Pump Up the Jam: How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

Sports anime have been a pillar of Japanese animation since its earliest days, but very rarely, if ever, have any shows focused specifically on exercise. In comes How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?, a series that emphasizes actively pursuing fitness, whether it be at the gym, at home, or on the beach.

Dumbbell follows Sakura Hibiki, a high school girl who wants to lose weight and attract guys. Surprisingly, on a visit to a local gym, she runs into her rich classmate, who turns out to be an absolute fitness enthusiast. Together, with the deceptively handsome gym trainer Machio, they go through different exercises and approaches for achieving one’s fitness goals—and learning about the role weightlifting can play.

The series has a clear focus on the girls, and there’s no denying that sex appeal is a  fundamental part of Dumbbell. However, there’s an important distinction to make, and the best way is to compare it with another anime that puts focus on exercise: Issho ni Training: Training with Hinako. That short has the viewer watch a lightly dressed girl named Hinako, who goes through her exercise routine as the voyeuristic camera ogles her from multiple angles. But while Training with Hinako uses exercise as an excuse for fanservice, Dumbbell instead uses fanservice to promote exercise. To that end, it actually gives tips on weightlifting and other areas. In fact, the opening theme specifically points out what muscles are worked out by common and popular lifts.

Also, while the body diversity in the series is somewhat limited—the girls don’t have literally the same exact body, but they all fall along conventional ideas of attractiveness—each of them have their own reasons for going to the gym. The main character, Sakura Hibiki, wants to lose weight and look good, i.e. the most expected reason. Soryuin Akemi is obsessed with muscles (both on herself and others) to a fetishistic extent. Uehara Ayaka is the daughter of a retired boxer-turned-coach, and so exercise is as natural to her as breathing. Gina Boyd is a Russian who competes in sambo and arm wrestling, so strength training is just her way of staying fighting fit. Tachibana Satomi, their teacher, is a secret cosplayer who wants to look good for photos and fight the aging process. At the very least, the series promotes the idea that weight loss is not the sole reason to work out.

As one last aside, I once wrote that I’d be interested in a competitive bodybuilding manga because of how the posedown has a heavy psychological element. There is actually a competitive bodybuilding episode of Dumbbell, though it doesn’t quite go as far as I have hoped. Still, it’s forward progress.

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is not going to upend people’s understanding of weight and diet culture, but it also makes a sincere effort to teach people to exercise in ways that fit their specific situations. It’s as if the show is saying, not everyone can do everything, but as long as you’re moving and sweating, it’ll work out.

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The Far Side Booth at New York Comic Con 2019

It’s extremely rare that a convention’s exhibitor’s hall, or any particular part of it, would be the highlight of my con experience. But at New York Comic Con 2019, few things brought me as much excitement as seeing a booth for Gary Larson’s The Far Side.

As far as one-panel newspaper comics go, nothing could match up to The Far Side. Its unorthodox, absurd, and at times dark humor was an incredible influence on me in ways that can’t be underestimated. Perhaps the only reason why it was a “childhood” favorite instead of a perennial one, is that it ended in 1997, in what feels like a bygone era. Before things like high-speed internet and cellphones (let alone smartphones) became commonplace, before print newspapers started folding in droves, The Far Side had already sung its swansong. Seeing it prominent in the year 2019 made me feel like my young and older selves collided—a reminder of how I came to love comics and the things I’ve discovered and accomplished because of that passion.

The actual booth for The Far Side at NYCC 2019 was clever. At the top were various recurring character archetypes from the comic’s run—cows, beehive hairdo ladies, etc.—all stretching out their cheeks and sticking out their tongues. On a wall were four displays, each cycling through different Far Side greatest hits. One of those comics, in which a child at “Midvale School for the Gifted” is trying to push open a door with a giant sign above that says “PULL,” was faithfully replicated at a life-size scale so attendees could reproduce the panel.

This display came on the heels of an announcement that The Far Side is coming back in some form, but what exactly that means is still unknown. Gary Larson famously didn’t like putting his work on the internet, so it might just be him finally catching up to the world and having some kind of singular online resource. If it’s actually new The Far Side comics, well that’ll just make my year.

It Was Me, Jin! It Was Me All Along!: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 20

Why fight when you can sing? It’s Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 20!

Summary

Tsuyama (of the Mimi-sensei-loving quartet) and Orihara fight under the former’s mistaken belief that the latter sexually assaulted Mimi-sensei. Evenly matched, the situation is eventually defused when Mimi-sensei herself explains that nothing happened and Hasegawa lied about Orihara squeezing Mimi-sensei’s breasts. Tsuyama and his friends still discover it’s Shion who’s the true “culprit,” but at least a couple of them don’t seem to mind at all.

Jin uses the audience gathered from the fight to his advantage, and suddenly announces a 4 vs. 4 singing competition between the Chorus Appreciation Society and Tsuyama’s group.

We learn in a flashback that Tsuyama is actually a pretty good singer, but they’re not exactly ready for this contest. The music teacher Takano-sensei offers to help them. Also, unbeknownst to his friends, the gorilla-like Ogawa (nickname “Ogre”), goes to the Chorus Appreciation Society for help in learning how to sing better. The reason: he doesn’t want to hold the others back. Jin begins teaching him about how to deal with being out of tune.

Back in the present, Tsuyama’s group are about to sing “Cherry” by the Japanese pop group Spitz (Mimi-sensei’s favorite band) against the Chorus Appreciation Society’s “Viderunt Omnes,” when suddenly, Ogawa hands his microphone over to Akira, in what looks to be a shocking betrayal!

Not the Best Handling of Rape as a Subject

I want to preface this minor criticism by saying that I don’t think Kio Shimoku is trivializing or supporting rape in any way, and what I sense from the story is that this little fiasco is more about a false rumor run rampant. Hasegawa, for her part, didn’t even say the word okashita (variously “rape,” “violated,” etc.)–it was Tsuyama who interpreted it that way.

However, given the increasing awareness we as people have about women not being believed when it comes to sexual assault, having a girl like Hasegawa start this rumor is not the best look for the series. For me, it’s not a deal breaker, and I still love the heck out of Hashikko Ensemble, but it’s potentially playing with fire.

Anyone Can Improve Their Singing

Jin makes a helpful point this chapter about how getting better at singing in tune depends on how tone deaf someone is. A person who can recognize that they’re not singing well can, over time, learn to adjust. Someone who is tone deaf, on the other hand, will need another person to tell them when they’re off, but this can still be a path to improvement.

It gives hope to folks like me who are musically challenged.

Friendship Between Misfits

While I originally thought that Tsuyama and his friends might become antagonists of sorts, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, what I see is a group of people who are kind of weird and arguably pretty creepy, but who have one another’s backs. I find it touching that Ogawa thinks so highly of Tsuyama (who encouraged him to work out so that no one could belittle him) that he would go to the enemy for help in learning how to sing. In a way, it’s like these guys are the cast of Genshiken, only all of them are like 10-15% Kuchiki. The clear path is for at least some of these guys to eventually join the Chorus Appreciation Society, but I wouldn’t be surprised at a few twists and turns.

Also, the fact that two of them are into yuri but two of them don’t seem to care that much makes for a small but interesting distinction among their group.

Songs

As Mimi-sensei talks about her fondness for Spitz, the following songs get mentioned:

“Cherry”

“Robinson”

“Sora o Toberu hazu” (“You’ve Gotta Be Able to Fly”)

“Viderunt Omnes” is also brought up again. Orihara basically refused to sing anything else.

Final Thoughts

Despite all the weirdness with Hasegawa, her running commentary for the Orihara-Tsuyama fight is a highlight of this chapter. The way she compares Orihara’s enormous strength to Tsuyama’s speed and technique fills me with glee.

I highly doubt that Akira is doing any sort of real heel turn, but I’m looking forward to how it pans out. I assume that friendship will win over all, and Shion will gain some strange new guardians.

The Real Pressures of Being Asian-American: American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang is a comics creator I hold in high esteem thanks to his work on The Shadow Hero and the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. I know him as a writer who strives to make Asian voices heard, and who depicts the Asian experience as something natural and relatable, as opposed to foreign and exotic. Recently, I read American Born Chinese, Yang and colorist Lark Pien’s 2007 award-winning comic, it resonated with me on a very deep and fundamental level. It’s to the extent that I have to wonder if the story it tells—and the tools it uses—are not intrinsically understood by those for whom race is neither an active or even passive issue.

American Born Chinese tells three seemingly disconnected narratives. One is about the Monkey King, loosely based on the classic novel Journey to the West, and his attempts to prove himself the equal of the gods. Another follows Jin Wang, a Chinese boy born in San Francisco’s Chinatown whose family moves to a predominantly white neighborhood. Jin has to balance his desire to be more like the other “normal” (read: Caucasian) kids against his friendship with a Chinese immigrant classmate named Wei-Chen Sun—particularly when it comes to his crush, a white girl named Amelia. The last is about a boy named Danny who is exasperated by his cousin Chin-Kee, a bizarre figure who seems to embody every awful Chinese stereotype. The three stories eventually come together in an interesting way, highlighting a common theme between all three: the pressure, both internal and external, to change yourself to match what the world says is worth something.

What I find interesting—and extremely personal—is that while the end of the book hammers home the idea that you should love who you are, its specific lens made me feel in my marrow each signal and hint at the conflict Asian-Americans have in terms of cultural identity. The name of the book itself speaks to a common distinction made among Chinese-Americans, those who were born in the US and embrace or at least assume its values (American Born Chinese, or ABCs) and those who have immigrated from China or Chinese-speaking places (Fresh off the Boat, or FOBs).

Growing up, if you were an ABC, you never wanted to do anything that could be read as FOBbish—which was made all the more complicated if you were first generation and your parents immigrated. Wearing clothes that were too Chinese meant you were a FOB. Speaking with an accent, or even in an imperfect way, meant you were a FOB. Kids didn’t know or care that maybe you just mumbled—it all sounded like “ching chong” to them. The American culture and even some Chinese adults to a certain degree communicated the idea that whiteness or a facsimile of whiteness was something to aspire to. Combined with the Chinese spirit of hard work, it was meant to be a recipe for a kind of success. At the same time, the terms ABC and FOB were primarily used among Chinese and Asian kids, almost like we were trying to self-police our collective behavior.

Jin’s initial reluctance to getting to know Wei-Chen reflects this fear of being seen as “too Chinese.” Wei-Chen tries to talk to Jin in Chinese, only for the latter to reply that he should speak English in America. As an immigrant with an accent and different cultural norms, Wei-Chen is basically everything Jin’s trying to run away from. When Wei-Chen then starts achieving things that Jin cannot or believes he’s not American (i.e. white) enough to do, and when Jin encounters racism from those he considered close, it flips his world upside down.

The Monkey King’s increasingly desires to be accepted by the gods. He learns mystic arts and all the things gods are supposed to be able to do, but they still only see him as a monkey. At the same time, he tries to correct his monkey-like behavior—for instance, by wearing shoes. The parallels between Jin and the Monkey King jumped out at me immediately, though I wonder if that’s the case for all readers.

Chin-Kee’s role initially seems to be highlighting racist imagery of Asians. There’s even a kind of laugh track at the bottom of every panel he’s in, as if you’re watching a sitcom with a wacky cousin. But as the story unfolds, his purpose becomes clearer: he embodies the fear that many Asian-Americans have about their image of American-ness showing cracks. If only they could just keep that side of themselves hidden, the world wouldn’t question whether they belong.

There’s an early scene in the comic where Jin is eating dumplings, and a couple of white kids make fun of him for it, even going as far as to say they’re made of dog meat. Chin-Kee is basically the personification of the shame Jin feels in that instant. Dumplings would be innocuous in China or other countries, but they become a barrier to acceptance in his mind.

While it never quite got that bad for me in my own life, I recall questioning why my family would sometimes eat steamed buns for breakfast, when American TV told me it should always involve muffins or something. My parents tried their best to provide a life that was both Asian and American, but on more than one occasion, I would ask, “Why do we have to eat rice so often?” It was only after I came back from my first year of college that I realized what a blessing daily rice and a home-cooked meal from my parents’ culture could be.

In 2019, Asian acceptance is at a high. Between cultural shifts that call to attention subtler forms of racism to successful films and TV shows starring Asians without the need for kung fu, things have changed. But there’s still an Asian-American experience whose trials and triumphs build day by day, and whose specifics may not be communicable to those unfamiliar with such a process. While it may never be entirely possible to bridge that gap, I hope we continue to build.

Trick and/or Treat: Halloween in the Aikatsu! Franchise

Note: This post topic was requested by Johnny Trovato through Patreon. If you’d like to see a particular topic on Ogiue Maniax, consider becoming a sponsor.

One of the interesting things about the 2014 Aikatsu! Episode “Halloween Night Party”  is how it showed that the holiday was relatively new in Japan. Characters repeatedly translate the English “trick or treat” into a Japanese explanatory sentence as if to hammer home the concept. The first few seasons of Aikatsu! didn’t even have Halloween episodes. But it’s been five years since then, and while it hasn’t been a straight line, the concept of “Halloween” is integrated into Aikatsu! pretty thoroughly. At the same time, the degree to which they embrace Halloween varies significantly, as if it’s unclear from year to year how much they should push for Halloween.

2015’s “YOU! GO! KYOTO!” perhaps barely qualifies as a Halloween episode. Instead, the focus is on a trip in Kansai, where the main trio gets together with Hattori Yuu, a friend of Akari’s who’s made a name for herself as a “tour guide idol” of sorts. The girls help her out with a Halloween special, and they do a themed performance as a follow-up. The lack of “trick or treat” is noticeable.

2016’s “Halloween Magic” returns to the Halloween episode format from 2014, albeit with an entirely different cast of characters in Aikatsu Stars! Not only do they bring back explaining what “trick or treat” means, but they even include a special competition just like in “Halloween Night Party.” This episode stands out to me more than any of the others simply because of Rola’s taiyaki outfit, seen above. Taking a relatively serious character and having her go around in the most ridiculous getup without even batting an eye speaks to her character having a certain charming roundedness. I have to wonder if maybe the concept of Halloween needs to be introduced again for newer, younger viewers coming in. Also, while “Halloween Night Party” made a reference to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “Halloween Magic” has one of the characters moonwalk while doing MJ-style “Whoo!”s, as if to say that the King of Pop is as much a part of Halloween as pumpkins and candy.

2017’s “Halloween Surprise” from Aikatsu Stars! places extra emphasis on the “trick” in “trick or treat,” albeit without actually using the words. The second half of this particular series involves a rivalry with another idol school, so the idea of competing takes on a new dimension in this Halloween episode compared to previous ones. Here, participants lose when their heart rate goes over a certain level, so the two sides have to try and scare or surprise one another. It’s kind of a twist on the original formula, and it does a decent job of acting as the stage for a bit of character growth on the character Koharu’s part. There’s a greater emphasis on using Halloween as an opportunity for pushing storylines compared to previous years. Also, for some reason, they reuse the costumes from the previous year. Could it be out of convenience (they already have the character designs laid out), or perhaps the costumes were just that popular?

2018’s “Aine’s Halloween Panic” from Aikatsu Friends! Incorporates Halloween into the show pretty thoroughly without drawing a ton of attention to it. Aine, the most recent heroine, has split off from her Aikatsu partner Mio so that they can train separately and come back stronger than ever. For this purpose, she plays the part in a TV special of a girl who discovers her senpai is a witch. The magical focus is the clear tie to Halloween, but once again there’s no “trick or treat.” In fact, there’s only one trick, as Mirai (seen above) tries to scare a couple characters during the episode. They treat Halloween as the most natural thing—is it a sign that it’s approaching Christmas in terms of cultural integration in Japan?

Looking at all these episodes, a couple things stick out to me.

First, it really is a shame that Yurika, the vampire-inspired idol from the first series, didn’t get any Halloween episodes when she was a more common character due to the relative lack of exposure for the holiday.

Second, the notion of “trick or treat” as a package deal seems to ebb and flow, but its constituent parts, i.e. pranks and candy, remain. One thing worth pointing out is that the tradition of going door to door to trick or treat never took hold in Japan, so maybe it’s no surprise that it would end up as something less codified. That being said, I’m aware that even in the US, trick or treat (especially in big cities) is more organized these days for safety purposes.

So what remains is the aesthetics of Halloween, costumes and all, with a cultural twist. That includes a taiyaki costume, and there’s even one girl in Aikatsu Friends! who dresses as a jiangshi (Chinese hopping ghost popular in Japan). Also, I guess Michael Jackson is part of that aesthetic as well.

Given that the pattern for Aikatsu! Halloween episodes exists, but that each year puts its own spin on the idea, I’m curious to see what direction this year’s takes. Because 2018’s Aikatsu Friends episode took a less upfront approach, could this one be more in the classic style? And with the new giant crossover series Aikatsu On Parade! on its way in 2020, Halloween Idol Activities might very well combine the styles of all previous shows.

 

Problematic Fans: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 19

I forgot to mention it last month, but the series has a Twitter account @hashikko_music. Also, Volume 3 is coming out September 20th!

With that out of the way, on to Chapter 19 of Hashikko Ensemble, titled “God is Dead.”

(I was thinking of adding the chapter title in these reviews. What do you think?)

Chapter Summary

The Hashimoto Chorus Appreciation Society has left Nishigafuchi, and they’ve taken away different lessons. Mimi-sensei discovers that the M-Con doesn’t require conductors, so her training and practice were unnecessary. Shinji finds out that extensive singing can really work out the stomach muscles to the point of pain. And Shion is reminded of how the memory of squeezing Mimi-sensei’s boobs is the key to her keeping her grip soft when playing piano.

In the clubroom, as Jin explains to everyone Nishigafuchi’s ability to minimize the amount of noise in their singing, Himari makes an appearance to deliver Orihara’s earphones, which she’s finally repaired. However, Himari is shocked to see the number of girls there, and after some awkward fumbling while handing over the earphones to Akira, the sheer amount of blushing going on triggers Hasegawa’s romance radar.

Meanwhile, as Mimi-sensei is advising the Volleyball (she wears many hats at school), we’re introduced to a kind of unofficial Mimi-sensei fan club. Its four members hold a grudge against the Chorus Appreciation Society because they’ve heard a rumor that one of the members has squeezed Mimi-sensei’s breasts, though they assume it’s one of the guys. They confront Akira and threaten him to tell them their target’s identity, but Akira, not wanting Shion to get hurt, decides to pretend that he’s the culprit.

However, Hasegawa interrupts and claims that Orihara is the one they’re looking for, even exaggerating the story to be extra obscene and extra gropey to troll them. Hasegawa reasons that they wouldn’t mess with Orihara, and this would end their whole endeavor. Unfortunately, she turns out to be very wrong, and one of the members tries to get into a fight with Orihara. Not long after, a teacher bursts into the faculty office and informs Mimi-sensei of a rumor that she was raped by Orihara, which causes her to do a literal spit take.

The Mimi-sensei Fan Club

The four members–Muro, Naga, Ouga, and Tsuyama–all seem to resemble animals, but I can’t for the life of me figure out if it’s supposed to be a specific reference. They don’t seem to fit Journey to the West, Momotaro, or the Four Symbols. If anyone knows what they could be, I’d be interested to know.

In addition, I like that the chapter points out how this little quartet is viewed with some disdain by other members of the school. They kind of come off as creeps, and you can practically hear the utter loathing in the voices of the Volleyball Club members when the four visit the club’s practice just to see Mimi-sensei. One of the members even calls Mimi “Mimi-kami-sama,” and they’re all obsessed with her large breasts, even more than the rest of the boys in the school. For some reason, they like to compare her boobs to different insect-like creatures, including pillbugs and large crustaceans known as Bathynomus giganteus. Doesn’t exactly sound hot, but…

Shion is the closest thing Hashikko Ensemble has had to antagonists thus far, so I have to wonder if they’ll somehow fulfill that function. Knowing the manga, though, I bet at least one or two (if not all of them) will somehow end up joining the main cast.

Another New Character! What Could It Mean?

The reason why Hasegawa is able to rescue Akira in time is because another classmate, Kurotaki Mai, mentioned the incident. Apparently, she relates to Akira because she also has an unusually deep voice, though Hasegawa thinks it might be something more. In fact, between Mai and Himari, Hasegawa has the impression that Akira is some kind of unrealized Casanova.

Speaking of Himari, I was wondering when she would show up again. The fact that she reacts with such shock at the amount of girls in their clubroom makes me wonder if she’s more nervous around other girls than guys. There’s a lot we still don’t know about her, but she does come across as shy and reticent.

There’s an amusing gag where both Hasegawa and Himari think of the other as looking mean, despite or perhaps because the two have different personalities. Is that another friendship in the making? And could Mai’s deep voice somehow land her in the Chorus Appreciation Society?

Deep Breath Languages and Non-Integer Overtones

I wonder what languages count as ones that require deep breaths. I only speak a few languages myself, and I can’t seem to think of any of them as requiring extensive use of deep breaths or strong use of stomach muscles. It’s a topic I’m fascinated to learn more about–I just wish I knew where to start!

Jin also explains that the key to the beautiful harmony that Nishigafuchi is capable of has to do with “non-integer overtones,” a term I don’t fully understand, but seems to imply an unusual harmonics of some kind. As Shion comments, it’s a difficult word even in Japanese (非整数次倍音, hiseisuujibaion). It appears to be more common of a term in audio engineering, which also speaks to Jin being the biggest sound nerd there is. I guess you could describe him as an audiophile, but that word doesn’t quite fit all the way, as he cares less about audio equipment and more about the science of sound and its interactions with the art of singing.

Wonder Cooooore!

There’s a weird gag in this chapter where the word “Wonder Coooore” keeps getting censored. It turns out that Wonder Core is an exercise machine promoted on Japanese TV.

It’s advertised around the world, including in the US through the Home Shopping Network, but it’s not nearly as funny or interesting.

Songs

No songs this month. Only conflict!!!

Final Thoughts

It’s a minefield to touch on the topic of rape in a joking matter, even if it all comes out of an elaborate misunderstanding (plus intentional obfuscation). I have faith that Kio won’t do anything truly in poor taste, but I still wanted to express some concern. We’ll have to see with the next chapter.

Amuro and Aina’s Excellent Adventures: Otakon 2019

Otakon has long been the anime convention I look forward to most every year. I like how it’s always had an great balance between fan and industry where neither side feels neglected, as well as a panel track that encourages in-depth exploration of topics. This year was no exception, with both great guests and a variety of interesting fan panels. Otakon has also settled into the Walter E. Washington Convention Center quite comfortably at this point, and I have few if any complaints about the logistics of the actual location. The only gaffe I will point out is that there’s still a good deal of miscommunication when it comes to autograph lines, but other than that, it was pretty smooth sailing.

With that said, on to the rest of the con report!

Interviews

I conducted interviews with two voice actors at Otakon: industry veteran Inoue Kikuko (Belldandy, Aina Sahalin, Kazami Mizuho) and legend Furuya Toru (Amuro Ray, Tuxedo Mask, Pegasus Seiya). They’ve been getting some traction on Japanese Twitter, which I find thrilling.

As an aside, I love the press area at Otakon in DC. Not only is it a prime cosplay photography space, making it a lively aspect of the con, but it’s so much more convenient than the old one, and makes it significantly easier to schedule activities.

Panels

Frequent Otakon guest and anime industry super veteran Maruyama Masao had a couple of panels where he went through pretty much every anime he’s ever produced. Most of it was fairly mainstream work from his three studios—Madhouse, Mappa, and M2—but there were a few rare gems like a short by Rintaro and Otomo about them bicycle racing each other. He also mentioned at what point he first started working with various directors and creators. Another thing I came away with was how the sex-and-violence-laden Kawajiri Yoshiaki OVAs of the 80s and 90s had hilarious trailers that would abruptly shift from non-stop action to claiming a beautiful love story was in there, complete with cheesy romantic pop.

Anime in Non-Anime was a fun and entertaining panel from Anime World Order‘s Gerald. Not only was it full of laughs, especially when it came to the news coverage of the Naruto run for the Storming Area 51 Facebook group, but it put into perspective how deceptively large the anime industry really is in terms of reach.

Am I Too Old for This? was a pleasant surprise. Rather than being nostalgic commiseration or an empty pep talk, the panel was an informed look at how the concept of adulthood can coexist with the seeming childishness of fandom. The main takeaway was that managing responsibility, whether that’s taking care of yourself or others (or acknowledging when you need help from others), is the contemporary benchmark of adulthood, and that fandom is compatible with this. There was also an important point about not revealing your power level immediately to uninitiated acquaintances, because you have to deal with the reality of how anime fans are perceived in general society.

Animation in Anime by Evan Minto and Nate A.M. was a varied look at both the history and implementation of conveying the illusion of movement in Japanese animation. I think the panel did a good job of dispelling the notion that there is only one good way to animate, and detailing how the particular challenges of animating in Japan (primarily budget and labor issues) resulted in creators having to do more with less. I wonder how many people came out of it eager to learn about legendary animator Kanada Yoshinori, whose distinct style lives on in the likes of Obari Masami, Studio Trigger, and others.

In 20 Years Ago: Anime in 1999 Daryl Surat of Anime World Order looked back on the year 1999, and the fact that it’s been twenty years alarms and frightens me. Regardless of my own insecurity over the passage of time, it was an effective panel at putting anime’s history into perspective. Some tech hiccups interfered with the panel somewhat, but it didn’t impact the overall enjoyment. He also showed a willingness to not put creators on an unnecessary pedestal, as he called out a famous director who likely exploited one of his voice actors.

My Panels

Nine years ago, I did a panel about this blog’s namesake, Ogiue from Genshiken, and since then, I hadn’t touched my favorite manga as a panel topic prior to Otakon 2019. But thanks to a series of rereleases of Kio Shimoku’s older manga, I was inspired to do a panel that didn’t just cover Kio’s most famous title but his entire manga career. Thus was born Genshiken & Beyond: The Works of Kio Shimoku.

Creator spotlights are not the most popular panels, so there wasn’t a large audience at first, and the next panel being JoJo’s meant those seated at the end weren’t necessarily there to see me, but I think I accomplished what I wanted in going over Kio’s varied and daring manga works. To my pleasant surprise, I even won over a harsh critic on the Otakon feedback forums.

I had a second panel as well, Star-Crossed Alien Lovers…in Robots! with Patz from The Cockpit and Alain from Reverse Thieves. It was a more relaxed panel than my Kio one, and was built around looking at various robot anime that highlight romance amid conflict. My hope is that the panel got people thinking, even a little.

For those who attended my panels, thank you, and I hope to see you next year. I’ve got some ideas in the works…!

Bradio Concert

Having watched the anime Death Parade and enjoyed its high-energy opening theme, I was looking forward to Bradio’s live performance at Otakon, and it delivered in spades. Their attitude and presentation drew me in, and their unique jazz/funk/disco-fusion style is hard not to enjoy. I loved the hell out of every song, and it’s clear the crowd did too, as I could see people practically compelled to dance to the groove. Bradio’s irresistible music is made all the better by the singer’s excellent vocals and sheer range—he pretty much did one song entirely in falsetto without losing any power.

I would see Bradio again, no doubt.

As an aside, I stopped in briefly for the Nujabes Tribute Concert, but wasn’t able to stay long enough to get a good idea of it overall.

Other Notes

I briefly stopped by the Saturday Morning Cartoons subtitled video room. Along with the dubbed video room, the idea was to replicat watching anime from the 90s with commercials. I watched Sailor Moon in Japanese, and like with so many other shows with a merchandise engine behind them, there were tons of Sailor Moon commercials during the actual show. I also got to see a commercial starring the best video game mascot ever: Segata Sanshiro. If I had more time, I would’ve liked to stay there a bit more.

Also, shout-outs to the dealer’s room booth that was selling Precure, Doremi, and classic magical girl stuff I got this fine piece of Princess Comet/Cosmic Baton Girl Comet-san merchandise, and I was definitely tempted to get more. A rare find!

And lastly, some cosplay.