A Yearly Retreat: Anime USA Day 2

And so my most panel-heavy day occurred today. Not that I actually did any panels, but attended some. And this was after sleeping through a panel due to how late I pushed out the blog post earlier in the morning. Today was also where I basically finished my convention loot budget. The final total came to 3 Light Novel volumes, 17 manga volumes, 2 T-Shirts, and 1 merchandise flag.

Panels Attended:

Hunting the Forest Spirit: Mythology and Anime

Presenter: Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe (1300HRS – 1400HRS @ Oct. 23)

Presented by Mrs. Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe, she tackles into instances of mythology being incorporated, in part or in full, into anime. At first defining what myth is, the singular best meaning I’ve taken from it is that a myth is a ‘sacred story’. She also touches on folk tales and fairy tales, and the differences between the two.

Its application towards anime is mainly due to the fact that well known stories tend to be adapted to fit into the time, place, intent, etc. Old stories being retold. For anime, there are really two types of such things. One is where the mythological icons are based directly off a particular story. The other is that it is not based off a particular story, but having themes common in the mythos. Also added in is how some stories are told as if it were seen from the viewpoint of a tribal elder passing down the stories and legends of the tribe.

General themes in anime that feature mythology as explained by Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe would be the Inhuman Human, as exemplified most succinctly I believe from her choices in Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. There is also the Magical Meeting, and which she points out Hayao Miyazaki does a lot. She puts up two Miyazaki examples of the Magical Meeting that seems completely different from each other, that of Ponzu meeting Sheeta, and of Ashitaka meeting San. There is also the Hero’s Journey/Shaman’s Journey, Facing the Father Figure, Seeking the Mythic Land, and Apocalpyse stories, but then the reason for the naming of the panel.

Breaking of the taboo, which every culture has. There is Pandora’s Box, Adam and Eve from the Old Testament. The one that comes to mind that is an example from anime is from Princes Mononoke where Lady Eboshi hunts the deer spirit which is the embodiment of life and death. Another example is from Fullmetal Alchemist, in which the Alric brothers attempt to bring back their dead mother.

In all, it was a very fascinating panel in which the ever so cordial Mrs. Hodge-Wethrerbe was in charge of. I cannot sing much praises for these panels, which broadens the understanding and allows a fan to go “huh, so that’s what it meant”. I think this is the main appeal of panels in general for me in cons.

Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe discussing why it’s a bad idea to shoot the mystical deer creature.

Samurai Stereotypes in Historical Fiction Anime and Manga

Presenters: Catherine Norise and Arthi Kumaravel (1400HRS – 1500HRS @ Oct 22)

Samurai Stereotypes in Historical Fiction Anime and Manga was a panel I didn’t exactly feel enthusied about, and it isn’t due to the lack of preparation in the part of the panelists, but more the subject. The subject is fascinating for many people, dealing with the samurai class of warriors in Japan, the role they played in Japanese society, as well as the upheaval that was Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan brought upon the nation.

It was that I felt it was horrible, not at all, a very exciting time that is very popular to craft a story from, from Rurouni Kenshin to Samurai Champloo, but I guess it’s because of that. Kenshin was to me dealt mainly with the aftermath of the turmoil, while Samurai Champloo to me was a very odd mixture of anachronisms that really didn’t rock the boat.

But regardless, as I’ve said, the time era was fascinating, the presenters had some hiccups mostly due to tech but also did a great overview of the bladed weaponry that were utilized by Samurai.

Catherine Norise and Arthi Kumaravel after finishing explaining how Kenshin is a Badass.

Cool Japan

Presenter: Charles Dunbar (1600HRS – 1700HRS @ Oct 22)

Cool Japan is actually a panel done by Charles Dunbar in which he details the transition of Japan from building things to promoting things. Coming from an article written by Douglas McCray in 2002 called “Japan’s Gross National Cool”, it states that Japan is now a purveyor of ‘software’ rather than hardware, and its selling itself, its culture.

Mr. Dunbar talks on how Japan and the US is in this eternal ping-pong game of ideas, a syncretism of sorts in which Japan or the US will find something from the other, like it, and make it their own, and the cycle repeats. Our cultures seem similar, and if boiled down to it, Americans can be descrived as “guns and Jesus” while Japan is “swords and Shinto”. The problem is that actual ‘lack’ of identity, shaky international relations, proud nationalism bordering on arrogance, and the emulation/perception of ‘power’.

With the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry, Japan’s identity has always been of what others view Japan. And from here Mr. Dunbar goes with the brief history of the Meiji restoration and of the foreign influences. From Jazz Music to Tezuka Osamu being called the ‘ultimate Disney ‘otaku’ due to his constant use of the Disney formula. Akira Kurosawa also would be influential in the other way as Kurosawa films would be copied, either with permission or not, by American filmmakers and would be influential to a whole generation and vice versa. Cowboy Bebop being a ‘space western’ anime series as well as Trigun, which in turn influence the creators of Firefly and the like.

The panel continues on with television shows that came to America. Star Blazers, Speed Racer, Gigantor. Up to Super Sentai where Americans and Japanese were constantly doing a back and forth between each other.

In the end, as the panel started to reach its climax, Mr. Dunbar reiterates his point that the end of Cool Japan has been predicted for nearly two decades now, but there is still this back and forth syncrecity going on between America and Japan.

Charles Dunbar looking ready to do some panel lecturer business.

Women in Anime

Presenter: Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe (1800HRS – 1900HRS @ Oct. 22)

A very great and informative panel, Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe recounts that growing up, going to science fiction conventions back in her childhood would be more filled with males rather than females, but when exposed to anime conventions, there seems to be a much more equal mix of females going to anime conventions.

This leads to what she looks into women in anime, bringing up personal favorites from the past, as well listing and giving examples of the common tropes found when depicting females in anime. She did note that the Magical Girl trope isn’t really her thing, but serves as an important part of anime as an entertainment medium.

She touches on The Holy Woman who is rather saintly, has little to no flaws, and cites Belldandy from Oh My Goddess. Next would be Warrior Women, most notably the Major from Ghost in the Shell, as well as Duenan from Appleseed. Sophia Forrester from Last Exile gets some mention as well. Then there is examples from horror, with the cold and calculating Sir Integra Hellsing in comparison to her subordinate, the hot-blooded reactionary vampire Seras Victoria.

What caught my full interest was actually with her talk of females that fit the Flawed Perfection, which were characters who seem perfect but have pasts or traits that is hiding underneath. She cites Emma from Emma: A Victorian Romance and Robin from Witch Hunter Robin, and these shows came at a point in Japan in which the roles of women were being challenged. Then there were the Femme Fetales like Faye of Cowboy Bebop fame and of course mention of harem anime.

There was also a slide on powerful women who do specific things, though how specific Lina Inverse is from Slayers is up to the viewer. When a God doesn’t want to mess with a human mage, something should note she is much more than what she is.

This led up to a discussion on gender identity and anime, Revolutionary Girl Utena was mentioned, while I made the point on Integra Hellsing’s peerage title of ‘Sir’ as this taking on a legal fiction of she being a male to continue command of the Hellsing Organization, in line with her warrior woman calculating role in the horror anime genre.

The whole panel started to wind down with examples of women in anime by Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon, before mentioning the complete lack of ‘gender’ as we would define it in Attack on Titan, where due to the extenuating circumstances of the universe, it becomes a bit like the Starship Troopers films where ‘everyone fights’.

This led up to a show called Princess Jellyfish, where the moral of the story is that one doesn’t have to limit yourself into a role, and to be true to yourself regardless on who you are. Something I believe many of the examples Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe had. They were all complicated and deep characters who had their own share of trials and tribulations that seem to codify their placement into the tropes, yet not in that they can’t be really be constrained to em.

Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe explaining how women in anime are wonderful.

Kwaidan: Lafcadio Hearn, the Meiji era, and Monsters

Presenter: Katriel Page and Chris Dunbar (2000HRS – 2130HRS @ Oct 22)

Kwaidan was a very interesting panel. While Soul Sucking Women from day 1 covered the monsters themselves, the story on how they became a very prominent part of Japanese society wasn’t really touched upon. Once again the constant in these Japanese panels would be Commodore Perry, and his mission to Japan.

The Meiji restoration led to a lot of sharing between Japan and the outside world in terms of culture and technology. I’ve actually made the comment that if you would take the policemen from The Last Samurai movie still and flopped them into Prussia/Imperial Germany, if it weren’t for their race they would be indistinguishable from the Germans.

It was this ‘emulation’ of the west where Imperial Shinto would be codified to cement the power of the Imperial family, and the fads and fashions of the day would include stuff like séances and spirituality was booming. A Japanese man by the name of Inoue Enryo, in seeking to scientifically debunk most mysterious things, would inadvertently spread the term yokai and popularize the many myths around Japan. Another man, Yanagita Kunio, would write a book in 1910 called the Tono Monogatari which helped preserve Japan’s cultural history at the time where what was considered important is kept and what wasn’t was thrown out.

While a few minutes was spent on the British Japanologist Basil Hall Chamberlain, it was mostly through derision due to his very google-translate direct translation. This though led to a man named Lafcadio Hearn, or Koizumi Yakumo. A very colourful character, he would eventually move onto Japan in 1890, where theough the recommendation of Basil Chamberlain, got a teaching position in the town of Matsue. He would then move and teach in Kumamoto, where he would write Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, which would bring Japan outside to the west. He would also naturalize as a Japanese and marry the daughter of a samurai, taking a teaching position in Tokyo Imperial University (Todai).

The panel itself was a very good panel in which Mr. Dunbar’s enthusiasm and on-topic segways melded well with the firm steady lecture-like presentation of Ms. Page. A lot of information was given out but done in a way that didn’t want to remind me of the various 100-level lecture classes I’ve taken in university.

The subject itself is fascinating, in which shows a bit of a start of that selling itself to the west that was from Mr. Dunbar’s earlier panel, and also a perfect Segway to his next panel the next day that I am looking forward to.

My dumbass forgot to take a picture and now this is here as a sad reminder of my failure.

[adult swim]: The Early Years

Presenter: Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe

A quick overview of the creation of [adult swim]. From the very formation of Cartoon Network when Ted Turner’s Turner Broadcasting System acquired the rights to a lot of older and sometimes obscure shows, the folks who have been in charge have always sought ways to tap into the older, adult or older teen market.

It started initially with the cartoon block ‘Toon Heads’, wherein shows that might be in need of historical context and not really appropriate for children was shown with said context through bumpers and notes throughout the show. This would lead to the creation of the nascent show that would really be aimed at this more mature audience, Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

The premise took on this weird late-night talk show where the host is a ‘retired’ Hanna-Barberra superhero whose staff includes his defeated enemies that must work for him for penance. AquaTeen Hunger Force would come from this as well as the spinoff show, The Brak Show. In 2001 [adult swim] would end up being its own dedicated block due to the success of the Nick-at-Nite programming from Nickelodeon.

Shows that were featured were typically shows that were cancelled, shelved, or were being rerun; some actually had deleted or omitted material aired for the first time while in the [adult swim] run. Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law would also come about from this in keeping with the tradition of Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

In 2001 as well, anime would be introduced into [adult swim] with Cowboy Bebop, which was an instant hit. Anime had been featured in the late-afternoon ‘Toonami’ program block in Cartoon Network proper, but it was mainly shows that were censored in some way or were more lighthearted children’s affair. Cowboy Bebop was aired with no censoring and apart from the pulling of one episode after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, uninterrupted and its whole glory.

After this, all kinds of anime was aired, some did better than others, but they were always a sort of ‘gateway’ to another show. In the midst of all this [adult swim] was still experimenting with newer and newer shows. Venture Brothers came out in 2003, and in 2005 Robot Chicken debuted and while it was a great bit of parody of many timeless cartoons, it was also a bit of a love letter to those same timeless cartoons.

In all, it was a very interesting trip back to memory lane, especially as some of us tried to remember exactly some of these things that we were exposed to, especially with the Toonami block. Toonami and [adult swim] did much to encourage my love for anime as much as other programming blocks like it, and I’m glad such a panel was made to bring back that sense of wonder and excitement when one finally ‘grew up’ in a sense over screaming for 8 episodes and tossing a punch in one shows like Dragonball Z or InuYasha.

Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe looking so happy while nostalgia trippin’.

When Otakus Attack: The Dark Side of Fandom

Presenter: Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe (0100HRS – 0200HRS @ Oct. 23)

The last panel attended today was about the darker side of geek culture. This has been a rising problem lately in which people are discouraged and losing hope over being a part of their chosen culture. Its problems are diverse in attacks but small in source, and it is done by those who seem to make it a point to drag a person down through body-shaming, elitism, sexism. The root cause according to Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe is tribalism. When someone seems to either directly or indirectly ‘offend’, one seeks to attack, often leading to misunderstanding or a discouragement for an activity that in all honesty, something fun that people are engaging in.

Why should people be assholes to other fans. It is one thing for ‘muggles’ to do it, but it is of the observation that even if they won’t become bosom buddies afterwards, engaging with ‘muggles’ would end up at least giving them a sort of understanding on what is going on. An example that I too share with Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe is explaining to attendees of a professional conference being held in other sections of the convention center, what is going on. My example is actually of a businessman, relatively young roughly my age, enjoying the work and creativity of the various cosplayers walking around. While he only recognized the trio of cosplayers in Fallout costumes, he admired everyone else and didn’t exactly care on who was who or how well their costumes are.

Then comes the example of other attendees who were making snide and disparaging remarks about the cosplayers within earshot of Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe and it ends up being a bit of a sad thing when other convention attendees are stating their disdain for other attendees who only seek to express their love for the fandom through costume.

In all it was a bit of an illuminatory look at some of the problems facing the fandom now. The open comments section dealt with the body positivity movement and its pros and cons, while another attendee recounted her own sense of elitism especially within the comic book community, while I offered a look that it isn’t even in geek culture. The gun culture seems to be stretching and readjusting especially between Gun Culture 1.0 and the Fudds (a derogatory term for those who believe the only guns that are deemed usable are those utilized for hunting and sports) against Gun Culture 2.0 where anyone who is interested in firearms can go and get one and do what they want with it.

So not entirely a bad panel.

How Not to be an Asshole 101 by Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe.

Overall, Day 2 was chock full of panels I’ve wanted to go to. Unlike the previous day in which I had to make tough choices on who I wanted to see. Mr. Dunbar is easily one of my favored panelists, alongside Patrick Drazen, Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe, and Haru Menna. I need to attend more panels with Ms. Page at the forefront, probably presenting alone, to fully grasp her style, but if she is friends with those above, I doubt I’ll be bored.

I also finished off my spending money today, caving in at the merchant who sells manga and light novels for well below their normal price, as well as buying three 3D Lenitcular posters from GATE, Log Horizon, and Black Bullet. Tomorrow I shall get my E.F.S.F. flag from the merchant, having already paid for it but allowing the merchant to keep it in his display as to not keep a large portion of his display barren and empty.

And now I sleep.

Day 2 Gallery:

About Jusuchin (Military Otaku)

Conservative, Patriotic and an Otaku. Recent grad of George Mason University. I am interested in firearms, politics, Japanese Anime, and military tech.
This entry was posted in Anime, Anime Conventions, Life, Writings and Roleplay. Bookmark the permalink.

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