Introducing Honor Back to the Fandom

Avatar: The Last Airbender, everyone’s favorite show that Nickelodeon slowly killed (I’ll explain later) is getting a reboot on Netflix! I began having war flashbacks after reading a few succinate tweets, so I decided to dig a bit and pull up some of the fandom’s history and relationship with Nickelodeon.

So, this article has been sitting in my blogging folder since the live-action series production news was released. I thought a dozen times about publishing it, then my concerns for the fandom were quelled. Except…on Reddit.

Maybe a month ago now, I came across this article written by someone who clearly had never watched the show. Sure, it could have been an assigned topic they were unfamiliar with, but even reading a synopsis on the wiki would give you more information than whatever that article attempted to confer.

Hence, my posting of this article in its original form which has still aged pretty well given the number of updates and news we’ve received.

Before I begin, I would just like to point out that the irony is not lost on this older post. In it, I talked about New York Comic Con’s upcoming revival of their Anime Festival. I pointed out that production staff and even voice actors of the original ATLA series would be in attendance. Yes, this is to promote their new Netflix series, The Dragon Prince, but it also just felt like something was in the air.

After this news initially dropped, I’ve waited about two days for my emotions to settle. The good, the bad and the in-between all resurfaced with this development. Like Natsume Yuujinchou, Avatar: The Last Airbender is just one of my all-time favorite series. They both premiered around the same time frame as well, becoming a part of my collective for years now.

I also gave myself more time to try and find posts that I wanted to use to source some of the things I would like to cover. Sadly, because it has been so long, some of the accounts associated with them have been deleted. I specifically remember reading and learning certain things years ago, but without proof, it’s all null.

Early 2005, ATLA premiered on Nickelodeon. The show aired from February 21st 2005 to July 19th, 2008. It garnered love worldwide and strong fandoms formed on DeviantArt and Tumblr.

Adding to Tumblr’s prominence in the community, co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino joined the site with blogs. Production staff and show consultants like Sifu Kisu also held blogs, but other creatives have unfortunately deleted theirs years later.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Book 3 ending. This led to numerous comprehensive critiques concerning the show and even chatter speculating if there would be a Book 4.

Around this time gossip and leaked information from the writer’s room was rife. I am still in the process of confirming elements and tidbits that proved true to the outcome of the show’s story.

The Actual Story

ATLA was special because it depicted the horrors of war and colonialism. After discovering his destiny as The Avatar, Aang ran away as any twelve year old would do. While fleeing, the boy got caught in a storm and was encased in an iceberg. Fire Lord Sozin decided to expand the Nation’s reach and unfortunately, Aang had awoken with the realization that his people were gone.

Aang wakes up to a new world one century over with a brother and sister duo at his helm. Katara and Sokka are from the Southern Water Tribe, a small settlement in the South Pole that has been decimated by the Fire Nation. The Northern Water Tribe bolsters greater numbers and is more fortified. We visit this settlement later on in the series.

Katara is the last waterbender amongst her people, the rest kidnapped by the Fire Nation. There is also a looming secret surrounding her mother which I will not spoil here.

Her brother Sokka was a misogynistic jerk in earlier seasons and seemed to overcompensate for his lack of bending out of jealousy. Sokka also felt inadequate concerning his masculinity, since he was too young to participate in his culture’s rite of passage before the departure of his father and the other warriors of his tribe.

During the course of the series, Sokka grows more confident in his abilities. He even learns from a master and creates a nifty space sword from a fallen meteor! Sokka meets Suki during the gaang’s travels, the leader of a fierce group of women called the Kiyoshi Warriors. Suki has to knock Sokka on his ass a few times which in turn knocks some sense into him.

The gaang meets the blind bandit, Toph. She learned bending from badger moles who were blind just like her, sensing the vibrations in the earth to “see”. Later in the series Toph even invents a new form of bending!

Then there is honorable Prince Zuko, Princess Azula, and their Uncle Iroh. I won’t go into too much detail here, but Zuko is my favorite character from the series and he had the greatest redemption arc of all time. OF ALL TIME.

Not to mention all of the colorful characters the gaang meets – from fan clubs to bands of misfits in the woods to entering a literal police state that captured and brainwashed dissidents.  And that’s not even factoring in the spirit world shenanigans!

Asian Coding and Canon in Avatar: The Last Airbender

I don’t use Twitter much, but I happened to come across the ATLA live-action adaptation news there and Reddit simultaneously.

For some reason, many people didn’t see the problem with the racebending that went on in the film that shall not be named. I see this argument in the anime community a lot. It’s not related, but I just want to put it out there as I associate the two in my mind.

That which shall not be named…

In anime, if a character has a Japanese first and last name they are interpreted as Japanese, despite their “western” features. If the character has blonde hair, blue eyes, a foreign first name or a Japanese last name, they are usually haafu.

If they are a full-on gaijin best believe the anime will mention they are from England, Germany, Scandinavia, etc. at least five times each episode to hammer it home. Also, the ‘foreigner’ or gaijin will usually have terrible Japanese.

This argument also comes up a lot in the cosplay community. There is always someone offended at actual Japanese cosplaying anime characters believed to be ‘white’ based on appearance. It is always the same tired argument despite what year it is.

Just one more important point before I move on:
Avatar: The Last Airbender is NOT an anime.

There have been westerners making shows in the aesthetic as an anime in recent years, but for the most part anime are Japanese animations. ATLA is an American animated cartoon.

Not all cartoons are meant for children, despite a rather disturbing popular consensus. Animation is simply another medium of storytelling that can be aimed at any age group and/or demographic. It gives freedoms that traditional film, digital cinema, rotoscoping and CGI simply could not exhibit.

You wouldn’t put Dora the Explorer in the same category as The Legend of Korra now, would you? I mean if you would, it’d be pretty weird…please don’t.

Okay better example: The Simpsons, Futurama, even Disenchantment on Netflix. Shows with the same key production folks loosely involved. Clearly targeted at adults, but maybe because they are on different networks that association is not as strong as the ATLA/LOK series.

My pet peeves aside, to explain why the characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender are not ‘white ‘ but rather Asian-coded, we have to examine which cultures they are based on.

On the show’s use of Chinese characters and the movie that shall not be named

The show uses various schools of martial arts that make up the bending on the show. The showrunners would literally consult masters like Sifu Kisu for the best practices. There are Chinese characters written throughout the series. The show’s opening credits, along with “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” and “The Cave of Two Lovers” episodes for their heavy usage of Mandarin characters also immediately come to mind. Even Zuko’s Blue Spirit wanted poster had Chinese characters.

The Blue Spirit wanted poster

Imperial Japan is said to be the inspiration for the Fire Nation. China is generally the Earth Kingdom. Inuit tribes and culture are the Water Tribe, and Tibetan Monks are the Air Nation Nomads. Some characters even bear names inspired by their cultures and this carries over to the next series (i.e. Tenzin, Asami Sato, Mai, etc.).

This is off topic, but I can’t help but laugh every time I think of Asami Sato or Toph Beifong. There used to be this joke that they were the only characters rich enough to afford last names.

Unanswered Questions and Plot Points

From start to finish minor and major controversies surrounding the show. None sent fans into a fever pitch like these six words:

What happened to Zuko’s mother, Ursa?

This screenshot is rendering awkwardly but I need it to retain its readability…

A plotline that was never fulfilled in the main series, DiMartino wrote a post on his website about Nickelodeon not being interested “in doing animated TV movies”.  The creators pitched a movie surrounding “the search” for Zuko’s Mother, which later became a Dark Horse three part graphic novel. The 2013 post seems to have a broken link, but can be found in the archives of his website.

Given the history, I am excited but can’t help but feel a bit weary. I will be covering news concerning the shows development and full reviews when it does premiere, which I’m estimating could be late 2021 or even 2023 at the latest, as they are in the very early” stages of development.

I have cut a good portion of this article out as I need to research a few more leads first. When I have enough information, I will go further into some of the “unsolved mysteries” and urban legends in the fandom.

I know many people may not like this article, but it just had to be done for the fandom. I just didn’t like seeing long-term fans such as myself getting completely massacred by those who don’t know even a fraction of the full story of what went on while these series aired. I don’t claim to have all the answers, only the production crew and those involved would know the full story. But these are things I have known for years and like many fans, can’t seem to forget.

Have you been a fan of the series since the beginning? Do you read the graphic novels? Did I miss something that you would like to be added in the next post?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on our website, Twitter and Reddit for more updates on this topic!

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A Rushed Story Always Fails the Viewer

A Tokyo Ghoul :re 2nd season review. I am not even going to lie, I felt like I was watching Naruto after the first few episodes.

Weeks ago, I spoke about Sui Ishida’s struggle to finish Tokyo Ghoul under the duress of external stresses. The anime industry is bad, and the manga industry is just an uncomfortable extension of that. It is hard enough to write and create a world to bring to life without suits and executives breathing down your neck. Especially if a serialization is scheduled to come out weekly, the stakes grow even higher. Mental toll aside, that amount of stress could really screw with your physical health and give ailments you didn’t even know were possible.

Because the author, or mangaka is now affected – so is the story.

I’m not really sure what happened regarding the anime adaptation’s development other than Studio Pierrot had produced the entire series with revolving directors. Tokyo Ghoul and Root A being Morita Shuuhei, TG:re being Watanabe Odahiro and the spin-off OVA’s TG Jack and Pinto were Shimada Souichi and Matsubayashi Tadahito, respectively.

So…what does this have to do with it?

Different directors have diverse styles and prefer to hire those who would be true to their vision.

There is a general fandom consensus that the original TG adaptation was spectacular, minute faults aside. When √A came around that good sentiment went to hell and the season was subsequently retconned from existence. Then we got :re, which was a jumbled, rushed mess from the start. The fact that we don’t know how to refer to the second half of this series or categorize it is a reflection of this. If season two never existed in Root A, then would :re be the spiritual successor? But that series was then split into two parts with twelve episodes each instead of just a regular twenty-four episode run. Is it a new season aside from itself? Or is it just Tokyo Ghoul 2nd Season as MyAnimeList categorizes it?

Aside from periodically looking up spoilers to any series without lessening the enjoyment of the show, I had already read fan summaries of everything cut out of each episode. Dozens of arcs squeezed into a twenty-four-minute time slot.

Characters came on screen, and almost five seconds later would be dead. Others would be flashed on screen with their ghoul name and ranking class. Sometimes I’d pause the video to head over to the wiki if I were interested enough, other times I’d just turn my brain off and wait until a segment I understood appeared.

I was particularly interested in I believe episode five, where Mado Akira, Touka, and Hinami had a heart to heart about how much of a monster Mado Kureo was. The Touka-Kaneki wedding was also something great to witness, even if the…er…’artistic’ sex scene lasted longer than the ceremony. There was also the cheap slideshow of reaction to what I guess was the after party? It was really vague concerning the timeline and why they were in ceremonial attire one moment and later in plain clothes still being cheered.

I had no clue but went along with it.

I also remember reading that the sex scene in the manga was implied shortly after Touka asked Kaneki if he was a virgin, but it was never shown. Maybe someone on the production team was a really big fan of the couple and wanted to do the ship justice? Or they were an uncontracted animator who came from Goblin Slayer and wanted to spice up the show with a bit of action for the male viewers.

Either way, they conveyed that the scene was of importance for Kaneki’s growth as a person.

After the remaining Anteiku crew and their associates have a degree of happiness, Mitsuki shows up to get his twisted revenge. Which was really a shame that such an interesting character was reduced to being mad senpai didn’t notice them. From what I read, I thought the transgender storyline was something unique that could have been explored in-depth to add more context to the angry slick-haired man trying to murder Touka like a Scooby Doo villain at every turn.

Which while I’m on the subject of bad villains, can I just point out the shift in animation from the first half of :re is so jarring I didn’t know who some of these people even were? I had no clue it was Kaneki in the first episode during my initial watch of the series. Urie Kuki looked completely different and if it weren’t for his…what…cheekbone moles? I would have no clue it was him. Yonebayashi Saiko turned into a complete loli after cutting her hair. Touka during her wedding looked like a character straight out of Princess Mononoke.

I’m not someone who nitpicks animation (especially since I have the artistic abilities of a baked potatoe) but it really took me out of what little immersion the show left viewers who hadn’t fully read the manga.

Despite all of this, I kept watching.

Until… the show turned into Naruto Shippuden with its use of clones, long-winded monologues, and speeches about friendship. I could no longer take it seriously and decided to completely turn my brain off and just withstand the watered down mediocre blink and you’ll miss it fight scenes.

So in the end, what was the point of this review?

I wanted to talk about what a shame it was that this show was rushed. That the manga was rushed to a finish. It was such a unique concept that has now been (arguably) copied in other works (such as Oshimi Shuuzo’s Happiness).

Tokyo Ghoul was unique and wonderful, full of tragedy, regret, and psychological analysis along with the commentary of our current world.  Then Gaia literally got in the way of this story with its own problems to prevent its full potential from being unleashed.

Aside from the anime adaptation, a large chunk of the viewer base who has not yet been lost by the terrible pacing of this installment will not venture on to the manga. They will not care to read the source material. They will not care about going to the Wiki, Reddit or any other online forums to find out what was cut out of the story. People will simply move on, with the impression that this mess was the author’s true intention. I love reading the manga after a series ends, but sadly I must admit I haven’t even waited for the show to end before writing this review. The final episode will air Christmas day and deciding I don’t want to witness the disappointment, I’ve decided to jot down my feelings two days beforehand. The show won’t magically improve in its last episode. I won’t leave the series with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, wondering what is to become of the characters. It will end on an anticlimactic, unsatisfying note.

Which is a complete tragedy.

Update: Touka and Kaneki’s kid Ichika is adorable but she still doesn’t redeem the series for me.

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When Art Imitating Life is Utterly Effective

Jesus Christ be praised! Kingdom Come Deliverance is the historical RPG you’ve been missing in your life.

I’ve always liked video games. When I was younger, I owned almost every game system there was. Sega, Nintendo, PS, Gameboy, Wii, etc. you name it – I had it. As I got older, however, things changed and I didn’t have as much leisure time for gaming. The last major system I purchased was a PlayStation 3 in 2010 during my senior year of high school. I know this because I found the receipt for the console recently while cleaning my room in anticipation for the New Year. I also brought a Nintendo 3DS in college to play Pokémon Sun and Animal Crossing: New Leaf but I don’t really count that as they just took the edge off while I was stressing during finals.

I’ve since not even touched that portable console.

The game I played most often was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d actually wanted Bioshock Infinite, but the clerk at Game Stop talked me into purchasing a bundle. So I did.

I had watched most of the game in a walkthrough by TheRadBrad and stopped at a certain point because I wanted to try myself. This was also around the time he started cheesing his fanbase by uploading 10-15 minute videos to make more money from ads, so needless to say I was a bit put off by his new methods.

I played the first mission of the game and after a while got…bored. It was strange, I thought it would be the best thing since sliced bread but I just couldn’t care for it. I popped Skyrim into the PS3 and haven’t looked back since.

I am a HUGE fan of medieval historical fantasy. Or even historical realism. I adore period dramas and anything that features castles and kingdoms. I adore the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, relish watching shows like The Last Kingdom (which recently got renewed for Season 4!) and Downton Abbey (and its lot). I was sucked into the world and silently clucked to myself “damn it, Todd Howard got me again” each time I brought a new iteration of the game or a DLC that I really didn’t need but wanted and therefore – had to have.

Things had luckily changed for me in 2018, and I had the ability to not spend every single dime I earned on transportation, bills, and groceries and could indulge in small luxuries and hobbies after years of yearning. I purchased mainly books, or attended conventions, sometimes opting to buy tasty Japanese snacks or try a new restaurant. Other times I would just visit a new location for a day or explore a park I’d never been in. It had been lovely.

With the change of the weather I couldn’t go out much anymore comfortably, and decided to focus on buying a PS4 before the holidays ended; especially with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 and multiple supporting trailers so we all collectively knew it wasn’t a fever dream onset by ten years of waiting for the ultimate greatness to come. I mean, yes the games have been still coming out but the story is so damn convoluted and no one had money to keep purchasing new systems just to play the newest installment in the series. Then there was the fact that the Final Mix games with actual content would not be released outside of Japan.

Then it was decided to release the FM games in some sort of shady attempt to grab more money from the fandom starved of any new and tangible information to the main story or its characters. I own Chain of Memories on the Gameboy Advance SP. To eat away at my feelings of inadequacy, I also purchased some of the manga for the series at Barnes and Noble and read those instead of pinning after games I knew I would never play. I did end up buying the Final Mixes when they were released for the US, but the experience felt cheapened, somehow.

Around Black Friday (which is the huge discounted sale day after Thanksgiving for those of you outside of the US) retailers and outlets began advertising the PS4 Slim for a slashed price. At first, it was just supposed to be Target, but other retailers did it early than expected and I went insane. I didn’t have another paycheck coming that soon and frantically called stores to see if they could hold the rapidly selling out product. I even kept tabs on websites and would get sad when I refreshed and seen the dreaded “out of stock” listed below the PlayStation.

Eventually, I woke up super early one morning when I did have money and ordered it on Walmart’s website. I went back to bed for a few hours and checked again after waking to see that it was sold out. On Black Friday, the system was delivered and I felt like I was back in the age of technology. I set it up and the first thing I did was open Netflix to watch season 3 of Frontier with my mom.

I missed the option to buy Assassins Creed: Odyssey on sale, so I opted to purchase The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (I know, I know – but this one had mods! Albeit not as many as Microsoft or PC because Sony enjoys sucking the fun out of everything…but mods! And dynamic lighting! Yeah!) and a medieval RPG I still wanted despite all of the questionable things I’d heard – Kingdom Come Deliverance.

Jesus Christ be praised!

Obviously, not Jesus Christ.

I fell so far into the Holy Roman Empire’s Bohemia it is not even funny. After the holiday I had a health scare and wasn’t able to do much each day. I would get up, crack open my laptop and write a few things and then shut it and go back to my room to lie down. After a week of this, I decided to play the game instead of starting another Skyrim file that would take up all of my time.

And it was amazing.

I spend from morning into the late night running around the in-game town doing errands, reading the codex and learning everything I could about this completely immersive world. Then after a few days – I realized I was still in the prologue. I stayed up one night, drinking water and eating dates, and powered through the prologue to fully experience what the open world had to offer. I was neglecting my website and other writing duties, but as I still hadn’t felt well I let myself just enjoy something for once.

I loved how realistic the game was. Meaning, I couldn’t half ass anything.

I’ll be honest, my Henry of Skalitz was an absolute loser in the beginning. I couldn’t ride a horse to run away from enemies, I couldn’t jog to a new quest without running out of stamina, holding a sword? Lol forget about it. It infuriated me when the horse would get stuck in the tiniest of streams because I couldn’t handle it well. Or that I couldn’t pick a lock or even knock out an enemy. I had no armour and the enemies that did would rightfully kick my ass. Only I couldn’t black out, because that meant losing progress because I couldn’t afford to purchase Savior Schnapps and I was nowhere near one of the games various automatic save points in the story. I couldn’t read to even brew the potion for this alcoholic drink, and since I didn’t have money for a bath I was dirty and no one wanted to talk to me.

Warhorse Studios really went there. And they went there all the way.

It made you commit to the story and turning the son of a blacksmith into someone who could at least handle a sword. Ride a horse. Afford food for breakfast so he didn’t starve. Someone who had a place to sleep at night.

Slowly, but surely, young Henry made his way through the world. He made friends, learned skills, and the story progressed in a way that felt natural. No one gives a shit about you in the beginning. There is no sympathetic character who tries to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. Well, I take that back. There is Lady Stephanie, Sir Divish’s wife but she seemed to have…a lack of heirs and…ahem…other motives for her kindness.

But everyone else wants something, and you either have to trade or compromise. Or if you’re like me, woo them with your fancy speech options and book-learning.

This game really made it for me when I kept failing this one questline over and over again for literal hours. “Getting Runt” was quickly becoming a pain and I was at my wit’s end. I couldn’t just eat blocks of cheese mid-battle or drink marigold concoction to heal my health – because that is not realistic. I couldn’t fix my armor mid-fight because at the time I attempted this I didn’t even have armor and I somehow thought that would be okay and that I wouldn’t get my skull cracked open and bleed out in a gutted old upper floor of a cathedral.

Why did I think I could best an enemy with more strength than me, a great set of armour and a nasty attitude towards life would easily go down because I was the hero?

The unremarkable hero that didn’t even have enough strength to wield a sword, didn’t possess knowledge of combos or even have two groschen to rub together and had been eating out of community pots up until this point to not faint and die.

Kingdom Come Deliverance takes your expectations of what an RPG is and turns it on its head. You would not magically possess and display the abilities you needed to survive in a life or death situation. You would simply just die. And no one would care, because you were not remarkable or well-known.

You would be mourned, but you’re not far enough into the storyline at this point to understand why. I’d just all be for nought.

After displaying clear signs of insanity, I decided to reload an earlier save before I even attempted this battle. I went to train with Sir Bernard, a man who will pumble you until you get the combos right. Until you learn the in-game battle system and its rules. Until you build up your strength, stamina, agility, warfare and general knowledge.

So I trained. I learned. I fought the bandits who jumped me for being foolish enough to travel at night and think I would be untouchable. I took their armour, selling some, fixing a lot more to wear. I purchased a sword, a Needle to stick them with the pointy end. I started saving up to buy a horse so I no longer had to travel on foot. I spoke to people, a lot of folks to improve my speech and unlocked new conversation options. I learned how to hunt, which helped Henry learn how to hold a bow. I traveled across the map, meeting new people and seeing friendships being formed.

Then I went back to that mission I was stuck on, poisoned my blade with bane and hit that big brute square in the face three good times and cued the cutscene that signaled the end of that mission. I just sat back and laughed, feeling accomplished for the first time in years while playing a video game.

I put in the work, and it paid off.

I was also now respected and taken seriously as Henry’s life began taking a turn for the better. The game truly started now, and I had a front seat to how I wanted to shape the world based on the skills I had to learn in real life. The combat system, the recipes for potions, and how to investigate a situation to end a quest without violence. Search around the actual world to find things to help the character of Henry out.

It was so rewarding. Truly.

Beating the game two days ago I just sat for a while and watched the credits roll. I completed the epilogue and then took to Reddit to find out if more story was to come, if there were DLCs or a third act planned. The newest DLC, Band of Bastards, will have the first mission streamed on WarHorse Studio’s Twitch account tomorrow on January 2nd. I’ll definitely be tuning in. Also, a well-placed Twitter photo seems to allude to more story to come concerning the cliffhanger we were left on, so I will be keeping tabs on that.

So where have I been this past December? I was stuck in Bohemia, turning a black smith’s son into a distinguished war veteran and private investigator. I was smiling like a fool, being damn proud of a bunch of 1s and zeros. All the while being thankful that there are so many different mediums available for storytelling and optimistic of what the future holds in the realm of technology.

Kingdom Come Deliverance is a good game. If you enjoy RPGs with historical context, be sure to give it a go and don’t be frustrated if at first, you do not succeed. Try, and improve your methods of approach. Only then can you attain mastery, when you keep trying at something despite failing over and over again. Hard work is what builds character, and this is what KCD has shown flawlessly.

Where to Find the Game: Steam PS4 Xbox

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My Oddly Interesting Observations at Anime NYC 2018

Is Anime NYC worth it? Read about my strange experience and let’s find out.

I’ve been waiting for this.

After the rather lacking experience of Anime Fest @ NYCC, I was ready to shake it off and be surrounded by nothing but fandom.

I woke up super early, arriving at the Jacob Javits Center at 9:30am. There were a bunch of autograph tickets being raffled at 8 am and out of curiosity, I decided to see if any were left.

Coming to the con, I didn’t really have much of a plan. See a few specific booths, stop by some vendors, go to industry panels and try to stay long enough for the masquerade.

I accomplished half of this list.

It’d snowed the Thursday before the convention, turning Manhattan into what felt like early January depending on the time of day. I ordered my ticket late and went up to the will call area upon arrival. There were a ton of red ribbons everywhere for the queue and corresponding signage. I barely waited five minutes before getting the Black Clover inspired badge, a lanyard and show programme booklet.

After a quick walk through security I ventured downstairs to find the autograph hall queue.

Many fans were casually lounging around the food court area and the atmosphere was super relaxed. It was refreshing. Hours earlier, an email had been sent out from the convention letting everyone know the game plan for the day and that “You can also walk around the building, sit down, get coffee, and visit the Merch Store.”  

I decided to take advantage of the good vibes and take off my coat, rearrange my bag and gather my bearings. Heading even further downstairs I asked security where the ticket signing area would be and was pointed in the right direction. Getting there, however, one staff member was already closing the area off with the red tape I’d seen earlier. I asked if there were any more tickets and he apologized and said no. I asked where would be a good place to wait for the Exhibition Hall to open and found my way back to the lounge area with the other fans.

The escalators were now blocked off and no one could go up to where I initially entered the building.  Venturing up to the area two staff members were standing guarding the section and only let other staff members cross.

A crowd assembled and one fan (for whatever reason) decided to argue with one of the men for a few minutes. When she paused for breath, I asked where I should wait for the Exhibition Hall and was directed back to the now taped off section I had just previously come from. I mentioned that I was sent over here by another staff member and received a confused look in response. I suggested that maybe I should just hang out in the area and he agreed. The fan from earlier then continued her pointless argument with the same staff member.

I’m honestly not sure what her goal was. It’s a new convention, only in its second year and it has upscaled greatly from its inauguration. She kept repeating that it made no sense to close off both exits and someone else chimed in that it was a fire hazard. The worker reluctantly agreed but there was literally nothing he could do about it.

I worked in customer-facing roles for about six years and learned that sometimes, people really do just want to argue with you for no apparent reason.

I scanned around and found a seat as the crowds formed from a mob into a somewhat thick line. I sat down at a table with some guys who seemed to have been saving a seat for late arriving friends, but didn’t protest when I asked if it was taken. I took photos and people watched to pass the time. There was a huge line for the Mega and Crunchyroll Premium Fans to get on the showroom floor first. Some people found creative ways to get around this and join their line, and I tip my hat to them.

An hour later at 10:30 am the other line had successfully entered the floor and we were allowed to finally go up the escalator.

I had heard that the convention took up half of the Javits Center, the other half dedicated to “Pet Con”. It’s a bit funny in a sick sort of way that the convention center stuck the anime fans with the animals, but c’est la vie.

Walking around there was so much to see and do. I wrote a list beforehand of booths to check out and made a beeline to the first on my list.

I was an email subscriber and explained that I read you could get a poster by showing the newsletter on your phone. The woman in the booth looked back at me dumbfounded and suggested I go to the booth in back of her. I looked at the posters in front of her and she covered them with her arms. Another fan approached and the woman looked at me, looked at the other woman and then back at me as to ask “why are you still here?”

I asked if I could have a poster and she reluctantly agreed.

Weird. Maybe I was bothering her.

I visited the other booth and mentioned that the other woman said to come here for a poster. She gave me one with a smile and I went on my way. I decided to do a sweep of the area with my camera to get some photos before it got super crowded.

There was a little stage that was playing music. Later returning to the area two men were teaching people the Wotagei dance. Wotagei [ヲタ芸] or Otagei [オタ芸] is the synchronized glowstick dance done at Japanese Idol concerts by (otaku) enthusiasts.


Everyone was jamming and then a baton flew into the group of on-lookers.

No one was harmed, and it continued without a hitch.

One of my favorite mangaka’s works are becoming more popular in the West and I spotted one of his serializations at a booth. I wanted to ask questions, but it was pretty crowded. It seemed like if you didn’t have a credit card out or look like a devoted sycophant – you were pretty much ignored. Which is fine I guess, people came to make money. Nothing wrong with that.

I decided to swing back around to that table in a few hours.

I went down the list of things I wanted to see and finally found myself in front of the last booth. A girl working it was in cosplay speaking to two con-goers. They were having a very passionate conversation and I wanted to ask questions about their streaming service so I decided to wait.

Note: Not the booth in question

There were posters on the table and a lot of booths went the route of having a “Freebie” sign out encouraging people to take the designated items. About five minutes passed and it didn’t seem like they were letting up anytime soon, so I decided to grab one of each poster. There was a boy standing beside me who was also waiting and followed my lead. The cosplayer broke off mid-conversation and glared at me before saying it was only one poster per person. I apologized and she rolled her eyes before finishing her conversation like nothing had happened. I put one of the posters back and walked away, noticing the boy beside me had done the same.

Right. Well, at least that saved me some money. I’d rather people show their asses before I support their lifestyle.

Also just to note, while going through my camera I found pictures I’d taken of this booth earlier. The girls were blocking the “freebie” sign, and different employees were handing people multiple posters. So maybe this was at their own discretion?

Moving on, I decided it was time to rest so I caught a few panels. The first one was a bit dry and they had slight technical difficulties which was fine – as it is a new con. The dull tone was made up for however by the great information being delivered.

I ventured into another panel that I had been looking forward to. They also had technical difficulties and initially did the presentation without visual aid until the problem had been fixed. It was the same people who had serialized that mangaka’s work, and they were focused on indie works. I started taking notes of when titles would be released and photos every now and again. After the panel, they invited the audience to come up to their table and take some promos. I spoke to the man closest to me and told him it was a really great panel. He dryly said “right” and just turned away.

Maybe he thought I was being sarcastic?

I brought a mask to wear at the convention due to the germs. Being flu season, I didn’t want to catch anything – least of all a con cold. It made my voice a bit muffled and you couldn’t tell my facial expression. I am wondering if this factored into the way he responded. Or maybe he was just stressed and I shouldn’t have even bothered.

Either way, upon leaving I found myself no longer interested in their work.

There was another panel I wanted to see, but first I wanted to try and find the bathroom on that floor level. The manga library caught my eye and I took out my camera to try to get a photo. As I moved to get closer, another girl with a camera also decided to do the same. She was in my shot, so I moved closer and she walked in front of me and into the foyer area to snap a few shots. After a few seconds, she quickly came out of the room and walked away. I decided to go in as well, not passing the table checkpoint as she had. I snapped two photos and walked a few feet out of the room before stopping to look around for the bathroom. I hear someone yelling “Ma’am wait” and see one of the people at the table sprinting after me. He tells me he has to check my bag, and confused all I said was “I didn’t”. I meant to say “I didn’t even go in”, but I assume he thought I meant “I didn’t steal anything” because he then replied “Well good, because we have a lot of great manga.”

After he checked my bag I looked ahead and seen the other girl already at the top of the escalator.

Wow.

I’d be lying if I told you that this didn’t pissed me off.

I was completely pissed that I was accused of stealing, and that I watched someone else also walk in and they weren’t even checked. In fact, I wanted to write this article Saturday when I got home but purposefully held off until I cooled down. It’s 11 pm on Thanksgiving Eve my time of writing and I am still angry at that exchange. Hopefully, that bit of negativity isn’t coloring the review and causing bias. That is not my intention at all but I need to share these experiences so I can move on to other things.

Following that incident, I said screw the panel and the bathroom and the cosplay meetups – deciding to take one last loop around the convention floor. I went up two escalators to find Artist Alley and stood on the huge line for a security check before getting annoyed, walking up to the table barrier, snapping a quick picture and going back downstairs. I had to go through the main security checkpoint again to get back to the hall and almost just walked out and left. I forced myself to stand in line and thankfully it went quick enough.

After taking some pictures and uploading them to social media for treats, I stumbled upon the far side of the con I hadn’t noticed earlier. People were huddled around cute plushies, novelty merch, and the sparse gashapon machines. One station had some particularly interesting toys inside and upon asking how much a spin was, I was informed it was five dollars. I internally wished I had come to this section earlier when my mood was better and thanked the woman before walking away.

I decided to stop on a lower concourse by a water fountain to sit down and re-arrange my bag. The crowds had really come out and it was hard to find space. There was a group of teenagers sitting next to me in a circle joking and having a good time.

An Undertale cosplayer had walked over and they took pictures with the character. One of their friends had been eating and missed her photo op. A young male from the group got up, followed the cosplayer wherever they went and stood over their shoulder repeatedly asking for a picture until they returned to the group together. After the photo the girl just sat down and spoke to her friends, leaving the cosplayer standing there awkwardly.

I thought about saying something to the kids about harassing people, but decided that I should just go home if I’m in this sort of mood.

I had seen all I cared to see and left to find Jollibee before catching the train home.

Walking to the store from the center there was, unfortunately, a really long line, so I just turned back around and headed home.

So what does this all mean?

Full disclosure: I don’t care about the anime posters. I don’t care about the buttons. I don’t care about the stickers. I don’t care about much of the freebies offered at anime or comic conventions nowadays.

As I mentioned before, I care about experiences. I know where to find most of the merchandise offered at this con here in the city, online or even where to look in Japan. Because of this knowledge, I am generally very laid back and will not fight another fan or anybody for that matter over merch. I’m not one to join a crowd bum rushing a certain area just to claim something before someone else can or does.

I’ve been going to conventions since 2011 where I learned early on that sometimes just grabbing something on a table has consequences. I’ve grabbed posters before and been told that they cost money and had to put them back. With situations like this in mind, I like having a conversation with the person behind the counter or even just saying hello and asking what is alright to take. I go to conventions to feel a part of the collective fandom, meet new people and make friends (even if they are just line friends!).

But for some reason, that was very difficult this year at the convention. I attended last year on a Sunday, and had an average experience based on the con’s new status. This year, I went Saturday and was having the time of my life until (what I perceive to be) bad events happened in quick succession of one another.

Does this reflect badly on Anime NYC?

Absolutely not.

It’s a great convention for what it’s worth. Solid. It’s grown tremendously from its inauguration last year, and I expect it to grow even further for next year’s installment. 

What happened is a reflection on those individuals.

It’s a small industry and I have an impeccable memory, so I’ll leave it at that.

Go to the convention next year if you are able to. If you are local, even better!

The general consensus is one of great excitement and enjoyment, and I am in the minority with the ever odd situational stories to tell.

Your experience will not be my experience, and everyone has their own subjective reality.

Also I hate to beat a dead horse or make this comparison, but between Anime NYC vs New York Comic Con, come to this convention for all of your otaku needs. It is for the fans and they truly do care. You’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully, make a ton of new friends (=

I have nothing against this con and look forward to what they have in store for next year.

Signing off,

In Asian Spaces

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Oh I forgot to mention, if you’re in the market for a face mask to keep you well this winter season, check out this for the brand I was using:  Pangda 4 Pack Anti-dust Cotton Mouth Face Masks Mouth Cover for Man and Woman (Black)

A Crime Drama with STRONG Female Leads | LIVE | Kdrama Review

For the Hongil Division in Seoul, maintaining work-life balance isn’t easy. Thankfully, this Korean drama on Netflix seamlessly juggles an ensemble of characters problems in a way that doesn’t burn you out. This is a review of one of the best crime kdrama of 2018, LIVE!

I caught this one a few months back when it was trending on Netflix. Live, Laibeu or 라이브 is a 2018 South Korean Drama. It follows a squad of police officers who defend the crime-laden Hongil district while also maintaining personal lives.

I didn’t know what to expect when coming into this drama.  I wasn’t even sure if it was pronounced like “Saturday Night Live” or “We all live” live. Either way, it turned out to be a solid story in the vein of a recent office drama I watched.

Our main leads starting out are Han Jung Oh and Yeom Sang Soo. Jung Oh is a college graduate who is trying to break into the sexist Korean corporate culture. It was a bit of a laugh coming from Misaeng and seeing Jun Suk Ho playing another jerk role. While on a commute home with a friend after a disastrous job fair, she comes across a listing to join the police academy.  Jung Oh seems to have a complicated relationship with her father, but nonetheless, she borrows money from him to take a year off and study for the exam.

Yeom Sang Soo is actually introduced in the train station the same time Jung Oh is leaving. I love when tv shows place characters in the same spaces before their formal meeting of one another. It just makes you think about how many times you may have unknowingly crossed paths with someone who later in life became a good friend or even a lover.

Sang Soo runs himself ragged all day porting water and making phone calls as a company intern. Similar to our other lead, he comes from a single parent home. Believing upper management’s urgings to invest in the company and get rich, Sang Soo borrows money from his mother and brother. He pours his life savings into the company as well, only for it to turn out to be a Ponzi scheme. He later sees an advert for the police academy and decides to join.

The show introduces and explores different characters from here.

It details the pair’s lives at the academy, and the bond they form with another recruit – Song Hye Ri. The trio decide to transfer into the same dodgy district after graduation, believing they will be promoted quickly. At the academy, Sang Soo butts heads with over the top training officer Oh Yang Chon – who comically leaves shortly before graduation. Yang Chon’s life and marriage seem to come spiraling down, and he ends up transferring into the same district as the rookie recruits.

The show deals with themes of duty and what it means to be a police officer. I keep dwelling on this one quote from Superior Ki Han Sol. It was something to the effect of “There are two types of cops you should watch out for: Officers with a strong sense of justice are dangerous, but cops with nothing to lose are even more dangerous.”

Given the situations the squad seems to find themselves in, this dynamic is explored as some are pushed to their limit and react accordingly, given their life philosophy. I don’t want to spoil the core plot too much, but I will say that a strong sense of camaraderie proves more powerful than any sense of duty to the institution.

LIVE also focused a great deal on the politics of South Korean police officers. One thing I took note of was that an officer’s gun had to be returned after each patrol, and only senior or responsible officers were given one in the first place. Taser guns were given freely and cops could be penalized if they shot dangerous areas such as the chest, stomach or thighs. One of countless incidents involving the precinct happens on Jung Oh’s patrol. She later expresses a wish to transfer to America due to their perceived reverence and protection of law enforcement. Given how reckless she becomes, sadly (I think) she would be fine overseas.

It was an interesting take on two newbie recruits: one who had no sense of duty but needed a job and one with so much duty he would continually risk his life. It also made me reflect on the state of law enforcement in America. I will not suddenly become a bluelivesmatter fan, nor do I personally care for cops or the American justice system. But it was an interesting take on another country and how social degradation was fought.

These opinions expressed on law enforcement are my own and do not necessarily reflect the core beliefs of this blog.

I watched this Korean drama on Netflix, if you know of any other legal subscription sites offering it please let me know and I will update this post with that information.

I usually wind up watching cop kdramas like Signal, so LIVE was a real treat to watch. I hope fans of crime investigation and cop thrillers will enjoy this one!

Do you enjoy crime dramas with a bit of romance? What was your favorite kdrama to watch in 2018? Do you have any recommendations for Korean tv shows premiering in 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to check out our other articles on Korean Culture while you’re here!

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Not Sure About My Reaction to the Detective Pikachu Trailer

Is this the personification of Ruined Childhood?

detective pikachu

Growing up, I liked Pokemon as much as the next person. I have this vivid memory of trading cards with cousins at my grandma’s house. I accidentally traded a holographic vaporeon for a lesser pocket monster and immediately regretted it. My older male cousin would not trade back, prompting me to cry until one of the adults made him give it back.

They all called me a crybaby and we never played cards together again.

But even today, I can go into one of my old grade school binders and flip through lamented plastic sleeves protecting treasures from the 90s. I don’t think they can say the same – so who’s laughing now?

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On a serious note, today I discovered this film called Detective Pikachu. Premiering May 10th, 2019 it marks the first ever live-action Pokémon movie. I logged onto twitter to talk about Marvel Comics Legend Stan Lee passing and came across the film and actor Ryan Reynolds trending. Deadpool was a smash success at the box office and I have nothing against the actor but in all honesty – I rolled my eyes when I saw his involvement.  Especially since I distinctly remember the yellow mouse being a girl, along with revelations concerning Blue from Blue’s Clues.

I likened the film to a Ted sort of deal – you all remember that raunchy teddy bear film, right? I then associated it with Family Guy; which I like, but I’ve had enough of that series over the years.

After seeing people compare jigglypuff to a washed up mobster moonlighting as a deranged lounge singer, I took myself over to YouTube and watched the trailer. As others had suggested, it would be wonderful if he were played by Danny DeVito.

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And boy, did I have some feelings.

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Charzard is terrifying. Charmander is still adorable.

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Psyduck looks like the tormented soul I always knew he was and Mr. Mine really is just that creepy.

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It gave me the same feelings of nostalgia growing up watching the Harry Potter movies after reading the books.

Only this world, everything is gritty and very much not the Solarpunk paradise the games seem to paint. Nothing is green, people aren’t walking around with flowers in their hair and goodwill in their hearts.

Ryme City looks like any major urban area with a seedy underbelly. What’s more – Pikachu is a damn detective! I know this theme has probably been explored in anime, manga, and Nintendo 3DS spin-off games but gosh it is so different seeing realistically rendered Pokémon in our world settings.

The trailer also makes subtle references to the universe, such as the Squirtle Squad being wanted criminals in the police station, or having cartoony depictions of Pokes as city parade floats. There is even one scene where the main character (didn’t catch if his name was Ash or not) is walking through a night market and the signs have the weird off-shoots of Japanese characters that were adapted into the American Gameboy versions to seem like some sort of made up language. Trainer Mistry even seems to show up later in the film!

It just feels real, and I am super excited for it all. I didn’t know I needed this in my life until now.

Have you watched the Detective Pikachu trailer yet? Can you believe The Pokemon Company and Nintendo signed onto something that seems geared towards millennial adults? What monster do you hope is in the film? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more impromptu (borderline fangirl) posts like this!

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Hishigaki, the Hitotsume-Nyūdō | Natsume Yuujinchou | The Youkai of Anime

A new installment in the Sunday series – this week focusing on Hishigaki from Natsume’s Book of Friends.

This series will explore yokai, their history, and prevalence in a series. Japan is a land where spirituality is prized over religion, and Shintoism is viewed more like tradition than a bind. The tradition of visiting temples on the New Year, adding yuzu fruit to baths during the Winter Solstice, Jizo statues and local shrines are so old that no one remembers its origin story.

See our previous posts on Nyanko Sensei, the Maneki-Neko, Madara, the Okuri-Inu

Series Name: Natsume Yuujincho [夏目友人帳]

Number of Seasons: Six

Original Air Date: July – September 2008

Manga: Yes (ongoing)

OVA/Movies: Yes

Character Name: Hishigaki

Yokai Name: Hitotsume-nyūdō [一つ目入道]

Association: Manipulation of appearance, one eye, sacred regalia.

Episode of Appearance: Episode 1, Natsume Yuujinchou (Season 1)

Description:

A rather large youkai with one central eye, long grey-white hair, wearing white kimono with brownish-gold trim. Hishigaki is first introduced to Natsume Reiko standing near an ojizosan statue of a Buddhist priest holding shakujo.

O-jizo-san (地蔵菩薩) can range in size and are patrons who look over children, the underworld and weary travelers.  If I remember correctly, in Spirited Away – it’s been a while since I last saw the film – Chihiro and her family pass small forest jizo before crossing the river and entering the spirit world.

jordy-meow-418063-unsplash (1)A 錫杖, or Shakujo are staffs adorned with six golden rings and can also be referred to as “the pilgrim’s staff”. It is believed that the six rings represent the realms of karmic rebirth aided by the guidance of Jizō; a Bodhisattva that has attained enlightenment and wishes to help humanity essentially transcend suffering.

You may have seen this staff before.

It’s usually one of the divine instruments carried by a wandering Buddhist priest or monks who happen upon ungodly creatures in legends and decide to seal them with prayer. A contemporary depiction that comes to mind is the pervy priest, Miroku, from the anime Inuyasha.

The Episode

Seemingly one of the first yokai Natsume Reiko adds to The Book of Friends, Hishigaki chases the school girl’s grandson through a forest decades later- mistaking him for Reiko.

A woman is seen praying before leaving a manju bun. Given Hishigaki’s attire, it can be safe to guess she may be a sort of shrine guardian living on the outskirts of the forest.

Alone and hungry, Reiko seemed to provide a temporary salvation from her stationary existence. The youkai watched the seasons change while remaining in the same place, waiting for the girl’s return. When she never did, the spirit felt betrayed and wanted her name back.

It has been said that sometimes loneliness is not that bad. However, once companionship is found and taken away once more – it can become too much to bear. This seems to be the case with Hishigaki, who began the route of turning into a vengeful spirit.

Beliefs of Shintoism and the Influence of Buddhism

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I labeled this entry as Hitsotsume-nyudo due to her features, but I also wonder whether or not she could have been a Miko (shrine maiden) who went through a death ritual – giving her the white kimono garb.

Miko (巫女) are commonly known and identified by their bright crimson and white attire. Today in Japan the young women mainly sell omikuji (御神籤) or fortune slips at temples, assist priests in low-level rituals, and sweep the sacred grounds with brooms. Shrine maidens of the past had more pressing duties that carried weight far greater than today’s incarnate.

“…At the shrines of Ise, Kasuga, Kompira, and several others which I visited, the ordinary priestesses are children; and when they have reached the nubile age, they retire from the service. At Kitzuki the priestesses are grown-up women: their office is hereditary; and they are permitted to retain it even after marriage.”

Depending on prefecture, girls or women were thought to be property and wives to the gods, who in turn spoke through them and endowed with ritual dances and incantations for exorcism.

It can sometimes be hard to draw the line that intersects Shinto and Buddhist influences in Japan as they seem intertwined. Shinto beliefs are practiced in the course of daily life, while Buddhism dominates death and funeral rites.

The deceased are sometimes dressed in shinishozoku (死装束); which can translate to burial clothes or clothing worn when committing ritual suicide such as seppuku or harakiri. It is an all-white kimono with an off brown almost gold-ish obiage, or what resembles a thick sash in the middle. Occasionally, a triangular hat could be placed on the body. There are few prevailing theories regarding the hat that spirits are depicted wearing in paintings or historical records.  A 天冠, or Tenkan could either be defined as a coronation crown used during the Imperial period (1890 – 1945) or it could be related to the ‘celestial crown’ adorning Buddha and other divine beings.

I read somewhere that the Tenkan was an invention of Kabuki Theater to differentiate human actors from those portraying yurei, or spirits. Japan seems to have a history of associating certain articles of clothing or manners of speech with the ayakashi – however until I can relocate the work and source it I won’t elaborate further on that particular theory.

Could Hishigaki been a human in a past life who worked at a local temple or shrine?

But then, where would the one eye factor in?

I came across this Wikipedia page that suggested “cyclotropia” was a thing in ancient Japan due to a diet historically low in animal protein and fats. So in other words, some fetuses developed only one working eye due to poor nutrients on the mother’s part. At first glance, it could be slightly believable, as the Japanese diet consists of healthy seasonal vegetables and rich aquatic lifeforms.

However, upon further searches, nothing else can be found except vague allusions to conditions followed by heavy medical jargon. I sifted through the medical journals hoping I could probably find answers quickly, but unfortunately I just didn’t have the patience and fortitude to give it much credence.

That is not to say something like this could not have existed in many ancient cultures. It just seems like a very Western perception to suggest another culture had deformed children based on a diet that did not heavily favor meat and other livestock that is popular, but extremely unhealthy today.

Another definition I found attributes it to severe cases of cross-eyes. But also cites the Wikipedia post so for now, it’s a mystery.

The Legends      

Hishigaki has the appearance of the ōnyūdō (大入道), or “giant priest” due to her size. However, these yokai tend to be depicted as ‘normal’ humans in appearance aside from their grandiose size. They are also bald, which she is obviously not.

Thus, bringing us back to the Hitotsume-nyudo for classification purposes. Although typically depicted as males, these youkai ambush travelers on the outskirts of cities and towns and are adorned as wealthy priests or monks. They are also able to control the perception of their size at will, an ability Hishigaki seems to possess – despite not having the fancy clothing.

This yokai was particularly difficult to identify as it seems to be a mix of different archetypes and could even be an original character Midorikawa made for the episode. If I come across differing information later on in this series, I will be sure to update this post and clarify its renaming.

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And with that, we are at the end of the first episode! Next week, I’d like to cover a film by one of my favorite animation directors so the theme will be a bit different but the format will remain the same. The following week we will either resume covering yokai from Natsume’s Book of Friends episode two, or cover an episode of another series I have in mind to slowly alternate back and forth.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 and  Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Standard Edition by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

I’m really glad more of you out there have stumbled upon this series thanks to #FolkloreThursday on Twitter! Do you have a favorite yokai anime character?  Are you enjoying the glimpse into the massive Natsume’s Book of Friends fandom? Do you believe Japanese folktales and legends have moral lessons to learn, or are they solely accounts of exaggerated creatures and monsters? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us to be notified when the next article is posted!

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*Quote taken from (Hearn, Lafcadio “Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation” pg. 77)