Posted in Uncategorized

Reviewing Anime Professionally

Any of you who’ve been reading my blog for a long time may have seen my love for anime and manga creep into the “Books I Loved” series I wrote a few years ago. (Like here, here, here, and here.) I more often talk about anime, manga and video games on my Twitter. (But I’m not above using some anime images on my Facebook to celebrate my writing milestones.)

I became obsessed with Sailor Moon when I was 12 years old and it didn’t take me long to realize my beloved “cartoon” about kick-ass lady superheroes was from another country, where they made lots more “cartoons” I loved just as much. Anime is a medium for every style story you can think of, from comedy to action to fantasy to sci fi. There hasn’t been a time in the nearly two decades since that I stopped loving it. A shared love for anime and manga is how I met a lot of my friends (including author Melissa Giorgio) and my boyfriend. The really good series have influenced my writing because I always strive to tell stories just as well as the anime that sticks with me years later. And in the past few years, with legal free, streaming anime available on sites such as Crunchyroll, Funimation, Viz, Hulu and Netflix, it’s never been easier to have near-instant access to the anime currently airing in Japan as well as classic series and films on demand.

But with so much available, there comes a problem: What to watch? When I was growing up as an anime fan, I watched practically every anime that made its way here, even ones that barely appealed to me, because the options were limited. Now there are simply too many shows to watch. That’s where Anime News Network’s Daily Streaming Anime reviews come in, and I’m one of the first reviewers in the program on a trial basis.

For the rest of the summer season, I’ll be the one giving out my opinions on Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Magimoji Rurumo, and Naruto: Shippuden. (Apparently I’m the rare creature “someone who’s watched ALL almost-600 episodes of Naruto and actually enjoys it” among those who applied. That, and my cat is an official “Ninja Pet” in Naruto: The Official Fanbook.)

I’d appreciate it if you follow me on Twitter and Facebook and re-post links to my reviews as they appear! Or just head straight to Anime News Network so you can read all of the reviews for the shows this season.

Naruto Cat



Posted in Reading, Writing

The Reading and Writing Never Ends

I don’t remember exactly what J.K. Rowling interview I saw (or read, which would be more appropriate to this post, but I do think it was something I saw), but I remember her talking about how she can never stop reading, even if she has to read the ingredients in a bottle of shampoo when in someone else’s bathroom. It clicked with me because I’m much the same. All day, every day, I read and write and live in a world of words bouncing silently around in my head. I think it must be much the same for other writers.

I work as a writer, and I prefer communicating with my clients (or with most anyone) by email, so I’ve never actually spoken with a number of clients who’ve offered me work, even those who’ve offered me work for years. I’m better at communicating my ideas in writing, and it was my strong suit in school. (And I’m grateful for the wonderful teachers in high school and college who encouraged me and helped me grow as a writer!)

I’m introverted (which is NOT the same as lonely, I enjoy solitude)—always have been—and besides my boyfriend and family, I don’t do much with friends. I do, however, have a wide network of dear friends to whom I once wrote handwritten letters. (I still do write to many of them by hand, but not anywhere near as often.) I’ve had pen pals since I was 7 years old! The Internet has made it easier to keep in touch with most of them online these days more often than not, but rarely a day goes by where I don’t check in with a number of them. And I keep in touch with school friends online, too. I almost feel like we’re reading each other’s minds. All of this communication happening thanks to words you never speak aloud. Kind of trippy in a way!

As for reading, well, most of the distractions on the Internet I enjoy consist of reading rather than watching videos. (Not that I never watch videos!) It’s always been easier for me to understand and learn something written down than via a visual or audio lecture about the topic for some reason. At breakfast and when I step away from the computer for lunch and I’m alone (and sometimes even when not), I read the newspaper or a catalog or anything within reach, whether I actually care about the topic or not. People sometimes lecture me for reading while eating, and I respond with a line that connected with me from the Steam Detectives manga a decade or more ago: “I’m not reading while eating. I’m eating while reading.”

This habit means you would expect me to finish more books in a timely manner, but it is rare for me to read for pleasure for long periods at a time other than right before bed. And sometimes even then, I prefer gaming.

I do watch TV and I love going to the cinema, but I also watch a lot of foreign language shows (mostly anime), so even then, I’m still reading thanks to subtitles. I think the only other times when I’m not reading or writing is when driving, doing chores, showering (baths are a great place to read, though!), exercising, eating with others (and even then, not always) and sleeping. I can’t stand to be caught without something to occupy my mind for more than a few moments if it can be helped. If I’m leaving the house and expecting even a minute of downtime, I bring a book or newspaper with me.

Are you a non-stop reader and writer? Do you think this helps you improve your writing?

Posted in Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Reading

Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Part 8

I’m going to sort of “cheat” for the next few posts on this topic. I decided to move on from the novels I loved in middle and high school for now to the manga I loved at that time, but technically, it wasn’t always available. The unflopped-$10-or-less-a-pop manga boom began when I was just getting to college. When I was in middle and high school, I had limited access to manga. What I did get was imported from Japan (at least I saw pretty pictures and practiced my fledgling understanding of Japanese, but I certainly didn’t totally follow the story) or limited/edited/flopped (as in mirror imaged to follow American left-to-right reading style)/much more expensive for the most part. In other words, this library wasn’t anywhere near this large back then (each shelf is double-stacked; there’s another row of volumes behind it, although some non-manga stuff has creeped in there. Should I be bragging about probably thousands of dollars spent on manga over a decade and a half? Not really, but yes… Yes, I should… ):

Still, the manga I’ll cover in this series meant a lot to me as a middle and high schooler, and they still mean a lot to me today. I may or may not have had the translated volumes until after high school, but I often had import volumes and grew to love these series through anime adaptations, so I certainly knew the stories.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon (Pretty Solder Sailor Moon) by Takeuchi Naoko

I have to start here. Sailor Moon was my first “official” introduction to anime at age 12–what I understood to be anime, anyway–and it snowballed into a huge part of my life ever since. Japanese anime and manga not only inspire me creatively, but this facet of pop culture inspired my love for the Japanese language and culture, helped me make many of my most treasured friends, and led me to meet my boyfriend of seven years in a college Anime Club, too. (More than seven years ago. We didn’t date immediately!)

So although I’ve read and seen so many manga and anime since, and I may not think SM stands up as the very best of the best or anything, it means a lot to me. At the time, finding a whole team of girl superheroes–girls around my age at that–spoke to the comic-book-loving girl I was. The series not only balances superhero battles of good and evil, but it has drama, comedy and romance, too.

The series starts with a single heroine, 14-year-old Tsukino Usagi, who discovers she can transform into Sailor Moon and fight evil demons attacking Tokyo thanks to a talking cat named Luna (whom I named my own kitty after). Eventually, she finds four other girls her age who are other Sailor Senshi, and even later, she encounters five more, older and younger girls, to round out the team. (And possibly even more girls after that. It gets complex.) There’s way more to it than that, including reincarnation and a love that lasts through lifetimes, but that’s the very basics.

The anime is actually quite different from the manga, other than characters and the enemies of each battle arc, but I actually did have access to translated SM manga in middle and high school, a sort of butchered version by Mixx/Tokyopop that I collected first in a magazine called Mixx Zine, then in a magazine called SMILE, then in individual American comic-book-style issues, and then in graphic novel form. Actually, some of that was concurrent; they published different arcs at once. And the translation used half English dub names and half original Japanese names; it was just a mess! But still, I collected it eagerly. And a few years ago finally rid myself of the whole haphazard mess… Thank goodness Kodansha started bringing out a much nicer and better translated version last year! (And they were the first to translate the prequel series, Codename Sailor V, yay.)

The original manga is 18 volumes, although the re-release packs more in one volume, so it should be 12 (14?) in the end. Although it’s much more drawn out, I think I prefer the anime to the manga, although I’m a fan of the manga’s gorgeous style. Still, I appreciate having two versions of the same story; many manga are almost completely unedited adaptations of their manga (or these days, light novel or game) origins.

Fushigi Yuugi (or Yugi; “Mysterious Play”) by Watase Yuu

This series became my absolute favorite series in middle school, perhaps only eclipsed in high school by a another Watase series, Ayashi no Ceres. I started with the anime (and watched it four or five times all the way through–there was less to watch back then!) and collected the manga in Japanese shortly thereafter, but some of the manga was available in English by the time I got to high school, in a magazine put out by Viz called Animerica Extra. I collected the manga in English through the magazine for all of its run, but it was canceled before the 18-volume manga ended, and years later I got rid of the magazines and collected it in six big three-volumes-in-one re-releases.

FY follows the tale of two 15-year-old Japanese best friends, Yuuki Miaka and Hongo Yui, who get magically sucked into a book about fictional ancient China. One goes on to become the Suzaku no Miko (“priestess of Suzaku”‘; Suzaku is one of four mythical beasts in Chinese folklore), and the other the Seiryuu no Miko, her mortal enemy. How these two friends come to be at such odds is a compelling part of the drama, and the two are in a race to gather their seven warriors and call their mythical beasts to grant them three wishes. Oh, and those warriors? Most are handsome men, and there are love triangles and rectangles and all sorts of shapes going on, which spurs more of the drama. And the series can be pretty funny at times, too.

There’s a prequel series, Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden, about the first Japanese girl to become a miko in this ancient book, that’s still coming out both in Japanese and English, but volumes are few and far between these days since Watase is juggling multiple projects and this one seems to be on the back burner. The middle schooler in me loved hearing there would be another tale set in that universe (especially since we learn a bit about this protagonist in the original series), and I do love many things about it, but it perhaps doesn’t have quite the charm as the original to me (it’s less funny, too), and the conflict is more political than personal like it was in FY. I actually would have preferred a prequel story about the Byakko no Miko, who comes after the Genbu no Miko, from what we learned in the original FY, but I’m not sure Watase will be up for it since she’s accomplished her dream of doing a weekly shounen (boys) manga, as opposed to the monthly shoujo (girls) manga she used to do. Ah, well.

Posted in Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Geek Out, Reading

Books I Loved in Middle/High School, Part 6

Sorry I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like; I’ve been busy in the writing cave, working on exciting things! Today I felt like reminiscing about some more of my favorite reads from high school.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

This was another required reading in high school (I think my senior AP English class? I’m not sure…) that I took to. (I have an honors degree in English literature and I was still bored by half the books I had to read for school, bad me! But I read them, analyzed them and all those good things.) It’s about a young American man, David, who spends time in Europe as sort of a last hurrah before getting married to his girlfriend. While he’s there, he’s pretty unsure he even wants to get married… It turns out, we eventually discover, it’s because he’s gay but isn’t fully ready to admit it.

After quite a while abroad failing to find himself, David meets Giovanni, a bartender in a gay bar. They fall in love, and David moves into “Giovanni’s room.” However, David has still not come to terms with himself and broken it off with his fiancee… And a dark act soon threatens their relationship.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, so I don’t remember the details, but I do remember being swept up in the narrative, particularly the beautiful, desperate romance, and crying toward the end, I felt so bad for the characters. I went on to recommend the book to a few friends at different schools, and they loved it too. This is a very poor analogy for a piece of classic literature written in the 1950s, but I felt at the time it had a very “anime” feel to the story (and my 17-years-and-counting love of anime was certainly strong in high school), which is perhaps why my friends and I enjoyed it. I’d love to see an anime adaption someday, but that’s never going to happen!

Star Wars: Heir to to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn

In high school and late middle school, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I’d seen bits and pieces of it here and there before (I remember having a fondness for Jabba as a kid for some reason), but I didn’t properly sit down to watch them from start to finish until the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release in 1997… And I went nuts. I saw each of the original trilogy three times in theaters over the next few months (so nine visits for SW), I wore SW shirts every day I could to school (when we were allowed to stop wearing uniforms), I so blindly defended anything to do with SW that I saw The Phantom Menace SEVEN TIMES in theaters. (Ha ha, eight if you count this year’s 3D re-relase. Yes, I saw it, despite disliking 3D movies… I still watch the Clone Wars TV series, too, which my boyfriend makes fun of as being one long series of senate meetings, despite being a show for kids… It’s mostly true. But where else would you get the insane, flesh-eating torso of Darth Maul melded onto a robotic spider?) Attack of the Clones kind of finally made me see that the prequels lack what made the originals great (yes, I still dislike II more than I; maybe it’s the crappy romance… Oh, by the way, I still saw it twice in theaters despite that!), although I’m all right with Revenge of the Sith, disappointing that the dialogue and acting may be at times.

But anyway, back in high school, I was still in high SW gear. So that meant getting my hands on SW in any form, and I discovered the rich novel universe, which told what happened to the characters over the next few decades. (I wonder how far they’ve gotten now? Seriously, I was reading through until some of Han and Leia’s kids–yes, they have three, boy and girl twins and another son–had kids of their own, and Leia was dealing with grey hair and menopause…) There were quite a few of the novels I really liked (and some that bored me a bit), but the “Thrawn trilogy” was my favorite.

Set about five years after Return of the Jedi, these books center around the heroes of the New Republic dealing with the last remnants of the Empire. (They didn’t all just die when their leader blew up, after all.) Strangely, the Empire is led by an alien–bizarre considering Palpatine was an alien-cist (? racist against aliens?)–but he was that good at what he did; he made it to Grand Admiral even when Palpatine was alive, and was the highest-ranking leader left. Thrawn. The well-mannered, harsh blue-skinned guy with black hair in a white uniform… After Darth Vader, he’s just the perfect SW villain to me.

The books are also notable for introducing Mara Jade, a secret assassin strong with the Force called “the Emperor’s Hand” (She’s also so good, she got the job–Palpatine was also a misogynist after all–all those white human men in high ranks…) who’s out to fulfill her final mission from her master: kill Luke Skywalker. I loved Mara Jade–a strong, likeable female villain! I tend to like villains in fiction in the first place, though…–and all the fights she had with Luke… And readers did, too. It took quite some time, and she had to move beyond her dark past, Luke had to have another fling or two, but I’ll tell you a huge spoiler: Mara Jade Skywalker. Enough said!

There are some funny things in the books now, too. The details are vague (I read them more than once, but it’s been a while), but since they pre-date the prequels by eight years (I believe they may have been the first official books that took place after RotJ? Later books went back and bridged the five-year gap, though–Leia and Han already have their older two kids in these books for one!), the “Clone Wars” was still misunderstood and I think a crucial part of the book involved them stumbling upon a random cloning facility and there being clones of Jedi Masters… Oops. I’m sure they shoehorn that in there somehow, though.