2010 was kind of a shitty year to be a fan of Japanese cartoons. Death, of both the physical and the “of the industry” sort, has been busy keeping itself in the front of our minds since last January. We’d really rather not like to talk about all the awesome, talented people who died this year, like Carl Macek, Satoshi Kon, and Daisuke “I AM THE HEADMASTER OF MAN SCHOOL, HEIHACHI EDAJIMA!” Gouri, because the wounds are still too fresh. Heck, we’re even a little choked up about The Nish! It’s not like we got any relief from turning on the Internet pipes and the latest and greatest from Japan; all that succeeded in doing was making us feel older and more out-of-touch with What Anime Fans Want than ever before as wave after wave of disappointment crashed over us. And then we went to anime conventions and felt even worse.
We have seen the enemy, and they sit in a corner of the room watching Akiyuki Shinbo’s Pani Poni Dash! on their netbook, explaining to their friends that “this show is hilarious, ‘cuz you’ve got to pause it and read these notes telling you what it’s a reference to every five seconds,” as we waited in vain for anyone to so much as crack a smile. They have successfully managed to make “incestuous comedy” a genre unto itself, and made a show entirely about chatting with obnoxious girls about their supernatural personal problems the hottest-selling animated series in Japan in years. And they have no sense of history, culturally or subculturally. This is otaku in 2010, and we need another drink.
A Bunch Of Manga Publishers Choked And Died! (Sorta)
So there weren’t any fantastic, Geneon or Neo-ADV style blowups this year, but there were a couple of whimpers in the night. First, there was the publisher Go! Comi, who you probably haven’t heard of unless you’re a teenage girl or you’re Deb Aoki and you’re paid to know these things. Hell, we’d completely forgotten about these guys until we saw them mentioned again when we were doing research for this article! They released a handful of books which we always thought were shiny new Tokyopop publications when we glanced at their spines on the shelves, and then quietly stopped doing much of anything around New Years’ 2010, despite posts on their website citing the threats of “economic downturn and digital theft” and promising more updates. Unlike Urban Vision, who are now celebrating two years of promising updates and new products without actually doing a damn thing, Go! Comi made it barely three more months, closing their forums, their Twitter account, and finally neglecting to renew their domain name in early May. Their fans, we assume, kept on with the digital theft.
That leaves us with two casualties you might’ve actually heard of: one sudden and complete, and the other… well, who knows? Let’s start with the complicated one.
If you’re the kind of asshole who knows anything about the Japanese visual media industry, you know the publisher Kodansha. They put out shit like Weekly Shonen Magazine, the Morning publications, Nakayoshi (the magazine Sailor Moon ran in), etc. Big name stuff, trust us. A couple of years ago, they decided to augment their current business of licensing series to American companies for foreign publication with a full-on American branch office. They sat on their asses for a couple of years, doing little more than letting all of their licenses with Tokyopop lapse en masse, continuing to hand off most of their choice stuff to Del-Rey Manga, which was already a joint venture of sorts between them and US publisher Random House, anyway.
And that’s the news: Del-Rey Manga is apparently toast as its own entity! A not entirely surprising move, honestly; the company’s barely ever branched out from Kodansha’s massive catalog of comics, occasionally publishing prose fiction from Kodansha’s catalog (the two Faust anthologies, NisioisiN’s Zaregoto books) and a small handful of “OEL” titles, most of which were based on existing properties and lasted at best two books. Might as well bring all the production in-house and cut out the middleman, eh? Except that’s not really what they’re doing. Kodansha Comics apparently plans to contract out nearly all of the actual editorial, production, sales, and marketing to the existing Del-Rey Manga staff as part of Random House’s “Publisher Services” division, leaving everyone questioning if any of this shuffling actually means a goddamn thing to anyone who’s not splitting up the check. The whole thing seems more like an excuse to take a few months off and quietly cancel unpopular series, putting titles like the agricultural sex comedy Moyashimon in that same “‘forthcoming, we swear,’ yet never printed” category as other cancelled titles, such as Dark Horse’s run of Eden: It’s an endless world! Perhaps they hope this’ll also take them off the hook with the two people who remembered that they promised to publish Kinoko Nasu’s original masterwork, The Garden of Sinners, by the end of 2009.
To date, the only releases from the Kodansha Comics imprint of the company’s US division have been reprints of older Dark Horse Comics editions of Akira and Ghost in the Shell. These are the big, “graphic novel”-sized flipped editions from the early ‘00s, and they’re gorgeous, though it’s a little odd given that just a few years ago GitS received an uncut, unflipped edition from Dark Horse. The company still doesn’t have a real Web presence — as of when we published this, the official Kodansha Comics website is a barebones bulleted list of upcoming releases — but let’s not have that be any cause for concern, it’s not like Del-Rey Manga was particularly adept at keeping their website up to date with what’s actually coming out, either. So perhaps it really is just business as usual!
That leaves us with the actual publisher death: CMX, the long-suffering Japanese comics brand from DC Comics. Launched with much fanfare and one of those fantastic fan controversies that creates multi-year grudges, CMX bravely avoided anyone noticing that they existed for nearly six years by putting out almost entirely comics that nobody gave a shit about and then failing to tell anyone that they’d done so. The last time any of their releases made headlines in the “Japanese comics enthusiast” press was when they released Oh! Great’s Tenjou Tenge, a fighting comic entirely noteworthy for the gratuitous tits, asses, and sex scenes shoved into it by the porn-comic veteran to compensate for his complete inability to tell interesting or coherent storylines. Except their version cut all the graphic material, and you know what Internet fandom thinks about that. That was one of their very first releases, and despite a lot of effort putting out some really good comics in uncut, unaltered form since then, nobody ever paid attention to them ever again.
It’s not entirely CMX’s fault, of course. Emma’s a great comic, sure, but most of us hadn’t heard of it until we discovered The Bride’s Stories in fan-translation years later, nor did we notice that Broken Blade had actually made it to bookstore shelves until the company went under. And as much as we might appreciate the release of crazy shoujo comics like From Eroica with Love or Swan, honestly, who the hell was going to buy these things? They’re not just old, they look old, and they’re old girls’ comics. It’s like a goddamn retail death-sentence! We imagine this is exactly what the DC executives said in mid-May, when somebody told them that they still had a Japanese comics imprint: “Wait, you mean we’re not only spending money to release comics that we don’t own the rights to exploit lucratively as toys, movies, games, coffee mugs, and underwear, but they’re also unpopular and for girls? Stop that!”
And that was that — despite updates to the CMX website announcing new title licenses that same week, the label was done. The site was taken down within hours and redirected to point at the main DC Comics page, lest anyone be confused into thinking that the label had ever existed. All books that hadn’t already gone to print for release in the next month or so were cancelled, with the visible exception of Fred Gallagher’s popular Key fanfiction series, Megatokyo. Will any of these titles be rescued by other publishers and reprinted or completed? Who knows! All we know is that since we stupidly waited until we actually had a regular source of income from employment to start looking, most of the volumes of Emma that we need are going for between $20 and $60 on Amazon now. Balls.
ANIME CONVENTIONS CONTINUE TO EMBARRASS EVERYBODY, SOMEHOW MAKE MONEY
It doesn’t take an expert to realize that the American anime industry is in bad shape. As companies continue to die off and fans prefer to pirate their favorite Japtoons, it’s estimated the the total sales for the industry in 2010 will have been between $160 and $200 million. To put that into perspective, it means that if the entire industry pooled all of its money together, maybe, just maybe, it could finance the 1990s art house classic Waterworld. Good luck getting a Costner project green lighted in this day and age, though.
Anime conventions seem to be the only part of the industry that continues to be successful, at least until someone figures out how to monetize those kids sitting in the manga aisle at Borders. Why do kids still pay money to go to conventions when they don’t spend money on buying anime? Probably because you can’t download an anime convention.
As successful as conventions may be, they’re also incubators for some of the worst fandom behavior, and provide a pretty convincing argument as to how obnoxious anime fans actually are. This year was no different, except that there was a surprising number of instances where it was the conventions themselves, not the fans, who came off as the idiots.
The people behind Mesa, Arizona’s Taiyou Con commissioned a commercial to rival all previous anime convention commercials, and in the process managed to distill every annoying, obnoxious aspect of con culture into a two-minute honky rap. Performed by the front man of nerd band Kitsune Robot (seriously), the commercial assures us Taiyou Con will be just like a “mini Japan.” If you’ve ever wondered why kids like anime conventions (hint: it isn’t the anime), look no further.
But what happens when you don’t have a marketing campaign that assures hundreds, if not thousands, of Japanophiles will flock to your convention? You end up with a $12,000 deficit and a convention chair berating attendees during the closing ceremonies for not bringing more of their friends. So reports Dave Merrill, who shared a bizarre occurrence from the unusually named Naru2U convention up in Ottawa. A con representative berating attendees is absurd enough as it is, but last year’s convention was worse, according to Merrill, “After a disastrous previous year that involved a drugged water supply and the intervention of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario…” In comparison, the fact that they have a panel at 2am called Fapping 101 seems down right pedestrian.
When the New York Comic Con merged with the New York Anime Festival, the Comic Con people did the only logical thing when faced with their convention being overrun by meme-shouting kids in Naruto headbands: They ghettoized the anime portions of the convention, so that the obnoxious comic book fans wouldn’t have to deal with the obnoxious anime fans. If this sounds familiar, and it probably should, it’s because our own East Coast correspondent covered it back in October. Don’t bother looking for coverage of it on other websites, as they were all too busy writing about the new Haruhi movie.
Barely in time to be included for 2010, the Los Angeles convention-you’ve-never-heard-of, Club 2 the Max, announced that it would be changing its name to AM2. As if stealing the name from a respected video game studio wasn’t enough, they decided to make things even more confusing by announcing that their event would take place on the same weekend as Anime Expo, which is also held in the Los Angeles area, and at Anime Expo’s previous location at the Anaheim Convention Center. They also won’t be charging an admission fee.
Attempting to go toe-to-toe with the largest anime convention in North America AND operating under the mistaken assumption that if kids don’t pay an entrance fee they’ll spend that money on Pocky and action figures in the dealers room, AM2 seems set on making life difficult for everyone involved. Both companies and fans will have to decide which convention to attend, and at best AM2 will play Ralph Nader to Anime Expo’s Al Gore. At worst it will be a spectacular failure and yet another convention will have tried to compete with Anime Expo and lost.
AM2’s Chase Wang (seriously) recently appeared on Anime News Network’s podcast and discussed the whole debacle with host Zach Bertschy. In the face of overwhelming logic and good sense, Wang contends that his convention will be different.
AM2, like a lot of the questionable ideas put forth by companies in the industry, is riddled with potential problems, put forth with a reckless abandon of logic or foresight and called out as such by the fans themselves. Will AM2 be a failure? Oh, probably. But at the very least, conventions seem to have the best chance surviving in this blighted landscape, because they rely not on a fan’s willingess to pay for something they already downloaded for free, but on a fan’s willingness to make an ass out of themself in public.
COLONY DROP WINS THE ANIME BLOG TOURNAMENT
At some point in the year, a group of anime bloggers decided to pit the internet’s anime blogs against each other in a poll-to-the-death battle royale. As you can see here, Colony Drop was victorious.
We like what we do here at Colony Drop– we relish it, frankly– and the delicacy with which we do not approach Japan-cartoons (also the word cartoons) makes a lot of folks a little angry. When CD’s turn came in the polls, over twice the average amount of votes rolled in. They weren’t quite voting for our opponent, you see. From the comments:
“I think if Colony Drop wins I’m going to gain another cynicism point against otaku. Anime was created as a means of cultural (re)exploration and not for close-minded people.”
That’s right. Colony Drop had to be stopped. This was a mission. Bloggers campaigned passionately: not for the other blog, mind, but against us. Here the community displays its level of class by correcting our opponent for celebrating his/her victory in the poll: “Hey, hey, we don’t care about your website, we just really hate Colony Drop”. These are the same people who call us dicks!
So no, if you want to count the numbers, Colony Drop didn’t win the Aniblog Tourney: the sheer, concentrated hate of the blogosphere knocked us out in the first round. That we’ve drawn the ire of such an insular, petty community is a sure sign that we’re doing the right thing.
THE COLONY DROP MOST DANGEROUS ANIME BLOGGER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2010
“What do I care who knows this shit? This shit doesn’t even matter. If you think less of me as a person for something like this, then I think of you as a minuscule particle of existence.”
This only, crazy, foolish game– the other prize for which the entire anime blogosphere bitterly competes every year– had a clear winner as early as July, when the Otaku Sex Help Hotline blog was started. Like a newborn baby deciding to jump out of a twenty-story building before it can walk, a young man who does not brush his teeth took it upon himself to deliver sex advice to the otaku masses.
This rare and magnificent beast began with a simple incest question, but it wasn’t until two days later that the atomic bomb of anime blogging was let fly. In this post, the true purpose of this “advice” charade was laid bare: this blog was only started so that the author could deliver his own full-length, excruciatingly detailed life story in masturbation. This piece is not for the weak, and yes, we would fire you if we saw you reading it. Apply your imagination to the following:
But then we have the issue of my hairy-ass legs, which is where my mom’s wardrobe finally came in handy. She had thigh-highs. Those stripy kinds like Mio wears in the Don’t Say Lazy video.
Needless to say, the Otaku Sex Help Hotline has remained dormant since this watershed moment in anime blogging, with only one contentless post since the masterpiece went up. The mission was accomplished, and some achievements were never meant to be topped.
For starting an entire blog just to tell everybody precisely how he jerks off, we at Colony Drop are proud to award 2010digitalboy with the title of Most Dangerous Anime Blogger 2010. Wear it with pride: just, please, not while touching yourself.
We’d like to close with a statement by the author, one which is truly emblematic of anime, blogging, fandom, and perhaps the current Age of Over-Sharing in which we live:
“A couple of weeks ago, I actually managed to cram in two fingers, and that was how I first got the idea for this blog. Because I was pretty fucking proud of myself.”