Sunday, November 20, 2016

Prince Planet At Fifty

Fifty years ago a Japanese candy company, a Tokyo cartoon studio, an American production outfit, a future biker-movie star, and TV stations across America would join forces to bring us adventures that crossed the boundaries of time and space and bent both logic and common sense. Soon these stories would vanish from television, living on only as fuzzy memories and fuzzier bootleg VHS tapes, returning only with the advent of streaming video and digital broadcast television.

Join us, won't you, as we take a look at fifty years in the life of Prince Planet.

1939: future Yusei Shonen Papi manga artist Hideoki Inoue is born in Hokkaido. He will enter the manga field as an assistant to Osamu Tezuka, and his professional manga debut will be at age 20 with the feature "TV Boy" in the magazine "Omoshiroi Book."

September 4, 1963 – Tokyo-based animation studio TCJ’s first anime series Sennin Buraku premieres late on a Wednesday night. Sennin Buraku is based on the Edo-period gag manga by Ko Kojima which has been continuously published since 1956.

Space Patrol Hopper
October 20, 1963 – TCJ’s animated Tetsujin-28 series airs on Fuji-TV. Based on the Shonen Magazine manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Tetsujin-28 is the first giant robot anime and will later be localized as Gigantor and syndicated across America by Trans-Lux.

November 1964- Hideoki Inoue illustrates Space Patrol Hopper manga for Bokura Magazine. Space Patrol Hopper will be a Toei Animation TV series from February to November, 1965.

1965- "Yoshikura Shouichirou" – a pseudonym for Higake Takeichi, Okura Sato, Yamamura Masao, Kano Ichiro, and Futaba Juzaburo – create Yusei Shonen Papi for TCJ, with financing by Japan's top ad agency Dentsu and data gathered from a survey of 10,000 Japanese boys and girls. Using a combination pen name as creator of an anime series will also be a hallmark of Toei ("Saburo Yatsude") and Nippon Sunrise ("Hajime Yatate") productions. Yusei Shonen Papi manga will first appear in Kobunsha's Shonen in November 1964, drawn by Hideoki Inoue, and the TCJ-produced animation will premiere in June of 1965. Sponsor Glico will market a full line of Yusei Shonen Papi tie-in candy and merchandise.

Papi and Riko-chan
June 3, 1965- after a galactic council chooses to help the people of Earth, the advanced civilization of the hidden tenth planet Clifton sends a young member of the Galactic Peace Force named Papi to Earth to defend peace and justice. A genius with an IQ of over 300, Papi is able to utilize the mysterious Metalyzer, a pendant powered by a generator on Clifton that allows Papi to change the molecular structure of any object, as well as fly, perform feats of strength, survive underwater and in outer space, emit destructive rays, and do anything else the script requires. Every 168 hours (one Earth week) new energy is sent from Clifton to power the Metalyzer. En route to Earth, Papi's ship is struck by asteroids, and aware of the danger, Papi requests that HQ on Clifton erase part of his memory so he won't be tempted to return and abandon his mission. The damage to his ship results in a crash on Earth and Papi's memory is almost totally erased. Landing on Riko-chan's family farm, he remembers enough of the Metalizer to chase oil-speculating gangsters away. Soon Papi is joined by new friends Strong the wrestler and Ajababa the Arabian wizard. He'll spend the next 52 episodes battling crime and robots, armies and monsters, flying saucers and space demons. After a year on Earth Papi is recalled to Clifton, and must say farewell to all his friends on Earth. Yusei Shonen Papi will be broadcast on Japanese television and released on VHS and DVD in Japan.

Ajababa and Strong
June 3, 1965– Yusei Shonen Papi premieres on Fuji TV at 7pm, and will air 52 episodes until May 27, 1966. It will be replaced in its Thursday time slot by the live-action Kokusaihoei adventure series Phantom Agents, created by Tatsuo Yoshida, while Papi moved to 7pm Fridays. When Papi ends, its replacement will be TCJ animated series Yusei Kamen ("Asteroid Mask"). Both Yusei Shonen Papi and Phantom Agents will be packaged for overseas license by Kazuhiko Fujita and his K. Fujita Associates. K. Fujita will be instrumental in the early days of Japanese TV animation for his work securing financing from advertising agencies for Japanese animation (as he did with Dentsu and Yusei Shonen Papi), as well as licensing Japanese cartoons for export. K. Fujita’s other series include Gigantor, Eighth Man, Marine Boy, Speed Racer, and films like Terror Beneath The Sea.

the mark of K. Fujita
1966- Copri International Films, a Miami-based dubbing house partially owned by a former Havana casino manager with ties to mob boss Meyer Lansky, hires Florida actress Catherine "Bobbie" Byers to voice the character of Prince Planet. Other cast members include Kurt Nagel as Aja Baba and future "Santa Claus" actor Jeff Gillen as Pop Worthy. English-language scripts for Prince Planet will be written by Reuben "Ruby" Guberman, erstwhile screenwriter for Florida trash-film king K. Gordon Murray. Copri also dubbed TCJ series Eighth Man, and did Spanish-language work for many clients including the CIA.

AIP trade periodical advertisement for Prince Planet and other series

1964-1966- Yusei Shonen Papi manga by Hideoki Inoue is published in Kobunsha's weekly Shonen magazine, along with Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Tetsujin-28, Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atomu, Hisashi Sekiya's Stop! Nii-chan, and Fujio Akatsuka’s Leave It To Chiyota.

Yusei Shonen Papi manga in Kobunsha's Shonen

1965-66 – children across Japan enjoy both Yusei Shonen Papi on TV and the many Glico candies and candy premiums produced in conjunction with the series. Papi is featured on Papi gum, Papi chocolate, Papi stamps, Papi yo-yos, Papi whistles, Papi biscuits, Papi lenticular moving pictures, Papi finger puppets, Papi boomerangs, Papi bubble gum, Papi parachutes, Papi balancing toys, and what may be the most complex cartoon-character candy premium ever, the Papi Panoramascope. Riko gets her own line of candy and toys marketed at girls, with Riko hair charms and Riko pendants and a replica of Riko's ladybug ring. Glico even produced replicas of Papi's Metalyzer and a Papi costume sized for children. American kids got none of this, and we still feel kind of cheated. Glico's chocolate pretzel snack Pocky will, however, make great inroads into the North American snack food market.

a few Glico Yusei Shonen Papi products
Riko-chan toys are for girls only

June 10 1965- Television wrestler Strong is unable to control his immense strength, and loses his TV wrestling job. Forced into a life of crime, he is given a second chance by Yusei Shonen Papi, and aids Papi in his fight for justice (episode 2, "The Strength of Strong")

Strong is strong
June 17 1965– Prince Planet's enemy, the Martian magician Warlock, first appears (as Kiritobi) in episode #3 of Yusei Shonen Papi ("Ultra Ninja Kiritobi")

Kiritobi the Ultra Ninja & Master Of Martian Mischief 

July 1 1965– the Octopus Gang, led by Madame Whiplash, uses flying robot jellyfish to execute mid-air hijackings of jet airplanes carrying gold bullion (episode 5, “The Flying Jellyfish”)

more Papi toys

December 23 1965– the Master Of Misery, Krag of Kragmire (aka Golem) makes his entrance in episode 30 of Yusei Shonen Papi, and will menace Prince Planet throughout the remainder of the series with his bat wings, his funeral director's demeanor, and his saw-blade pocket watch.

the evil Krag, or Golem if you prefer
February 18 1966– Riko finds a pair of gloves that she believes renders her immune to harm, forcing Papi to spend the rest of the episode protecting her from the harm she knowingly exposes herself to (episode 38, "The Magic Gloves").

Riko-chan in Paris

1966- the Planet Radion sends young Universal Peace Corps member Prince Planet to Earth to defend decency and justice. Using his Pendant of Power, Prince Planet can change the molecular structure of objects, fire powerful rays, and is given flight and super strength. Crash landing on the ranch of "Pop" Worthy, he is befriended by Worthy's daughter Diana. Soon he meets out-of-work studio wrestler Dan Dynamo, Ajababa the wizard from Abadon, and occasional supporting character Kevin Kirby, who is both a hydro-electric power station engineer and Diana’s uncle. Together they face crime and robots, gangsters and space aliens, invading armies and destructive plants. After a year on Earth, Prince Planet leaves his new friends and returns to Radion. From 1966 until the mid 1970s, Prince Planet will be seen on American syndicated UHF television and will also become a popular series in Australia. The series is never released on licensed home video in North America. MGM will make the Prince Planet series available on streaming video and digital TV in the 2000s.

the "Papy Stamp"

1965-66– the Galactic Peace Force chooses perhaps the laziest, most forgetful officer on Clifton to be responsible for ensuring Papi’s Metalyzer is fully charged. Rest assured whenever Papi’s in trouble and needs a fresh burst of Metalyzer recharging, this doofus will be asleep at the literal switch.

those idiots on Radion
1966– the Carol Lombard Singers perform the theme song to Prince Planet. Carol Lombard worked with legends like Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley, and her singing group also did the theme to Flipper and many AIP musicals produced by Prince Planet musical director Al Simms.

May 20 1966- Kiritobi (Warlock) is destroyed in a fierce battle with Ajababa (episode 51, "Ajababa's Grandchildren")

May 27 1966- Golem (Krag) is finally defeated in battle with Yusei Shonen Papi, and Papi returns to his home planet, leaving behind all his Earth friends, in the final episode of Prince Planet, "Distant Home Planet."

1967- Prince Planet voice actor Bobbie Byers stars as Linda, "too much woman for any one man", in the 1967 Crown International biker film Wild Rebels, directed by Florida auteur filmmaker William "Death Curse Of Tartu" Grefe, who would later direct William Shatner in Impulse.

Wild Rebels star Bobbie Byers

1968– Manga artist Hideoki Inoue spends his Yusei Shonen Papi profits on high living and entertainment, and is soon broke and in trouble for nonpayment of taxes. His post-Papi work includes licensed character manga based on Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Ultra Q, and Thunderbirds, as well as non-licensed manga series Thunder Seven, Crazy Planet, and Dogma 3.

Inoue's Thunderbirds and Thunder Seven

1968– Prince Planet voice actor Bobbie Byers stars in the motorcycle gang movie Savages From Hell (aka "Big Enough 'n Old Enough"), also starring Sidney Poitier's brother Cyril. The film is directed by Joseph P. Mawra, who also directed "Chained Girls" and "Shanty Tramp", the latter screenwritten by Prince Planet writer Ruben Guberman.

Savages From Hell

1973- Future Let’s Anime blogger Dave Merrill watches Prince Planet for the first time on Chicago's WSNS Channel 44. The program is hosted by ventriloquist Steve Hart and sponsored by KAYO Chocolate Drink. The memories of Prince Planet will spark a lifelong interest in Japanese animation for Merrill and many others.

1977– the first national Japanese fan group, the Cartoon Fantasy Organization or C/FO, begins in Los Angeles California. Eventually it will have chapters in most major American cities, including Atlanta.

1985– future Let’s Anime writer Dave Merrill helps found a C/FO chapter in Atlanta GA and assists in hosting regular screenings of old and new Japanese animation in libraries, community centers, comic book and SF conventions, and anywhere else with a TV and a VCR.

August 1986- Yusei Shonen Papi manga artist Hideoki Inoue passes away in his apartment in Japan. He had avoided payment of income tax on his Yusei Shonen Papi profits, which by now had all been squandered. Estranged from his wife and family, Inoue died alone.

1986- Membership in the C/FO facilitates contact with anime fans across the country, some of whom have Prince Planet episodes and are willing to trade. Tape trading with C/FO members allows many, including this author, to see Prince Planet again for the first time in 13 years.

Prince Planet Foundation promotional mailing

1988-  The national C/FO self-destructs, the local anime club becomes a chore, and future Let’s Anime blogger Dave Merrill decides to concentrate on his core interests, the Japanese cartoons of the 1960s. He will start an organization called the Prince Planet Foundation, in an attempt to gather together 60s anime fans. The Prince Planet Foundation will publish a newsletter, “Ten Thousand Gigantors”, featuring articles and fan artwork and fiction, and will connect fans of classic anime across America.

cartoon by Prince Planet Foundation member Meg Evans
1993- the print version of Let’s Anime publishes an extensive article about Prince Planet.

Let's Anime #4, artwork by Paul Young

1995- The new digital technology of “the internet” results in Prince Planet Foundation founder David Merrill receiving plaintive emails from total strangers, asking if there was any way they could ever see this cartoon they grew up with. Merrill spends the next few years copying Prince Planet episodes for total strangers.

October 1995 - The Japanese animation festival Anime Weekend Atlanta holds its first annual convention, and the badges for staff and attendees feature YSP/Prince Planet artwork designed by convention graphics specialist CB Smith.

AWA director's badge

1999- Enough is enough, says Prince Planet Foundation organizer Dave Merrill. He stops responding to queries about Prince Planet episodes.

July 2007 - Classic anime blog Let’s Anime begins online publication.

November 2009 – MGM announces more than 45 episodes of Prince Planet will be made available on streaming video sites Hulu and YouTube. The 47 episodes available on YouTube will eventually vanish, but the Hulu access will remain for years.

November 2009 - Let's Anime readers participate in a Prince Planet art contest to celebrate the release of Prince Planet on Hulu and YouTube. The blog receives a lot of great artwork and everybody gets a T-shirt, courtesy MGM.

winners of the Prince Planet Fan Art contest

January 16 2012 – Let’s Anime posts the first of a 3-part English translation of Yusei Shonen Papi manga, partially scanned directly from a crumbling 1965 issue of Shonen Magazine.

February 18, 2012 – Manga Shop Series 445 is released, the first volume of collected Yusei Shonen Papi manga. This 288 page black and white digest-sized book collects the first half of the YSP manga as it appeared in Shonen Magazine, as well as reproductions of illustrations from the Asasi Sonorama Papi storybook single. Manga Shop Series 446 completes their YSP reprint.

Manga Shop 445 and 446
April 2014 - digital broadcast TV network The Works, a channel owned by MGM Television, begins airing Prince Planet as part of its schedule.

May 2014 - TGG Direct, Inc announces the release of Prince Planet on DVD in North America, and the DVD set is listed on Amazon. May comes and goes with no release, and the listing is removed from Amazon. Queries to TGG go unanswered.

November 2016 - Classic anime blog Let's Anime celebrates fifty years of Prince Planet with a celebratory blog post filled with information on both Yusei Shonen Papi and Prince Planet, which you are now reading. Will there be more excitement ahead for YSP/Prince Planet fans? Will Prince Planet return from Radion, or MGM’s vaults, to battle for truth and justice again? Only time will tell!

thanks to Meg Evans, James Sternberg, the people of Radion, MGM, Rick Zerrano, AIP-TV, and "Yoshikura Shouichirou" for their YSP/Prince Planet assistance. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

gravity sabers at 10 parsecs: Queen Emeraldas

If you're familiar with Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock or Galaxy Express 999, you're likely familiar with Emeraldas, the lady cosmo-pirate with the giant space blimp who's prone to surprise appearances whenever plots need advancing or machine planets need blowing up. Here in Kodansha's Queen Emeraldas Vol. 1, space-fantasy manga fans here in the West are finally able to enjoy her solo adventures; and rest easy, Leijiverse fans, Matsumoto's signature style of sci-fi romanticism is in full mid 1970s effect here, a handwavey future-fantasy idiom where SF motifs mix freely with Wild West tropes and the high-tech trappings of gravity waves and space drives serve only to highlight the greater struggles of the human spirit as Emeraldas haunts the spacelanes, a mystery woman with little patience for fools or cowards.

Queen Emeraldas appeared in Weekly Shonen during what must have been one of Matsumoto's busiest periods, 1978-'79. Smack dab in the middle of helping promote the Yamato boom, Leiji was also producing Danguard Ace for Adventure King, the Galaxy Express 999 manga in Shonen King, and Captain Harlock for Akita Shoten's Play Comic. Queen Emeraldas is 100% Matsumoto; the flowing scarves and cloaks and hair, the vast sky/starscapes, and the stately panels filled with elaborate space machinery covered in meaningless dials all let the reader know exactly whose comics he's reading. Manga is thought of as filmic, kinetic and fast-paced, but Matsumoto's work is a different kind of cinematic, slow and contemplative, and Queen Emeraldas is no exception, filled with long shots of windswept asteroids, double-page spreads of deep space, and tableaus heavy with impending doom.

Matsumoto's atmospheric, engaging, all-natural brush line picks out every board on dilapidated Martian towns and every swirl of dust in the thin atmosphere, and his cartoonish, exaggerated characters contrast nicely with the slick mechanical renderings (perhaps courtesy Matsumoto assistant Kaoru 'Area 88' Shintani) of vehicles, weapons, space stations, futuristic cities, and the other super-constructions they utilize or inhabit. Emeraldas and other characters loom in and out of rich, inky darkness, visible in the light of endless rows of analog dials and meters and screens set against highly polished fittings. There's been a lot of animation based on Matsumoto's work, but what we see on the TV never quite seems to capture the cold metallic elegance of his manga-style brand of outer space.

Queen Emeraldas opens as young Hiroshi Umino's patchwork spaceship augers into the rock of Martian satellite Deimos, a signature Matsumoto western-frontier space boomtown. Stranded with nothing but his pride, young Umino's True Grit touches the heart of Emeraldas, who is introduced to the reader in awestruck tones cut short as grizzled barflies shut their pieholes rather than offend the mysterious bounty hunter. Stubborn Hiroshi would die before accepting help, but help he gets anyway, and soon he's odd-jobbing his way across an unfriendly solar system where the harsh code of the West – I mean, Space – is superseded by the harsher laws of gravitational physics. Want a meditative spaghetti-western gunfight set in a spaceship's control room? Well, why not. No point in mixing genres halfheartedly.

Hiroshi's poverty, potato-head physique, and casual betrayal by beautiful women bear strong parallels to the adventures of another Matsumoto manga star, Ooyama of "Otoko Oidon", the poor but proud wandering-ronin college student trying to make good on his vow to make it on his own in the big city. Or outer space, as is the case here. Eschewing help from others, Hiroshi swears to build his dream spaceship by himself; a libertarian fantasy if ever there was one, considering the vast teams of engineers and scientists required to put even the smallest satellite into the most temporary Earth orbit. At least here the text throws us a reference or two to 'construction droids,' a step up from Tochiro Oyama's bespoke hand-built space battleship seen in 1982's "My Youth In Arcadia."

Matsumoto's iconic characters might perhaps be best used sparingly, as a dash of inspiring color at the edges of more direct narratives involving people who actually have things to do, and here in her own book Emeraldas is no exception. At times she almost assumes the maternal Maetel role as she watches Hiroshi's struggle from afar, only occasionally dropping in to shoot someone or make financial arrangements, or sometimes both. Emeraldas comes close to being a secondary character in her own comic, but she takes center stage when necessary to give us glimpses of her own backstory. She too fled to outer space but made it further than Hiroshi did, all the way to the planet Jura in the Ammonite solar system (that's where Harlock's Miimay is from, kinda), and we see how she receives her amazing spaceship Queen Emeraldas and how she is taught the inflexible law of survival in outer space, which involves the unbreakable rule to never ever show mercy to your enemies or allow the guilty to escape punishment no matter the cost.

Emeraldas as star of her own Galaxy Express 999 special
We'll travel to the Sargasso Of Space – every pulp SF series has a Sargasso Of Space – and see her kickstart a revolt on a planet where the non-beautiful are imprisoned, and we'll see Hiroshi labor in the mines of Ganymede and the run down frontier towns littering the badlands of the solar system. All the while we'll be lectured about what it means to be a man, about how much mercy to show our enemies (spoiler: none), and of the greatness of making our own way in the universe. Characters major and minor emote at length on flying freely without let or hindrance in their own space ships, but we're never told what it is about outer space that makes them want to go there so badly. Hiroshi Umino, and to a certain extent Emeraldas herself, aren't interested in marveling at the awesome spectacle of the universe. They aren't on a quest to save the Earth or find a space treasure or solve a space mystery. The reader looks hopefully for a plot development that at least pretends to matter to society as a whole, but our heroes are steadfast in their earnest desire to simply tool around the universe riding their machines without being hassled by "the man."

Filled with characters taking extreme positions on focus-tested shonen manga ideals, sometimes these stories resemble a more lyrical version of Steve Ditko's "Mister A." However, the aggressive self-reliance of the characters is subverted by the text; for every proud declamatory speech about doing it yourself by your own bootstraps, there's a helping hand behind the scenes keeping Hiroshi (and occasionally Emeraldas) afloat. Maybe it really does take a village to launch a spaceship. Ending as it does with Emeraldas encountering a huge armada of perhaps village-launched spaceships that may be able to help her on her enigmatic quest, we can only wait for Volume 2 to witness the culmination of all this interstellar self-actualization.

Kodansha's Queen Emeraldas vol. 1 is a classy, heavy hardback printed on nice paper, a professional package representative of comics today, which is to say, $30 books rather than $3 pamphlets. It's an impressive format with the downside of limiting exactly how many comics the average reader can bring home in a month – both the arm muscles and the pocketbook give out after a few of these things. I do feel with the $25 price point ($32 in Canada) they could throw in a few interior color pages, but that's me. Emeraldas has a beautifully printed hard cover and well-bound interior stock that justifies the sticker price and holds up nicely to the enormous swaths of inky space blackness haunting every other page. Zack Davisson's translation manages to throw in an Oscar Wilde quote and never gets lost in Queen Emeraldas' storm of SF adjectives, giving the reader both the cold formality of Emeraldas's dialogue and the seedy slang of hard-bitten spacemen and derelict space-drunks.

Classic Showa-era Matsumoto manga is thin on the ground this side of the Pacific; the arrival of Kodansha's Queen Emeraldas is like welcoming a long-lost cousin who should have been here a lot earlier, warranting both "at last" and "it's about time." A manga creator as prolific and as influential as Leiji Matsumoto deserves more representation in the bookstores of America; if they can handle endless volumes of One Piece, Dragonball, and Naruto, they can surely deal with an Emeraldas or two. I look forward to continuing the journey of Hiroshi Umino and Queen Emeraldas, wherever in space they take us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2016

Yessir, it's time once again for Atlanta to bestir itself down to the Cobb Galleria Center, and the Waverly, and what soon will be the new Braves stadium, and gird its loins for the 22nd annual Anime Weekend Atlanta! What started out in 1995 as a gathering of a few hundred die-hard Japanese cartoon nerds has become the Southeast's pre-eminent gathering of twenty thousand die-hard Japanese cartoon nerds. And as one of the founding members of this august body of Japanese cartoon nerds, I'll be front and center delivering the kind of unprofessional yet self-important scholarship that anime fandom would be lost without.

You want to make sure you're there on Thursday to pick up your badge in time to visit the Super Happy Fun Sell, a yard-sale swap-meet of fans feverishly selling their previously loved used anime merchandise to wide-eyed bargain hunters. We sold out every table this year so it's gonna be crazy in there!!

Then on Friday you don't wanna miss the opening ceremonies because I might clock you in the eyeball with some Dubble Bubble gum from my sniper's next onstage in the glare of the spotlights, opening yet another AWA with a firestorm of candy.  Stay close to the main stage because at 4pm that's where anime translator extraordinaire Neil Nadelman presents his world-famous Totally Lame Anime!

Remember, if that pond's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin! Afterwards you might want to hit the dealers room or watch some anime or see some guests or snap some cosplay pix, but stick around because at 10pm I drag AWA back down to Anime Hell!

It's two hours of confusing ambiences and ill-timed shorts, mixed with crazy ads, old safety films, that rock music the kids seem to like, and Galaxy Goof-Ups aplenty. And then stick around because midnight is time for Midnight Madness!

Yes, the famous parody dub celebration returns with all your favorite cartoon characters mouthing swears. It's a riot and guaranteed to make you laugh til your guts bleed, as the teeners say.

Saturday morning you're gonna wanna get up bright and early, though, because it's time to find out all about the Craziest Anime You Never Saw!

The Kennesaw room will be the scene of enlightenment as Americans learn of amazingly weird cartoons that not only were never imported into the United States, but will NEVER be imported into the United States, and I make this bold and definite statement in the fervent hopes that somebody out there proves me wrong. I dare you to release these cartoons. I double-dare ya. Anybody?

Stick around Saturday night and make some new pals at the AWA Mixer! Yes, it's a place for the grownups to meet and greet and have grownup conversation about real estate, insurance, retirement plans, and transforming super robots and idol singers. There's a cash bar and plenty of friends you haven't met yet, so be there! Mention Let's Anime and I might get you into the secret after party.

Sunday afternoon it's time to relax a little, let your inhibitions down a bit, and slide into the Hot Tub Anime Club Time Machine! Let those bubbles take you back to the early days of anime fandom where we'll find out exactly what these proto-otaku were watching and how they were watching it, and with whom.

And then, before you know it, another AWA fades into the distance in our rear-view mirror!  It's gonna be a super blast and you GOTTA be there. Find out all about how and when and where  - here!

Monday, August 29, 2016

what I did on my vacation '16

Summer's just about over and that means it's time to look back and reflect on what you did on your time off. Where did you go? What did you do? And how long will you be paying the credit card companies back for it all?

Well even though this year we didn't visit Tokyo, we did get to experience enough classic Japanese cartoon goodness to realize that one doesn't have to cross the Pacific to find old-school anime.  On our trip through upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Quebec, we found them bug-eyed Japanheeno cartoons peeking out at us around every corner, seemed like.

As a French-speaking province linguistically tied to a nation that spent the 1970s and 1980s watching as many Japanese cartoons their PAL television system could cram onto the airwaves, Quebec was North America's go-to region for classic anime. And here in 2016 that's evident everywhere people of a certain age gather, especially in Montreal's hip burger joint La Belle et la Boeuf, where not only can you consume a giant burger named after UFO Robo Grandizer, but you can wash your hands under the protective gaze of Captain Harlock for men and Candy Candy for the ladies.

Get up early the next morning and hit the antique malls, where a selection of Albator (Captain Harlock) and Goldorak (Grandizer) merchandise awaits you! The Goldorak stuff was overpriced IMHO ($10 for a scratched up 45 single of the French theme song, no thanks) but the Albator BD (that's "bandes dessinees", or comic books) were a bargain at twice the price. 

 The fascinating thing about these French Harlock comics is that they took terrific liberties with the original source material, sometimes adapting television stories wholesale, and sometimes going off in crazy new directions involving characters from completely different Japanese anime series.

(and yes I'm aware that Matsumoto shoe-horned Harlock into his Yamato manga. A giant ghost Captain Okita, not so much)

While in Massachusetts, you should definitely visit The Outer Limits in Waltham, a great comic book store with lots and lots of comic books of all kinds, as well as an interesting selection of toys & stuff from the 70s & 80s era of Japanese cartoons. You should also take a trip through Lexington, site of a pivotal scene in American history, and also a place where an auto dealership uses Astro Boy to advertise their excellent service department. No, seriously.

I wouldn't kid about something like this
When visiting New England you owe it to yourself to visit the Fun Spot in Weirs Beach New Hampshire. Not only can you play skee-ball, immerse yourself in the largest selection of working classic arcade games under one roof in the Western hemisphere, and roll your eyes at the Objectivist lecturing thoughtfully provided by the management, you can also revisit your first exposure to Lupin III in the form of the laser disc video game Cliff Hanger.

Yes, it works, and yes, the game play is just as mechanical and unsatisfying as you remember. But hey, game play is still a quarter just like it was in the 80s! Pile up a stack of tokens and play your way through the ninjas and gather a crowd of awestruck 12 year olds around you!

Next on our journey we crossed over into Vermont, where we visited Quechee Gorge, a beautiful spot of natural wonder located providentially next to an antique mall. Antique Malls are surprisingly fruitful locations to find bits of Japanese pop culture hiding among the fake tin reproduction signage and the plastic M&M figures that ARE NOT ANTIQUES, and Quechee is no exception.

Here we see celebrity anime translator Neil Nadelman modelling a lithograph of the Speed Racer cast signed by Peter Fernandez and Corinne Orr. Like the helpful post-it says on the back, "they do the voices." And they do!  When visiting Quechee, head upstairs to their Toy Museum and prepare for your eyes to bug out and your jaw to drop at all the awesome, awesome toys they have on display that you cannot ever play with, ever.

Then you'll want to head over to Rutland Vermont, filming location of the amazing sci-fi drama Time Chasers. If you've ever wanted to learn Japanese, well, you probably own books published by the Charles Tuttle Company of Rutland. Well Charles Tuttle was a real person and he really lived in Rutland and he had his own building right downtown!

Then, and only then, may you visit the local thrift store and freely avail yourself of the 5-for-$1 VHS tapes.

And that was our vacation. Well, okay, it wasn't all ferreting out silly cartoon nonsense. We saw a bunch of friends and ate terrific meals and got some beach time in and even did a little paddling on one of New England's more picturesque lakes. For YOUR next vacation, why not consider the Quebec-Vermont-New Hampshire-Massachusetts region?