Naughty and Nice 2017 #2: Anime

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Anime. Is there anything it can’t do?

Unfortunately, the answer is heal the sick, maintain healthy relationships and gain a proper hold in mainstream North American pop culture.

But it’s not all bad. From finding ever increasing new paths to Western shores to just plain enjoying some good shows and movies, she still has it where it counts.

In case you missed it, Alex contributed an anime review today. Check it out!

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1. Anime Strikes Where it Hurts

When Amazon rolled out their anime streaming service, Anime Strike, it was a major strike on the anime community. First, Amazon snapped up a lot of desirable shows for the 2017 spring season. Unlike Crunchyroll, Funimation, or even Daisuke, the shows were locked exclusively behind a paywall. In other words, Amazon was the only place you could watch these shows and there was no free option. To make matters more frustrating, to even access Anime Strike it requires having a Prime membership on top of paying $5 per month. If the service was standalone and simply allowed fans to pay $5 each month, the outcry probably wouldn’t have been as loud. Nevertheless, anime fans still subscribed enough for Amazon to claim the service was success. Although, the number of exclusives Anime Strike has landed for the 2017 Fall season is low compared to the spring. Amazon has earned a solid naughty from me.

2. Watsuki Likes ‘Em Young

It it turns out the creator of Rorouni Kenshin has some really, really naughty tastes in pornographic material. In late November manga artist, Nobuhiro Watsuki was charged with possession of child pornography by the Tokyo police. He allegedly had hundreds of DVDs of nude teen girls at his work office. Additionally, he was found to have purchased the materials in July 2015. During a deposition Watsuki claimed he liked girls in late elementary school to middle school. If he’s found guilty, he could spend a year in jail and pay a fine of 1 million yen or $8,800. Finding out one of your favorite artists is into child porn is pretty heartbreaking as well as nauseating.

3. Talent at Death’s Door

It seems like every year creatives in the anime industry are lost due to death or sickness. (Or in the case of above, bad behavior.) This falls more under tragic more so than naughty, but a negative is still a negative. Last month Hiromi Tsuru (best known as Bulma in the Dragon Ball series), suddenly passed away. The news was tragic and surprising. At this time it is unknown who will take her roll in Dragon Ball Super. May she rest in peace. Earlier this year Chris Ayres (best known for his role in as Frieza in Dragon Ball Z Kai and Dragon Ball Super) was diagnosed with C.O.P.D. and Emphysema. It is uncertain when he’ll be well enough to return, but I wish him a speedy recovery. In April veteran animator Kazunori Mizuno (of Bleach and Naruto fame) died of overwork while on the job. Again, rest in peace.

1. Streaming Success

As much as I just railed about Amazon’s Anime Strike, there were some bright spots. First in February, Crunchyroll reached one million paid subscribers. That number may not come close to Netflix or Hulu, but considering a few years ago that anime suffered heavily from piracy, having a huge subscriber base is impressive. It shows that with the right price point and great content easily accessible from anywhere, fans will support the industry. Speaking of Netflix, while it has been a player in the industry for years, this year the company announced it would fund and produce about 13 original projects in the future. Sure, some may not see Netflix too differently from Anime Strike, but it’s hard to complain about paywalls when said company is producing the content. (And Netflix’s cheapest plan is still much cheaper than Amazon’s offering.) Either way, more money and more accessibility for the industry is always a good thing.

2. A Strong Year for Shows

2017 has been an amazing year for great content. In fact, even the weaker seasons had something enjoyable for everyone to watch. Unsurprisingly, Spring and Fall are the standouts this year, just like every year. 2017 is special because a lot of series returned from hiatus, or simply continued from the already excellent 2016. Case in point? This year we’ve seen the return of Attack on Titan, Blue Exorcist, Food Wars!, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Berserk (storywise, definitely not animation-wise), My Hero Academia, and Kino’s Journey. Among the new shows we have The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Re:Creators, Scum’s Wish, Welcome to the Ballroom, Fate/Apocrypha, Black Clover, Boruto, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Even the bad shows have been interesting — we had gems like Hand Shakers, King’s Game, and Junei Taisen: Zodiac War.

3. Your Name is all the Rage

Your Name was already one of the highest grossing anime films of all-time, earning $281 million worldwide. That beat out Spirited Away’s record of $275 million. This is before the movie was even released in the United States. When it dropped in April, Your Name earned over $1.7 million in its opening weekend, landing it the 4th spot for new releases for that period of time. It also received a healthy amount of critical praise from mainstream news outlets. Your Name even has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad for a non-Studio Ghibli film.

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1. Crunchyroll’s infrastructure is worse than GameStop’s

I decided to start paying for Crunchyroll this year. But every saturday night, it took forever to successfully log in and forever again to watch any of their live simulcasts. Finally, when the much-hyped Dragon Ball Super double episode fight night came along, the service went down completely for half a day. I wrote a nastygram to cancel my premium account because they obviously weren’t equipped to deliver the service. The slight good note is that they paid out a refund without a question. Though I suspect I wasn’t the only once whose camel’s back broke that night.

2. Hollywood

I don’t need to tell you how much a disaster Ghost in the Shell was, but here si is anyway. After flopping big in the U.S, it managed to make back its production budget in the global release (but marketing budgets aren’t well known). While James Cameron was thought to have a better chance with Battle Angel Alita, the CG eyes stole the focus of everyone who watched the trailer. Finally, J.J. Abrams is already hard at work at adapting Your Name before it’s even in its grave, let alone cold in it. What’s the point of remaking a movie that’s less than a year old? Just put the damn thing in the theaters already. J. J.’s already under contract for more movies than I can count (because he keeps skipping out on jobs when he finds the next shiny object) so it’s not like he’ll end up idle without it.

1. After a slow start last year, Dragon Ball Super is delivering the goods

Dragon Ball Super has had its share of bumps and bruises no thanks to its production schedule and time slot. Animation was frequently sub-par in the rush to finish an episode every week for the full year. It’s being stuck on Sunday mornings also meant more restrictions on the kinds of violence depicted (particularly, the use of blood and gore) that we were accustomed to from the original series and Dragon Ball Z.

But the story has picked up, the filler feels more meaningful, and the animators have found smarter ways to cut corners. The current Universal Survival Arc has been tip-top notch from start to finish, from the fights to the animation to even (and especially) the music. The series is firing on all cylinders now with a bunch of creativity and a lot of fun.

2. Digimon going all End of Eva

I’m giving Digimon Tri a return trip to the nice list this year, as it continues to push the envelope for the series. The creators weren’t afraid of letting it grow up with the audience, damage to the canon be damned. While the sixth and final movie still lies ahead in 2018, they gave the fifth movie an ending that Gainax would be proud of. While I would normally suspect that everything is going to be fine by the end of the next movie, Tri keeps surprising me in how far it’s willing to go in both fan service (not the perverted kind, the wish list kind) while diving into maturity and dread early and often. While the finale still could be a disappointing happily ever after cop-out, I will applaud the series as it is now.

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