Saturday, August 06, 2005

Yatsubato! (...and thinpack sets)

A new manga series we are reading now is Yatsubato! Volume 2 was just released this month. It is the wacky brainchild of Azuma Kiyohiko (blog) who wrote the cute manga series Azumanga Daioh. Yatsuba is a 6-year old child full of energy. She sees and responds to the world around her in the way only a 6-year old's wisdom can grasp. It is a delightfully refreshing comedy. There is some seriousness about it, but it is very nice to laugh again at the sillyness of the release of 1000's of ciacada's in a home by a well-meaning 6-year old.

Innocence is a precious commodity these days. (We're not Afraid! and Runny Babbit Tales)

We started watching Azumanga Daioh in the anime form before picking up the manga version as well. It follows the high-school adventures of a group of very diverse (personality-wise) Japanese girls. From first year to graduation. We couldn't help but fall in love with them. It isn't deep. At all. More like a light spring breeze. It comforts you then moves on. Comparisons have been made to Seinfeld. (Samples of Azumanga Diaho manga series here.)

Lavie and I have been picking up quite a bit more manga than we used to. We started out as anime fans (and still are) but now tend to bring home 4 or more manga for every one DVD we get. Price is not really a factor. Al has her own manga series she likes. So why the switch? Well, it's not really the tie-in factor (where you get manga versions of an anime series). We do have some of those. No, I think it is the fact that the manga can tell an even deeper storyline and provide more fleshed out characterizations than the anime can. For instance, Lavie loves the "Love Hina"manga as previously blogged--even though she has never seen any of the anime versions. And I really enjoy Video Girl AI in manga--despite having seen the anime version.

Plus, you can read and take it all in at your own pace. Anime is kinda like riding a roller-coaster. You get on, you have a blast. You get off, a little dizzy. Then you go back to the end of the line and wait forever in mixed excitement for the next ride. Manga is more like that jungle-riverboat-adventure. You get on, you slowly cruise the ride, you get time to pick out the various sights along the way and linger your attention on those that interest you. Relaxing. Manga is also gaining in popularity with the general public.

Which brings me to my second issue--anime "thinpack" sets. Generally, when you buy anime titles you spend at least $29.99 for a single DVD that may run about 90min in length. Anime shows can average anywhere from 2 or more DVD's in the series. Some have over 10. That adds up to a hefty investement. Plus you have to often wait a month or more between episode releases. Granted, you may get some "extras" with these: commentary inserts, collectible pins, art cards... On the other hand, anime distributors have recently been releasing complete sets. Sometimes in a "thinpack" set (where each DVD is housed in a thiner DVD case without most of the extras), sometimes in a "brick" set where the DVD's are housed in one DVD case, and sometimes a compilation set where the epsiodes have been crammed together on one or two DVD's total.

I'm really mixed on this (as are a lot of anime fans). Anime collecting is a pretty expensive persuit--not at all for the faint-of-heart. If it is a series I am just blown-away by (like Last Exile) and I have to have all the art/collectibles--then I will lean to picking up the individual DVD's. If it is a series that I like, but not crazy-wild about (or has more than 4-5 DVD's in the entire series), I will almost certainly wait the extra 6 months to a year and get the the box-set (thinpack/brick). This is usually much cheaper as well. I bought the Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi series one-by-one at an overall investment of $120. Now it is coming out in a thinpack set for $49.99. See what I mean? Did I like Abenobashi? You bet! Kinda like the Marx brothers on celluloid crack--with Texas accents...who wouldn't like that?! Would I rather have spent $50 on it, yep. Now, I do plan to pick up the individual series DVD boxes on Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, AIR, Ah! My Goddess (TV) and CowboyBebop-Remix. On the other hand, I think I will be waiting for the thinpacks on R.O.D. : the TV, Kino's Journey, and MadLax. Now, if I could just get word that Yotsuba is going to be made into anime....

Tangental topic: I was driving home yesterday from work listening to NPR and heard that August 6th, 1945 is the date Hiroshima was bombed with an atomic weapon. They had an audio copy of an eyewitness's account of the bombing from an English speaking Russian emigrant who lived just outside the city. A photo gallery here. It struck me how far we have come in the (60 years?) since. Our family eats at a local Japanese sushi-bar. We buy loads of Japanese anime and manga and music. We watch Korean and Japanese movies and TV dramas weekly. Lavie works at a local German-owned chemical manufacturing plant, and I am a 7th generation German American. I did not live in the WWII America. I will never know the anger and pain our nation felt during that period of our history. I have only seen the pictures. I am deeply and utterly moved by the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Many historians believe the decision likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives (civilian and soliders) on both sides had American forces invaded Japan by force.

I am deeply proud of the sacrifices America and its soldiers/citizens made for my family during WWII. I am deeply proud today to be an American (and Texan!). At the same time, I also think we are all still living with the ongoing cost of the aftermath.

I just feel sad thinking about it...that's all. Geesh, now I've got to go watch some more Azumanga Diaho, right after I give Alvis and Lavie a hug.

Bonus linkage:
Finally, I have finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to Lavie and Alvis (along with the other 3/4 of the world's population). Wow. Didn't expect all that. What the #%#^@#$ was JKR thinking? So much to think about....while we have to wait another 2 years or so for the final volume. Oh, this was pretty funny, but don't go (spoiler warning!!) HERE unless you have read the entire HP&THBP book first (or if you just don't care and want to save $20).

See you in the skies.

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