Mashle and the Difference Between Fighting and Self-Defense

In the past few years, I’ve developed a terrible interest in reading and viewing arguments about martial arts, from kung fu to MMA and beyond. There’s a combination of established knowledge, lost knowledge, myths and legends, fraudsters, hero worship, dick-waving, differing philosophies, and genuine curiosity that makes it a weirdly compelling shit soup. During these trawls, I occasionally see an argument that goes something like “If their kung fu is so great, why don’t they prove it in the ring, and also make a ton of money?” 

But what I was surprised to find is a response of sorts to that question in the pages of the manga Mashle—a series that asks, “What if Harry Potter was a non-magical himbo who overcame all obstacles through comically absurd physical prowess like Saitama from One Punch Man?” Not only does Mashle do a surprisingly good job of addressing the inequality inherent in its world, but it also cuts through expectations in other ways too, including how and why people learn to fight.

It’s important to note that con artists are a dime a dozen in the world of martial arts. It’s the realm of claims of supposed no-touch knockouts, poison fists, and chi energy. Even when you put such ridiculous “feats” aside, there are plenty of generic schools that are justifiably derided as “McDojos” or “belt factories,” essentially teaching nothing of substance. Because of this, many have reasonably become skeptical towards anyone who purports to fight with superhuman abilities. Asking for real proof makes sense, but ut there’s this peculiar jump in logic I see sometimes, where “prove it in the ring“ becomes “doesn’t everyone want to prove themselves?”

That’s where Mashle and its hero, Mash Burnedead, come in. During one of Mash’s most fearsome battles to date, his opponent says, “I’ve found someone who I can unleash my full powers against. I feel…invigorated. You must feel it too—the desire to fight even greater opponents.”

To which Mash responds, “Not really. I don’t want to fight stronger people. I don’t find it exciting at all. I still…just want to go home.”

This whole scene is a brief gag in a larger action scene, but Mash’s answer is a succinct counterpoint to the notion that everyone who truly learns how to fight has this killer instinct they need to unleash upon the world, whether for profit, fame, or to prove something. It actually takes a particular kind of person to want to willingly get in harm‘s way in order to show the world what they’re capable of.

One of the martial arts videos I‘ve watched (see above) is from an instructor on Youtube named Adam Chan, about the Hakka fist. As Adam explains, the Hakka are an ethnic group in China who were historically very poor and had to migrate a lot, and the various martial arts they developed came from civilians needing to survive against prejudice and xenophobia rather than as part of an army or in order to engage in duels. This is where Mash is: he didn‘t learn how to fight because of ego, bravado, a thirst for more, or because of a chip on his shoulder. He did it to protect himself and those dear to him. 

Within online discussions of martial arts and fighting, conversations end up getting geared towards “Whose kung fu is strongest?” in the literal sense. But Mash Burnedead represents the reminder that sometimes it’s the wrong question to ask. The desire to hurt others and risk getting yourself hurt in the process is not the only way to view things, even if there is a certain glamor to the idea of honing oneself into a human weapon. 

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights January 2023

In amazing news for people who run blogs called Ogiue Maniax, Kio actually retweeted one of my blog posts this month! He also drew a bunch of Year of the Rabbit bunny girl art and went to an Animage exhibit at the Ghibli Museum.

Kio’s 2022 included the end of Hashikko Ensemble at the beginning of the year, which resulted in him taking it fairly easily for the remainder. In the morning, he’d wake up and notice no dark circles under his eyes. But because he’s been doing stuff like practicing ero manga, he’s itching to get back into things.

Kio asks if it’s okay to draw “bunnies” (for the New Year), and then follows up with drawings of people in bunny outfits.

Unnamed bunny girl. (I wonder if she has any connection to the “ero manga” practice Kio’s been putting in.)

Not-Ohno from Spotted Flower. Not-Saki is saying, “Uh, mom with two kids.”

Mimi-sensei from Hashikko Ensemble.

Jin from Hashikko Ensemble.

Kio says that the Year of the Rabbit is cruel (This looks like a reference to all the bunny girl art).

Kio was into the Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere anime, but wasn’t interested in the original light novels at first. However, a few years ago he bought all of them and became a fan.

Someone replies that the books look intimidating even without opening them, to which Kio agrees. (Note that the Horizon novels get very lengthy, with my some exceeding 1,000 pages in Japanese.)

Something that appeals to Kio about Horizon is that it’s a world without any knowledge of its own history—an idea that has always appealed to him. He recalls the author being a huge history buff too, to the point that he read history books every day prior to starting Horizon. It’s something Kio wants to try but has never done.

He’s also done Horizon art for a comic anthology book, but nothing beyond that.

Kio wishes there was more Horizon anime, and his favorite character is Kimi. He admits to liking “cheat characters” as a rule.

Kio realizes that Spotted Flower Volume 6 has been announced.

Kio excitedly decided to go to a Ghibli Museum exhibit on Animage magazine from 1978 to the 1980s. 

Painting his The Five Star Stories model kit using the Citadel Colour system. Replies congratulates him for finishing, and he says Citadel is great for small details like this.

An inconsistency in terms of left and right armor. The KOG looks like it’s gonna be a pain to build as a result of such warping.

Kio getting overwhelmed with nostalgia seeing the Animage Ghibli Museum exhibit, pointing out that these are exactly the magazine issues he remembers from that time. (The Nausicaa manga started in Animage and the time Kio got into drawing because of Miyazaki, per his interview with Luis Cammy.)

A comparison between the initial paint job on the Empress vs. now.

Kio (and Rakuen magazine) retweeting one of my blog posts!!! “Hmm? Oh, what’s this?” Except he’s making a pun based on oya (parent) and oya (oh?) because it’s about Not-Keiko from Spotted Flower being a mom.

It might be obvious, but I’m very happy that this happened.

Kio bought the March 2023 issue of Weekly Model Graphix, which has a cover drawn by the manga artist Kusada. Kio mentions to Kusada that the magazine definitely stood out in the store.

After seeing a demonstration of how 3D graphics can be used to create background and reference images in manga, Kio laments that he’s gonna have to learn 3D if he wants to keep drawing alone.

Someone in the replies points out that Clip Studio Paint has 3D reference objects as part of the program, and Kio thanks him while saying that he’s only just started using ko it.

​​https://twitter.com/kioshimoku1/status/1619329291694768132

Kio talks about how great it would have been to be able to use 3DCG models for Genshiken, and for anything involving Tokyo Big Sight (the venue for Comic Market). That said, Kio has collected tons of reference photos of Big Sight, so he can draw the place relatively easily. 

Some fans talk about how they love Kio’s analog background work (with one person calling it his bathroom reading material as a compliment), and Kio thanks them for their compliments. Kio does enjoy drawing analog backgrounds, and he used to be able to draw Genshiken backgrounds from memory (but not anymore).

After reading a tweet from an anatomy account, Kio has to fix a drawing to make a stomach crease go above the belly button.

Kio’s tortoise! In the first photo, it just leapt.

“Son Goku” vs. “Sun Wukong”: The Challenge of Translating Chinese Names in Japanese Media into English

Let’s say you’re watching an episode of Raven of the Inner Palace in Japanese. Or maybe it’s Thunderbolt Fantasy. A new character appears and introduces themselves, but the voice seems to say one thing and the subtitles another. Is the eponymous heroine Raven “Ryuu Jusetsu” or “Liu Shouxue?” Is the hero of Thunderbolt Fantasy “Shang Bu Huan” or “Shou Fu Kan?” 

They look kind of similar but also not. It feels discordant to read and hear two different things that are supposed to be the same, so you might be wondering why such a decision was made. 

What you’re running into is the legacy of how the Chinese language came to influence the Japanese language.

I am no expert when it comes to to Chinese-Japanese linguistic history, but I believe I can sum it up very briefly as follows. The Japanese language originally did not have a writing system, eventually began importing Chinese between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD to deal with that problem despite the fact that the language structures are dramatically different. Japanese began to use Chinese written characters (kanji), in some cases choosing to adopt Chinese pronunciations of words as well. Yet, because the languages are so far apart in fundamental ways, these pronunciations had to be approximated. The word for wood (木) was pronounced as muk in Chinese (specifically what’s called Middle Chinese by linguistic scholars), but due to the lack of ending consonants in Japanese, this became moku. Such onyomi, as the Chinese-approximate pronunciations came to be known, were codified into Japanese and are still used today.

But the Chinese languages continued to transform in China, and many pronunciations changed over the centuries. Various factors, from the rise and fall of dynasties to physical barriers creating pockets and enclaves of peoples meant that not only did the language end up different from its 7th century form, but also resulted in regional variations that can often be mutually unintelligible. While the Cantonese word for “wood” retains the “k” sound at the end (similar to how it was said in Middle Chinese), Mandarin Chinese (what is today the official language of China and the most common throughout the world) pronounces it as mu. This is because most of the ending consonants disappeared from Mandarin.

So when you have a hero or heroine with a Chinese name in an anime, that name can generally be written in Japanese through kanji. But when it comes to pronouncing these kanji, the default in Japanese is to use the old onyomi pronunciations. This is why Sun Wukong becomes Son Goku, and why Kongming (like in Ya Boy, Kongming!) becomes Koumei. But then, if these characters are ethnically Chinese or have origins in Chinese stories, might it be better to write their names out as if they were being pronounced in Chinese? The question is whether an anime based on Chinese culture should go Chinese -> Japanese -> English with names, or make it Chinese -> English. And if it’s a manga or novel, and there is no issue of text and audio disagreeing, is it still an issue?

There are many other factors that can complicate this decision. While many anime and manga are set in China, some series take place in a world that is merely Chinese-folklore-inspired. Twelve Kingdoms, for example, is a fantasy series where all the countries have names that would make sense in China, but would translating the names into Chinese be too far removed from the source material, given that the series is originally Japanese and the world of the Twelve Kingdoms isn’t technically China? And even if a story is set in China, what if it takes place in the 5th Century AD or any other time when even “official” Chinese sounded substantially different from its modern form? Or what if a story takes place in a region of China where Mandarin Chinese isn’t the dominant form? What if there’s a Chinese character living in Japan, and everyone pronounces their name as if it’s Japanese but they refer to themselves internally with their Chinese pronunciation? In English, we’re increasingly at a point where the right thing to do is to respect the person’s own desire for how to pronounce their name, but the context of onyomi in Japanese complicates that decision.

The toughest thing is that there is no right or wrong answer because it’s not even a matter of Japanese vs. English but rather Japanese vs. English and the point at which to insert the inherent Chinese cultural aspect into a translation. Whatever choices are made, it‘s important to understand that “accuracy” and “faithfulness” are not so simple. 

(Happy New Year!)

“Keiko” Debuts in Spotted Flower with Baby

Last month, another Genshiken side character analogue finally appeared in Spotted Flower: the editor’s sister, Not-Keiko. I’m not sure if her having a kid (named Mani) should come as a surprise, but I am definitely not shocked that her husband appears to be an older wealthy dude named Michiaki. 

The funny thing about Not-Keiko is that she seems to run counter to the common trends of Spotted Flower: illicit affairs, open relationships, and general promiscuity. In fact, this same bonus chapter features Not-Keiko asking Not-Sasahara about when he’ll finally settle down with Ogino-sensei (Not-Ogiue)—the latter of whom is living with Not-Sue in a very close and intimate way. Somehow, Keiko is the mellow and monogamous one. This story is an unpredictable one for sure.

In recent tweets, Kio has expressed a desire to draw porn manga, and apparently has been putting some practice in. I wonder if we’ll actually see his work come to fruition, and whether the lewder moments in Spotted Flower set the precedent for this. 

By the way, Spotted Flower Volume 6 will be out in Japan in March! I’m not sure if it’ll include Not-Keiko, but at least it’ll have a lot of Ogino drama.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights December 2022

Kio reveals his love of soccer/football and pays tribute to Mizuki Ichiro in this month’s tweets.

“This is what makes soccer interesting!” (Japan beat Spain in the 2022 World Cup on December to advance out of the group stage.)

Kio declares that he won’t buy any new model kits until he gets through these The Five Star Stories kits. Some of them are actually 20 years old. 

Kio finally tries the word balloon tool in Clip Studio Paint. He thinks he’s slowly coming to understand it.

Kio got out his disk copier to make a copy of the 2018 World Cup games he recorded. He’s also impressed by Croatia’s hard-fought win in overtime over Japan. Kio wishes he could have seen Japan in Top 8, though.

Kio compares Croatia’s momentum in the World Cup to a steamroller that crushes every other country’s dreams.

Kio is building one of his The Five Star Stories/GothicMade kits, and shows the parts. When asked if it’s the Kaiserin, Kio answers that it’s the Empress.

Kio also bought paints just for it.

The assembled Empress, before painting.

Someone asks where he got a certain kit he showed back in January 2022, but Kio responds that it was a present from a reader and no longer available for purchase.

Kio responds to someone who has the same Empress kit from an old Wonder Festival, and how the knees make it hard to pose standing. However, someone else shows what they’ve managed to pull off, which impresses Kio. He also agrees with someone who finds that the way the pieces are arranged in the box is similar to Tamiya’s motorcycle model kits.

Food from the store that prepares it for Kio’s pet tortoise.

The age of the model kit shows in a bit of deterioration.

The tortoise eats! There’s a video too!

Kio pays his respects to legendary anime singer Mizuki Ichiro.

Kio talks to the store that gave him his tortoise food, and mentions how quickly his pet ate through it all.

He can’t find his Vallejo primer.

Still having trouble with the Empress’s legs. Also, there are some extra parts whose purpose he’s unsure of. 

Fully assembled without any paint or modifications.

Not a Kio tweet, but note that there are special web chapters of Spotted Flower out this month! They feature debut of Not-Sasahara’s sister, Not-Keiko.

In response to the Rakuen account saying, “We want to see you do this from the bottom of our hearts!” Kio writes, “This is editorial saying this to a manga artist.”

Kio was thinking about the career of Lionel Messi after Argentina’s 2022 World Cup victory all throughout lunch. He remembers a young Messi moving to Spain, contrasts with Maradona, how that World Cup trophy eluded him, and how we can finally call him history’s greatest footballer. (If it isn’t clear by now, Kio is definitely a fan of soccer/football).

As a follower points out, Kio wrote about Messi (written “Messhi” in Japanese) while eating a meal (meshi).

Kio discovered that he had a spray can of primer after all. He found it in a cardboard box.

More tortoise chow from the same company as before.

Tortoise activity area.

Kio mentions that he has a kit for the Engage from The Five Star Stories on the way.

Kio enjoyed the final episode of Bocchi the Rock!

The tortoise is enjoying the heat lamp, but seems to be sleeping even more than usual.

Kio tried to lightly brush the primer he sprayed, but brushing and spraying are just inherently different.

Kio wants to get better at both building plastic models and drawing ero manga, but doesn’t feel that he’s made much progress on either.

The Empress kit with the base coat fully painted.

He also bought these special glasses for plastic model building.

Using a Citadel Colour set with a brownish shade color.

This Is a Certified CLAMP Classic: RG Veda

I’ve been a fan of the manga artist group CLAMP for almost as long as I’ve loved manga itself, but for whatever reason I had not read their first professional work, RG Veda. I decided to change that recently, motivated both by a desire to delve into older works and a realization that it was, in fact, a “mystery OVA” I had been unable to identify.

When I was quite young, a relative showed me a VHS anime fansub whose visual style stuck with me. There was the effeminate-looking kid with a hidden power, his tall guardian swordsman, the villain with long hair whose eyes were somehow still fully visible through his hair, and a general visual bonanza of beautiful swirls coming from the magic and weapons. Now, I know those are Ashura the “demonic” child, Yasha the leader of the Yasha clan of warriors, Taishakuten the God-King, and the influence of CLAMP’s style—which was, in turn, influenced by the series they themselves were fond of, such as Saint Seiya

RG Veda is very loosely based on an ancient Indian collection of hymns, here given manga makeover. Ashura is the last child of a people renowned for their battle prowess who were wiped out by the ruthless Taishakuten, who usurped the throne of the heavenly realm (Tenkai) in a violent conflict. In a world where destiny is said to be inevitable, a divine fortune teller speaks of six stars who will gather and overturn Tenkai—which has been interpreted as a threat to Taishakuten’s rule, and becomes the catalyst for gathering individuals seeking to defy the God-King. Though generally a naive child, there is another side to Ashura that emerges in rare moments, one that hints at the  terrifying true power lying within.

It’s funny to see how pretty much all of CLAMP’s hallmarks are right in this first series. I understand that they cut their teeth on doujinshi before their professional debut, but with a lot of artists, their earlier works come across as rough previews of later development. CLAMP, however, emerges seemingly fully formed like Athena. The impossibly beautiful men and women with flowing locks, the detailed eyes like voids, the heavy emphasis on inter-character dynamics, the tales of tragic and taboo love (including the problematic kind), the challenging of gender and sexuality norms, the major plot twists that force you to revise how you view the characters—I could just as easily be describing a manga of theirs from the 2010s instead of 1989. 

While this might be considered a lack of progress, I think it’s more that the CLAMP style always somehow feels both timeless and of a zeitgeist. Characters of all genders are portrayed with a plethora of personalities and motivations, though they tend towards whatever will provide the greatest amount of drama. Passions in both love and war flair with intensity, as the sheer amount of angst is only matched by the endless parade of ethereally beautiful violence. Even putting historical significance aside, RG Veda is a compelling read overall, though I do think it takes a couple volumes to really kick into gear.

I’ve sometimes seen readers express that they miss the CLAMP of old, and there is indeed a certain degree of relative simplicity present in RG Veda. Sure, the plot can feel overwrought and filled with shocking reveal, but it’s not as egregious as the kinds of rug pulls seen in something like Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. And even though RG Veda is fairly long at 10 volumes (or three omnibuses if you read the Dark Horse release), it has a definitive ending that wraps everything up pretty well—not something every CLAMP manga can claim.

A lot of the elements of RG Veda have become fairly commonplace in manga. Despite that, it still holds up and never looks excessively dated. There’s something perennial about making everything and everyone as pretty as possible, and RG Veda backs up that aesthetic glory with unforgettable tears and tragedy.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights November 2022

In contrast to last month, Kio Shimoku tweeted up a storm in November. The big topics: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, drawing characters playing baseball, and…sketching out manuscripts for pornographic manga?!

Kio announcing that Chapter 41 of Spotted Flower is out. He mentions that the way the image is cropped unintentionally makes it look more improper than it actually is.

Kio finally got the chance to see the theatrical version of Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (which had recently been playing again on the big screen). He didn’t even know about it back when it first released, though he’s seen the TV-broadcast version tens of times. In fact, he’s seen it on TV so much that seeing the scenes cut from that version added back in felt kind of weird. The full theatrical version adds a lot of nuance to places missing from the TV version, but Kio still has an affinity for that one, and he thinks they did a good job with the edits. He talks about how nowadays, it’s unusual for people to want to watch cut versions, but he still loves it nevertheless. He doesn’t have the TV version, and Wikipedia doesn’t even mention it at all. Kio wonders if anyone actually remembers it.

A follower also talks about the cut TV version of Castle of Cagliostro, which Kio also has a recollection of. Others chime in that they have seen Royal Space Force on TV, including one person who remembers Anno Hideaki providing commentary on it for an airing on the program Friday Roadshow (which airs movies on TV). Someone else chimes in that they can remember Anno explaining a few things. Namely, how good the scene is where Marty says 「誰かが必要としているからここにいられると思っている」[If anyone can provide a translation with proper context, that’d be a big help], and how the TV version uses monoaural sound, so it couldn’t replicate everything, like the way the sound changes as they go up into space. 

“I think I’m here only because somebody needs me.”

The saga continues: Watanabe Shigeru, the editor of the TV version of Royal Space Force actually replied to Kio! In a rare instance, we get to see Kio fanboying over someone. Watanabe mentions that while he’s an anime producer now, back then he was a mere tradesman. Kio asks if there’s a betamax version, but Watanabe says there isn’t, and the TV version was basically a “necessary evi.”

Watanabe also recalls that they had Okada Toshio and Yamaga Hiroyuki (also of Gainax fame) for the TV broadcast as well.

Someone else mentions that there’s a scene with the characters drinking milk that was included in the laserdisc release but according to Kio, it wasn’t in the theatrical re-release. Watanabe chimes in again and explains that this extra scene wasn’t shot on 35 millimeter so it didn’t look good when upscaled. However, it’s included with the blu-ray as an extra.

As a follow-up to last month’s trip to the batting center, Kio has been drawing Hashikko Ensemble characters playing baseball. There’s also some discussion about the characters and how 

As an aside, my friend Diogo Prado (and a Patreon member of Ogiue Maniax) got retweeted by Kio!

A fan apologizes for discovering Hashikko Ensemble too late, and asks if there’ll be a sequel (like Genshiken Nidaime). Kio says not to sweat it, and that everyone discovers works at their own timing.

Kio also went to see a new theatrical run of GOTHICMADE. Much of the story has also been told through the manga, but the last part of the film has still yet to be adapted. 

Someone replies to Kio’s preview of Spotted Flower Chapter 41 by saying the meme line, “But he’s a guy” from Stein’s;Gate. Kio replies “They’re both,” to which the replier apologizes. However, while the replier assumed he meant that Not-Kohsaka (depicted there dressed like Not-Hato) was nonbinary, what Kio meant was that both characters are guys.

(I guess this answers the gender identity of Not-Hato).

Kio reacts to the official Twitter account of Kumamoto Castle tweeting a saying popular among idol fans and the like: You’ll stan the ones you stan when you stan (the actual word being oshi). It’s basically saying you’ll know who’s your favorite because it’ll come out from you.

The batting center is a 30-minute walk for Kio, but that walk is a good way to sober up, apparently.

Kio went to see Royal Space Force in theaters again! This time, he noticed a sound similar to a baby crying that had never registered to him before while watching.

Kio and another talking about how they can’t stop humming the music from Royal Air Force

Kio’s reaction to a mecha from The Five Star Stories: “Oh? Whoaaa! Magnapalace!”

Kio mentions Ueda Masashi as one of the all-time greats of 4-panel manga, and writes about how even these simple characters could be portrayed as having unseen “adult” sides to them. He even used Ueda’s work as a basis for a scene between Not-Ohno and Not-Tanaka in Spotted Flower Volume 5.

Kio saw Shinkai Makoto’s new film, Suzume no Tojimari.

Sometimes, Kio sketches out ero manga manuscripts, but finds striking the right balance between elements difficult. Moreover, he feels that the order of priority is different for ero manga: Instead of paneling -> text ->  images, it’s the other way around. After all, you can’t tell if something is gonna be hot just from a barebones layout. (Note that Kio had previously praised ero manga artists for their talents—this seems to be a follow-up to the idea that it’s not that easy.)

When asked what he’s drawing, Kio says it’s new and original characters. He’s also entertaining the notion of quietly putting something on the adult website Fanza.

Related to the above tweets, Kio struggled with the most recent manuscript for Spotted Flower.

Kio went on vacation for a few days, taking a break from Twitter.

Kio watched the first half of the Japan vs. Germany World Cup 2022 match and went to sleep early assuming it was all over for Japan, only to wake up to headlines about the upset.

He planned to watch the second half once he got home, wondering if player Ito Junya went wild (which Kio later confirmed).

After retweeting a bunch of plastic-model-related tweets, Kio says he really wants to build plastic models, and remarks about the “big wave” of model-building hitting after all this time. Author Ikuhana Niiro encourages him to do so, to which Kio responds by wondering whether he should finally open all the cardboard boxes that hold his model kits.

Hope and Chaos Take the Subway: Anime NYC 2022

Anime NYC 2022 is the second year in the pandemic era for New York’s biggest anime convention. Last year, the event broke its own attendance records, likely owing to people eager to do something in-person after months and months of restrictions. In contrast, this year felt more like a return to something vaguely normal.

Badges and Registration 

Although I had the benefit of obtaining a press pass, I do know there were issues with supply of general admission this year: both three-day badges and Saturday ones were in short supply. It’s difficult to tell if they’re following in New York Comic Con’s footsteps towards eliminating three-day tickets in general (a move that makes attending the con all weekend significantly more expensive at $65 per day) or if it has to do with COVID-19 precautions.

One thing Anime NYC definitely did seem to take a page from New York Comic Con is a lottery system for seats for major panels in addition to a similar lottery already in place for guest autographs. Attendees could enter online for a chance at these con activities without needing to devote themselves to waiting in lines, and the idea is that it’s also fairer for people coming in from farther away. I understand the overall benefits of this method, though the fact that you have to cancel your reservations in advance should you win (or else risk being ineligible for future lotteries) means that it’s harder to be flexible the day of. I believe being able to make impromptu decisions is part of the fun of conventions, and potentially losing that flexibility can feel like a bit of a burden. Again, though, it might be a net good, and what probably needs to be tweaked is that way fewer panels probably need this system in place.

COVID-19

Speaking of health, Anime NYC did require proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID test, and they enforced that aspect pretty stringently. The same could not be said of masks, however. In panels, staff did a good job of making sure everyone had masks, but everywhere else it was pretty much a coin toss. The city itself has relaxed rules around masking even on the subway, so it’s hard to fight against that kind of momentum, but I wish there was a way to re-emphasize the importance of masks especially in an environment like a convention center filled with tens of thousands of people.

Last year’s con turned out not to be an Omicron super spreader event, despite early reports. I really hope that remained the case for this year, but the relative lack of masking concerns me.

A Note on Attack on Titan

The biggest guest of 2022 had to be Isayama Hajime, author of Attack on Titan. I’m bringing him up first because I actually did not attend any of his events. I follow Attack on Titan through the anime, and I didn’t want to be spoiled. I don’t know if it would have been possible to wait for the anime to conclude before inviting Isayama, but I have to wonder if there were others like me, or perhaps even much bigger fans who were forced to hold back.

Hololive Meet NY

My personal must-see guests were technically not even there: the Virtual Youtubers of Hololive. I prioritized the VTuber stuff because this was my first time at a convention where they had a more significant presence; Anime NYC 2021 had a panel featuring Hololive Council’s five members, and it was a decent enough event that unfortunately had little to no interaction with the fans. For 2022, a more direct VTuber experience was provided through a dedicated booth in the Exhibit Hall in conjunction with VRChat, all as a part of the Hololive Meet series of international con appearances.

Throughout the weekend, different Hololive members (primarily the English ones) held hour-long live shows while streaming remotely. Due to what I assume are various limitations, they didn’t use any of their standard 3D models, instead opting for less complicated ones already familiar to fans: Smol models, BEEGSmol models, and also the VRDance ones

For personal reasons (and because I didn’t want to make it an all-Hololive weekend), I was only able to see two shows in full.  The first I saw was an enthusiastic morning exercise routine (though not in the radio taisou sense) by Mori Calliope that led to all sorts of 3D wackiness. The second, and one of the highlights of the entire event, was a special Anime NYC edition of the Chadcast that became something even more special due to technical mishaps.

The BaeRys Show

Normally, the Chadcast is a three-person monthly show on Youtube by Calliope along with Hakos Baelz and IRyS. None of them are among my absolute favorites as individuals, but as a trio, they’re practically a must-watch. I was looking forward to a convention-exclusive Chadcast, but as the crowd gathered for it, only Baelz and IRyS appeared. Jokingly announcing that this was actually the first episode of the “BaeRys” podcast, the two informed the crowd that Callie’s internet wasn’t working and so she likely couldn’t join in. 

While unfortunate, this also meant getting a full 60 minutes of pure BaeRys, the official name for the pair. I’m not a dedicated shipper, but their interactions are among my favorites because they have such excellent chemistry together. The running joke in the fandom (that is also embraced by the VTubers themselves) is that they‘re constantly getting married and divorced, and so the two played various games meant to reveal “interesting” sides of each other. Questions included “Would you rather vomit on your idol or get vomited on by them?,” “Truth or Dare: Have you ever peed in a pool?,” and (with the help of a fan) “What are three things you like about each other?” 

Watching their antics made me aware of what Callie adds to the Chadcast. Baelz and IRyS’s favorite drinks are coffee and soda, respectively, and BaeRys is very much like drinking coffee soda: a surprisingly refreshing combination, but one that can be overwhelming. Callie, then, is a savory (American) biscuit you eat in order to temper the intensity of coffee cola, and so one’s preference at any given time for Chadcast or BaeRys has to do with whether you want a balanced taste or to experience the extremes.

Along with the streams, there were three other booths offering official Hololive merchandise: Bushiroad (for items related to the Weiss Schwarz card game), Omocat (for exclusive crossover art), and Animate USA (for Hololive Meet–themed items). Buying $40 worth would get you a ticket you could exchange for a Hololive fortune, but attendees could also get a fortune for free if they have a VRChat account. I just so happened to create one because of the recent Code Geass x FLOW VR concert, so I managed to snag two fortunes, one for flagship Hololive Tokino Sora and one for Indonesian member Kaela Kovalskia. 

I do have a couple complaints about how things were handled with Hololive Meet. First, the space provided meant everyone had to stand because sitting would create a fire hazard, and my feet still haven’t fully forgiven me. Second, you had to buy $40 of Hololive merch at one store in order to get the fortune ticket, so you couldn’t spread it across all three. Other than those issues, I’m glad I finally got to see what a “live” Hololive event is like. Next on the bucket list is getting to see my favorites, Haachama and holoX. 

High Card

Among the anime premieres at Anime NYC was the first episode of a series called High Card, written by Kawamoto Homura (writer of Kakegurui) and his younger brother, Munoh Hikaru. It was actually the first screening anywhere, including Japan.

While there is a playing card motif to High Card, it’s not really a gambling anime so much as it is an action-oriented work that revels in absurdity and spectacle, exemplified by its tag line: “Are you ready? It’s showdown!” A special deck of cards has been scattered to the four corners of the Earth, and they have found owners of various types. The cards confer special powers that range from the powerful to the ridiculous (and sometimes both), and at the center of the story is a young thief trying to get money to save his orphanage. Like Kakegurui, the cast of characters is off-the-wall and full of dangerous and sensual individuals, though this time it’s mostly guys instead of girls. The creators said they were inspired by Kingsman, and it shows.

During the Q&A section, Munoh talked about how coming to New York City was amazing because he’d only ever seen it in images and on the screen. He then joked that he’d yet to see Spider-Man or the Ninja Turtles (the latter mention was omitted by the translator for some reason).

Wit Studio

It’s rare to see a current anime studio with a pedigree as strong as Wit Studio: Attack on Titan, Great Pretender, Ranking of Kings, and most recently Spy x Family are among the works they’ve produced. At Anime NYC, multiple staff members for Spy x Family were invited as guests: President and CEO George Wada, as well as artist Syo5 (pronounced “Shogo.”) They held a panel that was a combination of Q&A, insight into the creative process, live-drawing session, and early preview of Spy x Family episode 8. 

The live drawing was more a showcase of how Syo5 works on color palettes, taking an adorable line drawing of Anya Forger as the Statue of Liberty (with her dog, Bond) and adding a sunset to it. During the panel, Syo5 discussed how the color palettes in Great Pretender weren’t realistic, but were meant to have a different feel for each part of the world the characters travel to, and coloring the Anya of Liberty was a showcase of a process similar to what went into Great Pretender

Ranking of Kings also got plenty of love from the Wit staff and audience alike. They mentioned that they’re trying to get the next season done in 2023, and Syo5 showed some of his conceptual drawings that established the general look of the anime.

Eating at the Javits

There were no onsite food trucks this year, so all nearby food options were basically in the Jacob Javits Center itself. Fortunately, between the stalls in the exhibit hall and the Javits dining area, there was actually a decent number of food options. Granted, they were all overpriced to hell and back, but that’s inevitable with con food. 

For those eager to relish in Japanese culture, the exhibit hall had Go Go Curry (a perennial favorite of mine), ramen, bento from BentOn, okonomiyaki from Okonomi, and a few others. I’ve tried pretty much all of them before (though not necessarily in the context of Anime NYC), and the quality is quite good, even if it costs too much. For those who didn’t want to pay the “weeb tax” (or wait in line for a long time), options included burgers and chicken, dumplings, empanadas (Nuchas) Korean food (Korilla), and even Indian food (Curry Kitchen). Overall, the variety was welcome, given the circumstances. I remember a time when you could barely get anything resembling good at the Javits, and I’m glad to see that has continued to change.

Cosplay, Etc.

Overall

Anime NYC 2022 had a few firsts for me, notably when it came to seeing Hololive Virtual Youtubers in a more direct fashion. In that respect, it was an unforgettable experience. While I prefer cons with a greater amount of fan panel programming, I also understand that this is not what Anime NYC is about. Attendees seemed generally to be in high spirits, but I do have concerns about it getting more expensive to attend, as a lot of anime fans are not rolling in dough. If they can keep bringing the guests people want to see while finding ways to make it affordable, I think things will be looking up for next year.

Inktober 2022 Archive: My First Time!

After years of hemming and hawing, I decided to actually do Inktober this past October. The results were, well, results.

Especially with the state of Twitter being extremely abunai, I decided it’d be good to just have a gallery here.

I Started Reading the Saint Seiya Manga

Pegas Seiya and Dragon Shiryu facing off with their armors shattered, their respective constellation animals prominently shown in the background

Saint Seiya is a series I’ve long known about, but one I’ve never really engaged with at its core. Sure, I loved Saint Seiya Omega. The opening theme and anthem of the franchise, “Pegasus Fantasy,” is always great at karaoke. When the characters came around on SaltyBet, things were bound to get interesting. And years before all that, I caught episodes of the English dub that committed the sin of replacing the aforementioned anthem with a middling cover of “I Ran.” Yet, I put off experiencing the original works—until now. I began to read the manga (available in English on the Shonen Jump app), and I certainly have Some Thoughts.

Because of subcultural exposure and the fact that I explore and research a lot about manga, I already have an image in my head of Saint Seiya as a work about guys teaming up to fight gods from Greek mythology using special celestial armors called “Cloth.” I know it is the pioneering work in the “boys in armor” subgenre from which spawned works like Samurai Troopers, Shurato, and Reideen the Superior. I’m fully aware that in terms of worldwide popularity, the US is the exception rather than the norm: the franchise is a beloved classic. And as for its reputation for featuring pretty boys engaging in passionate battles rife with blood and tears—a combination has made it a hit with all genders—that really says it all. Intensity, thy name is Saint Seiya. What I wasn’t prepared for is just how different the manga feels at the beginning, and how many twists and turns it takes even in the first handful of chapters.

Nothing says a certain series or franchise has to stay the same forever. Consistency can be good, but it’s not the only path to greatness. When it comes to classic Jump manga especially, there’s more than a few examples of significant pivots. Kinnikuman starts as an Ultraman parody and ends up as a wrestling story. The card game that defines Yu-Gi-Oh! in pop culture was originally a one-off story. YuYu Hakusho goes from detective mysteries to tournament arcs galore. While Saint Seiya doesn’t stray quite that far from its early roots of armored boys fighting fiercely, there are definitely points at which it feels like the author, Kurumada, was playing it by ear. 

There’s a lot about different characters defying established order without readers having knowledge of what that order is, exemplified by the protagonist Seiya. He’s trying to find his sister, and in order to do so, he has to get this magical Greek armor, but then he refuses to play by the rules and instead escapes to Japan to…enter a tournament? But even that ends up being a pretense to meet the other “Bronze Knights,” who are adversaries turned eventual allies. And the incarnation of the goddess Athena, whom they’re apparently meant to fight for, begins the story as a snobby rich girl whose dad has adopted like a hundred orphans to be potential Cloth bearers. Well, okay.

Saint Seiya seems more built on spectacle than anything else, or perhaps its plot is just a pretense for putting on display these cool guys in hot fights. I say that not as a criticism but more as an observation, because I think that such an approach does make for a memorable work, as it’s more about the aura of excitement than trying to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” This early on, I know that Saint Seiya hasn’t reached the pinnacle of its power level yet, and I think I’m going to appreciate that journey.