As you’ll have seen from the 2010 and 2011 offerings, this is the Reverse Thieves‘ annual Secret Santa project, where the only gift you need to give is the gift of a great series your pick hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing yet. In this year’s post to the blog, I’m looking at a series that I’m sure many people have watched already, given it’s already been licensed. It’s Samurai Champloo, a hip-hop infused sword-fest by Manglobe, following our three main characters as they skulk around Japan looking for a smelly samurai.

If there’s one thing that I value in anime above all else, more than piffling things like character development and story, it’s style. Style over substance any day, I say. Luckily, this show has it in droves. Samurai Champloo is dripping in a strange concoction of American hip-hop and Edo period Japanese chivalry. On paper, these two styles are really like oil and water, but all you have to do is watch and see the two mix together surprisingly well, not least helped along by the effortlessly cool soundtrack by Nujabes who, much like the style of the show, merges the hard edge of hip-hop with more ambient melodies in his offering.

Another hallmark of style that I really am a nerd for is opening sequences. This one utilises a traditional Japanese art style for its stills, and remains quite minimalist in its direction, but throws in anachronistic twists, like the English credits with stencilled lettering and the turntable title screen. It loves to throw in these twists for cuts between scenes too, as well as having cheeky joke spoilers in graffiti-style fonts, all lending to the dual nature of the style. This is a series that really stamps itself onto the anime landscape as a stand-out in these regards.

The initial premise of Samurai Champloo doesn’t seem like it should hold much muster over 26 episodes, and indeed, the episodic nature of individual episodes has been somewhat lacking so far (I must admit, I haven’t finished yet). This, however, does nothing to detract from the beautifully choreographed action sequences. The conflicted nature of the soundtrack and the subject material also really complements the dynamism of the fights.

Because it’s easily the most stand-out thing of the show for me, I’m going to look a bit more at the soundtrack. It was released in a few separate CDs, and as I’ve already mentioned it’s somewhat different from what you might think.

Fat Jon, an American hip-hop producer, lends an obvious influence to the sound, but on further inspection it’s tone is much more mellow and ambient, thanks to Nujabes. Nujabes, real name Jun Seba, was a prolific DJ and record producer in Japan, owning numerous record stores and labels. His music tends more towards hip-hop infused jazz, sounding very down-tempo while still retaining the tenacity and energy of the rap and hip-hop influences it contains. It’s just a crying shame that Nujabes was killed in a car crash in 2010, else he could still be making fantastic music today.

It would be very easy to compare the music of this and the directly preceding show of the director, Shinichiro Watanabe. That show being Cowboy Bebop. The dynamics of the shows themselves feel somewhat similar, what with both shows having a rag-tag bunch of outlaw protagonists doing their own thing. The music of Samurai Champloo tries to be much more cutting-edge and experimental than Bebop’s did, with Bebop’s music being perfectly composed, crystallised pieces of the musical genres it covers, and Champloo’s focusing much more on Fat Jon/Nujabes’ inimitable style the whole way through.

In short, if you’re here for plot and story only, then you probably won’t get a lot out of Samurai Champloo, apart from some nice character interaction. For everyone else, it’s a solid show with plenty to enjoy.

Samurai Champloo is available on DVD from MVM Films in the UK and on DVD and Blu-Ray from Funimation in the USA.

So here’s a post I’ve been meaning to make for exactly one year. Last year I attended Otakon, the annual anime convention held in Baltimore. It was my first time in the north-west of the USA, and it was the first time I’d really went to a proper anime convention, let alone one in the USA. I wrote up some thoughts on the whole experience. Here are those slightly belated thoughts. It’s probably too late to help people with hotel advice, but I hope that attendees can pick some other helpful tips at the very least.

Having flew in to New York, we decided to get the Megabus to Baltimore. First of all, don’t assume that this’ll drop you right in the centre. The bus actually alights at a very sparse retail park some ways outside of the centre called White Marsh.

Were it not for the sage advice of some fellow con goers we met in the Megabus queue (thank you, Ian and Kristina!), we would’ve wasted so much money on a taxi – do yourself a favour and get the route 120 bus. It departs from the same bus stop the Megabus arrives at, only takes half an hour, and was only $2 one way. Not only was it cheap, you can be sure there’ll be likeminded people doing the same thing. What could be better than lots of anime fans trapped on a bus for half an hour?

Howard & Pratt is the stop you’ll want to get off at for downtown Baltimore (it means the junction of Howard Street and Pratt Street, for those uninitiated to the initially confusing American road network). It’ll leave you directly beside the Convention Centre, where the major part of Otakon takes place. From here, you’ll probably want to find your hotel.

We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express at the Stadiums. It’s quite cheap compared to some of the hotels in the centre of Baltimore, and it has its own pool, which is always nice for a post-con cool down. The rooms also come with their own fridge, which was handy for keeping bottled water and the like cold. We mostly used it for beer.

While the rooms and the hotel itself are nice, it wasn’t very accessible for the convention centre over the event itself. The hotel does run its own shuttle service to the convention centre every hour, though you need to book early during Otakon to secure a place on it, and it’s no good for getting back at night, so the cost of taxis to and from the hotel does ramp up over the 3+ days. Not only this, but there were so many unofficial gatherings outside of the con itself, and all of these were around the hotels closest to the centre. It would have been nice not to have to worry about taxis to get home at the end of the night. If I were to go again, I would certainly invest in getting a room as close to the event as possible. It really is worth it, despite the cost.

Once we were firmly ensconced in the hotel and had already started complaining about the distinct lack of good tea (what sort of hotel doesn’t have a kettle, anyway!?), it was time to start proceedings a little early with a bit of a pre-Otakon knees-up. It was fantastic to meet so many people in one room I had only heard tell of on the internet. Annoyingly, I must have been slightly shy with my camera, as the only shot I have from this gathering was of Mike Toole’s gorgeous bourbon, of which far too much was ingested before an early start for day one. I certainly had a wonderful time there and was very glad and thankful to have been invited.

I’ll tell you this now – while at Otakon, sleep is not important. After a hard days night and a far too early start, we arrived at the convention centre, where we were met with two queues to get in. One for those who pre-registered, and one for those who didn’t. You probably already know this, but pre-registration is a much more attractive option. You can pick up your badge the day before at a convenient time – we went at 7pm the day before the con officially started and there was no queue to speak of. Cosplay spotting passed the time until the doors opened and Otakon 2011 officially began. (Unfortunately, one of our party hadn’t pre-registered. He regaled us of tales from the line that did not sound fun at all, especially given the searing heat of summer.)

The registration paraphernalia will no doubt explain this better than I can, but Otakon itself is spread over a number of locations. The vast majority of the event happens in the convention centre itself, but some panels and screenings happen in the Hilton, which is handily conjoined to the convention centre via a walkway, so you never have to expose yourself to the scorching Baltimore sun. The cosplay masquerade also happens in a completely separate building, so if that’s your bag, make sure you’re prepared to walk a block or two outside.

Day 1

The first panel I visited was hosted by the Reverse Thieves, entitled “The Best Manga You’ve Never Read.” I must admit, I’m not much of a manga reader. I own very few completed series, but harbour a great want to delve further in. This panel was perfect, as it was a Tokyopop death edition, highlighting a selection of Tokyopop manga that will probably never see the light of day again, sadly. All of the examples shown made me wonder if they were available in the dealers hall, but it seems that people quicker than myself managed to get there before me, as I couldn’t find any. Of particular note, a series called Karakuri Odette interested me somewhat, mostly because it had interesting subject material, and was actually completed by Tokyopop. Also, the mention of Saint Tail brought back happy memories of the anime. Shame about the adaptation, though. With regards to Alain and Kate, they conveyed genuine enthusiasm for the titles they showcased, were clearly very well prepared, and also managed the fans responses quite well at the end. I’ve never been to a fan panel at a convention before, and as far as I can see this was as good a blueprint for a convention panel as any I’ve seen.

Daryl Surat of AWO fame held a “Remembering Satoshi Kon” panel. My thoughts on this going in to it were mostly that it would be a nice retrospective of Kon’s movies, peppered with some clips highlighting specific instances of his particular style. But it was that and much more. I was almost ashamed that I never knew about Kon’s other works, like his background direction of the Patlabor films, and the manga he did (which I had absolutely no clue about). What’s even better is that it’s so obviously Kon when you look at it – his visual tics are everywhere. Surat succinctly described the particulars of Kon’s works in his characteristic style, noting very particular instances where Kon’s greatness shone through.

The majority of the afternoon I spent having a look around the dealers hall. Beware that once you go in, it takes a while to get out again, mostly because of the almighty scale of the place, and partly because there were some very good stands there. I went in and wasted masses of time on window shopping and having internal crises over whether to buy tiny bits of plastic, with the end result of two missed panels. To give UK people a sense of scale, the main hall of the London MCM Expo, where everything official happens, is about the same size as the Otakon dealers hall alone. Those who’ve been to Expo will be familiar with the sorts of stallspresent at Otakon, though even the shops selling tat like keyrings and plush toys have more choice, better quality, and a fresher range of products than the UK equivalents.

Where the Otakon dealers hall really shone through was in its selection of more specialist items like CDs, art books and figures. Not only were there numerous sellers, those sellers generally stocked different products. For instance, some sellers had a selection of art books from older series, while some stocked items from relatively recent series. One store also had lots of doujin CDs that wouldn’t look out of place at Comiket. It’s this kind of variety that really sets the bar for quality.

When I finally managed to escape the wiles of the Dealer’s Hall, it was time to go and meet Makoto Shinkai, director of such films as The Place Promised In Our Early Days, Five Centimetres Per Second, Voices Of A Distant Star, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below [now called Journey To Agartha in the west], which had its English premiere at Otakon. It was a fairly long wait, but it was made much better by being beside @narutakiRT in the queue. Time passed very quickly while we shot the breeze about all manner of things. To be honest, I was slightly starstruck when I met Mr. Shinkai, so much so that when he asked how far I’d travelled to be there I slightly misjudged how far away the UK was. By about 3000 miles. No matter. He was a lovely man, and I’m very glad to have met him and got his autograph on my old ADV Voices Of A Distant Star DVD.

Here’s another bit of advice – don’t get too excited about panels, because there are so many exciting things happening at Otakon that it’s very likely two things will clash. In my case, the English subtitled premiere and director Q&A of Puella Magi Madoka Magica was scheduled at the same time as the Shinkai autograph session. While I had already seen the series (thanks, gg!) it would have been nice to see the instant reaction of American fans to a series such as that, whose genre is sometimes misunderstood. I rushed upstairs to get there just in time for the Q&A, which was fantastic timing, as far as I’m concerned.

The Puella Magi Madoka Magica Q&A session with Atsuhiro Iwakami was much more interesting than I thought it would be. One of the strong points of Madoka in my view is the rich mythos surrounding it, which has clearly been worked very intricately into the story and design of the show. The strong visual style of each of the fights in the witch domains is one of my favourite parts of Madoka, so I certainly found it interesting that it was one man who came up with this concept, as well as the scarily detailed system of runes. I’m especially glad that he did, as Iwakami explained that the original witch lairs were only supposed to consist of anime steam. On the runes, /a/ should be proud of deciphering the whole system when no-one else did, especially as Iwakami seemed very interested in meeting the people who were responsible for figuring out the mystery.

We rounded off the night by going to some fan parodies. While some were very good at what they did, they were mostly outweighed by utter shit (I’m looking at you, Kampfer Abridged).

Day 2

Day Two started off in spectacular style thanks to @erinf, who very kindly brought doughnuts to her 9am panel, “Unusual Manga Genres.” The panel itself was a quick-fire adventure into the many weird and wonderful genres of manga. Most of which I’ve since wanted to own.

Then came the highlight of the day – Shinkai’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. Many were quipping afterward that they had just seen the latest Ghibli film. I’d have to agree – it smacked of Ghibli very much. I’d probably need to see it again before giving a concrete picture of what I thought, but I certainly thought it was a slight departure from the kind of world Shinkai likes to build, but tonally and thematically, it was Shinkai through and through. If you don’t like the mild depression that his films always leave behind, you’re not going to find this any different.

I should mention at this point that I had sufficiently manned up after Day 1 and had finally decided to wear the t-shirt I brought with me to wear. On a related note, the next port of call was a concert. With K-On! dub voice actors. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking it too. But regardless, I thought it best not to slag them off without even hearing some of what they were offering. We had Stephanie Sheh, Christina Vee, Cassandra Lee, Shelby Lindley and guest starring Karrie Shirou, all putting their hearts into singing selected songs from K-On!. Honestly, it wasn’t as much of a train wreck as I thought it would be, though it was glorified karaoke for the most part. I can’t help but recall the process the original Japanese voice actors went through though, especially Christina Vee’s Japanese counterpart Youko Hikasa, who had to learn to play bass left-handed despite being the opposite herself. Count your lucky stars, K-On! VAs.

“Dubs That Time Forgot” is always a treat to watch, especially in person. Mike Toole’s dulcet tones, succinct commentary and excellent selection of clips are always a winner, and this time was no exception. I especially like how he always gets old British dubs. Old ITV was full of ‘em. Daryl Surat’s “Anime’s Craziest Deaths” was an excellent way to round out the day. Surat really has the panel style down to a tee.

Day 3

Day 3 got off to a rocking start when the guy hosting the first panel didn’t show up. Very annoying, especially when time is at a premium at events like these.

While I am a complete beginner at Touhou, I was quite interested in the fan culture surrounding it (especially the music, some of which is excellent), therefore I went to the Touhou panel. It was an interesting look at the franchise, especially when one portion involved a read through of an apparently “safe for work” (read: no fucking way) fan comic, featuring plenty of nudity covered by speech bubbles. This was a clear indication – this panel was mostly for people who were already deep in fandom to indulge in their love, but I learned a bit from the Q&A session at least, and now have the knowledge to try out my first Touhou game.

Next up was a fan panel on Madoka Magica, which was wonderfully titled “The Fine Print on the Contract – The Themes, Philosophies, and Birth of a Legacy in Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. I appreciate that the guys were trying to have a good discussion about the themes of the series and the sorts of things it stood for, but they wasted too much time on every possible combination of character-character interaction when I would have preferred they looked at the series as a whole and picked salient parts to show their arguments. What they did well was establish a nice dynamic between the panelists. What they didn’t do well was give the audience to voice their opinion in the middle of the panel. If you’re at a panel like this, don’t give the audience an opportunity to speak, because you’re going to get someone (like we did) who wants to voice their likes/dislikes about the series in the guise of a crappy sounding argument. Also, refrain from name dropping philosophers unless you really know what they were talking about.

I must say, I really appreciated not having to leave on the last day of the con. It was great to be able to take lots of time in the dealers room and not have to worry about catching a bus/train/plane to leave that night. The extra night is really worth it. Especially since we went to the aquarium the next day to see the dolphins. They were excellent. As for getting home, we took the light rail all the way down to the airport and flew out that evening. BWI’s international section is interesting in that it only flies to London and Toronto, but is still huge.

All in all, I’m incredibly glad I got the chance to go last year. I met people I thought I was never going to meet in my life, and what’s more they were all very friendly and kind. Anyone who gets the chance, do go. It’s brilliant.

Hello again, and welcome to this year’s Reverse ThievesSecret Santa project post. For those unaware of this, it’s a sort of take a recommendation, leave a recommendation system where a stranger will drop in and give you a choice of three shows to watch, while you do the same for your unwitting recipient. Last year, I was tasked with watching Shigofumi.

This year, I was recommended Binchou-tan, To Heart and Darker Than Black. First of all, big thank you to my Santa. These are three shows I really did want to watch after reading their descriptions. Unfortunately, time constraints lead me to only be able to watch one show, but I will certainly be getting around to the others at a later stage. The show I’ll be reviewing is Binchou-tan.

It’s hard not to be enamoured by Binchou-tan on first watch. The series starts by showing us a gorgeous setting – a run-down old house in the middle of a leafy green forest. The noises, the insects buzzing around, the shadows on the forest floor, they all contribute to creating a wonderful scene. Then we’re introduced to Binchou, our title character.

Suddenly, moe. Moe everywhere. Moe up the wazoo. Binchou, as a character, is moe incarnate. She’s small, her sash bow is tied with one side larger than the rest, and the sound of her exhales could warm the cockles of even the greatest miser. She even wears a bloody bit of charcoal on her head, just to hammer home the point. There isn’t even any need for verbal communication in the first episode because of this (just let the moe wash over you), though the atmosphere is still spoiled by the obnoxious narrator.

Oh man, that narrator. In most cases, she exists only to be Captain Exposition, as the writers said what they could have acted out for greater effect. In another strange case, she succinctly explains how Kunugi just loves getting up in the morning. Then Kunugi gets up, and we can quite clearly see how she enjoys it. It’s very easy to infer what the narration just told us, and it would leave a more lasting impact if they showed us her enjoyment rather than telling us outright.

Not having a long running plot, slice of life shows absolutely rely on their characters to support the show. Don’t like the characters? Then God help you in trying to watch that show. Binchou-tan’s characters are warm and likable, but suffer from being very one dimensional. Each character could be summed up in one or two bullet points at most, and the opening does a good job of exemplifying this – much of the actual content of the series happens in the opening. Not only are the characters overly simple, but the interactions between the characters are similarly limited, to the point that when two characters are about to talk to each other, you can be fairly sure what it’ll be about.

This isn’t to completely rubbish Binchou-tan as a series. It has some nice elements that make it a decent healing-type slice of life, like the feeling of flight achieved by the bird bus stop, the idea of ‘leaving a mark’ which is so often used in slice of life shows, the daily life of Binchou as she finds odd jobs to do and so on. It’s just that other shows have used the same ideas and capitalised on them to a greater extent, and doing it with much better animation. I’m thinking of shows like Aria and Sketchbook ~full colours~ here. It’s certainly worth a watch though, as it’s good at doing what it does – being a nice and relaxing stroll through daily life.

I hope everyone reading has a very merry Christmas and a happy new year! See you soon!

Binchou-tan is available on fansub from the usual outlets.

Last night, I took the final two episodes of Fractale downstairs to watch on the big TV. I should have been approaching that with delight, at seeing the culmination of a show that was both entertaining and enthralling. Instead, I almost had to force myself to finally finish the damn thing off.

Because Fractale was neither of those things.

What’s odder is how difficult it is to pin down what makes it bad. The glimpses of greatness it teases us with ultimately distract from the mediocre overall package.

For many, the failure of Fractale can be summed up in one word: Yamakan – series director Yutaka Yamamoto. He made some rather bullish claims before the show aired, commenting that the anime industry was going in the wrong direction and saying he would retire if Fractale failed. Yamakan is no stranger to controversy, having previously been sacked from Kyoto Animation after directing the first four episodes of Lucky Star, a decision I completely agreed with at the time.

Yamakan certainly has to shoulder some of the blame for this one. I thought the direction and pacing of the show were a bit iffy at times. Of interest to me was the Fractale System itself, an artificial ecosystem that simulates life for its users, with all of the issues and moral ambiguities this brings. Needing to be carefully balanced with the world building was the interplay of the three protagonists, Clain, Phyrne and Nessa. By the end, I was left unsatisfied with both aspects. I wanted to know more about the basis for the world, but at the same time found it difficult to care about the main characters when they inevitably found themselves in danger.

The characters of Fractale I never could get behind fully. Sure, they were endearing, but I didn’t feel they’d changed a whole lot by the end. I even surprise myself by saying this, because one of the big reveals late in the series (spoilers ahoy) shows that Nessa has been cloned many times to try and recreate the key to rebooting the Fractale System, all of the rejects killed. This is absolutely horrible, but the dialogue never really gave me the lasting impression that any of it mattered. It felt more like a heartstring-tugging device more than anything. The heavily implied rape of Phyrne later on is worse, because it feels the same way – like an ass pull from nowhere to make the whole thing a little more shocking. Moreover, the last episode was creepy for no good reason. I still don’t know what they were trying to achieve.

Despite this, there were some good points to Fractale. With prime positioning in Fuji TV’s noitaminA block comes a relatively large budget to play with, and boy did they use it. The scenery, both the natural beauty of the land and the hedonistic backdrop of the more outlandish Fractale System layouts are gorgeously animated. It’s been said before, but the landscapes really are very Glibli-esque. Further to this the opening and ending songs, “Harinezumi” (“Hedgehog”) and “Down by the Salley Gardens”, both sung by Azuma Hitomi, are great at capturing the dual nature of the show. The visuals of the opening are fantastic, but of course are all down to the Mandelbrot set, the supposed inspiration for the show. They play well with the eminently singable opening song. The ending is written by acclaimed Irish poet W. B. Yeats, set to the tune of an old Irish folk song. It reflects the natural beauty of the “real” world (though the lyrics aren’t all roses), much in contrast to the abstract and artificial nature of the opening.

My feeling straight after finishing the show was that Yamakan understood that the industry (rightly) needed to move in a different direction. He didn’t necessarily shift it in the right direction with Fractale.

Fractale is currently available to stream in North America from FUNimation’s video site or from their Youtube channel. They will release it on DVD and Blu-Ray in the USA in 2012. For everyone else, fansubs are available from the usual outlets.

The last time I wrote about Aria, I had only just heard of the series with the latest (and last) anime series Aria the Origination. Since then, I’ve collected all possible volumes of both manga series, Aqua and its sequel Aria, released in the UK, as well as Kozue Amano’s wonderful Illustration Works art books. Knowing this, you probably won’t be surprised to hear my opinion on the series.

To those unfamiliar with Aria, we follow the story of Akari Mizunashi, a resident of Manhome (previously known as Earth) who has come to the water planet Aqua, known as Mars before its near complete terraforming. Specifically, she’s travelled to the city of Neo-Venezia, made in the image of the long-since flooded Italian city of Venice, to become an undine – a gondolier tourist guide on the expansive waterways of the city. What follows is Akari’s slow and steady progression as an undine, the people of the town she meets and befriends and the general wonderment of Akari’s “beautiful miracles.”

I would say that any expectations about Aria from someone who hasn’t heard of slice of life or healing-type stories would quite quickly be shattered, but Aria would never shatter anything – it’s far too peaceful for that kind of verb. After Akari’s initial acceptance as an apprentice of Aria Company, we settle down into a series of chapters showing her everyday life in Neo-Venezia, as well as introducing characters from other undine companies in the city.

I have to say, I love this series more than any other. I adore Aria and all it stands for. ‘But nothing happens,’ you cry. ‘There is no semblance of plot, nor action.’ Well, what Amano has done here is create a living, breathing utopia that is so endearing and wonderful that it’s like the world itself is the protagonist and plot all rolled into one. Every page has a view to the city, every panel has something to pour over and treasure. This is especially true when Amano drops the clutch and draws her feature pages (nearly always indicated by the previous page having someone staring with astonishment, as seen below). It’s the kind of scenery porn one could keep coming back to, finding new things every time.

Like many slice of life anime and manga stories, it relies heavily on the seasons to provide the sense of momentum and progression it otherwise loses out on. Amano makes the environments almost tactile, with detailed panels showing Neo-Venezia’s many faces throughout the year. Akari is the one who makes them feel special though, managing to find amazement and joy in even the harshest of conditions. Reading a winter chapter of Aria on a cold December’s night after a long cold snap gave me unbridled happiness thanks to Akari’s endlessly positive outlook on the seasons of Neo-Venezia.

Despite this, it is possible to pick holes in Aria. For me, the fantasy elements are the weakest part of it. Aria best handles its human relationships and the fragments of happiness it shows in everyday life. While I’ll admit some fantasy chapters were quite good (including A Night on the Galactic Railroad), I think they distract from the overall goal of the work, and break the illusion that an Aqua-style life is possible in the real world.

The setting is just too perfect. Neo-Venezia is such a wonderful place, where nothing bad happens, and everything is right with the world. If Amano’s aim was to make us change ourselves for the better, it’s hampered by the difficulty of translating such changes to the real world, an environment much grittier than the unobtainable paradise of Aqua. Sad as it is to admit, it seems to me that Akari’s rose-coloured glasses only function in an idealised world such as this.

Though it is idealised, Amano has taken steps to root Aqua’s utopian status in achievable ways. While it is like a paradise, its beginnings are founded in hard graft and its methods of living are humble. Often described lovingly by characters as “inconvenient”, Aqua’s ways hark back to a simpler time, making it very endearing to the reader while also ensuring the concept is realistic.

In short, read Aqua and Aria. Every chapter is a journey that’ll take you away from the tribulations of life for a fleeting moment, gently placing you back afterwards with the will to see things even just a bit more positively.

I also mentioned above that I got the first three Illustration Works art books by Kozue Amano. I can tell you they’re even more fun to pour over in every detail than the manga. Seeing these scenes drawn and printed in gorgeous quality really makes you realise the small details in each picture. In particular, Amano’s faces are so expressive – they convey the most complex of emotions and have so much character.

Both series are published in the UK and the US by Tokyopop, who unfortunately are in the middle of imploding at the moment. The future of Aria past volume six is currently unclear, especially since the editor responsible for it, Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, no longer works for the company. Let’s hope Stu Levy wises up and sorts it out. I can’t say I’m too positive, but if Aria’s taught me anything, it’s that we should have faith in people.

This post has been part of the March 2011 Manga Movable Feast, hosted by animemiz.