Not Sure About My Reaction to the Detective Pikachu Trailer

Is this the personification of Ruined Childhood?

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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)

A Fresh Start for the Series? | Sword Art Online Alicization Review

A promising fresh start for a series that has become synonymous with goofy tropes and character flaws.

I love VR. Or Cyberpunk. Post-Apocalyptic Shenanigans…

Anything to do with encapsulating oneself in a virtual world is something I’d like to see refined in my lifetime. I’ve always been drawn to virtual reality inspired anime, watching the likes of No Game No Life, Log Horizon, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash with extreme vigor. Hai to Genso no Gurimugaru [灰と幻想のグリムガル], or Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash seemed to take a similar route as Log Horizon by showing the actual struggles of finding yourself stuck in a virtual world. It should also be applauded for its humanistic approach on taking a life, the stages of grief and how to recover from a severe trauma. If you are into highly realistic plots in your anime, this is one you should not miss.

I could write all day about how great Grimgar was, but this article will be about Sword Art Online [ソードアート・オンライン].

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but I am a huge high-fantasy and science fiction fan. I love series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, H.P. Lovecraft’s work (despite his extreme personal flaws as a human being), Grimm’s Fairytales and anything by good old Edgar Allen Poe.  The SAO season one Aincrad Arc was like Christmas to someone like me. The medieval feel of the in-game town mixed with the real world Sci-Fi drama of having your mind trapped in a rouge technology with the risk of death was such a hook.

After that arc, however, things quickly took a turn for the worst. Between the whole incest thing, the almost-rape scene with Asuna Yuuki, and main character Kirigaya “Kirito” Kazuto’s harem I’d had enough.

Back in 2014, I made the mistake of watching a harem cleverly disguised as a sci-fi anime called Brynhildr in the Darkness [極黒のブリュンヒルデ] and have never made that poor choice since. I wanted to gauge my eyes out after completing that series. The sheer fact that a gaggle of women were borderline obsessed with a boring main character to the levels that it affected the storyline’s plot in ridiculous ways irked me to the core. So coming into SAO without the knowledge of Kirito’s harem gave me something akin to war flashbacks.

However, the core story was intriguing and I was very pleased to find out it took place in the same universe as Accel World. There is even a prevalent fan theory that Kirito and Asuna are Kuroyukihime’s parents.  This theory has been shot down regarding all the characters in question because of respective ages, but one can still dream of a connection between the three besides Nerve Gear.

I tuned in for Alfheim Online, Gun Gale Online, (or Phantom Bullet) and watched Mother’s Rosario. I skipped Ordinal Scale and now have returned for Alicization on the currents of good buzz. Other weary watchers expressed skepticism that was met with assurances that there would be none of the nonsense that plagued the past seasons.

The premiere was forty-five minutes long and had a bit of a cold opening. It set up the premise of this season’s story, which will revolve around Kirito testing a new form of VR that uses the soul. He explains to Asuna and Sinon the Soul Translator’s methods and expresses concern over the somewhat shady practices of its creation entity, Rath.

The sequence was fine, but it slightly bothered me that no one said hi to Agil while in his cafe. I’d imagine there was a quick hello while ordering drinks, but for the most part he was stoically shinning glass cups.

Either way, that’s not totally important.

Towards the end of the episode while walking girlfriend Asuna home, Kirito is accosted by the last known member of The Laughing Coffin. If you remember from the first season, they were a guild who enjoyed ‘player killing’ for sport. Johnny Black seemingly comes out of the woodwork to stab our hero with a lethal dose of a drug called succinylcholine, which causes paralysis. The episode ends with Kirito on the ground unconscious from his wounds; the targeted attack area being the implant he conveniently spoke about earlier at the Dicey Café.

Episode two has already premiered, and I’m sure Kirito is fine. He’ll most likely fall into a coma and be transported back into Underworld, the Soul Translator game he was testing. The game seems to have an “Alice in Wonderland” vibe and explores his budding friendship with a resident named Eugeo. It is unclear (as of the season premiere) if Eugeo is an AI aware of their world or remains in ignorance as a player. An interesting aspect of his character was his notice of Alice’s game code while she was being taken away after committing a taboo in their world.

It should be interesting to see how Kirito and Eugeo’s friendship develops, and the exploration of “fluctlight acceleration”. I will definitely be watching and will most likely have a season review at a later time once it concludes.

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If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Sword Art Online 1: Aincrad and Sword Art Online 9 – light novel by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Did you enjoy past seasons of SAO? Do you miss Kirito’s harem? What has been your favorite VMMORPG anime to watch? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more updates and reviews!

 

What is Going On with The Tokyo Ghoul: Re Anime?

I at least take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one confused.

Tokyo Ghoul, or Tokyo Kushu:re [東京喰種トーキョーグール:re] is an ongoing anime series that originally began airing in the summer of 2014. It is based on the popular manga by Sui Ishida that produced both TG and it’s continuation, :re.  I initially read a few chapters of the original story, but have yet to finish due to the personal preference of waiting until the anime ends to read and compare the key differences in an adaptation.

The first season adaption of the series remained consistent according to a general fandom consensus. Season two, however, veered off from this severely. The most memorable scene for me will always be Kaneki serving Jason (Yamori) some overdue justice while “Unravel” by TK from Ling Toshite Sigure played in the background.

Tokyo Ghoul √A [東京喰種√A] seemed to have Kaneki Ken join Aogiri Tree, the organization that had kidnapped and tortured him. In the manga, he sided with the Anti-Aogiri group that was set on escaping their imprisonment by the shady group. The underlying basis in this is that Kaneki wanted to protect his friends, while in the anime he did not.

As a non-manga reader, I fully understood this season and even though finding it a bit dull, overall thought it was okay. “Glassy Sky” by Yamada Yutaka (やまだ豊) was an amazing song to listen to during certain scenes. I also really enjoyed the OP, or opening song for that season, even if I am seemingly alone in this. Say what you will about the series, but at least the OST, or official soundtrack is solid.

I caught the first cour of Tokyo Ghoul:re over the spring when it aired. I enjoyed it but was utterly confused with what I was seeing on screen. I had heard from manga readers that season two had pretty much veered off story wise and :re was supposed to essentially retcon it.

As with many things, I am very liberal with spoilers. You could “spoil” a show completely for me down to the last detail, and I would still be able to enjoy it. Sometimes with stories that have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time (ex: Naruto series, Shingeki no Kyojin, etc.) I’ll just look up certain things. Or if an extremely good episode was left on a cliffhanger, I will immediately resort to the manga before the next. I like to think of this practice in my head as ‘situational spoilers’. Plot details I normally would wait for, but just can’t seem to actually want to delay that knowledge.

After patiently sitting through the first cour of :re anticipating Sasaki Haise’s revert back to Kaneki Ken, it all paid off in the final episode. As an anime only watcher, the entire season had consisted of pointless slice of life-esque arcs with members of the CCG. Coming from past seasons, I did not care for any of these people and the anime did nothing to really humanize the bunch. The aura of cold sociopathy still exuded from these people who worked in this sterile desolate white building. The constant hidden and blatant ambitions of social climbing and backstabbing was such a turn off, especially when Kaneki or rather – Haise – would go home to more disrespect and antagonism from his team.

It really pissed me off watching Kaneki’s amnesia and how he was unknowingly interacting and working for those he considered enemies. It could be argued that was the point, but constantly shoving the organization in my face each episode did not allow me to soften to them as one would have hoped to while trying to enjoy the anime.

I especially hated all of the time spent with Quinx Squad. Yonebayashi Saiko and Shirazu Ginshi seemed like decent people, but I absolutely could not stand Urie Kuki. I also could not care much for Mutsuki Tooru, given the spoilers I read about their character.

But I powered through it, because moments with the ghouls of Anteiku made it worthwhile. The moment Haise unwittingly was drawn to the café with his old friends who silently just watched him was truly heartbreaking.

I was even excited to see Tsukiyama Shuu, despite him being a creep in previous seasons.

Then the first episode of the season’s second cour premiered, and it all went out the window once more.

Who is this guy in all black wearing glasses? Is this the Black Reaper character personality people were hype about? Why is he obsessed with arresting Takatsuki Sensei? Okay, why did Yoshimura Eto reveal her secret at the book release? Why can’t most ghouls read books without hiragana? I remember Hinami was really smart, and Touka disguised her true nature to attend high school normally. Why is Kaneki still working for the CCG, didn’t he want to die? Okay, Eto called him Kaneki so that really is Kaneki. Oh, Kaneki is going to free Hinami? Wait, where did his glasses go? Were the glasses just an act?

All jokes aside, episode one was extremely confusing. At least the op was good. TK from Ling Tosite Sigure was singing it again, and given my affection for post-hardcore I couldn’t help but bop my head to it.

Reddit user Gary4067 made a bullet point list of all things skipped in the episode, and it’s pretty tragic. Apparently, it adapted at least nine chapters from the source material.

Coming off the first cour and referencing the wiki, we left off at the Tsukiyama Family Extermination Operation arc. We then are just thrown into the Third Cochlea Raid without (from a manga standpoint) understanding why Kaneki is randomly going rouge. Yes, he did want to die – but the anime showed us him still faithfully working for the CCG even if he did get a little saucy by throwing things during an interrogation. I have no clue what happened to Tsukiyama or the ghouls who came to rescue him during the last cour’s end. No clue why Ayato is also coincidentally trying to raid the Cochlea. Rize is supposedly dead in the series and a figment of Kaneki’s imagination but apparently, she’s alive being held somewhere against her will.  No clue why Eto revealed her true identity to the world. Don’t know why I should care about the causal connections between the Washu clan, Organization V or the CCG but I’m sure it’s something important.

Manga wise, apparently: Eto revealed her identity as the popular author and the One-Eyed Owl at an Aogori Tree meeting or something but was overheard, so decided to reveal it to the public.  Rushima Island was being raided by the CCG, so Ayato (kinda?) decided to ambush the Cochlea along with AT members. Kaneki’s memories of being held prisoner in the facility after his defeat by Arima were not touched upon. Some background on Rize’s childhood was also missing.

If this was confusing to read, it is because even with explanations and spoilers I am still a bit jumbled as to what is going on in the series.

Animators in Japan are notoriously overworked, and Studio Pierrot has a history of questionable quality when it comes to their shows. Certain episodes of Naruto Shippuden and The Legend of Korra come to mind.  There seems to be a new director in charge of this season who lots of fans don’t seem to have a lot of faith in.

I am not sure if the production team is channeling the mangaka’s urge to be finished with the series, but for whatever reason, they are rushing it to the point of complete incoherence. Maybe it is budgeting issues, maybe there is a lack of leadership – we as watchers will never really know the true issue unless an insider spills the beans. But whatever the problems are, I wish the pacing would slow down just a bit in order to make sense and properly introduce characters. When a key character to the manga plot is introduced but on screen watchers are not given nor shown context as to why they should care, they tend to lose interest. I did not give a single damn about the man who was possibly killed while trying to defend Rize. I say possibly because the fight’s conclusion was too vague to show us his fate. Almost as vague as to why he was introduced randomly in the first place.

Either the studio needed to order more episodes to explain certain plot points, or it should have been adapted and condensed more fairly. I just wish I knew why Tokyo Ghoul Re is really this bad. Actually, Re and Root A both seemed to be a complete mess in retrospect.

I will continue to watch because frankly, I seem to enjoy scraps at this point, but I will be sure to read the manga once this season ends. For those of you also interested in reading it, Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 can be purchased legally using the link at no additional cost to yourself.

How do you feel about the series adaptation as a whole? Are you a manga reader, anime watcher only, or a mixture of both? Do you think the Tokyo Ghoul:re “Call to Exist” video game will be better than the entire tv show?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit for more anime reviews and updates!

Was AFNYCC Worth It?| Anime Fest @ NYCC | Convention Review

Covering the controversial convention one photo at a time.

So to start this review off, let me just say that I was not enthused to attend on Sunday. I made one two three separate posts about this con’s inception in anticipation for what might be experienced. I was still hopeful that it would be an enjoyable experience.

And then I looked at Social Media.

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I’ll be damned. There were sad and disappointed threads detailing the lack of programming, events, exhibitors or even attendees for that matter.

This morning upon waking, I was struggling to find a reason to go. The weather had turned and it was now overcast and drizzling. People were saying the shuttle bus wasn’t exactly on time or picking up many people.

I googled AFNYCC to try and pull up the convention twitter handle to view the shuttle bus pick up locations again.

My blog came up.

I googled the entire festival’s name, my blog came up again…before the con’s actual info or media links.

Since I wrote about it so much prior to its debut, I thought it was my civic duty to attend and document what I saw and experienced there. This is my sole reason for not just letting the con keep my $20.

Good SEO practices on my part aside, this convention needs to be documented. Someone on Twitter likened it to Dashcon. I associate it in my head with The Last Airbender film. Did the fandom wipe it from their collective memory? Yes. But it also served as a basis for not forgetting what happened the first time a remake was carelessly done, and spread awareness for the new live-action ATLA Netflix series coming soon.

I feel the same way about this. I will bite the bullet along with other con goers, and will immortalize it here on the internet.

Will they shape up next year? Who knows. But this will be here for anyone who wanted a detailed peek at what actually went down during Anime Fest @ NYCC x Anime Expo.

(Also some of these photos were edited on a potatoe, so excuse the quality of some shots.)

On an unrelated note, I’ll be purchasing my weekend pass for Anime NYC this coming week.

If you enjoy this convention review and would like to help me get to other cons, visit the support page to donate. Thanks and let’s begin!

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I arrived to the Jacob Javits Center around 9:30 am. I looked around for the shuttle buses, but seen none in sight. A man on a bullhorn was shouting directions to the comic con crowds on where to line up if they already had tickets. Once he paused for breath, I asked where the shuttle bus pick up was. I was directed to an area behind where we both stood. I waited five minutes and got antsy, as the day was overcast and there was a humid drizzle falling.  I walked over to the front entrance of the convention and asked a woman donning an earpiece connected to a walkie-talkie if she knew when the shuttle bus would be coming. She had no clue what I was talking about so I explained it was for the Anime Festival. She pointed me in the direction the man had and told me it should be coming eventually, as the 9:30 am pick up had just passed.

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Fifteen minutes later I was tired of standing in the elements and began walking. Around 9:53 I saw a bus for the Javits Center pass me by, but I was already ten blocks away. So the bus was a thing at least on Sunday, despite what I saw on Twitter for days earlier. Even with Midtown traffic, might I make a suggestion for if this convention continues next year?

Maybe it would be best to have a staff person sit on the bus to check passes and they could update the app on when they are in transit, and close to certain pickup points. It would take away a lot of the mystery of when the bus would come.

Before I left, I asked those surrounding me if they knew when the bus would come and everyone had unsure or confused answers. I also took photos of the incoming crowds.

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I planned to mention in the NYCC post my troubles finding a show program that Friday. I spoke to security/ReedPop staff and asked if there were program booklets for that day. They directed me to a place inside. I explained that I did not have a ticket for that day and that I went Friday and got no definitive answers on where to find one. In my head, I came to the conclusion that they were a myth and simply did not exist. Aside from one or two people, the entire convention nobody had one out.

A staff man was kind enough to reach into his own backpack and give me a booklet. I am extremely grateful for that act of kindness.

I can proudly say I now have eight years’ worth of NYCC program booklets to remember my experiences. I know that is not what is most important, but it’s been something fun for me to do over my years of attendance.

The walk to Pier 94 wasn’t completely terrible. It was just desolate and it reminded me of my walk there for Tech Day over the summer. Although I must admit, it was a bit depressing walking one way with a red colored Anime Fest pass and watching all of the green colored New York Comic Con passes continue on in the opposite direction.

As I got closer to the pier, I saw about five people going to the same place as me.

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Security was simple to get through, and I’m not even going to lie I snagged an extra lanyard from comic con on Friday because I didn’t expect there to be any at Anime Fest. The lanyards were red promoting Dark Horse Comics. So I guess there was a bit of color coordination with each events badges – red lanyard and ticket for AFNYCC, green badge and Line Webtoon lanyard for NYCC. One of the security staff from earlier had mentioned my badge looked totally different from everyone else’s, and I didn’t understand what he meant until now.

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Walking into the event space, you are greeted by the smiles of the staff. Unlike comic con, it was very easy to find someone working. I had a lot of casual conversations with them along with a lot of the vendors and exhibitors.

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Aside from Good Smile Company, however, it doesn’t seem like any of the other power players bothered to set up additional shops at Pier 94.IMG_5161

The Official Merchandise Shop and several vendors looked bored and were trying to commune with anyone passing by. I don’t think they did well on business due to the low foot traffic. It was a huge contrast from the main convention’s crowds.IMG_5096IMG_5041IMG_5087IMG_5122IMG_5134There was a well-sized gathering when I attended on Sunday, and the Autograph Signing for Cowboy Bebop even had a looping line. One of the two English translators with the production staff was Dr. Mari Morimoto, a veterinarian and real power player in the Japanese translation game. I’ve crossed paths with her at past con events (Kishimoto at NYCC) and at my old place of work. She recently had a lecture at The Japan Foundation’s The Nippon Club earlier this October that I tried RSVP’ing for but never heard back.

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As for the convention floor, I took a few photos of the infamous “Aladdin Rug”, bamboo tatami mats, parachute game, and a few other things.IMG_4944IMG_4995IMG_5016IMG_5135

 

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I think this is where the problem lies with many con-goers who went to this event.

Eavesdropping on conversations, some people were really excited about it. They had never been to Comic Con or an actual dedicated anime convention.  Many had brought small children or tweens who seemed to really enjoy the activities there.

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However, they are unaware of how anime conventions are ‘supposed’ to go. Given the names attached to this poorly and hastily thrown together convention (New York Comic Con, Anime Expo, a good handful of the major Exhibitors like Funimation, Viz Media, Crunchyroll, Vertical/Kodansha, etc. attending the main con) it was a complete fail.

It seemed like a small town non-profit convention that had no access to any Japanese culture or talent nearby. Only thing is, this is Manhattan. I worked in Midtown East for a while where all of the Japanese businesses and companies reside. I know firsthand just how strong and alive the Japanese and Japanese-American community is in this city. That’s not even factoring in other boroughs.

In its haste, the convention didn’t seem to partner with any of the smaller or local facets like Anime NYC has successfully done.

This is why we saw Chinese animation vendors, random tiered merchandise, and other things you would not normally expect at a for-profit convention with status associated with it.

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Then again, NYCC has never done anime well. A fact I’m glad no one has forgotten, again consoling me when I overheard conversations about this as I perused the convention.

But it was not all bad. A lot of talented Artist Alley residents were gypped, and deserve a bit of spotlight.

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The Elven Caravan was selling really cool custom painted elf ears.

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Jenovasilver has something saucy for you all with her “good wholesome cute things and sin!” (also lots of Voltron)

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YUKIPRI is a digital illustrator and webcomic artist who has some really great Yuri!!! on Ice art.

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A lot of the normal vendors were really nice people just trying to manage a badly dealt hand. No one seemed outwardly bitter.

The Taiwanese Cultural Center in New York was in attendance promoting some cool animated content they had coming up. I spoke about one event they were associated with earlier this year.

All in all, it wasn’t a completely bad experience. Would I pay to attend again next year? Absolutely not. Is it worth the $20 price tag as-is right now? No.

But don’t take my opinions to heart, as everyone will have their own interpretations of things and events. What sells me on any event is quality, effort, and people.

The people were really nice, however, there was no effort put into this “con” and because of that, the quality of what could have been a blast off the first year ultimately failed. This is especially true since the fanbase is literally there, but for some reason, the convention couldn’t cater to them even with all of those feedback surveys Comic-Con regularly does. It’s amazing.

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Let’s hope ReedPop takes the general consensus’ feedback and shapes it into something malleable that everyone can one day enjoy.

Did you attend Anime Fest @ NYCC? How did you feel about the buzz online surrounding this event? Can they do better next year? How?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more convention reviews and news!

 

 

I Don’t Think I’ll Attend New York Comic Con Next Year | NYCC 2018 Review

After attending each year since 2011 religiously, it seems the East Coast convention’s magic has worn off on me.

It was a clear, cool day arriving to the Jacob Javits Center for Comic Con. I had a Friday badge, and had arrived later than previous years. Timing the trains correctly, I could leave home around 8 am and arrive an hour later in line with one of the doors in clear view. Despite not coming super early, I always had good luck with getting to the show floor first.

I remember in 2012, I left super early from home and missed tickets for the private signing with Danny Choo. I was heartbroken. So heartbroken, that despite fighting a con cold with a 3-Day badge I called out to him after his panel. I boldly asked for his autograph and despite the packed room, he came over and spoke to me. I didn’t want to go to College and before transferring to my dream university, I spent my downtime on campus viewing his website and watching anime using the school library’s crappy wifi.

It’s was the only thing that got me through those days.

That year I also received a map of Japan, which along with my signed badge and other mementos collected over the years hang on the walls of my computer room. I remember was so sick that I couldn’t finish out the remaining days of the convention that year, and on the way home I cried in happiness that I’d met him. It was something I never fathomed possible at that point in my life. Things were terrible all around, and I retreated to anime in the worst times as a crutch to cope with things. Danny Choo had always attended Anime Expo in Los Angeles and I never thought I’d attend that con, until 2015 when I did – but that is a story for another time.

Each year I was dazzled by the people, the costumes – the energy of the big city. Coming from the suburbs, it was a chance to see things that were not a part of my environment. My surroundings. Parts and facets of my life I desperately wanted to become main staples danced and mingled at this yearly con. I would later attend college in Manhattan, work in the city and have my dream job years later at a Japanese Cultural Center – but the me back then could not even realize that those were viable options.

My world was so small. Everything felt so hopeless. I was just so incredibly sad each day.

In 2014 The Legend of Korra came to New York Comic Con. I remember doing live updates on Tumblr for the fandom along with a core group of other users, sitting on the floor waiting for the panel, fans handing out “Thank You Bryke” pins. Just being in the same room as fans of the original show, Avatar: The Last Airbender and the precarious sequel series made me immensely happy. My fandom had come to life and was here, something tangible my senses could understand and soak in. We were no longer hidden behind our screens or gifs or lengthy discourses of the show – we were all here in one room together; and it was magical.

I attended an off-site event to promote an upcoming video game for the LOK series and made so many new friends. We ate pizza, drank beer and talked shit about the Asami – Mako – Korra love triangle. This was before Korrasami became endgame. It was a great time.

I also went to the Brooklyn Brewery Defend Beer parties in costume. Getting a lot of stares on the subway, I powered through it and met wonderful people at the party. It was my first time back then traveling to different boroughs alone and although I was scared, it was a new experience. The con also had these off-site cosplay parties where you could meet other fans and win the coveted 3-day and 4-day badges in a raffle. I never won, but I always met great people and the free food was delicious.  The parties were in random places (a gay bar downtown by the “gay” pier, the weird side of midtown no one goes to) but it was always a good time.

Sometime after that, I had my first internship in that area of town. After my day was done, I’d often pass that bar and smile to myself remembering the good times before sitting down to stare at the bay. Because of that experience, I learned the area and had a better time getting around when I needed to navigate the area during my time as an intern.

The following convention year, it all changed and really clicked into place. Kishimoto Masashi was coming to NYCC, his first time overseas at an event. The internet went wild. I was still on YouTube during that time, and I remember the power players like Sawyer7mage, Double4anime and Forneverworld to name a few flying to New York for a chance to meet him.

Viz Media was giving wristbands out for a private signing and held a raffle at three different times that day. I already snagged a wristband to his panel after literally running to the line and being counted in. A few minutes later, the line was capped as many other fans also did the same and ran for their lives to get a chance. I ended up entering the convention center that morning right by the place I had to go to, and asked Lance Fensterman if it was the correct place. I had seen him on TV just the hour before being interviewed by the news and thought it pretty neat to just run into him like that.

I silently thought maybe it was kismet, I would be able to meet Kishimoto.

In the raffle crowds, I made many line friends. My name was not called during the first round, and I wanted to stay close so I set up shop on the floor in an area where weary con goers were eating and looking at their merch. Around the time of the second round, I left, realized my name was not called and went back to the same spot. This took hours. The final round was being called, and only about two or three spots remained. The woman calling names would simply skip over your chance if you were not there and making noise that showed you were present. My name was called, and as I was in the back of the crowd – I hadn’t heard it. Suddenly, I heard a bunch of people shouting “wait, she’s here – she’s in the sheep costume back there, don’t continue!” My line friends from earlier were calling my name and rushing me up front for my wristband.

They were genuinely happy for me. It was the nicest thing that had ever happened to me. These complete strangers who shared the same passions helped me on my mission to meet Kishimoto, when they could have ignored my name to better their chances. Suddenly, sitting in the same spot alone and hungry for hours and wasting the rest of my convention time had been worth it. Even now, it makes me tear up a bit just thinking about it.

I wondered what the difference was between me and someone like Sawyer7mage, who was not chosen for the raffle or Kinokuniya signing. Someone who had reviewed the series for years consistently and was the most genuine of the reviewers in my opinion. He made a video saying that although he did not get a signature, he randomly met the mangaka in the restroom and Kishimoto told him he recognized him from watching his YouTube videos. He was happy with just that, and it was such a heartwarming story to watch him explain and describe.

I wondered why I got the ticket, and why he didn’t when I felt he deserved it more.

I stopped thinking so selfishly at conventions. No longer the first one to grab a poster, or shove someone out of the way for a freebie. I started going out of my way to help other con-goers in the way I had been helped. And of course, when I had that signed shikishi at home I looked at it and cried. That seems to be a common theme, me crying over silly things.

I know that when I do get to Japan, I may just bawl my eyes out the minute that plane lands on the tarmac.

After that amazing experience, nothing could ever top it for me. The following convention years had been quite…dull from my perspective. I went, walked the convention floor, seen a few panels, snuck some food in to eat and went home while catching a gyro on the way.

The Gyro place has since closed. New York Comic Con stopped offering the free cosplay event parties. They stopped offering 3-Day and 4-Day badges. They stopped finalizing the talent list and putting it online before the purchase of tickets. They implemented fan verification. They implemented the virtual queue from hell. They got stricter on cosplayers and props. Security was beefed up. The generous freebies stopped. The lines were now long and convoluted.

The things I fell in love with at the con were gone and had changed.I’ve changed along the way, as well.

I have had so many wonderful memories at this convention over the years and I wish many other con goers the same camaraderie and happiness I experienced for generations to come.

For me, however, I think it’s time I branch out to see what else is out there. This convention used to be something I looked forward to all year. I planned costumes, saved money, and felt eternal happiness in everything I did.

I’ve since retired the costume I religiously wore. I now know Manhattan and a few other boroughs like the back of my hand. I know where to go for authentic anime merchandise and traditional Japanese cultural experiences in the city. I know where to find the best curry, the best ramen, and where to catch subtitled films in theatres. I’ve learned so much since the time I first attended New York Comic Con in 2011, that I feel like I’ve outgrown it in a way. I’ve graduated, and want to experience what else the world has to offer. I did attend Anime Expo in 2015 as a college graduation gift to myself, but as a now self-identified thoroughbred New Yorker I felt like I was in a different country while there. It was an atrocious time, but luckily there was a group of people next door to my hotel room that were from New Jersey. We hung out a bit and talked about how much we collectively hated California.

Next year I’d like to go back, as I made some new friends who stay in LA and attend that con. I should have a different experience with an open mind.

I’ve also learned how to read and write in Japanese since 2011 (although my spoken conversation skills are still a bit shaky and lacking confidence) I’d like to go to Comiket one year. Or the Tokyo Game Show. Or even AnimeJapan. Along with Sacred Anime Pilgrimages, there are so many things I’d like to do that I could not envision until now.

I’m no longer afraid to try. I’m no longer afraid that my dreams won’t come true.

I realized while writing this that the missing factor in my enjoyment of the con the last few years has been a tie to anime or a life-long fandom. That was also why I was so visibly angry when Anime Fest was announced and presented as some new convention when I remembered its previous incarnate. Especially on the heels of attending Anime NYC last year and receiving a special pin for its inauguration. It felt like such a slap in the face to my patronage of NYCC.

Which is why, along with other reasons stated and unstated, I most likely will not attend New York Comic Con next year.

That is, unless an earth-shattering guest is in attendance. Then I will buy a single day badge.

Otherwise, I’ll be home saving my money for new adventures.

I meant for this to be a review of the current con that indulged us all this weekend, but it seems that this somehow ended up being a review of all my past con at the Javits Center.

I’ve had fun, and that’s all I ever wanted. I hope in years to come they improve on some things, and continue to bring fans happiness with as little hassle as possible.

What is New York Comic Con like?

I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here.

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In Asian Spaces

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Madara, the Okuri-Inu| Natsume Yuujinchou | The Youkai of Anime

A new installment in the Sunday series – this week focusing on Madara 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 as 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 post on Nyanko Sensei, the Maneki-Neko.

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: Madara (Nyanko-sensei’s true form)

Yokai Name: Okuri-Inu [送り犬]

Association: Guardianship, banishment, protection.

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

Description: A giant white wolf towering in height well beyond surrounding forest trees. Madara has red marking on his cheeks and a symbol on his forehead. He seems knowledgeable concerning purification rituals, binding of spirits and the local history of his area.

I came across really interesting information while learning more about this youkai. Wolves (日本狼) were abundant across Honshu until a strain of rabies infected the species.  Appearing first in Kyushu and Shikoku, it quickly spread throughout other islands in the nation. There is a dispute on whether the infection was brought to the island through domesticated dogs or human visitors. Others insist that the species was systematically killed off through government mandates. Either way, the last known wolf was killed near Yoshino (Kii peninsula) in the year 1905. However, that did not stop reports of the beast in rural areas of Japan well after the last official sighting.

Wolves, or ‘okami’, play a huge role in Shintoism. 狼 (おおかみ) takes the honorific ‘o’ that denotes reverence and the kami reserved for deities in its English translation. However, in Japan kami is a word that has other meanings.  It can also be interpreted as “superior”.  Norinaga Motoori is a celebrated scholar and philosopher known for his theological approach to Shinto. His practices are extremely detailed and I will elaborate on them another time once I have a fraction of understanding, but until then I’d like to cite a quote from Norinaga via an article from the Japan Times.

“I do not yet understand the meaning of the term kami,” wrote Norinaga (in “The Spirit of the Gods,” 1771). “It is hardly necessary to say that it includes human beings. It also includes such objects as birds, beasts, trees, plants, seas, mountains and so forth. In ancient usage, anything whatsoever which was outside the ordinary, which possessed superior power or which was awe-inspiring, was called kami…Evil and mysterious things, if they are extraordinary and dreadful, are called kami…”

Even if you are not familiar with Japanese wolf spirits, I am sure you at least remember hearing about a video game called Ōkami circa 2006. I had this game for the WII and it took me literal years to complete. Not because it was difficult, I thought my save file had a game-breaking bug. I was so frustrated that I didn’t touch the thing until years later where I decided to start a new playthrough then realized…I was just being dumb. I completely missed a prompt to continue a cutscene, and that is why I could never progress in the game no matter what I tried. I don’t even know if that was some sort of wisdom on my part to figure it out later, or just ascribed to finally taking my time in the game.

Either way, this mention has merit.

Ōkami is an unbridled resource for anyone interested in Japanese folklore or its ancient times. A short summary would be that it tells the story of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, saving the lands from the evil influences of Orochi – an eight-headed serpent creature. The goddess is called forth to the human realm by a guardian of Kamiki Village named Sakuya. Amaterasu, or Ammy also gives the legendary hero Susano’o the courage to slay the beast while drunk on golden sake.

In the actual ancient legends, Amaterasu and Susano were siblings; created after Izanagi cleansed himself once he left his wife Izanami in the underworld. After a fight with her storm god brother, the sun goddess hid in a cave and the world fell into darkness –  with spirits running amok. The other deities assembled and tricked her into coming out of the cave, thus lighting the world once more. The gang fastened a sacred rope, or shimenawa (注連縄) [rice straw] purification rope across the cave so that her light would never be obstructed again. Susano was expelled and sent to wander the world as an outcast. On his journey, he found Kusa-nada-pime, the Rice Paddy Princess who was being attacked by an eight-headed dragon. He made the dragon drunk on sake and slew it with a sword…you get the picture.

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[If you still haven’t heard any of these names before, you have probably seen an episode of Naruto. In Naruto Shippuden, Sasuke has some sort of Sharingan eye jutsu named Susanoo that acts as a guardian taking a samurai-like form. Orochimaru is an arguably “evil” ninja who uses serpents as a summoning (Manda) and frankly for everything else. He’s pretty creepy, actually. It may be a stretch, however, to point to Sakura and Sakuya, as it seems Kishimoto never put that much thought into her character after admitting it difficult to write for women.]

The Legends

In the rural, mountainous regions of Nihon the wolves made their dens. From a spiritual perspective, they were seen as protectors of the forest and “patrons” of weary travelers. The mountains were viewed as dangerous, distrustful places where the spirits of the dead roamed freely. The rural dwellings for humans 里の世界 or Sato no Sekai were different from the 山の世界 or Yama no Sekai which were ruled by the mountain spirit – Yama no Kami (山の神 ).

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This concept is heavily touched upon in Natsume Yuujinchou and furthermore in Mushishi with Ginko always searching for a mountain’s spirit at the sight of trouble. If you remember, there were several instances where Nyanko-sensei and other Youkai would warn Natsume against travel to certain parts of the forest. Or Sensei would comment on “not knowing the forest” if the pair were traveling.

There were places that humans were just not allowed to dwell. Each forest had its own set of rules that the spirits, or yokai, were expected to follow.

The Episode

Upon the shimenawa breaking, Madara does a bunch of theatrics to intimidate Natsume and is released with an aura of dark energy. Natsume is “unfazed” and simply stares at him. Madara seems surprised that he is not quaking in fear. Nyanko-sensei mentions that he owes him for breaking the seal and that he will be his bodyguard in exchange for his gratitude. Outside of Shinto folklore, this seems to be a common arrangement amongst situational spirit – human contact. A sort of binding contract or ‘pact’ that dissolves at one party’s demise. In this case, it seems like Madara will willingly serve Natsume during his lifetime in exchange for The Book of Friends upon his death. Madara chases off problematic youkai who would bring harm to the boy, resembling a ferocious “guardian” canine or “guard dog” spirit.

A Deeper Interpretation

Madara’s surprise at Natsume’s reaction could denote his age. In this connotation, he may have been sealed during a time where these stories and legends may have been treated as fact and as such – common knowledge to travelers. Madara expected a reaction from his time period – given his manner of speech is noted to be archaic and attributed to an old man – I theorize he could have been birthed in the 1300s – 1700s at the earliest. I say this because other spirits seem to know and remember him, and youkai are said to have much longer lifespans than humans. This is also backed up by numerous yokai not recognizing gender and when Natsume corrects them on his identity (i.e. not being his grandmother, Reiko) they seem to remark on our appallingly short natural lives.

This brings us to the 番犬, or watchdog legends.

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In the mountains late at night, a wolf was said to sometimes trail a traveler.  The sending (off) wolf, or Okuri Okami [送り狼] would then disappear once the resident was near their home. If the traveler tripped or looked back while the wolf followed however, this could be taken as a sign of aggression and give reason for the wolf to attack. This begs the question: was Madara a guardian, or Okuri-Okami in his past? What happened along the way to ‘corrupt’ him and initially wish to control all the residents of his forest in Kyushu? Did he have a falling out with the mountain god, or was he just being his (usual) shady self? More questions than answers for now, but I hope the manga does allude to something like this in the future. Since it seems Madara knew Reiko better than he lets on – being able to take her form when he can only do that with “humans he gets a good look at” to paraphrase.

I may have to update or provide new entries for Madara with each season I cover of the show, otherwise this post could in theory go on forever. Maybe with more rewatches, I could come up with a theory on why exactly he is a divine being – as indicated by his markings and spiritual presence to effectively banish lower level or ‘purify’ intendedly evil ayakashi.

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!

What do you think of Madara’s character? Is he a scorned yokai, or just an old spirit who has been through some things? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress, Twitter and Instagram for more #YokaiSpiritSundays!