21-year old Atlanta rapper SahBabii had a predictable, ultra-relatable journey into otakudom. It began, as all things do, with Bleach reruns, which dovetailed neatly into the feudal warfronts and ramen lunches of Naruto. To him, anime is all about the vibes—the serene, blue-sky hypnosis that can be summoned up by Miyazaki food scenes, or sepia Watanabe panoramics, or endless episodes of Shippuden on a bedroom carpet.
You know the drill. With a subtle nod and a thousand-yard stare tougher than steel-plated armor, a cool and collected character nonchalantly paints the walls with their enemies. I’m talking about telekinesis, baby, a power that practically formed a sub-genre of its own in the anime and manga of the ’80s and ’90s. From the timeless Akira to creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s own Domu and more modern espers like Elfen Lied and A Certain Magical Index, there’s just something about third-eye thrills and joint-popping gestures that are a perfect fit for anime.
“Inside the human body, roughly 37.2 trillion cells are working hard every day.” So begins the introduction of Cells at Work, an anime that turns complex medical concepts, scenarios, and organisms into interesting situations and characters. As a medical laboratory technologist who works with blood every day, my initial reaction to the series was irritation at the sense that my degree was being dumbed down by an anime—but after the initial burst of anger, I realized that the show is genuinely fun and endearing. More importantly, it’s incredibly accurate and goes into far greater detail than I anticipated. It’s got fans learning about the microscopic workings of the human body, but some might want to know more about the real-life stars of the show. Seeing as I work extensively with these little friends, allow me to introduce you to the true cast of Cells at Work.
Have you heard the good news, stranger? HIDIVE is coming to VRV, and bringing with them not just a wave of simulcast subbed anime, but their entire library of dubbed content. We’ll be adding more of their content over the course of the month, but today, the HIDIVE channel is launching with some of their best titles. What titles, you ask?
In Japan, within the yuri genre—yuri referring to any sort of romantic or sexual lesbian relationships—there’s a subgenre called Class S. It’s often described as “romantic friendship,” but perhaps “pseudo-platonic lesbians until graduation” would be more accurate. The focus is on close emotional relationships between schoolgirls—and it is very nearly always schoolgirls—that borrow the imagery of romance, such as hand-holding, writing love letters, exchanging gifts, maybe even as much as a chaste kiss, but never more than that. One-sided lesbian pining with the acknowledgement that one’s feelings will never be returned by the heterosexual object of one’s affections can also fall into this category—Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura is an archetypal example. There is nearly always the implication that these lesbian feelings are just a phase, and the girls involved will grow up to be straight and marry men.
By now, everyone’s seen Cowboy Bebop, right? For better and worse, it’s garnered a reputation as something like The Wire of anime, a foundational ur-text that helped lay the framework for the acceptance of its medium as one worthy of critical interest in the United States and elsewhere. While a place in such an illusory “canon” can certainly help a creator’s career, it has a way of overshadowing your subsequent work—just ask David Simon.
“We are living in a fake world; we are watching fake evening news. We are fighting a fake war. Our government is fake. But we find reality in this fake world. So our stories are the same; we are walking through fake scenes, but ourselves, as we walk through these scenes, are real.” –Haruki Murakami
“As I was doing this character, I never really knew what her reality is.” –Ruby Marlowe, the English voice actress who plays Mima in Perfect Blue
91 Days is the best anime I’d never heard of until two months ago.
Although it was released in 2016, I came across it almost two years later. The series summary in the preview amounted to “a guy wants revenge after the mob murders his family,” which didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy watching, but the cover caught my eye—two twenty-something-year-old men point guns at each other in front of a stained glass window in a display that radiated drama and betrayal.
The first time I re-watched the Yu-Gi-Oh anime as an adult, I realized Seto Kaiba—the cocky teen CEO rival to the series’ protagonist Yugi Muto—seriously needs therapy. Now I look back at those pretty, leather-clad boys and think about all the VHS tapes of the show I recorded as a kid—my awkward adolescence was fucked up, but then, so was the concept of ancient Egyptian monsters terrorizing children in modern Japan. Actually, it’s no wonder that I ended up being a hyper-conscious mess—just look at Kaiba and his maniacal obsession with his signature monster card in the game of Duel Monsters that completely defines the Yu-Gi-Oh world: the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Kaiba’s trying to compensate for something he never had as a child, something I also desperately want to reclaim again.
Whenever I start growing bored of JRPGs, I reread the manga series Magic Knight Rayearth. Created by the legendary manga team CLAMP in 1994, Magic Knight Rayearth is a six volume manga series about three schoolgirls summoned to the magical world of Cephiro. There, they are told they must embark on a quest to save a princess named Emeraude from the clutches of the evil high priest Zagato.
When you look at stories about sports, you start to see some commonalities pretty quickly, regardless of the sport in question. This is especially true when it comes to the question of why the characters are playing sports in the first place. “For the love of the game” comes up a lot. Right next to it is “to be the very best”, which you’ll find in a lot of shonen (young boys’) sports stories. For rivals or villains, the motivation will often be the baser desire to make money or an urge to dominate and humiliate their rivals. But one major motivation that pushes people ahead in sports—especially below the professional level—tends to be forgotten. Stories of high school athletes fighting rivalries or to win someone’s love, like you’ll find in Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk or Oota Moare’s Teppu leave out a very important factor that deeply affects almost everybody’s participation in high school sports: our parents.
My first encounter with Napping Princess was through a series of news pieces during its production. AlI I knew at the time was that it was a Kenji Kamiyama film, it involved a parallel dream world, and the trailer had a criminally beautiful cover of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” sung by the lead voice actress.
My intention had always been to watch it at some indefinite future point, as what little I saw in clips featured an appealing mix of technology and fantasy. So what could I expect from it? I’m not sure. But I do know that whatever you’re expecting, this movie isn’t it.
Gentle readers, Napping Princess is a car movie.
Light Yagami, the protagonist of Death Note, is a perfect example of the phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In the world of Death Note, people can obtain powerful notebooks owned by Shinigami—Japanese Gods of Death. If somebody writes a person’s name in the notebook with that person’s face in mind, they will die.
Launched as a spin-off of the popular 80s sitcom Cheers, nobody could have seen Frasier coming. Of all of the characters populating the famous Boston bar—the dumb but sweet Woody, the biting Carla, the wry Sam—the bumbling, ineffectual psychiatrist Frasier Crane seemed the least likely to land his own series. And yet he did, kicking off one of the greatest anime of all time.
Back in 1992 there was this Super Nintendo game called Captain Novolin. It was essentially an educational tool for teaching players about Type 1 diabetes masquerading as a colorful platformer. Nice try, teachers!