ANIME TODAY #113: Ordering Up Some NEKO RAMEN With TOKYOPOP Editor Cindy SuzukiPosted on: Thursday, May 20, 2010
Episode run down:
We're happy to invite Cindy Suzuki, the editor of TOKYOPOP's new manga, Neko Ramen, to this episode for a chat about a ramen-cooking cat and the many dishes he serves up!
The music we'll be checking out from JapanFiles.com continues the kitty theme starting off with the track “MY KITTEN” by ROCKET K. You'll also hear the songs “KITTEN'S BREAKS” by HNC and “kitty south” by noodles. We'll end with a break from the cat-craziness with a cover of the Culture Club hit “KARMA CHAMELEON” by MORNING GLORY. Head to JapanFiles.com to download your own copy of these tracks at much higher quality and DRM-free for only 99 cents a piece. JapanFiles.com has a magnificent and ever-expanding catalog of legal MP3s for easy and immediate download.
Chad springs this episode into motion with What’s Hot in the World of Anime and Manga, followed by the latest Alchemy of Savings on DVDs, Blu-ray and merchandise from FUNimation. ROCKET K leads off the herd of cat songs and then we ring up Cindy Suzuki in L.A. for the first part of our Neko Ramen chat. Next, we’ll be back with the winners of our Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge contest, and our weekly otaku contest for the Lucky Star Character Song CD. Judy’s returning with a Japanese 101 lesson, followed by “KITTEN'S BREAKS” from HNC’s Cult CD. Marie’s spotlight is on the Natsume’s Book of Friends manga this episode, and then we’ll have “kitty south” from noodle’s Cover me Shakespeare. The second part of our interview with Cindy Suzuki is up next, and then our final JapanFiles.com track, “KARMA CHAMELEON” from MORNING GLORY’s MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR CD. We’ll then finish up this episode with a few customer review from RightStuf.com.
Episode 113 Bonus: "Anime & Gamer's Guide" E3 2010 Round-Up
In a new, special edition of the "Anime and Gamer's Guide," Kris and Judy talk about announcements that may be of interest to anime fans who are gamers from this year's E3 video game tradeshow.
Also in this ANIME TODAY bonus: • Nick shares how fans can find “striking deals” on titles from Section23 and the labels it distributes, including Sentai Filmworks, Switchblade Pictures and more, and he talks about RightStuf.com’s new Cart Toppers and Blind Box Bargains. • Find out how to enter for a chance to win one of five one-day passes to Anime Expo 2010. • And listen to tracks from JapanFiles.com artists Bitman (“Tonari no Totoro” from Ghibli Computer), Angel Quartz (“Queen Arie No. 14” and “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Arie From Heaven), ANALOGMAN (“junk foods” from bedside music), and FLOPPY (“Papopi” from PROTOSCIENCE).
Take one totally cute (and naive) ninja-girl trainee, add a ninja horde under the tutelage of a perverse headmaster - a strange, yellow, spherical, pudgy... creature... named Onsokumaru - and you get the kind of "super-explosive ninja insanity" that can only be found in what's been called "the runaway nuclear reactor" of anime comedies!
Mix laughter with shuriken throws when Ninja Nonsense Thinpak Collection bounces in on June 1st.
After years of existing solely as the Hell Girl - the embodiment of revenge – Ai Enma finds something inexplicably changing within her. Once pitiless and without feeling, tiny bursts of emotion begin to show themselves, forming fissures in her stoic façade.
What does this unexpected show of humanity mean? Find out when Hell Girl Season 2: Two Mirrors Collection 1 descends on May 25th.
Non-stop, fast and furious fighting litters protagonist Ken’s path on his quest to keep nemesis Shin from taking control of the post-nuclear world. Body counts rise and fists fly in a land where violence isn’t the problem – it’s the solution!
Get ready to do battle when Fist of the North Star: The TV Series Complete Collection 1 weighs in on June 29th.
Lina and the gang are back and ready to conjure even more chaos as they hunt down the Hellmaster’s Jar. With a new ally in tow, Lina, Gourry and the rest of the crew face off against assassins, headless knights, and an as-always shady Xellos as they try to save a kingdom without destroying the world in the process.
Mass mayhem is guaranteed when Slayers Evolution-R, Season 5 enchants fans old and new on June 1st.
In an alternate future, the federal government takes censorship to a whole new level and forges a committee whose soul duty is to rid society of books deemed “unsuitable.” Unwilling to sit back and watch, libraries join together with local ruling parties and create a defensive military group designed to protect readers’ rights.
Ever since one of the Library Defense Force soldiers protected her favorite book from being confiscated, Iku Kasahara dreamed of joining the organization, but when she finally ends up a recruit, she discovers her dream job is more like a nightmare. Not the romantic rescue of tomes she initially thought it would be, Iku also finds her day-to-day life plagued by a superior who seems to have it out for her.
Library Wars: Love & War Graphic Novel 1 checks in on June 1st.
June also brings manga fans debut volumes of equally enjoyable series featuring cats that couldn’t be more different.
While on a quiet stroll with her family, slightly naughty kitten Chi ends up lost and all alone. Before any harm befalls her, the kindhearted Yamadas pick her up and bring back to their home. Each day, Chi becomes more and more a member of the family, but unfortunately, the Yamadas’ lease states the building has a strict no pet policy.
What antics ensue? Find out when Chi's Sweet Home Graphic Novel 1 scampers onto shelves on June 1st.
There’s a new ramen shop in town, but far more interesting than its noodles is the owner. Taishou is the former model and runaway who owns and operates the shop – and just happens to be a cat. Happy to dish out bowls of ramen, Taishou instantly becomes a less than friendly feline when customers voice their dissatisfaction with his soup.
Discover what’s on the menu when Neko Ramen Graphic Novel 1: Hey! Order Up! is served on June 8th.
Shawne's Specials and the Bargains Bin Blowout Sale!
Right Stuf Contests and Updates
- Congratulations to our Otaku Week #52 winners! Brittany G of Orlando, Florida; Donna C of Prescott Valley, Arizona; and Teresa C of Martin City, Montana will each receive a Galaxy Angel Normad plushie.
- Congrats also go out to our Otaku Week #53 winners, Nanci K of Lansdale, Pennsylvania; Deb S of Bluffton, South Carolina; Thomas G of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Mindy M of Flower Mound, Texas; and Lindsey K of Spotsylvania, Virgina. They will each receive a Last Exile mouse pad.
- Congratulations to our Otaku Week #54 winners: Leslee K of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania; Ash B of Stafford, Texas; Stefan C of Brooklyn, New York; Christopher B of Clovis, California; and Cindy M of Townsend, Massachusetts who will each soon receive a Girl Who Leapt Through Time poster!
- And lastly, congratulations to Otaku Week #55 winners! Adam G of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Guillermo B of Lynn, Massachusetts; Cecilia H of Somerset, New Jersey; and Nikki B of Huron, South Dakota will each receive Lucky Star Character Song CD Volume 2, featuring Kagami!
For our new Otaku Weekly contest, we're giving four lucky anime fans a chance to win one of four One Piece “lemon squash” scented car air fresheners.
To enter – and see a picture of the prize – visit otaku.rightstuf.com for more information, and get your entry to us by the end of the day on May 26th. We’ll announce the winners on the next episode of Anime Today!
Congratulations to David S of Kiowa, Colorado and Hilary C of Rainier, Oregon! They've each just won a copy of the live-action DVD movie, Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, based on the novel by Welcome to the NHK author Tatsuhiko Takimoto.
This month, contestants have the chance to win one of six prizes. One grand prize winner will receive the complete, 28-episode DVD box set for the K-drama Brilliant Legacy, along with a poster. Five runners-up will be selected to each receive a Brilliant Legacy screener disc and poster.
Just visit the contest section at rightstuf.com and get in your entry before the end of the day on June 16th. We’ll announce the winners during the next episode of Anime Today!
Cindy Suzuki, Editor at Tokyopop
I have always loved fairy tales, and if current pop culture is anything to go by, I’m not alone in that sentiment. Whether it be bedtime-story classics, the latest musical from Disney, or even deconstructions of the entire genre from everyone from Sondheim to Shrek, they’re everywhere, including, unsurprisingly, Japan. While Japan is no stranger to the European classics – Cinderella is preternaturally popular in shojo manga plays – to say the country has a rich lore of its own practically treading the grounds of understatement. Natsume’s Book of Friends takes that ample background to create a sort of hybrid modern-day fairy tale/slice of life manga set in the countryside of Japan, with spectacularly good results.
An orphan, Natsume has been shuffled around from relative to relative for most of his life, and he doesn’t have high hopes that his latest home, with his distantly related aunt and uncle Fujiwara in the countryside, is going to work out much better. Why? Natsume can see spirits and other things no one else can, and his innocent questions about invisible people quickly got him written off as creepy, a liar, or mentally ill by those around him before sending him off to the next relative. But the Fujiwaras seem kind, and Natsume’s learned how to hide his ability better now that he’s reached high school. But that doesn’t mean the spirits have gone away…
In fact, they seem to be getting worse! Natsume’s just about had enough when he encounters Madara, a frightening feline spirit who threatens to eat him if he won’t give up the Book of Friends. The Book of Friends? Natsume’s never even heard of it, but as it happens, his new home is the same place his grandmother, Reiko, spent her teenage years. She shared Natsume’s ability but not his temperament, and spent most of her free time bending the local spirit population to her will, forcing them to write their names in her book. Now they want their names back, and many don’t seem picky about how they accomplish it. Madara bargains his protection from the other spirits in return for the book after Natsume dies (quite possibly due to being eaten by Madara), but he’s shocked when he learns that Natsume won’t be keeping the names. Instead, he’ll be returning them. Isn’t it a good thing Madara is there to help him, now disguised as a common housecat and nicknamed Nyanko-sensei and not being taken nearly seriously enough in his opinion? Why, it’s enough to drive a cat to drink.
As you might guess from the summary, Natsume’s Book of Friends tends to fall into “spirit of the chapter” territory with regularity, but rather than be a downside of predictability, this is one of the series’ bigger strengths. Each chapter works well as a standalone piece, and makes an enjoyable story perfectly sized for enjoying on the bus or the proverbial “just one more chapter” right before bed. At the end of each chapter, I feel like I’ve read a complete piece of story, which can be a relaxing change of pace from manga with cliffhangers every 30 pages – not that I don’t enjoy those too. ::cough Vampire Knight cough:: When Natsume’s Book of Friends is read as a whole, however, continuity and character development leap up to the forefront, and Natsume’s story draws readers ever farther in. Natsume grows as he learns more about the spirits and himself, the surrounding country becomes more and more fleshed out, and things both big and small from one chapter are carried on to the next.
In each of those stories, manga-ka Yuki Midorikawa creates an atmosphere that contrives to feel both fresh and nostalgic at the same time, no small feat, with humor buoying things up whenever she senses the story might have veered a little too far into contemplation. With no irony, I can say that most chapters end with me smiling and happy – these stories are far more Hans Christian Anderson than the aptly named Brothers Grimm – and at least a third or so leave me with something to contemplate as well. These aren’t lessons or anything; just something to chew over, like the resolution of the accidental god who’s down to his last follower. But Yuki Midorikawa also mixes in action, and she plays out tension like a finely tuned instrument, whether it comes from a murderous spirit horde or an anxious countdown of days to an unknown event. Her art is beautiful in a kind of unpolished way, matching the rural, pracitical nature of her stories. She plays with space and light and shadow, giving vivid impressions of details while still leaving the spirits their otherworldliness.
But atmosphere and art alone do not a good story make, and while they give Natsume’s Book of Friends its fairy-tale flavor, it’s the characters that form the series’ backbone. I briefly mentioned Natsume’s character development before, and it’s really one of my favorite aspects of the series. While Natsume might seem quiet, introverted, and even delicate on first glance, it doesn’t take long at all to discover that underneath that quiet exterior Natsume has a will of iron, especially when it comes to his friends. In fact, he reminds me very much of Tohru from Fruits Basket, plus he's got a wicked spirit-busting right-cross. Nyanko-sensei, meanwhile, walks a fine line between playing the wise teacher who offers comedic relief through over-drinking, and the threatening spirit who wants control of the book… and offers comedic relief through half-empty threats of eating Natsume to hurry the bargain up, usually while still in the form of a fat, lazy cat. The various spirits Natsume encounters are wonderful both by themselves and collectively. They come in all shapes and sizes, but each one’s design fits neatly with the others, creating a cohesive and distinctive whole. In addition, while many of the spirits may be “one-shot,” they are rarely one note. Each one is given a unique personality, and while some are over the top, just like people in real life, they’re all fully realized, and never once do you question that these spirits didn’t really live for a 1000 years with all the experiences that implies. Furthermore, they are almost always interesting, and characters I want to know more about. And that’s not even getting into Reiko, who despite being dead when the story takes place sure shows an amazing – and complicated – amount of personality in flashbacks. After all, it’s her “capricious whim,” as Viz put it, that drives the plot.
If you liked xxxHolic and Mushishi for their stories of the spirit world hiding just out of most people’s sight and the emotional depth of Fruits Basket’s characters, I can’t recommend Natsume’s Book of Friends enough. It's a modern-day Japanese fairy tale in the tradition of the finest storytellers, and if you ever spent your time at the library trying to explain that yes, “The Red Fairy Book” really is the title and not just a description of what you’re looking for, than I think you’ll find you love Natsume just as much as I do.
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Featured Tracks from JapanFiles.com
RADIO GROOVIE DRUNKERS by ROCKET K
#4. MY KITTEN
CULT by HNC
#2 KITTEN'S BREAKS
Cover me Shakespeare by noodles
#8. kitty south
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR by MORNING GLORY
#6 KARMA CHAMELEON
This episode featured music from:
Bonus Featured Tracks from JapanFiles.com
Ghibli Computer by Bitman
#2. Tonari No Totoro Tonari No Totoro Yori
bedside music by ANALOGMAN
#7. junk foods
Arie From Heaven by Angel Quartz
#1. Queen Arie No.14
#12. O Mio Babbino Caro
PROTOSCIENCE by FLOPPY