ANIME MEH-XPOWell, another year and another edition of Anime Expo is in the can. AX is a anime fan convention, but, these days, it's pretty much just an industry trade show where the biggest announcements of the year are made. Some people decry that fact, but I think the whole idea of conventions is overrated... any convention large enough to get the Japanese guests you want to see will be as overcrowded as Shibuya station at rush hour (or a McDonald's in Paris) and you'll likely need binoculars and a step ladder just to get a glimpse at them (and, if you think you're going to get an autograph from them... you're more likely to get struck by lightning while clutching that winning lottery ticket). And I don't think I could stand sharing my hotel room with 19 other fanboys. If I had enough money to travel, I'd go visit friends or places I want to see... sitting in a room and watching anime is something I can do at home for much cheaper. I know some people enjoy conventions, but I'll stick with my Fantasia film festival, thank you very much.
Anyway, this year's edition of Anime Expo is notable because... nothing I'm all that pumped about got announced. I guess if I had to pick the announcement I'm happiest about, it's the third Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OVA series getting licensed by FUNimation Productions, Inc., but it was a sure thing for getting licensed anyway, and I long ago predicted that FUNi would get it becase Geneon lost interest in the franchise and FUNi got the spin-off Tenchi Muyo GXP, so the only surprise would have been if anyone else but FUNi had gotten the rights. And I'm happy that FUNi did because, while I'm not much of a dub fan in general, I like the dubbed versions of songs for whatever weird reason, and, while Pioneer dubbed Tenchi songs (for the English track only) back in the LaserDisc days, back when Tenchi was their flagship franchise and they included all sorts of neat posters and hastily-translated inserts, usually with amusingly stilted English (and their creators talking about the women characters in the most sexist way possible), along with the LDs (and VHS tapes), when Pioneer changed their logo from the "Omega-Tuning Fork" thingie to the boring rounded, tilting letters, it seemed like they just didn't care as much and the Tenchi in Tokyo songs were left in Japanese, even on the English dub track, and all we got was a damn postcard. And when Pioneer Animation split off from the parent electronics company and became "Geneon", aside from doing rereleases of the older Tenchi stuff, they just became another licensor and decided to not aggressively pursue Tenchi, thinking the modern fandom niche was more into Love Hina clones like Ai Yori Aoshi (even if said "harem anime" series are inferior to Tenchi... well, maybe not Tenchi in Tokyo).
Also, as I've mentioned before, another reason I'm excited but not that excited is that Tenchi Muyo was "da bomb" when I first saw it at a comic book convention in the summer of 1994, just before I turned 20, but, since then, a whole third of my life has passed and I'm outgrowing even good harem anime like Tenchi Muyo (yet I like cartoons meant for barely pubescent Japanese girls like Super GALS!, I know), and the "space opera", which I honestly never cared all that much for in Tenchi in the first place (being much more of a fan of the "humourous adventures of super-powered space girls on Earth" aspect of the series), isn't strong enough to hold my interest for that long, and, from the spoiler summaries I've read of the new episodes, the humour takes a back seat to the "space opera", playing to the fanboys who love getting into arguments about "minutiae about the properties of Lighthawk Wings" (thanks Mazikeen) and less to those of us who just want an entertaining romp on Earth and in space that is a spoof of the pretenses of other space operas which doesn't take itself too seriously. And, if the previous Tenchi Muyo OVA series was any indication, they'll attempt to answer some of the mysteries but will actually bring up more ambiguous crap; not that there's necessarily anything wrong with leaving certain mysteries unexplained, but mainly when it serves a useful purpose, like making you think (i.e. trying to figure out what happened to the world in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou; were most of the people killed off by environmental calamities and natural disasters, or did they just decide to stop reproducing at the rate they were?) or just to just leave the ending spooky rather than explaining everything à la Scooby-Doo (i.e. how, in the X-Files episode "Blood", the mechanics of how people were getting orders to kill from ATM machines and LCD microwave timer displays were explained, sort of, but who did it and why they did it was left completely open-ended). But the stupid mysteries from the second series are just stuff that wasn't worth waiting 8 or 9 years to be answered, like whether or not Washuu is a "goddess" and what her relationship is in relation to Tokimi, who wasn't developed too well as a enigmatic character. And don't get me started on Sasami and Tsunami.
I dare say that I would be looking forward to the series more if the Kiyone I know and love, Galaxy Police Detective First Class Kiyone Makibi, was included as a character (rather than a completely different character who was named after the same Okayama prefecture village), but Masaki Kajishima hates her. I say, that the franchise has grown over the years he didn't care as much and, whether or not he cares for the character, she has a rightful spot in all future Tenchi productions.
Oh, yes... other things besides Tenchi Muyo were announced, so I shall talk about a few.
The Planetes anime was and wasn't announced... the dubbing studio Bang Zoom! Entertainment let it slip that they were working on it, but no distributor came forward and actually made it official. Since the comic by Makoto Yukimura is the best seinen manga I've picked up since Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, I'm happy to know that it's on the way, though, from what I understand, and I've only seen part of one episode fansubbed myself (the video was jittery to the point of being mostly unwatchable), that the cartoon version is more like "the adventures of Hachimaki and Tanabe" (and will they get romantic or not?) and less a Patlabor-like ensemble comedy drama.
I've seen a couple of episodes of To Heart, just licensed by The Right Stuf International (yes, the "Stuf" is not a typo), like the episode with the introverted girl in the witchcraft club who speaks only at a whisper and the one with the popular (in doujinshi) android "sisters", Multi and Serio, at my old anime club, and it's a sweet enough series, certainly sweeter than most series based on hentai dating simulators (with the sexual elements excised for the cartoon), if a bit too slow. I don't know if it's good enough to buy, but it has been well over three years since my exposure to it.
I saw one episode of Popotan, one of the Love Hina clones which Geneon has licensed as I discussed before, and the entire first episode seemed to be one big long fan service sequence with the lead character running into a whole bunch of girls with skimpy or bare breasts. I'm getting too old for that shit, but I know at least two of the three teenaged guys who I regularly chat about anime with on AIM will probably like it (and one of them I sent the first fansubbed episode to, so I know he likes it) as they are the target audience anyway. Supposedly, as far as "harem anime" cartoons go, it's one of the better ones, but that's not all that difficult of an accomplishment, at least if you don't count classic stuff like Urusei Yatsura and Tenchi Muyo as being pure "harem".
Samurai Champloo, which is coming from Geneon, is one show that's getting a lot of buzz as being the spiritual successor to Cowboy Bebop, being from the same director, Shinchiro Watanabe. I dunno... a lead character who is like a breakdancing version of Kenshin Himura? Eh, I'd give it a rental chance if I saw it at the Pincourt Blockbuster Video outlet (or, pipedream, if it showed up on YTV), but I think I'm also getting too old for anime shows which look "kewl" for the sake of looking "kewl" and it's not something I'd go out of my way to see.
My biggest disappointment is that ADV Films didn't announce that they've acquired the other 26 episodes of the superb, but vastly underappreciated, Super GALS!, so people waiting to see what happens after volume 6 are out of luck, though, since I still don't have volume 6 (or 2 or 3), I imagine, by the time I have all of the first 26 episodes, the new episodes will be out. Also, I am a bit curious as to who, exactly, has licensed the Narutaru/Shadow Star anime; according to John Oppliger of AN Entertainment (some months ago on the "Ask John" board at Anime Nation), it has actually been licensed by someone, since AN enquired about it but was told someone already had it. Same deal with Planetes. My pipe dream is that someone will announce Sailor Moon Sailor Stars and the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon series, and, just for Mayukh, Please Ask Dr. Rin and Ultra Maniac (an actual "magical boy" show). And I want Naruto to be confirmed once and for all, if just to end the stupid speculation on message boards. Finally, I am mystified as to how Hitoshi Ashinano's wondrous Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou/Yokohama Shopping Log/Quiet Country Café manga, about the best manga that I have ever read, still hasn't been announced by anyone; really, the current relative popularity of manga within the general comic book fandom niche is leading to the domestic market being flooded with mediocre crap, and sooner or later, the saturation point shall be reached and/or the fad will be over, and the manga market will implode, so I was hoping that a real polished treasure of a manga like YKK could be licensed while the iron's still hot because I think the domestic market is large enough now that a manga as languidly-paced as YKK could be appreciated. And, for the skeptics, just tell them it's the story of lesbian and bisexual androids in a post-apocalyptic world... technically, it's true.
In short, I guess it's either that I'm a burned out anime fan who is hard to impress or that I haven't actually been to an anime club much in the past three years and I don't download fansubs that much, so I simply haven't seen a lot of the heretofore unlicensed shows people get excited about, and probably a bit of both, because I'm just finding it harder to get excited at the list of acquisitions. Hopefully something will surprise me... hey, I didn't know anything about Super GALS! at this point last year, but I picked up the first volume of the Mihona Fujii GALS! manga in French last August and it rapidly became one of my favourite series, at least among the newer ones.