Worth Reading – 11/10/2017

Welcome to a much belated but still very much worth reading!  Frankly, at least in the short-term, if it’s worth reading it ages well.

Both older shows and adaptations are ongoing themes here at Worth Reading, and this week we have a veritable feast on offer.

  • First up, we have a show that manages to be both – an older show, and an adaptation: over at Anime B&B, Marina reviews Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199.

This is very timely and very important…  because at long last, Yamato 2199 is available as legal stream!  Funimation is now streaming a dub, and Crunchyroll is now streaming the sub.  Previously it was only legally available as a VERY expensive boxed set.

What is Yamato 2199 and why is it so important?  It’s a reboot of the famed 1974 classic Uchuu Senkan Yamato, a seminal show in anime history.  It was the first serial anime aimed at adults, and helped pave the way in Japan for anime as we know it today.  Over on this side of the pond, it’s dubbed adaptation as Star Blazers helped ignite the passions of the first generations of American otaku.

Forty years on, I can still remember rushing home after school to catch the latest episode…  Hurry Star Force, hurry – or the Earth with die.  For a young nerd in the midst of the long SF drought of the late 1970’s, those words were magical.

Anyhow, I strongly urge you to at least check out the first few episodes.  It’s a crackin’ good adaptation and very good show in its own right.  If you like space opera or sci-fi, it should be right up your alley.

  • Ayron at Reading Between has been doing episodic reviews of Shirobako.  He’s got some very keen insights on the show, and they’re worth checking out.  He’s also one of the few ani-bloggers and/or Shirobako watchers that I haven’t seen openly advocating tying Tarō to an anchor and dropping him in the middle of Tokyo Bay.
  • The Pantless Anime Blogger has two interesting posts…  One, a collection of his top moments of 2014, and another with reviews of shows in his recently completed Summer 2014 lineup.

2014 was my first year of watching current season streaming anime… Both posts tug at my nostalgic heartstrings.  With Winter 2018 fast approaching, I have my own retrospective project in the works, looking back four years each quarter.

Her’s is a story I’ve heard many times before, different in details but “normal” in the broad brushstrokes.  I got lucky.  I leapt from 70’s fandom, which was something you stumbled upon if you were very lucky…  to 00’s fandom where the ‘net and Google serve up a veritable waterfall.  Someday I should write about that early era…  shakes cane in the general direction of the kids on his lawn…  Which I should be careful doing, though I’ve been around various fandoms for a long time, I’m a relative newb in terms of anime fandom.

  • Scott at Mech Anime Reviews tackles fandom by categorizing the weaknesses of different types of anime watchers -breaking down different types and how they relate to the community at large.  And reminding us that we should watch non-seasonal stuff too…  there’s a lot of stuff out there that’s important for various reasons even if it isn’t current.

Reading his listing of genre shows, something interesting occurred to me… Whenever people list off recent shows in the isekai genre, Overlord is always noticeable by its absence.  I wonder why that is?  Is it because the protagonist’s form is so inhuman or that over the course of the show he gradually loses his humanity and submerges himself into his character?  Is it because he so willingly abandons the real world (where he’s a salaryman) in favor of the fantasy world (where he’s very much living out a power fantasy)?   Overlord veers sharply away from the assumptions and tropes common to the genre.  Of course, it’s always possible that it simply didn’t make that big an impression on English language fandom…  But it is getting a second season.

Personally, it’s been a blast seeing the classics on the big screen.

And there you have it – this weeks Worth Reading with a healthy serving of random editorial comment by yours truly.  What do think?  Drop a comment below and let’s talk!

20 thoughts on “Worth Reading – 11/10/2017”

  1. I can relate with your Star Blazers experience. It wasn’t that show, but I remember rushing home to see what was on Toonami that day. Those were such good times. Makes me feel nostalgic.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing my post. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One of my friends is among those who got introduced to anime through Star Blazers. He’s in-between the two of us in age (mid-40’s), but I guess one of his local TV stations had picked it up for syndication sometime around 1979/80 or thereabouts. He’s always spoken very glowingly about it, though. Out of those old sci-fi shows, the one I’d actually be most interested to watch someday is Galaxy Express 999 – I love the concept of that series.

    Something I’ve seen lately with isekai is that it’s gotten broad enough that fans are now arguing over which shows are and aren’t isekai. Like I’ve seen some people insist that .hack and SAO and Overlord aren’t isekai because the characters are “only” in a virtual computer world, so they aren’t really in another world. Apparently by their standards the MC has to be bodily transported to an entirely different planet/dimension (a-la Peter Pan or Narnia), or else it doesn’t count. And then there are people who just equate “isekai” with “light novel trash,” regardless of definitions. I stumbled across a comment a while back where someone got huffy about being told that Escaflowne was an isekai series, the implication being that Escaflowne=good and isekai=bad, therefore one cannot equal the other. And yet by the intended meaning of the term it is absolutely an isekai. So are Magic Knight Rayearth, Fushigi Yugi, El-Hazard, Now and Then Here and There, and several other classics from the 90s that we don’t immediately associate with the genre as it exists today. But that doesn’t change that anime has been transporting teenagers to strange new worlds since long before we had a loaded word for it.

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    1. 79/80 sounds about right… According to Wikipedia, that’s about when it started airing.

      Everything I’ve heard seems to indicate that Star Blazers was broadcast pretty widely, I guess it must have been pretty cheap. Children’s afternoon programming in that era was locally originated and had little income potential, so it was often a wasteland of the cheapest possible syndicated programming. Often it was black-and-white primetime shows from the early/mid-60’s.

      Something I’ve seen lately with isekai is that it’s gotten broad enough that fans are now arguing over which shows are and aren’t isekai.

      There is nothing so minor that fans won’t take it’s molehill and build a mountain out of it… and then chose it to die on. :) Sometimes it can be useful to take something apart and scrutinize the pieces though.

      As far as the age of the genre, you can go much further back than the 90’s… In western literature Narnia is unquestionably isekai, and even further back you have Alice in Wonderland. There’s also the John Carter books, etc… etc…

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      1. Genre discussions are… fun. I think the first time I’ve heard the term isekai was in a review of 12 Kingdoms, and then after SAO, the term exploded. I think I remember someone saying that in Japan the term simply means alternate-world fantasy (including stuff like Lord of the Rings), and that the portal aspect is just an optional lampshading device (though I’m not sure if they were talking about the genre, or if they were merely translating the term). I do sort of wonder where the borders lie for most people. If you mention John Carter, then I might go further back to Gulliver’s Travels (or even all the way back to the Odyssee). The less you know about this world, the less there is a need for “another world”, and you can just replace “elsewhere”. Strictly speaking, isekai might be the result of a well-mapped world, where “elsewhere” has to be metaphorical or magical, since there’s nowhere left.

        The way Overlord‘s missing from the lists really is interesting. I got the feeling that it was fairly popular among the people who watched it, but that not that many people did end up watching it. Not sure. I’m not sure it’s the inhumanity, since with light novels and manga I do hear about stuff like Slime Tensei Monogatari or Kumo Desu ga Nani ka. It appears to be a minor trend in isekai stories (though not yet in anime).

        Personally, I even managed to enjoy the Smartphone show, which was utterly stupid and completely unoriginal, but had an innocent sort of charm and lots of enthusiasm to make up for that.

        I knew about Yamato as a child, and wanted to see it, but never did, and now I’m so used to not having seen it that I’m not that motivated to watch it anyomre. Also, I’d rather watch the original than the remake (CGI pctures turned me off).

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        1. I got curious, so I looked up “isekai” in Google trends (which tracks the relative frequency of Google searches) to see when it became a thing. It looks like worldwide it started getting searched with some regularity in 2009, then got a big bump in search frequency in early 2013. Those roughly correspond to when the SAO novels began publishing (April 2009), and when the first anime season ended in Japan (December 2012), so that makes sense. Searches for it before 2009 were pretty much zero.

          I think Overlord was pretty popular in the moment. It was one of the year’s top sellers on Blu-Ray in Japan, and the book sales got such a big bump from the anime that it was actually the top-selling light novel series of 2015. As far as the Western fandom goes it was the 10th most-watched show of 2015 among MAL users (which obviously isn’t the be all-end all of who’s watching what, but is still a pretty good barometer), so a lot of folks at least gave it a look. What’s questionable is its staying power – I don’t see that visible, hardcore fanbase that properties like SAO and Fate have been able to cultivate; it’s more like people watched it when it was out, said, “Okay, that’s cool, I enjoyed that,” and then went on to something else.

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          1. That makes sense, SAO was a huge hit and would have brought a lot of attention to the genre.

            FWIW, Anime-Planet pegs Overlord as the 2nd most watched show (behind Charlotte) and the second highest rated show (behind Junjou Romantica 3) for Summer 2015. (There’s no “list-by-year” option.) My recollection is that (at least in my bubble) it was hugely popular when it was airing, and then vanished without a trace once it was done.

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      2. Definitely. The term for it in English Literature circles is “portal fantasy,” and there are a ton of them out there. American fantasy went through its own infatuation phase with them in the 70s and 80s especially, with series like Thomas Covenant, Spellsinger, Changewinds, Pliocene Exile, etc., all coming out one after another.

        I actually have many fond memories of those syndicated cartoon packages. Anime aside, it was where I was introduced to classics like the Flintstones, the Jetsons, the Pink Panther, Casper, Mighty Mouse, Rocky & Bullwinkle, those old Max Fleischer Superman and Popeye cartoons, and a lot of other good stuff that dated back to before I was born, in addition to the shows that were contemporary in the 80s. It’s really because of being exposed to those, not because of Disney, that I became a lifelong animation fan.

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      3. @Dawnstorm: Nice point about “well-mapped world”. For me, Gulliver and The Odyssey fall outside isekai for just that reason… While they’re “outside the known world”, both decidedly take place within the physical “known world”. Of course, both of them were created at a time when the fantastic and the physical shared the same world from the POV of the inhabitants of the physical world. So, maybe I’d place the borders of isekai not on a physical map (no more elsewhere), but on a… rationality map? I can’t quite come up with the word.

        I watched Overlord, though it was one of those shows I kept thinking I should drop but never quite did.

        @Wingking… I missed that phase, or more accurately skipped it. I kept picking up fantasy, but never cared for them much. Then cyberpunk hit in a big way and that carried through the next few years. Sometime in the late 80’d/early 90’s I pretty much stopped reading fiction and limited myself to non-fiction.

        Maybe anime scratches that itch? I used to re-read favorite fiction now and again, but I really don’t anymore.

        I loved many of those same cartoons… Esp Pink Panther. (Loathe the movies though, mostly because I can’t stand Peter Sellers.)

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        1. Yeah, but you mentioned John Carter, and that’s technically Mars, isn’t it? This is why I’m wondering about the boundries. I sort of get the rationality map, but what’s considered possible and by whom and when is… convoluted. And we’re talking world history…

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          1. John Carter is technically Mars (as could reasonably be envisioned in it’s day) – but it does differ from Gulliver and Odyssey in that he traveled by non-corporeal means. Setting hard and fixed boundaries is a Very Hard Task…

            It’s hard to treat Carter as a historical artifact (cultural bias likely), but that’s what it actually is.

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          2. I’m not convinced that “corporeal travel or the lack thereof” is that important, though. We know where Mars is, but we don’t know what it’s like (well, we do now, but you get what I mean). We don’t know where all those places are that Gulliver visited – probably somewhere of the map (well, there’s little left off the map, but you get what I mean). I don’t see a lot of difference, here. (Although, it does pose definition problems, when you get stories that explicitly involve expeditions such as She or The Lost World).

            I’d say identifying what you like about a genre, like Lethargic Rambling, is a good way to go (Game-like other-worlds with relatable this-world protagonists, if I read that correctly). The problem comes when other people enjoy other aspects, and when that leads to different attention structures, and then we have two sets of people who use the term in slightly different ways. Depending on what you like about a genre, you might construct a different ancestry.

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