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Friday, July 31, 2009

Vertical Vednesday: The Hard Sell for the Light Novel

NEW YORK, July 29 – I attended another installment of a discussion series hosted by Ed Chavez, Marketing Director for Vertical, Inc. The event was being held at Kinokuniya (1073 Avenue of the Americas). (See a prior post about the Vertical Vednesdays series.)

The topic of discussion was the humble Japanese light novel. Light novels are essentially novellas written for the young adult market in Japan. Some of the more successful titles in this genre are The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱), Vampire Hunter D (吸血鬼ハンターD), and Scrapped Princess (スクラップド・プリンセス).

The group talked about many aspects of the light novel, but the main focus of the discussion was centered on the difficulty of marketing them to an American audiences.

The real problem is the lack of an existing American market for the light novel. Perhaps the only comparative literary market to the light novel in America is the pulp fiction boom between the 1920s until 1950s. The dime store novel. However, since the collapse of the pulp industry, there has never been a resurgence of the pulp format.

In the case of the Japanese light novel, publishers need to build a market from the ground floor. This can prove to be herculean task.

One of the major obstacles is penetrating the American fiction market. The majority of light novels are localized and marketed by manga companies, and many retailers tend to shelve them with manga titles instead of the prose fiction. This can prevent market growth due to the lack of exposure with non-manga readers. Some publishers understand this reality and try to avoid any marketing connections between some light novels and their manga ties.

It will be interesting to follow the development of this market in the next few years.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Part IV: Otaku War Journal: Tuesday Night Anime

Location Bravo, Somewhere in the Arabian Desert – This is my fourth installment of the Otaku War Journal. If you want to read the other posts, click here.

In the sands of the desert, my old school otaku social behaviors resurfaced again. (Is that an oxymoron “social otaku”?)

After talking to other people at the base, I discovered a small cluster of anime fans. I thought that it might be a good idea to set-up a series of weekly anime showings. The idea harkens back to old anime clubs which usually consists of one fan with a huge cache of anime organizing regular local screenings. In my case, I brought a sizable amount of anime with me to the war.

Before I could begin event planning, I needed to choose a name for my little endeavor. I originally wanted to call it “Friday Night Anime”. It was reference to an old 80s television show called “Friday Night Videos”, a program that showcased a two hour block of music videos on NBC.

I tried to schedule “Friday Night Anime” in the local projection tent. I found out that Friday nights were booked solid, and it was impossible to reserve. Tuesday Nights were the only open block of time. So, I had to change the name from “Friday Night Anime” to “Tuesday Night Anime”. Hence, the name…

Your results may vary. I never established any consistent number of people. It was difficult attracting a regular audience.

The full feature anime movies attracted the largest audiences (e.g. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (バンパイアハンターD), Tokyo Godfathers (東京ゴッドファーザーズ), and Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (劇場版「鋼の錬金術師 シャンバラを征く者」)). Movies are easier for non-anime fans to watch. They don’t require any background knowledge or prior character development, and they are mostly standalone narratives.

The largest number of people showed up for my screening of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ). Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿) always seems to draw the biggest crowds. It was an English dub which also helped non-hardcore anime fans.

Any viewers that I gained from the Nausicaä screening were quickly lost when I showed Cromartie High School (魁!!クロマティ高校) the following week. Most of the audience walked out completely baffled. The worst received anime were: Cromartie High, Spirit of Wonder (スピリットオブワンダー), Mind Game (マインド・ゲーム), and Nerima Daikon Brothers (おろしたてミュージカル 練馬大根ブラザーズ).

I had a few regulars. They were mostly ardent anime fans prior to the war and familiar with some of the shows that I was screening. I met some people who you wouldn’t suspect of being an anime fan. Others were even more surprised that there was even an anime fan group in a warzone. After my tour was over, I even managed to pass on the Tuesday Anime Night event to two viewers to host.

In the end, I enjoyed hosting Tuesday Anime Night. It kept me occupied on my down time and gave me something to “look forward to” every week. Regardless of the daily stress of living in a warzone, I could always say to myself: “Tuesday Night Anime is only a few days away.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obon Festival in Bryant Park

Akiko Hiroshima sings for the Matsuri Dancers

NEW YORK, July 12The New York Buddhist Church held their 60th Annual Obon Odori in Bryant Park. The Obon Festival is a unique Japanese take on the Ghost Festival, which is celebrated throughout Asia.

This year's Bryant Park celebration was colorful and lively with performances by the Soh Daiko Drum Corp and Happyfunsmile. The event created a festive family oriented atmosphere with food, street odori dancing, and matsuri dancing.

I especially enjoyed the performance by Happyfunsmile. They displayed their amazing skills at getting the audience to dance. Their special brand of Okinawan pop and folk brought scores of people to the dance floor.

Happyfunsmile is playing a few Obon festivals in Los Angeles (July 25-26), and everyone should check them out. See the Happyfunsmile website for dates and times.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Blood: The Last Vampire Poster

NEW YORK, July 5 – I saw a screening for this film a couple of weeks ago. It was an interesting take on the franchise. It doesn't refer to Blood+, the television anime. Instead it is based more heavily on the original anime film. Fans of the franchise should check it out.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

NYAFF09: The Splatter High School Comedy

NEW YORK, June 29 – I attended the second showing of Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl (吸血少女対少女フランケン) at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue). It was being screened as a part of the New York Asian Film Festival 2009.

Based on a manga by Shungiku Uchida (内田春菊), the film is centered on two supernatural high school girls. One is a vampire; the other one is a Frankenstein monster. Both engage in deadly battle for the affections of a single boy. Every scene is filled with lowbrow humor and gallons of fake blood.

The movie is hilarious, but the funniest scenes are ones involving the school clubs. Each club is based on a real Japanese teen trend such as wrist cutting, ganguro (ガングロ), and goth-loli (ロリータ・ファッション) girls. It takes each trend to the most ridiculous extreme for great comedic effect. I especially found the high school wrist cutting competition to be very funny.

The film is the brain child of two Japanese directors, Yoshihiro Nishimura (西村喜廣) and Noboru Iguchi (井口昇). They were at the screening to promote their movie in the United States. Their introduction was more of a two man stand-up comedy routine than a movie introduction. They had a great sense of humor and entertained the audience before the film. Nishimura called their film a “splatter high school comedy”.

After the film, they stayed for a “question and answer” session. Nishimura also did some make-up work during the film and displayed a female model sporting the Frankenstein make-up.

Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl is probably my favorite film from the entire festival. I had a blast! If you have a twisted sense of humor and an appetite for low-budget gore, you should definitely see this movie.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

P.I.C Sounds Sweet at the Bitter End

NEW YORK, June 27 — It was busy night in the West Village. The weather was nice, and everyone was outside. They were roaming the streets looking for an excuse to party. A small group of New Yorkers found a legendary bar and stage called the Bitter End (147 Bleecker Street).

At approximately 10:30 PM, P.I.C occupied the bar's tiny stage with a sizable seven piece band. They proceeded unleash their own unique blend of ska, funk, and hip hop. A sweet infectious sound filled the room, and it was jumping. They played a strange sonic concoction that was carefully designed to bob heads and move hips. Before the night was over, they had the back of the bar on their feet.

Some of the highlights included songs like “PB&J”, “Timonium”, and “Old Sole”.

At the end of their forty-five minute set, they closed strong with one of their best tunes, “Fonzarelli (Arthur’s Theme)”.

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