Monday, April 29, 2013

1992: Anime Goes Over the Moon

In the late 1990s, Brian Ruh became seduced by the dark side of anime–the academic side. After reading the chapter “Vampires, Psychic Girls, Flying Women and Sailor Scouts” by Susan J. Napier, Brian decided that he wanted to become an anime scholar too. After all, what else was he going to do with a philosophy degree? He went on to get an M.A. in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin and then a Ph.D. in Communication and Culture from Indiana University. Along the way, he's written articles, book chapters, reviews, and a column for ANN. He also wrote the book Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, and is currently at work on a second edition to be released in 2014. He can be found on Twitter at @animeresearch, where he opines about anime and tells terrible puns.

Until I began investigating all of the shows that came out in 1992, I didn't really have any idea of the embarrassment of riches this year provided. I had originally decided to write about 1992 because it was around this time that I began re-discovering anime. I was born a couple of months after Star Wars first came out in the theaters–this created a wave of SF entertainment, particularly cartoons, throughout my formative years. My afternoons were filled with watching the likes of Battle of the Planets, Voltron, Starblazers, Robotech, and Tranzor Z, although I didn't know it as anime at the time. In late elementary and junior high school, I grew more towards Star Trek and the like, but early in high school I found myself back in the anime groove, thanks to a friend with a couple tapes of Robotech and Gunbuster.

Although I had my own subjective experiences of anime in 1992, at first I wasn't sure how to get a handle on what the year looked like for the Japanese industry. I figured that if I wanted to hit some of the highlights, it couldn't hurt to check out the covers of the major Japanese anime magazines–Newtype and Animage. Of course, I knew this wouldn’t be the whole story, but it would point us in the right direction of what was popular (or at least what the magazine editorial teams thought would sell) that year.

Friday, April 26, 2013

1991: The Kids Are All Right

Thomas Zoth (ABCBTom) has only been reviewing anime for a year, but he's been a self-identified anime fan since 1997. The picture gets more complicated if you factor in Nick Jr. shows like The Noozles and Belle and Sebastian from when he was a kid. He writes frequently on Twitter, somewhat frequently for, and when he feels like it at his blog, He also wrote a journal article on the politics of One Piece in the Forum for World Literature Studies.

The highest grossing Japanese movie of 1991 is Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday (Omoide Poro Poro, or more literally "Memories With Tears."), and it serves as a good summation of the year itself. Many know Only Yesterday to be one of Ghibli's best, yet it is one of the only remaining Ghibli titles not to have any American release from Disney. It's a quiet, subtle film that would not be able to attract the large audiences Miyazaki's more family friendly, and less culturally specific works.

Only Yesterday isn't alone: 1991 is full of acclaimed, yet woefully overlooked classics.

Only Yesterday is fitting in another way. The story revolves around a woman named Taeko, who is tempted to leave the corporate rat race in 1980s Japan and run off to the idyllic furusato, or hometown, where she can live in peace off of nature's bounty. It's easy to see why it would resonate with a Japanese audience in 1991, as who wouldn't want to get away? 1991 was the final year of the Japanese economic bubble, and the nation went from economic excess and overvalued assets to a period of economic malaise that has arguably never fully lifted. After the bursting of the bubble, there would never be another Wings on Honneamise, released in 1987 with a huge 800 million yen budget, or another Akira.

The cyberpunk opus of 1991 was instead Roujin Z, written by Akira's Otomo, but directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo. Unlike the brutal phantasmagoria of Akira, Roujin Z was a social satire about the care of the elderly. Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, and spoke of the potential of anime by saying "I cannot imagine this story being told in a conventional movie. Not only would the machine be impossibly expensive and complex to create with special effects, but the social criticism would be immediately blue-penciled by Hollywood executives." The title is currently unlicensed in America.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1990: Anime Dives Through the Blue Water

(Vincenzo Averello has been an anime fan for as long as he can remember but would probably say that Toonami's run of Outlaw Star is what cemented him as an anime fan. Recently he has been writing and podcasts for his site All Geeks Considered. You can occasionally see him doing panels at conventions in the north eastern United States. You can also see what's on his mind through his Twitter account, @VinnieAveAGC.)

I don't want to start with saying that 1990 was a year of transition for TV anime. Yes, this was a time of shift from 1980s to 1990s, but that is only because of when the year was placed. In all honesty, TV anime was pretty stagnant at that time, and very little stands out as truly great. Where greatness lied at this time was in the OVA market, which in seven years since 1983 had grown and flourished massively. This was the year when cult hits like Mad Bull 34, Cyber City Oedo 808, and Record of the Lodoss War began. With such releases as Guardian of Darkness, Devil Hunter Yohko, The Hakkenden, Patlabor: The New Files, and Sol Bianca, this year had 42 different OVAs hit the market. However, this article is about the TV shows of 1990, not the OVAs.

TV anime has always been known for its long-running shows, and this time period is no exception, as shows like Dragon Ball Z, Yawara: The Fashionable Judo Girl, Ranma 1/2, and City Hunter 3 had premiered the previous year and ran into (and often through) 1990. Even with these pillars of anime covered in other articles and getting ignored here, there is still a nice list of things that make 1990 a year with at least a few good and memorable shows.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

1989: The Year Anime (Sorta) Broke

Evan Jones is a writer and a communications analyst working in Hollywood. He regularly attends and speaks at anime events in the LA area, and he wrote this article while sitting next to framed cells from Patlabor and City Hunter. Find him on Twitter via @CrusherJones (for anime content) or via @EvanRJones (for non-anime content).

"1989! The number...another summer..." - Public Enemy

Retrospective pieces are a real challenge.

There's a lot of pressure about what to include, what to exclude, what to emphasize, and what to just blithely mention in a parenthetical. There's also a big threat of retroactive awareness coloring things in an odd light, especially after 20 plus years of time passing between back then(tm) and now(tm). It's a whole new game these days: our viewing habits, purchasing options, and information exchange processes have undergone a drastic evolution and are now light years ahead of the "good luck!" approach that characterized old-school fandom.

("Up-to-date streaming anime? Forgetta-bout-it. Back in those days we had import laser-disks, Xeroxed scripts, and comics printed on third-rate papyrus. 80 miles to school barefoot in the snow with nothing to eat but old stacks of Shonen Jump!")

But the long and short of it is simple; 1989 was a great year for televised anime. It was an adventurous and ambitious year that held something of interest for everybody regardless of taste. It was also a heady time where Gods of Manga, Super Saiyans, mechanized war machines, conflicted judoka, and gigantic belligerent pandas all vied for our eyeballs, our pocket money, and our hearts.

And we as fans were better for it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

1988: Remember Only To Forget

Thaliarchus is a recovered anime blogger (URL withheld to protect the guilty) who digs giant robots. In a tragic error of judgement his government has agreed to pay for his existence while he tries to write a Ph.D. thesis. He isn't researching anime, so unlike some other postgrads who've appeared here he has no professional interest in being identified by name--quite the opposite, in fact. However, he can be found on Twitter.

1988! A vintage year when My Neighbour Totoro, Char's Counterattack, Grave of the Fireflies, something called Akira--you may have heard of it--and a clutch of classic OVAs came out. The chances are that if you're interested enough to be reading these posts, you don't need me to tell you about 1988. Colony Drop even did a whole bunch of posts devoted to the year's highlights--go read them.

And that's one of the reasons I asked for this year, really: I know I'm really not as qualified to talk about this stuff as some other names who've appeared here, so I needed a year I could safely mess up. My plan is to talk briefly about the general picture of anime on television in 1988, then I'll offer the specific for the general and discuss one show in particular. I'll follow by turning my attention to 1988's rash of OVAs and finish with a few remarks about what we remember. I'm an arts student, and in a time of Big Data I work with small data, so while this could be a list of titles--and in parts it is--I thought I'd try not being synoptic.

Friday, April 12, 2013

1987: The Adolescence of Art Forms, Animated

2DT is a Video Girl Ai avatar living in cyberspace, but you can primarily find him on Twitter.  He enjoys talking through the night about ero-manga, love stories, and how to make the perfect tea.  2DT has never written anything serious before this, ever, and if asked, he will tell you that you were probably dreaming. These are not the bloggers you're looking for. These are not the bloggers you're looking for.

I'm no archivist. My purpose isn't to recite to you every last detail of 1987—which wouldn't be much of a celebration—but to try and distill the character of the year into something coherent and compelling. I'm here to entertain, to deliver a story, and if you'll indulge me for a while, I hope it will be a good one.

In 1987, there was a Saint Seiya boom.

The television adaptation of Saint Seiya (also known as Knights of the Zodiac), based on the smash hit manga by Masami Kurumada, began airing in October 1986 and ran for 114 episodes, ending in April 1989. This technically places the show outside the scope of what I'm supposed to be telling you about, so I'll leave it to others to explain Saint Seiya in detail, because my objective isn't the show itself, nor its contents. Rather, what interests me is Saint Seiya's existence at this specific point in time, juxtaposed against the anime of the year.

1987 was a remarkable year for manga adaptations. Not remarkable in volume—manga adaptations were nothing special in themselves—but for the commonalities that emerged. This year, we would find anime reaching for a measure of subtlety.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

1986: We are the Plastic Heroes

Patrick is a long time anime fan that loves robots and crazy action. He has written for a bunch of blogs in the past and currently he can be found blogging about his love for mecha over on and still occasionally shows up guest blogging other places. Whenever he isn't blogging though you can find him on twitter (@PatzPrime) where he will no doubt be going on about anime, video games, and pro wrestling.

As we have already seen so far, the '80s were a very interesting time for anime. A whole new frontier began to grow as animators were given a chance to work on titles not just for television, but for direct video sales as well. This new market led to many new and unique titles that really stood the test of time. While this was happening, some of the biggest franchises in anime history were introduced to television viewers for the first time.

Really that is what drew me to 1986, a year that had quite a contrast. On television growing franchises like Gundam were continuing to gain a foothold while new kings of the industry like Dragon Ball had their television debut. Meanwhile on home video, shows like MD Geist just didn't seem to care what expectations were and just wanted to have fun. Interestingly enough, these titles that were so significant in Japan also ended up being very important internationally.

It was also the year that Transformers: The Movie hit theaters.

Transformers is a strange franchise as it is managed by two separate companies, Hasbro and Takara. For some reason, the decision was made not to release the film domestically in Japan in 1986. This is an interesting twist for the franchise, mainly because 1986 was when the continuity split between the US and Japanese cartoons got started. Comics were released to cover the hole between the two, but following the third season of the show, new seasons were produced in Japan that completely split the stories up. Honestly it is one of my personal favorite movies, so I would be remiss to not bring it up before diving into what made 1986 really special for anime.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

1985: The OVA Boom Begins

Michael, a.k.a. Prede (@Predederva), contributes to where he reviews classics and lesser-known anime series for the site. He also has a blog, Prede's Anime Reviews, where he writes about rare gems of anime that people may have missed. When he's not blogging about some anime you probably never heard of, he's shouting his head off on Twitter.

I choose the year 1985 because that is when one of my favorite shows, Megazone 23 Part 1, was made. Another reason I decided upon this year is I tend to focus on classics and older shows (many from the 1980's) in my reviews, so it was very fitting. However, the most important reason is that I am a self-professed super fan of the 80's. It is without a doubt my favorite decade, and I hope to show some reasons why that is by taking a look in on the year 1985 in anime. Most of my favorite Hollywood movies came out during the 80's, I usually have 80's music blasted (it's like the soundtrack of my life), and the crazy clothing and hairstyles were so cool. I'm also a fan of the optimism, the neon lights, and the leggings!

However, the best thing to happen in the 80's was, of course, my birth. I have a strange nostalgia for a decade I never truly lived through or experienced, which I blame on watching a metric ton of 80's movies, old MTV videos, and plenty of 80's TV show re-runs, all during the '90s. (I don't think I have the strength to turn on MTV today, but VH1 is still watchable. I'm always game for "I Love the 80's" re-runs). I instantly noticed that watching this stuff was so different than the era I was growing up in. It was like another world, and I was glued to the tube, taking it all in as a child. 1985, the dead center of my favorite decade, just rocks!

1985 was an incredibly influential and important year for anime. It saw the first successful OVA release, setting off an OVA boom that lasted well into the 1990's. This boom jolted people way down the totem pole in the industry to critical positions and giving them near free range to develop their stories, create their worlds, and design their characters. Many of these talents became famous because of their fresh perspectives, large creative control, and new ideas. Since the anime was to be seen on home video, not in theaters or on TV, the content could be much more extreme, violent, and sexual. Given the short running times--times varied, depending on the show, but were usually around 30 to 60 minutes an OVA--different types of stories were developed. Instead of grand epic tales that would span at least 26 episodes or a full movie length, you got a short story that dropped you in, got to the point, and hopefully concluded in one sitting. These OVAs were usually much more focused on action rather than plot development and much less talky (an important fact that lead to them being easier to follow by early US fans with no translations readily available).

Monday, April 1, 2013

1984: The Year of the Fist

Milo is a hot-blooded Puerto Rican who has been writing about comics, animation and movies for the last three years on He wears a suit to work, drinks too much alcohol, and sleeps four hours a day. He also tweets at @northstarblog and tumbles images at irresponsibly.

1984 was a year of limited options, unless you watch way too much mecha anime.

In preparation for writing this Golden Ani-versary post I reviewed all the installments posted so far, and I think we can all agree: damn, a lot has been said about robots! It was inevitable, considering the focus of this blog is upon television shows, and robot shows were among the most conspicuous parts of televised anime, especially in the 1970s and '80s. However, considering so much has and will be written about mecha, and that I cannot summon the willpower to even say the words “Yoshiyuki Tomino” (there I did it once, that’s it, that’s all I can do), I decided to skip that material entirely in talking to you about 1984, the year the Fist of the North Star television show began airing.

In my defense, 1984 was not a terrific year of anime television. In fact, aside from the third part of the Lupin the Third television show, there isn't much in the way of cartoons about adults doing interesting things at all. It's all "children this" and "machines hitting that," and while you could probably assemble a diverse Super Robot Wars videogame cast from the mecha shows which debuted in this year alone, I ultimately think Fist of the North Star was put in a position to succeed by virtue of the fact it was such a refreshing change from everything else being offered.

So while it's going to annoy certain people that I'm not waxing poetic about mecha classics like Giant Gorg, Panzer World Galient, and Heavy Metal Gaim, the simple fact is none of these anime particularly stand out from the series that have already been written about on this blog. Even the Go Nagai anime of the year, God Mazinger, is a universally-ignored property that borrows the name of one of his best-known creations to tell a pedestrian fantasy-themed story. Aside from recognizing God Mazinger's cameo appearance in the Dynamic Super Robots Grand Battle animation test released around fifteen years later, there's no reason to remember the show even exists.