Hey guys! First off, thanks for all your entries in the “Write about Naruto” contest. We are closing last issue’s contest and will not be accepting any more articles so we can review over all the great pieces you guys sent in! It’s really hard to decide on a winner :-/ Anyway, we will feature the best article in the next issue of the newsletter. Thanks for all your hard work and stay tuned!
If my previous article have piqued your interest in coming to Fanime or any other anime convention then that’s great! Summertime is here and what better way to spend your vacation than a weekend of anime convention madness? You’ll have to wait until next year to get into Fanime again, but there are still other cons you might want to take a look at for summer vacation. Some of the more notable ones include:
Anime Expo 2009 (July 2-5, Los Angeles CA): The biggest anime convention on the west coast and all of North America, this is the premiere convention for fans and the industry alike. Since its inception in 1992, AX’s attendance has grown to over 43,000 fans and has had increasingly more high-profile industry guests every year. AX has become not only one of the largest anime conventions in the world, but one of the premiere locations to announce what’s new in the anime industry. Because of the sheer scale of this convention tickets go fast, but there is still time to get some if you haven't made up your mind yet whether to go!
Otakon 2009 (July 17-19, Baltimore MD): The second largest anime con in the US this is the convention that East Coast fans flock to, and with good reason. Established in 1994, Otakon has been one of the longest running conventions in the US and offers everything you have come to expect from an anime con. The dealer’s room, the cosplayers, the special guests, they’re all there. You can expect to see not only the best in anime, but also the best in Asian culture and gaming if you so desire. With attendance clocking up to more than 26,000, you can bet this is a big one. If you live on the Atlantic side of the continent and want to experience a massive convention, then this is the place to go.
MetroCon 2009 (June 19-21, Tampa FL): For all you Florida people out there, this is the place to go. Offering the best that any anime convention has to offer since 2004, this con stands out as the pioneer of the Original Anime Human Chess Match: a cosplay chess game that has grown from a simple round of human chess to a well scripted theatrical performance. This year is especially big with the reunion of the cast of Gundam Wing, so fans of the show would not want to miss it!
AnimeNext 2009 (June 12-14, Somerset NJ): If you’re looking for a convention in the Tri-state area, than AnimeNext is the place to be. This convention started in 2002 and has since grown to 7,900 attendees as of last year. Along with the dealer's room and the cosplayers and all the special guests, this con is unique in its establishment of its own manga library: a place where you can sit down and read manga in a nice, quiet place. Guests and events will be plentiful this year, so be sure to check it out!
San Diego Comic Con 2009 (July 23-26, San Diego CA): Ok, so we’re cheating a bit on this one since it's not strictly an anime convention, but if nothing else this is the con that everyone - anime fan or not - has heard of. Though this convention is centered around American comics and superheroes, you can bet that anime has its presence felt here as well. This is also the convention where big name movies and series with huge followings come to greet the fans, and there are a lot of them: about 126,000 attendees last year. Due to the recent surge of superhero movies hitting the theaters, you can bet that even Hollywood’s finest will be showing up to promote the newest blockbusters. Getting a ticket may be difficult this year, though, because of the high profile of this convention.
Again, I have only scratched the surface of the various conventions that are happening during the summer. If you want to find out when a convention near you might be opening its doors, the information’s only a click away. Remember to plan ahead, as conventions are not a simple day at the carnival but rather a weekend event with tons of things to do.
If you ever go to Japan, this is the one word you will hear more often than not. You will hear it from grown Japanese women ogling over a new Hello Kitty figurine. Children shriek out a giddy, high-pitched “kawaii” as they see a puppy happily trot down the street. Jaded and ruthless businessmen will blurt out “kawaii” when they see a cute, animated advertisement. Across these demographics, “kawaii” will be said in the same, high pitched, nasally tone that the Japanese are infamously known for.
In Japan, cuteness is not only reserved for children, but adults revel in it as well. Young adults strut around proudly, adorned with Sanrio products, without an ounce of shame. Would that fly in the States? I don't know how I would feel if my teacher used a super cute, childish pen to correct my papers. I don’t even know if I could take him or her seriously. However, no one would even flinch or give it a second thought if this occurred in the Land of the Rising Sun. It's amazing to see how one simple thing can be viewed so differently from across the other side of the Pacific Rim.
Yes, Japan has mastered the art of cute. “Kawaii” is stated so frequently that one could semi-seriously assert that people probably say that one word more times than they blink in any given day. Although cuteness is so pervasive throughout Japanese culture, anime, and merchandise, there is one particular piece of Japanese culture where cuteness is taken to a whole new level: Chi's Sweet Home - Chi's New Address.
Yes, this show epitomizes all that is cute and fluffy... almost to a nauseous level!
Chi, the cat that the Yamadas care for, isn't always the best behaved. She creates mischief like any pet or - for that matter - any child, but when you see that cute "kitty" face, everything is forgotten and forgiven. I had my own share of doubts about this series: why would someone watch a 3 minute episode about a cat that just happens to be super cute? Chi is kawaii, but at times she can be very annoying. This often makes me wonder while watching an episode why the Yamadas don't just get rid of her once and for all, but before this pernicious thought can even fully materialize in my brain the episode is over!
Now before we start jumping to conclusions and saying that all Japanese adults revert to a childlike state every time they see something cute, let’s look at a cross section of cultures by returning to the other side of the Pacific Rim in Los Angeles. Let’s take a trip down to the magic factory where cute is manufactured in bulk: Disneyland. This is not just a place for children; grown adults frequent Disneyland too in order to escape from their everyday lives and to feel like a kid again. So, going to Disneyland as an adult is almost like feeding your soul with what we were able to enjoy but not fully appreciate until we became adults.
Even in our everyday lives, we are encountered with cuteness (not Disney-style) that has the amazing effect of allowing us to forget about the speech we’ve been working on, the test we’ve been studying for, and so on. Have you ever been so stressed out, walking across campus in a sleeplessness-induced reverie, and you run into the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen? For that instant moment, your mind is only preoccupied on all that is cute and you totally detach from all the worries of your life. Cuteness can make your worries magically dissipate, if only for a few minutes.
Is Chi our daily medicine in just the right amount? Just enough of a dose to be effective, but short enough so that you don't fry your brain with a cuteness overload? You should try it out! 3 minutes of Chi a day keeps the doctor away, nya*!
* This is the sound of a cat meowing in Japanese and used at the end of a sentence in order to sound cute. (appeared in 5/15/09 Takeout Newsletter)
By no means has Shugo Chara reached the echelons of other widely popular anime series, such as Naruto Shippuden, Dragonball, and Pokemon, but there is still a strong fanbase domestically and internationally; moreover, it seems the fanbase is continuously growing. You might ask how a show about eggs and guardian characters could be so popular? Some will argue its appeal lies within the animation, others will retort that it’s all about the characters or even the “slice of life” style that perfectly blends with the show’s fantasy elements. Whatever the reason may be, there’s definitely something about it that makes it widely appealing across gender and geography. A “batsu”-factor, if you will.
That “batsu” factor - and ultimate triumph of this series - is arguably Shugo Chara's ability to subtly address the issue of finding yourself and breaking free from social pressures and expectations on the path to find one’s own individuality. Shugo is not the first, nor surely the last, anime to tackle these issues, but what makes it stand apart from its counterparts is its ability to successfully and gracefully deliver said messages.
Much like the success of Disney’s “High School Musical”, Shugo Chara too follows the same themes of “breaking free” and rising above the “status quo” that so many teens find difficult to achieve. You might scoff at these tired and trite motifs, but to be honest the themes and messages from both shows are identical, well-intentioned, and spot on. Why can’t Shugo Chara’s Amu simultaneously be artistic, sporty, quiet, and outgoing, just as High School Musical’s Troy juxtaposes being both a jock and a thespian? These titles are not contradictory, nor are they dissonant, and Amu shows us why.
Apart from the storyline attacking and addressing the issue of social roles and conformity, Shugo Chara allows viewers to live vicariously through the lives on screen, inevitably instilling a sense of empowerment and confidence. Moreover, viewers worldwide have flocked to this series because it filled a void in the animated world, by providing a series with substance and something viewers all over the world need to be aware of – in some places more than others.
Here in the States and in many other Western countries, we are already very familiar with the themes of breaking from the status quo. Western societies tend to instill in its constituents a cultural bias towards individuality as opposed to communality. While you might get picked on in middle school or high school for being different, there are plenty of opportunities later on in life to express your individuality as you please and be the person you would like to be. However, in Asia – and in most homogenous and culturally conformist societies – sometimes that is not the case. Oftentimes if you're a square peg in a round hole and you can’t fit into society's standardized norms, you will not be able to function in society. The social pressures there are THAT great.
So why the disparity and difference between the two types of cultures?
The New York Times columnist, David Brooks, asserts that many researchers believe that most Western cultures draw their values from ancient Greece, with its emphasis on individual heroism and individual valor, whereas other cultures may draw their values from more tribal philosophies, placing an emphasis on the good of the community over the good of the individual.
Michael Zielenziger, journalist and author of “Shutting out the Sun,” argues that cause of the modern day individualist and collectivist societal behaviors has a direct correlation to the agricultural revolution and the kinds of crops raised in each culture. For example, in the East where rice is the predominant food staple, growing and harvesting rice requires a great deal of workers, more so than what is required for wheat and rye; therefore collectivism became a lifestyle of survival.
That, along with Asia’s desire to maintain tradition, evolved over time from these groups of farmers, to imperial families (e.g. the shogunates of Japan and the dynasties of China), to large-scale militaries and into the modern-day bureaucratic business groups and social networks.
From a young age, children are crafted to fit perfectly in the well-run, bureaucratic, Matrix-like machine that powers each respective Asian country. Stateside, people who don’t fit in the system become small-business owners, artists and free-thinkers. However in Asia, like Neo in the Matrix, people who break free are then seemingly expunged from the system.
Interestingly enough, though, Shugo Chara originates and is a product of an Asian, communal society. Is this a sign of some sort of global “Westernization” of cultural ideals, or another indication of the changing social landscape? Whatever the rhyme or reason, hopefully it will encourage a generation of free-thinkers to discover that there are no limitations to who or what you want to become. Like Amu and the guardians, if you feel the need to be sporty or artsy or some other variation or yourself that you keep hidden, then take a risk and pursue those dreams. To quote the great poet T.S. Eliot, "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."
Now, when I speak frankly about the cultural differences between Asia and the West, it should not be construed as Asia-bashing or some sort of cheerful propaganda promoting the virtues of Western civilization.
It is merely an unabashed celebration of an anime that is unafraid to break barriers, provide hope and stimulate the aspirations of millions of young people who are unsure of themselves and their future. And despite this being a predominantly shōjo show, I hope that you – the viewer and reader – will take its underlying messages to heart and become unafraid to take those chances, let go of your fears and let your inner selves hatch, guard and guide your path to the person you want to become.
The Pure Place is enshrouded with flames and with bitter cold as the battle between Reishin and the Masagami begins. Reishin is pounded by attacks of magma and glaciers but with the aid of the Thousand Iolite Abyss, he unleashes the powered up Exceed, Tera Cannon to destroy the body of the Masagami. Meanwhile, the newly awakened Kuro and Keita head toward Reishin but...
March 3rd is Hinagiku Katsura's birthday, president of Hakuo Academy's Student Council. Hayate wants to get her a present for letting him stay at her place. He's a butler in debt so he can't afford to buy her any expensive clothes. He wants to get her a sensible gift and asks other friends that are around the same age as Hinagiku to get some advice. He consults with Nishizawa-san who confessed her love for him before and they go out together to find a present. Is this a date?!
The mysterious boy appears unexpectedly and prompts Karin to reach out to the outside world. A song the boy sings reminds Karin of someone she knows and it brings back warm memories.
Word of the Day
私 (わたし・あたし・わたくし) - If you’re going to go to Japan or talk to someone Japanese, don’t talk like anime characters talk; you will just look foolish. To avoid that, here’s a brief lesson in how to say “I” or “me.” For males: わたし = watashi. For females: あたし = atashi. For a very formal event or speaking to someone much higher than you: わたくし = watakushi. Next week we’re gonna make it more casual!