Friday, November 11, 2005


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Anime?
What is the difference between Anime and Manga?
Hey! You gave my favorite series a bad rating, what gives?
What do you base your ratings on?
Where can I buy anime?
Anime costs too much, I'd have to sell crack to afford everything I want!
Which is better, Subtitled or Dubbed?
What's a Fansub?

What is Anime?
Anime is a term used to describe Asian animation covering a wide variety of genres. Sometimes it's called by the older term "Japanamation", though not all anime is from Japan. China and Korea are also sources of animation similar to that of Japan, and can be considered anime as well. In the US it is usually Japanese animation that is associated with the term anime. For years, anime was lumped with "cartoons", and only recently has become its own genre in the West. This is an improvement, but is still incorrect and can lead to misperceptions about anime. Like live action movies, stage, opera, and any other medium of performance, anime should be divided into separate genres, to distinguish titles. As any fan knows, there are vastly different types of anime, from children's titles like Pokemon, comedies like Tenchi, sci-fi like Evangelion, fantasy like Lodos War, horror like Vampire Hunter D, and even pornographic titles. Just because you've seen Pokemon and thought it was stupid doesn't mean you won't be moved by Princess Mononoke or thrilled by Akira.

What is the difference between Anime and Manga?
Manga are Japanese graphic novels, illustrated in the same distinct style that is found in Anime. These novels are often serialized, often for years with dozens of titles. Anime is the animated form of Manga, often shorted and more action-oriented. There's a great deal of crossover, with series available as both Anime and Manga. This is especially true from a Western perspective, since much of the manga that gets translated is first released in the West as it's animated cousin.

Hey! You gave my favorite series a bad rating, what gives?
All of my reviews and ratings are really just my opinion, and should be viewed as such. I try to be objective, but entertainment is a highly subjective subject, so what I like and dislike probably isn't shared by anyone. My personal taste in anime leans toward drama and action with an emphasis on character and plot over the visual art. The movies and series I review tend to reflect that, you'll notice that there are very few children's, hentai, and "fighting" type titles. My opinions of anime comedies tend to be mixed, and it's there where I strive to be the most objective.

What do you base your ratings on?
As I've said before, it can be difficult to remain objective. Nonetheless, I try to be as fair as possible when reviewing and rating anime and manga. Basically, there's one star for each of five areas: character, writing, animation/art, theme, and enjoyability Because my impression of a piece is a combination of all these factors, I resist breaking a title down by them, but instead rate the whole on a 1-5 scale. It's very difficult to get a full five points this way, but it's also very hard for a title to get a rating of one.

Where can I buy anime?
Anime has become increasingly popular, which is good for anyone who wants to buy it. Just a few years ago, all but the most popular titles were impossible to find outside of specialty retailers like comic book stores. Now, almost every video, music, and game retailer caries at least a few titles, though the prices can be high. The best place to find anime is on the internet, either at second hand sites such as or Ebay, or retail sites like,, and

Anime costs too much, I'd have to sell crack to afford everything I want!
With the huge number of anime titles out there, building a decent anime collection, or even just a few series can be hugely expensive. With most other genres, renting or watching on television is a viable option, unfortunately most video stores have a microscopic anime section, and most televised anime is heavily edited. Luckily, a little bit of smart shopping can save a bundle. First, get a DVD player. Not only are DVDs often better quality, but most companies pack more episodes per disc than they do on VHS tapes. Plus, most DVDs contain both dubbed and subtitled versions, so you won't have to worry about buying the best one. I usually check a DVD rental site, like first. While there can be an agonizingly long wait for titles to ship, the pricing is decent, and it's a great way to preview a series before you commit to buying it. Next, once I decide I want to own a title, I'll check on or Ebay to see if I can get a used title for cheap. You'll get the best deals on older titles, but even newer ones are often below retail. Second, shop around. While sites such as,, and on average have comparable prices, individual titles can differ greatly from site to site. I usually avoid retail outlets, as their prices are too high, and selection too low. Keep an eye out for deals like coupons, sales, and free shipping, and you're sure to save a bundle.

Which is better, Subtitled or Dubbed?
Thousands have died attempting to settle the age old question of which is better. OK, that might be an exaggeration, but there have been a lot of heated arguments over the subject. Purists claim that English voice-overs are terrible, the stories are mutilated it the process, and the end product is far inferior to the original. Proponents of dubbing often accuse subtitled anime of being to hard to watch, saying they want to enjoy anime and have fun, and don't want to read an entire movie or series. In truth, it's really a matter of taste and individual anime. Some anime is much better without the voice-overs, especially anime translated in the 80's. Now that budgets for translating and dubbing anime have increased with it's popularity, the quality is much better. Unless you can speak Japanese fluently, you're probably going to enjoy the English language version better. Fortunately with the advent of bilingual DVDs, you don't have to make the choice at the video store, take a look at both versions and decide which you like better.

What's a Fansub?
A Fansub is a piece of anime that has been translated and subtitled by fans. Usually, this is done by a club that has access to the equipment for subtitling as well as at least one member who is fluent in Japanese and English. Fansubs can be a great way to watch a title before it's been released in the US, some series are available even while their still on Japanese TV. On the downside, many of these titles are second or third generation copies, so don't expect the quality to be Top notch. Fansubbers getting around the moral issue of video piracy by only subbing titles that have no US distributor, and charging only the price of the tapes they copy onto. It's a legal grayarea, but it's unlikely that any Japanese companies will sue them. Once the title has a US distributor, reputable fansubbers will cease distributing copies of the title, even if the release date is a year away. Of course, not everyone is as ethical as the folks actually making the sub, so some distributors of fansubs may have the titles available long after the official, licensed US copy is released. Fansubs shouldn't be considered as a substitute for commercial anime, but rather as a way for fans of a particular series or artist/director to indulge themselves until the official version is released.

Manga & Magazines

Animerica is a great monthly magazine dedicated to anime & manga. As the longest running anime magazine in the US, it's had time to mature as a publication, and offers the best and most balanced content of all the anime and manga magazines in the US.

NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind
I don't read much manga, but being a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, NausicaƤ jumped out at me. Valley of the Winds is set in the far future, in an Earth massively altered by war and ecological devastation. It has been thousands of years since the Seven Days of Fire and the immortal "God Warriors" (giant living combat robots) brought an end to the great technological civilization that once covered the earth. Humanity survived the devastation, but their future...

Shonen Jump
With Shonen Jump, the most popular manga titles suddenly become much more affordable. Based on the hugely popular Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, the US edition serializes the most popular titles from the Japanese edition in a huge, 250+ page monthly format. Rather than shelling out $15 or more per volume, Shonen Jump allows you to follow several series at once at the much more affordable price of $4.95 per issue or $33.95 for a subscription.

Anime Movies

Demon City Shinjuku
Demon City Shinjuku is the story of a boy, Kyoya Izayoi, who must finish the task his father began 15 years earlier, and destroy the evil sorcerer Rebi Rah before he unleashes the forces of hell on earth.


It's important from the start to watch the movie for its own sake, not just because of the series. Rather than a sequel or prequel, Escaflowne the Movie is a darker, more angst-ridden retelling of the story. Rather than trying to cram the entire thirteen hours of story from the series into an hour and half, Kazuki Akane has taken the essence of the story and reshaped it into something new.

Gall Force: Eternal Story

Though a good friend of mine rates this as the worst anime movie ever made, it's not quite that bad. Chances are you'll like and enjoy some part of the movie, since it's basically a conglomeration of ideas found in many other popular SciFi movies and stories. Set against the backdrop of a vast interstellar war...

Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most beautifully done and tragic films I have ever seen, anime or otherwise. One of the great antiwar films, Grave of the Fireflies far surpasses other antiwar anime, both in story and in visual style. The film as a poetic feel to it in parts, and the ending brought tears to my eyes.

Green Legend Ran
Green Legend Ran presents a stark vision of Earth's future. Plants and animals are gone, the oceans have evaporated. Earth is a barren desert, with only a few remote settlements have water, with the exception of the mysterious "Greens". The Greens are the home of the Rodoists, bizarre cultists who worship Rodo, the alien who turned Earth into a wasteland as punishment for Mankind's mistreatment of the Earth's environment.

Jin-roh: The Wolf Brigade
I had been looking forward to Jin-Roh for some time. The detailed and realistic animation, combined with the alternate-history setting (one of my favorite genres) had my mouth watering. Unfortunately, Jin-roh was unable to deliver on it's promise. The interesting setting, and and topnotch realistic animation could not save the movie, which was bogged down by an overly obtuse and slow paced story.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death + Rebirth
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most popular and well know anime series ever. It's combination of action, comedy, and human drama caused it to almost single handily revive the giant robot genre of anime. It's ending, however, left many fans unsatisfied, confused, and even angry. Death & Rebirth is the first part of GAINAX's attempt to retell the ending in a form more pleasing to fans.

Vampire Hunter D
Vampire Hunter D is classic anime, and a horror story as well. Set 10,000 years in the future after a great war has destroyed the world's civilizations, Vampire Hunter D combines a very original setting with a gripping tale. The world is full of all manner of strange creatures from unusual mutants out of Science Fiction to classic Horror/Fantasy creatures such as vampires.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is breathtaking. It lives up to the promise hinted at in the first Vampire Hunter D movie, and gives the viewer beautiful animation, heart-pounding action, and a multi-layered and engrossing story. Bloodlust stands head and shoulders above it's predecessor, and further develops both the characters and world of Vampire Hunter D.

Wings of Honneamise
An amazing story of mankind's first leap into space, on a beautifully imagined fictional world. One of studio GAINAX's (of Evangelion fame) early works, Honneamise beautifully depicts the struggle of a world entering the modern age, and the narrow line it walks between salvation and destruction.

Anime Series

Anime Series Reviews

Armored Trooper VOTOMS
If you love anime for the stunning animation, beautiful art, and the most sophisticated mecha around, then you probably won't like VOTOMS. The series was made in the early days of anime, and it shows. Don't let the dated art and giant punch-card computers fool you though, VOTOMS is a thoroughly satisfying sci-fi action series.

Blue Submarine No.6
In the near future, the polar icecaps have melted, the coastal lands have flooded, and billions have died. Mutant man/animals have risen up against humanity, which is fighting just to stay alive. This is all the work of one man, Professor Zorndyke...

Cowboy Bebop
Set in what appears to be the closing part of the 21st century, Cowboy Bebop is the story of Spike and Jet, two bounty hunters and the odd collection of people they pick up during their adventures. Far from your average quirky bounty hunter and eccentric crew story, Cowboy Bebop is a new and original take on an old theme.

Excel Saga
In it's 26 episodes Excel Saga parodies just about every possible genre of anime and Japanese popular media. You've got space battles, animal drama, horror, survival tales, and post-apocalyptic fighting all interwoven with inside jokes about dozens of different movies and series.

On the surface, Gasaraki is a sharp, cutting edge mecha series. It has top notch animation, exquisitely detailed mecha and some great action and conspiracies. Dig a little beneath the surface, however, and you'll realize that everything in this series has been done before, and often better.

Genocyber is the bizarre, hard to follow, and gory story of a girl-turned-cybernetic-genocydal-godlike-monster, spanning 4 centuries and 4 episodes. The series was created in what appears to be 3 separate installments, leading to a choppy story. The first episode is somewhat more violent clone of Akira...

Hellsing is a stylish, classy, and action-packed vampire thriller. Don't be tempted to pass up the series because of it's short length, or over worked subject. Even though the subject has been covered many times both in anime and live action movies, Hellsing presents an new and refreshing look at the subject.

Now and Then, Here and There
Now and Then, Here and There is in a word awesome. Loosly based on the real life civil wars that seem to be a constant fixture of parts of Africa, NTHT follows the tale of two teenagers from Earth who are caught in the middle of an alien war.

Outlaw Star
At first glance, Outlaw Star might seem your run of the mill space adventure. However, it's much more than that. Sure, it's got great space battles, gunfights, bounty hunters, and pirates. But it's also got some great comedy an extremely likable crew of characters.

Please Save My Earth
Based on a shojo (girl's) manga, Please Save My Earth is a well crafted and entertaining story of 7 friends who discover that they all shared a past life together.

Record of the Lodoss War

Record of the Lodoss War is a pretty standard D&D spinoff, so if you like D&D inspired fantasy, you'll like this. Just don't expect anything too original. Lodoss War is a 13 episode OAV series that covers the adventures of an aspiring knight, Parn, and his companions as they attempt to stop the Emperor of Marmo and his armies from acquiring the Scepter of Domination.

When I started the first episode of Trigun, I thought "What have I gotten myself into?" By the third I was hooked, and it just got better from there. Trigun can only be described as schizophrenic. Slapstick happy-go-luck humor one second, dark, end of the world depression the next. It's hard to decide if Vash is the silliest man alive, a living disaster, or the savior of all humanity. Eventually, you'll just settle on all three.

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