

Taking that into further consideration, the question becomes: given the anime of the last 20 years or so, what female characters wouldn’t be considered lolicon? It seems to encompass a large majority, where even characters defined by their mature, sexual bodies like Miura Azusa from THE iDOLM@STER and Fukiyose Seiri from A Certain Magical Index are grouped in, not to mention characters like Lina Inverse from Slayers.

Miura Azusa (left), Fukiyose Seiri (right)

I am not using this as a platform to invalidate people’s opinions, or to accuse anyone of being hypocrites. The term lolicon seems to have transformed over time, and the current generally accepted definition of it isn’t somehow less valid than its origins discussed above, though it may make for some inconsistencies in communicating, and at the end of the day Minnie May is still there. Rather, I think it shows a clear example of how words can change over time, that the boundaries by which we categorize things may not simply be about what traits are and aren’t present, but how those traits interact with each other (though that subtlety makes it susceptible to being more narrowly defined), and furthermore, how those traits are then perceived by those viewing.

In the end, Kinsella provides a quote from a senior editor of Monthly Afternoon:

The form of the manga is the same, but the themes have been changed to make them easier to read and understand for lots of people. Aah! My Godesss is a good example. It looks like otaku manga, but the content is different, the story has been changed so it can be read by a wider audience.

Could it be that, by taking the styles originally associated with lolicon, and putting them into contexts more relatable to a broader audience, this lolicon aesthetic no longer exists in that form? Where once the term referred to a broader range created by the interaction of certain traits, by having that larger readership claim one end of that spectrum, does the lolicon genre as we currently know it come into the forefront?

Your First Ogiue Maniax Contest Winner

About a month ago, I opened up a contest here at Ogiue Maniax to give away my favorite anime ever, Galaxy Express 999 (and also to give away Adieu Galaxy Express 999). In order to enter, you simply had to leave a comment talking about your favorite example of an anime or manga character growing up. I received many good entries, and it was actually difficult deciding who would ultimately win, but in the end I managed to narrow it down to one.

Congratulations, arianime.

I’ll let the winner speak for herself.

From a recent anime I watched, I’d have to say that Jomy from “Terra E…” is a perfect candidate for this question. When we first meet him in the series, he is, like many sci-fi protagonists, a sheltered child in a dystopian world (only he doesn’t know it). Over the course of a 26 episode story (and an amazingly short 3 volume manga!), he develops from this child to a leader responsible for the fate of an entire race of people. Most intriguingly, this growth comes with all the troubling moral ambiguity of adulthood.

As an adolescent, Jomy struggles with his unasked-for-power and its implied responsibilities to lead a lost tribe, whether he–or they–likes it or not. After all, Uncle Ben says it best: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Typical (but wonderful) sci-fi/hero movie fodder.

Once he overcomes his frustration at his apparent loss of freedom and decides to accept his duty to lead, Jomy has to learn how to actually do so. Along the way, he finds that his decisions–or rather, indecisions–have life-and-death consequences that he cannot foresee. While he naturally places great weight on emotion and sentiment, he soon realizes that sometimes, these life-affirming things also have immense costs.

His growth as a skillful leader, however, is not without repercussions. In fact, it takes him to deeply questionable places. At one point, he makes the grim decision to kill an entire squadron of surrendered POWs. Although it is clearly a difficult decision for him to make, we never see him waver from this decision or express regret. He internalizes the responsibility for this decision and forges on forward. To him, his charge to take his people to a promised land–a charge that has, in essence, been made for him by the sacrifice of others–has grown to something heftier than his own moral salvation.

The story presents this aspect of his development without necessarily validating it. If anything, it raises the question of whether he has gone too far–whether the responsibility he feels towards those who have gone before him has taken him to a place from whence he cannot return. Without spoiling too much, at one point the audience is made to ask, “were all these struggles and decisions made on a false premise and for an false promise?” The terrifying retort, of course, is “What if they are? Can you still justify them?”

Isn’t that a question that every adult needs to answer for his or her most difficult decisions?

 This response had a lot to it, but I was mainly struck by the description of Jomy as a figure who had to make sacrifices in the name of his own people, but that he never regrets his decisions or actions, because he cannot afford to do so. That said, I don’t think this is the only way for a child to “grow up,” but in this instance I thought it rung well.

arianime, I’ll be e-mailing you soon with the specifics of delivery and such. I hope you find the Galaxy Express 999 to be a journey, a never-ending journey.

A journey to the stars!

What a cocky saucy monkey this one is. All the gods were-

Scratch that last part.

The First Ever Ogiue Maniax Contest…with a DVD Prize!

The 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film is my favorite anime (and favorite film) ever, so when Discotek Media licensed it for Region 1, I knew I had to have it. More importantly though, now others could have it as well.

I just so happen to have an extra copy of Galaxy Express 999 and its sequel, Adieu, Galaxy Express 999, and I figured, why don’t I let someone share in the love as well? That’s why I’m holding a contest, something which is entirely new to Ogiue Maniax. Whether you’ve never heard of it before and are looking for a classic to watch, or whether you’re already a long-time fan and just weren’t able to pick up a copy, this is open to anyone. Well, at least to anyone in the United States and Canada.

Here’s how you enter: Leave a comment below with an answer to the question below. From there, I will pick what I consider to be the best answer and that commenter will be the winner. There are no word minimums or limits, and I want to hear exactly. The contest ends on September 9th, 2011. I’m not going to give a specific cut-off hour because things don’t have to be that ridiculously strict. This is supposed to be fun!


What is your favorite example in anime/manga of a character growing up, whether literally or figuratively, and why?

Otakon 2010: I Don’t Believe It. That’s Unbelievable.

At this point, having gone to Otakon for the past four years, I feel it safe to call myself an Otakon veteran to some degree. In terms of what to expect, this year didn’t feel that different from all the previous times I went, but a lot of things have happened to me over the past year or so, makes me think I’ll reflect back on Otakon 2010 particularly fondly.

Ogiue Maniax’s Panelist Debut

Otakon 2010, from July 30th to August 1st, was the first time that I came to the convention as a panelist. And I had two to boot!  It may have been obvious from all the posts I made about panel preparations, but I really wanted to do a good job and I really wanted people to come to the panels, so up until I finished both of them, I had been very nervous.

The mahjong panel, titled “Riichi: Japanese Mahjong, Anime, and You” was a collaboration between me and Sub over at Subatomic Brainfreeze. With a 9:30am Friday timeslot when a good portion of the con hadn’t even been registered, and a fairly obscure topic like mahjong, we were both worried that our panel attendance would amount to our friends and acquaintances, and while we would have been glad to teach them about mahjong, our real goal was to reach those people who were only barely familiar with mahjong anime. Fortunately, the turnout was better than we had ever expected, and while I am to understand that our panel room was the smallest of the bunch, we still managed to pretty much fill the whole room, getting approximately 160 people to listen to us talk about an old Chinese tile game and the way it works in Japanese cartoons.

The Riichi panel itself also went far better than we expected. Knowing how much information there was to convey despite the fact that we had already decided to cut large amounts of information, we had practiced the panel on multiple occasions, barely finishing on time. But while our practice sessions felt kind of strange and awkward, the actual panel itself had an amazing energy to it. Both Sub and I were playing to our strengths, playing off of each other, and we managed to give all of the information we wanted to while also keeping the audience entertained. We even finished early and had a good amount of time for questions! From this experience, I have learned that Sub and I make a good paneling team and I look forward to the next opportunity we have to do a panel together.

By the way, for those of you who were at the mahjong panel but were unable to copy down the URL for the additional mahjong resources, here it is.

My second panel was also on Friday, but at the opposite end of the day at 11pm. Entitled “Portrait of a Fujoshi: The Psychology of Ogiue Chika,” this joint effort between myself and Viga the Otagal was in many ways a culmination of what I had been doing on this blog. Last year, Viga challenged me to do a panel all about Ogiue, and that’s how we ended up on stage.

I understoood well that even if a good portion of the convention was into yaoi and Hetalia and the like that they would not be interested in deep character analysis, so while the panel attendance wasn’t as high as it was for the mahjong panel, it was still quite impressive, and once again we managed to play off the energy of the audience and each other and give a good presentation, with me giving a more subdued approach. Also, once again, where practice netted us a panel that had about 10 minutes worth of Q&A, the actual thing gave us three times the amount. While I wish we had prepared more, I think we did a good job of expressing what makes Ogiue such a great character and why we connect so well to her (and why you should too!).

When I think about it, doing a panel on a single character is unusually rare at an anime con. You have panels about Evangelion, but never is it a panel specifically about Ayanami Rei. I hope we can start a trend at anime cons, as I think it’s a worthwhile way of running things.

I don’t know if any video recordings are available so I apologize for those of you who were unable to attend but wanted to see them. I also want to say thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who attended my panels. I hope you enjoyed them.

Now having panels at both extremes of the day has its drawbacks, but it also had the great benefit of avoiding conflict with the majority of events, thus freeing up the rest of the con for me. As is the case with every year, my primary mode of entertainment at Otakon is the panels, both industry and fan. Fortunately or unfortunately however, I found that there was still too many entertaining things crammed into a single weekend and I still had to sacrifice one panel for another.

Industry Panels

In terms of guests, I was not looking forward particularly to any of them this year, but I’m glad I attended the Q&A’s that I did as all of them provided incredible insight into the industry, with Mitsuya Yuji’s panel perhaps being the most informative of all. Attending his Friday panel, the voice acting veteran told us how voice acting became a “profession” rather than a side job for dramatic actors and how voice acting should come from the entire body and not just the voice. He also talked about how in the old days, if you flubbed a line, rewinding the film reel and readjusting everything was a huge pain, so mistakes were a big deal.

Throughout the panel, Mitsuya showed us what it was to truly be a voice actor, from passionate yells (he delivered a passionate “CHOUDENJI SPIIIIIIN” on more than one occasion) to voice changes to even the change in jobs given to you as you age and can no longer be the handsome male lead. Also, seeing as his debut voice acting role was as Hyouma, the main character of Combattler V, I asked him the question I had asked of Macross director Ishiguro and Gundam creator Tomino: What were your experiences with legendary anime director Nagahama Tadao?

Mitsuya gave us the impression that Nagahama was an incredibly passionate man. Gentle and understanding, he took his role as director very seriously and pushed Mitsuya to improve his performance. Mitsuya had originally tried out for both the lead Hyouma and the rival Garuda, and Nagahama made him redo his Garuda takes ten times. When asked if this was typical of a mere audition, everyone said that this was highly unusual. Mitsuya would later find out that all of this, from the audition to the strict voice sessions, were all signs of the fact that Nagahama had seen the amazing potential Mitsuya had and wished to nurture it into something greater.

Maruyama Masao was back again this year. The head producer over at Studio Madhouse, in my opinion the best anime studio there is, Maruyama is a staple of Otakon, but despite the fact that he comes pretty much every year, I look forward to it every time. This year we finally learned that Redline, the series he had been working on for six years which he also mentioned at numerous past Otakons, is finally getting a theatrical release in October, though its director also passed away before it could debut. Redline is  high-intensity anime, resembling the most elaborate portrayal of F-Zero ever, and Maruyama claims it will be the last truly hand-drawn anime ever.

Otakon was also the American debut of Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW, a feature-length film from the animation team which brought us Read or Die and Kamichu. As such, the creators were also there at Otakon, and managed to have an informative Q&A session. I gave a question targeting mainly Ishihama, the character designer, asking if he felt there is a trend in anime films to move towards simpler character designs which lend themselves towards looser and more whimsical animation. Ishihama responded that he believed there is indeed such a trend, but that there is also a counter-trend present, where more detailed, less fluid animations are also becoming popular.

As for Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW itself, the movie is quite fun but is too unfocused. The story of kids who travel into outer space in a way reminiscent of Galaxy Express 999, the film had opened up many good directions the story could have gone but ended not taking very many of them and losing a good deal of its potential. The film also dragged on after a while in a way where even the expertly animated sequences and wonderful set of aliens felt less exciting overall. At the Q&A session, we learned that this was the team’s first feature-length work, and in hindsight it really showed.

The only American industry panel I ended up attending was the Vertical Inc. panel with Ed Chavez and Peepo Choo author Felipe Smith. Ed, responsible for all of those Vertical Vednesdays I keep talking about on the blog, is about the most personable marketing guy in manga. While giving hints at interesting new titles coming in the future (including another Tezuka title), he also showed that he has some strong opinions on manga, stating that Vertical would not license Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou because “I don’t like it.”

Fan Panels

I had a lot of fun with the fan panels I attended, which mainly focused on exploring elements of anime and manga but I also attended some fun ones too. In the “elements” category there were three panels:  “You Don’t Like Moe and Here’s Why,” “The Changing Faces of Anime,” and “The Life and Times of Akiyuki Shinbo.” In the “fun” category, there was Anime World Order‘s “10 11 Anime You’ve Never Heard of But Must See,” the “Mecha Fan Panel,” and Megaman in Anime and Manga.”

The moe panel focused on the concept as a phenomenon and the meanings it gains as it has become a part of the industry itelf. It took a while to get off the ground but eventually found its footing, and the best advice I can give to the panelists is that more can be done to bridge the gap between what they are talking about and what the audience understands.

The Changing Faces of Anime panel, run by Evan Minto of Ani-Gamers, was a literal look at faces in anime, discussing changes in character designs over the years. It was a good panel which generated even better discussion, and it’s a difficult topic to tackle in only an hour.

The Shinbo panel, presented by wildarmsheero, showed that he had clearly done his research on the eccentric director and took a look at all the stylistic elements Shinbo loves to employ in his works. It ran a big long, forcing the Q&A session to be cut.

The “Must-See Anime” panel was very entertaining, though it was focused less on recommending good shows to anime fans and more about showing amazingly obscure anime that were difficult to obtain and had a lot of excitement value (but could still be good shows). I know that I’m going to track down Natsuki Crisis and other titles. Also, while obviously the clips themselves say a lot, it also doesn’t always convey some of the more overarching positives of a title, so more talking might be a good idea.

The Mecha Fan and Megaman panels meanwhile were fairly similar, giving the history of mecha and Megaman in Japanese graphic fiction. I won an old issue of Nintendo Power at the Megaman panel, and enjoyed the liveliness of the mecha panel, but I think that both could benefit greatly from delving even more into their topics. The Megaman panel also suffered from everyone reading from their scripts too much. It was very obvious that everyone at the panel was an expert in the field of Megamen, and I think removing the script would have made it more personable. On the other hand, it also showed the best Rockman.exe opening, so it’s all good.


While neither was truly the start or the end of the convention, I find that the opening ceremony and the Home Made Kazoku concert act as nice bookends to the con proper, mainly because of the positive impression Home Made Kazoku made on the audience at the former, which led to great anticipation about their performance for the latter. A hip hop-oriented Japanese group, their music and live performance was really infectious, and I think that music-wise it was a great success for Otakon this year, especially when I found out that the shamisen-playing Yoshida brothers managed to fill the concert area so tightly as to nearly be a fire hazard.

Speaking of fire hazards, the talk of the town was clearly the fire alarm Saturday Afternoon which forced all of the nearly 30,000 attendees to evacuate the Baltimore Convention Center. Given the general immaturity of the con crowd (including whoever actually pulled the fire alarm), I was pleasantly surprised to see people doing the right thing in the even of the fire: leave in a calm and orderly manner. Even the most rambunctious anime teen knows not to mess with this sort of thing, which brings a smile to my face.

Food and Friends

But going to a con isn’t just about the anime or the guests, it’s about meeting people and having a great time doing so. The con begins on Friday, but the con experience truly begins the Thursday before, from the point the bus arrives, and only really ends when we get back home. This year’s Otakon featured the return of glorious Brazilian Buffet, being amazed at the evergreen awfulness of G-Saviour while watching it in the hotel room, large gatherings with people relaxing and joking about, and amazingly deep discussions about everything anime and manga.

As I rode the bus home with my travel companions, we discussed for about four hours straight the very nature of enjoying anime and manga, as well as their qualities as creative forms of expression, and it made me realize just how much better conventions are when you add the human element to it.

I love it, and love makes Otakon better, I can guarantee you that.

Ogiue Maniax is Going on a Journey

A never-ending journey. A journey to the stars.

Well, almost.

Big news in the land of Ogiue Maniax. As anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time knows, I love to write about anime and manga to analyze and explore various facets of them, from genres to the industry to the fans to the art. It is a passion that has been with me for a long time, but which only really began to manifest itself once I started writing Ogiue Maniax back in November of 2007. Now I’m entering another stage.

I have been accepted to a PhD program in Europe to study manga for four years. Being a PhD program, it is a paid position.

One of the things I look forward to is opening my mind to another part of the world. As much as I try to view situations from as many angles as I can, I am constantly aware of how America-centric my thoughts and writings can be, and if I can just challenge that part of my psyche a little bit over the next few years then I will come out of the situation a little better. And once I’m back, who knows? Maybe I’ll go on a road trip.

I don’t have to leave for a while, but given the rigor of a doctoral program, I may not have the time to update as much as I have in the past once I get there. I have no intentions of abandoning the blog though; it means too much to me.

I want to thank everyone who’s read Ogiue Maniax over these past few years. Your interest, support, and feedback helped me to shape my online voice, and to get me in a position to be confident enough in my own writing and passion to even apply for a PhD program, let alone get accepted by one in another continent.

These next four years are dedicated to you.

Brilliance of Life, Billions of Stars: Rintaro’s Galaxy Express 999

Whenever I am asked to list my favorite anime of all time, I unequivocally give the same answer: the Galaxy Express 999 movie. Released in 1979 and directed by Rintaro, I first watched it theatrically many, many years later, when I was about 16 years old. Galaxy Express 999 is instrumental in defining my artistic style, my desire to pursue anime and manga beyond what is at the forefront of fandom consciousness, and my general love of strong, emotional storytelling of the kind that cares less for intricate details and more for conveying the inner feelings of characters.

Galaxy Express 999 was originally a manga by famed author Matsumoto Leiji, and was later adapted into a TV series, some movies, and multiple spin-offs. In almost every case, the basic setting is a future where intergalactic travel is possible through the use of high-tech spacecrafts designed to look like the trains of old. Of these, the most famous is the Galaxy Express 999, a mock steam engine which takes its passengers to the Andromeda Galaxy where they can obtain a mechanical body and live forever. One person who desires to board the 999 is a young vagabond of a boy named Hoshino Tetsurou, whose poverty prevents him from obtaining a train pass for the 999. A chance meeting with Maetel, a woman clad in all black with blonde tresses reaching down to her ankles, gives him the opportunity, but as he visits planet after planet he begins to realize that life and immortality are not so simple after all.

Plot-wise, the 999 movie is no exception, though for the sake of time the story is greatly simplified. Instead of visiting dozens of planets, Tetsurou and Maetel visit fewer than ten. The result is that the voyage is not as long, and thus the theme of maturing from boyhood to manhood does not resonate quite as strongly, but in exchange the story is a little more focused, and a lot easier to digest; 2 hours is a lot less time than the 110 half-hour episodes which comprised the TV series.

On an artistic level, the 999 movie is neck-deep in its 70s origins. This is no small part due to the original source material, but it extends far beyond being a cut-and-dry visual adaptation of the manga, adding many abstract, mildly psychedelic elements to scenes.  For example, as the 999 travels along, the bright yellow windows along the sides of each rail car can be seen cutting through space, adding to the melancholy and wonder of the movie’s atmosphere. The acting is at its finest as well, with Nozawa Masako (Tetsurou) and Ikeda Masako (Maetel) giving some of their finest performances ever. Ikeda’s most famous role of all time is undoubtedly Maetel, and when you hear the subtle complexity and the aura of mystery in her voice, you will understand why. Along with a somewhat disparate yet sensible mix of orchestral scores and 70s pop and disco for a soundtrack, Galaxy Express 999 exudes a mostly romantic view of the future tinged by stark and poignant commentaries on the condition of life and humanity, commentaries that occur in the story itself as well as in the core aesthetics of the movie.

Of course, the movie is not without its faults or peculiarities. Though designed to be a greatly shortened version of Galaxy Express 999, it still feels to some extent like a series of smaller stories strung together, creating a very loose sense of cohesion in the narrative. Also, while certain popular Matsumoto characters make cameo appearances, their presence may confuse some viewers unfamiliar with them. And for those who expect a movie about travel to feature some unexpected detours, this is not really the case with 999, which basically stays “on the rails”: an appropriate feature for a movie about an interstellar train to have, but perhaps one that would not be so popular among people hoping for a major derail. As I said at the beginning though, Galaxy Express 999 concerns itself less with weaving an intricate tapestry of a story and more with filling you with a mix of powerful emotions and human themes.

I remember that, upon finishing this movie for the first time, I realized my jaw was wide open; that’s how much it amazed me and drew me into its world. Having watched the movie again recently, I became very aware of just how much I’d changed since I saw it, and as a result of having seen it all those years ago. Life, much like the titular train of the movie, is a one-way trip, and even if you revisit the old stops, you’ll realize that you’re not the same person you once were.