Hump Day Otaku News Report 03.26.03

Welcome to another fun and fact filled episode of the Hump Day Otaku News Report. Yea, the one with the weird name. I’m your host as always, Lee Baxley, and we will continue our now 3-week tradition of games and anime, and since I haven’t heard anyone complain about the combination, I think it’ll stay that way for as long as I’m here.

Last week, I had a little explanation of the word otaku, and while the word was correct in the broad sense, there is more to it than that, and I’ll admit my ignorance by not knowing this information. But one cool reader sent me a letter explaining it. Here it is:

I just read your recent column on 411mania. I just wanted to give you a little more background on the Japanese word “otaku,” because your definition of it is… well, a little incomplete.
Now I’m an anime fan as much as the next guy, but I would never call myself an otaku, or want to be called one. The word in Japanese does mean “uberfan” to an extent, but that’s not the original meaning. Otaku simply means “house.” However, in Japan some anime fans over the years became so obsessed with anime that they ended up not leaving their houses, becoming social misfits. Since they’re always at home, the word otaku took on a new meaning, that of the obsessed anime fan.
When American anime fans in the 80’s got wind of it, they started using the term otaku as well, but either by clever planning or poor understanding of Japanese culture/language ended up blunting the highly negative connotation that the word otaku carried with it.
Japanese children don’t refer to themselves as otaku from what I have seen, and the word isn’t commonly used for fandom in Japan. There are some exceptions of course, such as the anime “Otaku no Video”
Anyway, I would never want to be called an otaku, as the word has a deeper meaning and has much more to do with an unhealthy obsession that standard fandom.
As for me, I’ve studied Japanese language and society for 4 years and was abroad in the Kansai region for a semester of college. My prediction for the best anime of 2003 is Wolf’s Rain by BONES, and it’s much cooler to use ahou instead of baka when you want to say idiot. =)

So there you have it. So, in some respect, I would definitely be an otaku, because I have been known to stay in the house for days (back when I was in school and during the summer break) and play games, and basically only get up to eat and go to the bathroom. Ah, those were the days, but now that I have to get up and go to work every day, it’s not nearly as fun. But I should also say that I’m probably not an otaku by the terms of many anime fans either. A true otaku would learn Japanese and move to Japan, just for the sake of watching anime (and play games, as my case would be). I haven’t seen Wolf’s Rain, but everything I’ve heard about it has been good, so hopefully the nice people at one of my three favorite companies (Pioneer, Bandai and ADV), will license it for Region 1 distribution.

Now that that’s clarified, let’s see what’s going on in the gaming world.

Gaming News
It’s been a really slow news week, even though some good titles (like Zelda: Wind Waker and the GBA SP) are coming out. So I apologize if this portion of the report doesn’t meet the usual standards. You can’t blame me for the lack of anything interesting happening. Or can you?

GBA: SP Early?
Well, it’s the week that the GBA: SP comes out. Actually, some places started selling it several days early. Walmart, EB Games and Toys R Us (which are the 3 places I most enjoy buying games at) decided they couldn’t wait, and started selling them as soon as they could. So if you go to the store today, and it’s not there, blame those stores because it’s their fault. Or you could go to Gamestop, but you won’t be getting one there unless you preorder, but to them if you don’t preorder, you’re lower than scum.

As an added note to you anime fans, release dates for anime are often broken at most places you can buy it (Suncoast and Fye are the best places here). If there’s a title I want, and I have the money for it, I can usually go pick it up the weekend before the release date. Hell, some stores started selling RahXephon over a week ago, and it was scheduled for release yesterday. Personally, I like this practice because I’m a poor shmoe who has to work weekdays and can only pick stuff up on the weekends, so getting it a week early is a nice thing.

MGS4 GameCube Exclusive
I know Bebito reported this as well, but apparently Nintendo’s Official French Magazine is reporting that Metal Gear Solid 4 is a GameCube exclusive, even though there is no news on MGS3. You know what? I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m pissed at you Konami. You release a substandard RPG called Ephemeral Fantasia that gets me hooked on a guitar minigame that is based on Guitar Freaks, which is part of the Japanese BeatMania series. We’ve gotten part of the series in Dance Dance Revolution, but compared to BeatMania (Bemani for short), Guitar Freaks and Drum Freaks, DDR SUCKS. Sorry, but I’d muck rather play an instrument than dance around like a goober. I’ve seen guys like me in arcades playing DDR and let me say, it looks sad not only because a grown man is dancing to a game in public, but also because they do it so damn well, like it’s all they do. How sad is that that the only reason they get any exercise is because of a game. I mean, hell, not even a game can get me off my fat ass! (Note: this entire post was sarcasm and not meant to offend anyone. If you were offended, kiss my big white shiny hiney.)

Squaresoft Out of the Hole
After the poor (yet graphically incredible) Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tanked in the box office, Square was out a whole lot of money. But thanks to some high selling games and a good business decision, they’ve recouped their losses. They’ve sold a lot of copies of Kingdom Hearts in America, and had a fantastic showing at the release of Final Fantasy X-2, causing most stores to sell out on opening day. In addition, with the recent merger with Enix (which still hasn’t been finalized, but so far there have only been a few kinks that appear to have been worked out), Square looks like it’s on the up and up. This is good news to me, as well as some other people, because even though Square has been cranking out less than stellar games recently, they have a track record for producing quality titles, and I for one would like them go back to that trend.

Penny Arcade is the Greatest Webcomic EVER
Ok, that may not be entirely true, but it’s about equal with MegaTokyo in my book. The BEST reason to read Penny Arcade is not the webcomic itself (which is usually very good, and typically game related), so much as it’s the news/comments Tycho and Gabe make about various things. On Friday’s post, Gabe got a bunch of emails from people bitching about the new Zelda game. Gabe basically said that anyone who thinks that the graphics suck on it is an idiot, which is something I kind of agree with. Sure the designs themselves are a little odd, but this game is a game that makes cel shading a worthwhile creation. Most games just use it, but don’t do anything with it, but seeing this game in motion reminds me so much of Dragon’s Lair it’s not even funny. This game is like an interactive cartoon. I can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on it this week. Anyway, I’d check out the post on Friday because some of the emails Gabe got and his resulting comments are just classic.

New Game Releases
* Ship Date – 3/24-26/03
The Sims (Xbox, GC), Amplitude (PS2), The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC), Dynasty Warriors 4 (PS2), Auto Modellista (PS2), State of Emergency (Xbox)

It’s a pretty big week for releases. I’m interested in the rhythm game Amplitude, as well as the cel shaded racer Auto Modellista. Both are online games, so maybe I’ll need a Network Adapter as well. I’ve already got Zelda pre-ordered, so I’ll be playing that one for sure. The others I don’t really care about, but I’ve heard of them, so I’m putting them on the list. There are also some stinkers coming out, like ANOTHER Army Men game. Who buys this shit? A Dragonball Game (don’t like Dragonball), a horse racing game and a fishing game round out the crap being released. Seriously, do people play these types of games? If so, why? How fun can a full game about fishing be? Most of these games are cheaper than normal, but why pay $50 for a game about horse racing? I just don’t understand these things.

New Anime Releases
* Release Date – 3/25/03
Berserk Vol. #5, Fruits Basket Vol. #3, Mahoromatic Vol. #2, RahXephon Vol. #1 w/ artbox and T-shirt, X Vol. #4

The only ones on here I absolutely must get are X (which I have the first 3 of) and RahXephon (because I like the few episodes I’ve seen, and because it has a box, which is something I usually get all of). Fruits Basket is supposed to be a nice heartwarming anime, which I always go for. Mahoromatic is another series about an unwitting boy who gets stuck with a robotic maid, but since I’ve loved all of the series I’ve seen like that so far (Hand Maid May, Steel Angel Kurumi, and kinda Chobits), I’ll definitely pick up the first 2 of Mahoromatic soon, and continue to get them. Berserk is another I don’t know much about, but the first disc comes with a box, so when all 6 come out, I’ll probably get them at once.

Mini Anime Reviews
This week I think I’ll hit on a couple of shows that have a lot of style, and set themselves apart from it because of that. If anyone wants me to review a certain title here in a future report, send me an email, and if I’ve seen it, I’ll do a review on it.

This is a show that has been around for several years, but they’re still releasing discs for. The reasoning for this is that they released the first two discs a couple of years ago, but didn’t have the rights to release more. Well, they finally licensed the rest of the series and are now releasing them. While the series hasn’t been fully released, many of the shows are similar, with the exception of the progressing storyline.

Basically, this series is about a woman named Utena who wants to become a prince. When she was a child, her parents died, and a prince comforted her while she was grieving. The prince, whose face she no longer remembers, gave her a ring with a rose crest on it, and that crest bears great importance to the series. So now she’s in high school, and she dresses like a boy, much to the dismay of her teachers. She even has a girlfriend who keeps jumping on her and saying how much she loves Utena, but that’s probably because everyone thinks Utena is so cool. One day, Utena sees one of the student council hit a shy girl named Anthy. While Utena doesn’t know the situation, she steps in to stop the guy. The student councilman challenges her to a duel, with the prize being Anthy, because she’s what’s called the Rose Bride, and is destined to marry the strongest in the duels, which typically only involve the student council. So now, Utena is engaged to the Rose Bride, which everyone in the student council wants so they can bring about revolution. While this explanation is somewhat vague and confusing, I can’t really do the story justice. Basically, you have to see it because it has one of the most interesting stories out there.

The art in the show is simply beautiful, with so many striking colors and excellent character designs. Each person stands out from the others, even if they are wearing the same exact clothes. The voice acting is one drawback though, because some of the actors seem like they don’t fit the part, but as the episodes go on, they do a better job. Plus, Crispin Freeman plays the student council president, who plays a very important role in the first season (which is the first two discs). The music is excellent, including a very catchy opening song. In addition, every episode has a different battle theme. Some are pretty good, but most are messed up. This is a very good show that is very odd in places, and while it may seem like a monster (or in this case, duelist) of the week series, every episode has story progression, and the story is always brilliant. Even though it is kind of nitpicky, my biggest problem is that the first two discs look completely different than the third disc and every following one. They didn’t put that much effort into the first two discs, and then after several years of no releases, they got the license for the rest of the series, and completely redesigned the cases. Hopefully they’ll re-release the first two discs, or at least offer new cases or inserts. But this is a highly recommended series, for both males and females, because it has action, comedy, drama, romance, and everything in between.

This is a series that I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, but I still recommend it highly. Hellsing is about a secret organization named Hellsing (no surprise there) whose mission is to hunt down and destroy vampires. The kicker is that their primary operative goes by the name Alucard, and is a vampire himself. The reason he works for them is because he made a pact with the head of the Hellsing organization, and he’s a man of his word. With his red coat and wide brimmed hat, as well as his two very long guns, Alucard just screams BADASS. Early on, Alucard turns another human into the vampire (it was consensual), and helps them learn the ways of the night. Everything is normal in Hellsing when they discover a microchip that has been implanted into a normal human, which turns them into a vampire. Now why would someone go and do something like that?

While the story itself isn’t the greatest in the world, and the character interactions leave some to be desired, this is a series that puts style over substance. While normally I don’t condone such a thing, like Apple computers for example, this is a case where there is so much style and just enough substance, which makes the series a very pleasurable experience. The music in the series is top notch, with a catchy theme song and background music. You too will catch yourself singing “shoobie doobie doo, shoobie doobie doo” after seeing the opener a few times. The voice acting is also fantastic. Since it is set in England, most of the actors have an authentic British accent. The notable exception is Alucard himself who is voiced by none other than CRISPIN FREEMAN. Yes, I love Crispin Freeman, and no, I’m not gay. It’s scary going from watching Strawberry Eggs, where he is a nice, sensitive guy, to this, where he is an evil (in a good way) vampire from Hell. The art is fantastic as well. As stated before, it is very stylish, and since it’s about nasties like vampires and ghouls, most of the colors are very muted. Alucard stands out greatly with his red ensemble, and his black and white guns (yea, kinda like Devil May Cry, except COOLER). One note of warning though: this show is NOT for kids. It is very violent and VERY vulgar in some episodes. There is even a fair amount of sexual references, though no nudity. So put the kids to bed, turn out the lights, and watch Alucard kick some ass.

Props to my Homies! (aka Plugs)

Joseph Stanley is back, as he is every week, with his fantastic Weekend Wipe-Up. This week, he talks about the PS3, Sonic and professionals who get paid lots of money to do research that is completely and totally obvious. I wish I could get a job like that.

After that, check out Ron Yip’s SimColumn News Report, where he proves he’s a team player by coming in even though he’s sick. Way to go man, and hope you feel better soon.

Then read Bebito Jackson’s Rumor Down-Lo where he posts a letter from me, along with some of those rumors he does. He didn’t do any links though, I guess since he got so much shit for the metal thing. Oh, and just so you know, I knew it was spelled medal, I just put it as metal since I thought you did it intentionally, so next time you should ACT like you did it intentionally, to be unique and stuff, you know? By the way, you spend way too much time with that monkey! (just kidding man!)

And as always, finish off your week by reading Bryan Berg (*checks the page to make sure, whew, got it right) and Chris Pankonin (if he’s not too busy or on vacation again). Ya know, Bryan, I may just start calling you BB, or Br_an B_rg. How’s that sound? (Just kidding).

Reno has a nice review of Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, this is a game I’d like to check out, and even more so now.

And since I’m a bastard, I’ll give myself MORE self-promotion, especially now that the page is up. Read my scathing (well, scathing for me anyway) review of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. It was one of the main articles on the main 411mania page, and was the big one on the games section for a while, which I think is pretty cool. So read it, and keep in mind that I can usually find something to like in every game, but this one didn’t have anything of that sort.

Well, another week has come and gone, so I must bid you adieu. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading the column as much as I do writing it. I’m having so much fun that I doubt you guys will be able to get rid of me! HAHAHAHAHA!! My plan for world domination is finally coming to fruition! Errr, time for my meds. I’ll seeya next week.