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This rant wasn't inspired by any particular occurrence, nor is everything in it based on my personal experience-- a lot of it comes from talking to other people that I know in various industries, and yes, that is particularly the "geek" industries.

That said: everyone in the world whines about SOME facet of their job, no matter what it is. It's boring. They have a difficult boss. They don't get paid enough. It's hard. It's exhausting. Whatever. But I know I'm not alone in feeling sometimes like I'm not allowed to participate in these conversations because I do something that I love. And I feel that way because people will-- usually jokingly, good-naturedly --respond by saying something to the effect of "yeah, poor baby, you get to write about anime all day."

I'm not going to go on into the specifics of what I do every day or anything like that, but I wanted to break what appears to be news to some people:

Working a job that you love is easily twice as hard as working in one you're ambivalent about. (I won't get into arguments about whether it's harder than working a job you despise.)

And the main reason why? Is because you actually give a damn about the results of what you're doing. Which propels you to work 60-hour weeks without being asked, which makes you put forward your best effort, and...which makes you get upset when it sometimes feels like the world is arranging itself to make doing what you want as difficult as possible.

I am completely and utterly lucky to be able to do what I do. I love it and wouldn't give it up for the world. That doesn't mean it's not difficult, and sometimes it can be very trying and frustrating.

So, next time your friend who is an anime marketer-- your cousin who translates manga --your mother's friend who inks comics --or anyone else in this field says they're exhausted, do us all a favor: let 'em have their moment to whine. Mmkay?
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SUPER-CON IN DOWNTOWN SAN JOSE MAY 16 & 17!
Strong Guest List and Size Place Super-Con Among Top U.S. Comics Conventions

New Guests Announced! Margot Kidder, Darick Robertson, Whilce Portacio and Huberto Ramos 

THE EVENT On Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17, the fourth annual Super-Con brings the biggest and brightest stars of comics, sci-fi, and pop culture to the San Jose Convention Center's South Hall. 

SUPER GUESTS (Visit www.super-con.com for a complete, up-to-the-minute list):
Super-Con's impressive guest list of comics professionals places it among the top fan-friendly conventions in the U.S.:

Newest additions:

  • Margot Kidder, Lois Lane in the first four Superman movies with Christopher Reeve, Kidder has appeared in almost 100 TV and movie roles including Smallville.
  • Darick Robertson, best known for Transmetropolitan.
  • Whilce Portacio, amazing artist and inker for such books as Wetworks and Spawn.
  • Humberto Ramos, known for work on X-Men and Spider-Man.
  • Anime Guests, voice artists for anime's popular Full Metal Alchemist and Hellsing.
  • Sergio Aragones, writer/artist, Groo, MAD, Bat Lash and Will Eisner's The Spirit.
  • Travis Charest, cover artist; WildC.A.T.s, Metabarons, Star Wars art.
  • Howard Chaykin, American Flagg, City of Tomorrow, Hawkgirl.
  • Frank Cho, Liberty Meadows, Avengers, Shanna the She-Devil.
  • Bruce Dern, Oscar-nominated actor, star of film and TV, including Silent Running, Great Gatsby, and Big Love. First comic book convention appearance.
  • Sean “Cheeks” Galloway, Spider-Man animated.
  • Michael Golden, Doctor Strange, Micronauts, Nightwing.
  • Adam Hughes, cover artist; Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Tomb Raider.
  • Joe Jusko, painter of Tomb Raider, Tarzan, Vampirella, numerous trading cards series.
  • Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca in the Star Wars trilogy.
  • Bill Morrison, co-founder of Bongo Comics, publisher of The Simpsons comic books.
  • Eduardo Risso, 100 Bullets, Batman: Broken City.
  •  John Wesley Shipp, The Flash, Emmy-winning actor.
  • Marina Sirtis, Star Trek's Deanna Troi.
  • Arthur Suydam, Marvel Zombies, Conan, Batman, Death Dealer.
  • Jane Weidlin, the Go-Go's, VH1's The Surreal Life.

    And many, many more! 

    HIGHLIGHTS Super-Con 2009 features panels, Q&A discussions with special guests, displays, and presentations by icons and industry leaders. The 4th annual Super-Con Cosplay Contest allows those daring souls to roam the convention hall in costume (providing photo opportunities galore) before the formal costume contest pits hero vs. hero. The Art Auction allows conventioneers to bid on one-of-a-kind pieces of art created especially for the auction by our super guests. In all, Super-Con has over 80,000 square feet of space to play with this year, so expect more excitement than ever, plus a great array of comic book, anime, and specialty toy vendors! Full convention programming info is at www.super-con.com. 

    WHEN Saturday, May 16: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 17: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

    WHERE San Jose Convention Center, South Hall, 425 S. Market St., San Jose.

    I-880 and I-101 are less than a five-minute drive from the Center, which also has free weekend parking in the rear and nearby underground lots. Special rates at the San Jose Marriott are available to Super-Con guests (a limited block of rooms have been set aside for Super-Con). 

    ADMISSION Tickets for Super-Con are $20 for a one-day pass or $30 for a two-day pass. Tickets may be purchased three ways: 1) at the door on event day; 2) online at www.super-con.com; and 3) in advance at your local comic book retailer. Advance tickets purchased online or from your local comic book retailer will receive a $5 discount. Additionally, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in uniform, and other attendees in costume are eligible for a discount. 

    FOR MORE INFORMATION Visit www.super-con.com, or email supercon@super-con.com. 

    ABOUT US The fourth annual Super-Con is brought to Bay Area fans by a group of local comics professionals and fans.

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You know, when I come up with these I always imagine them as horizontal strips...but then it always winds up making more sense for it to be vertical. People hate scrolling sideways; people are used to scrolling up and down. Go fig.

Note: in the second panel, read the lower bubble first. Gonna have to work on text bubble placement, clearly.

I can just picture some of the people out there trying to perform a citizen's arrest on a fansubber. On the other hand, some of the subbers out there are pretty goddamn ridiculous too. 

What a world.
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Its been clear for the past few months that GACKT is interested in playing a villain or hopefully a Rider in Decade`s 2009 movie. But now rumors are actually showing up that he might have gotten his way. (closes his ears to protect himself from the awful fan girl squeals) If that`s true he`ll be on the side of the evil Great Shocker organization who have been a pain in the neck for several Riders in the Showa era.(maybe even as the Great Leader)
Yep that`s one dangerous guys alright starting all those evil organizations
Yep that`s one dangerous guys alright starting all those evil organizations
So that`s a good reason for the non-rider fans to watch it and also with the comeback of those legendary Kamen Riders it will be save to for us true fans to assume that this is gonna be the most awesome Kamen Rider movie EVER!!!!! :D

PS: yes i went lazy and used a part of my earlier post in that thread :P
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Kara no Kyoukai: Oblivion Recorder due out JULY 29TH.


Order your copy NAOW!!!
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What does this mean? IMAX your life in just a few hours.
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Hey Guys, Im going to start doing weekly reviews for some Manga. Since 446 is due out TODAY I was going to start with 445 and maybe a bonus review of 446 later this week. Naruto will not be the only reviews I will be doing on a weekly basis I will pick random Manga's and just knock this up for fun.

Okay where to start with this 0_o, I guess from the start. Now the thing that has been annoying me for awhile has been most of us know Peins past and who he is. Do we really need a whole back drop again. We could have just fast fowarded to how he became so powerful rather then when he was with Yahiko. This is all explained to us way back during the flash backs with Jiy before his death. I like the focus on Yahiko and how it was him that put the idea into peins head, but still there was no need for this pointless flash back. Which in honesty could have been summed up in a few pages rather then 17. I mean we all know whats coming, one of those famous Naruto speeches that will take another 17 pages about how his pain and how him and Pein are alike, which will then lead to a battle no doubt. This was a three out of ten, Once again I found the Naruto art abit lacking this week, The detail was very low and the back drops was just open space almost all the time, way to rasie the bar on the art, I was hoping for something a bit more before they had that week's break in between 445 and 446.

Page 15 below was about the hight of the whole thing, we get to see three greats facing off against Hanzo. I would have been happier for the story to lead on after Jiy had left them rather then before, that is the real mystery to us readers. What happend after their training and when the Konoha Ninjas pulled out. How did Pein become the way he is. I know this is a build up but is it one we need or is it just more Naruto self indulgent rubbish. Saldy I think its the latter. in a round up poor story and dialog, mixed with weak art makes this a very poor read.

 

Hope you enjoyed the read. Im happy to take suggestion to what to review next week.

Page 15
Page 15


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Now let do the worst anime list. Warning some spoilers in this.

Heres mine 1 though 10.

#1. Mazinkaiser. When I finish watching this piece of garage. I was glad it was over with. I also glad that it was with the on the DVD packs that comes with Newtype magazine and I glad I didn't buy the first DVD.
 






#2. Angel Cop. The sad thing about this anime is that it had a good plot point to start off with infighting within Japan goverment officals with people that have the power that be and just ran itself into the ground.  Not all anime that have to do with Japanese infighting end up like Patlabor 2. 









#3. Mirage of Blaze. Let's just the showed things in this anime you wouldn't see in most if not all rated R movies in the US.






#4. Betterman. More like Bettercrap. The ending in this one was really dumb.











#5. Blue Gender. I so sick and tried of animes that say the USA would be destroyed by the Blue in this anime and somehow people would still be alive in Japan. With their no military to speak of and no guns anywhere in site. Also the way people were acting on the space station. After watching them for a awhile you almost want the Blue to win. A mean all their morals were out the window. I would hope if mankind was about to die we wouldn't act like that.






#6. Super Duper Sumos. Doesn’t the name say it all.










#7. Super Milk-Chan Show . This one really gets me angry about is one is that Adult Swim starting showing this on their channel a few years ago and I was thinking to myself that their are so many other comedies anime out their they could so that were much better than this. Like Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, His and Her Circumstances and Love Hina. Hell even the Fuccons would be a step up if just a small one. Fuccons is also right up Adult Swim alley.




#8. Final Fantasy Unlimited. I just love all these Final Fantasy anime shows that have nothing to do with Final Fantasy video games what so ever. Except for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. 









#9. Heat Guy J. The first five esp. were really good. It has to with these cops in the future named Daisuke Aurola and Heat Guy J a robot and it was cool for awhile. Then half-way though the show you fine out that their are only eight city cities left on earth and that their aliens that watch over the last remaining cities and I'm like WTF!!!!!!  I hope Funimation knows what their are getting into.







#10. Street Fighter V the anime TV show. Don't mix this up with Street Fighter II the anime Movie. The first anime about street fighter and I say the best . Anyways back to the bad Street Fighter show. First of all when Ryu learns about the Fire ball he keep moving this hands for about 23 minutes in till he fires it. I mean come on. In another scene in the show when Chun Li put under a love spell by Vega. Which in it self is pretty stupid, but that not even the worst part. They keep showing her under spell by showing her face and then going to another part of the show and then she sitting in the same place again doing nothing and this goes on for about 6 more times and your like. O.K. we get it she under Vega spell. Their are so many parts like that in this anime you want to throw you T.V out the window.


You think by reading all this on hating anime that don't like, but it's the opposite of that. I love anime. I just don't like the bad ones.
 

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he is one of the potential love interests of the protagonist Hino Kahoko. He is from the Music Department of Seiso Academy, the school in which the series is set in, and is a 3rd year Student. He is extremely popular (to the point of having his own group of devoted fans) and has a very good reputation in the school. He's one of the contestants in the series' musical competition; playing the flute. He is shown to be very close friends with Hihara Kazuki, his classmate who's also a contestant in the concours.

Statistics

First Name: Azuma
Last Name: Yunoki
Age: 18 years old
Birthday: 18 June
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Bloodtype: AB
Height: 172 cm or 5'6")
Instrument: Flute
Current Family: Parents, Grandparents, 2 older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister
School Year: 3rd Year B Group
Favorite Song: Gabriel Fauré's Après un Rêve (according to the 1st game)
First Appearance: Episode 1 (Anime), Chapter 1 (Manga)

[edit] Music

These are the songs he's played in the concours.

First Selection: Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No.1~I.Morning Mood
Second Selection: Massenet: Meditation from "Thaïs"
Third Selection: J.S. Bach: Partita for Solo Flute in A minor, BMV1013~IV.Bourrée anglaise (Anime), Tomaso Albinoni: Adagio (Manga)
Fourth Selection: Sergei Rachmaninov: Vocalise (Anime)

[edit] Background

Yunoki Azuma was born as the third son to the Yunoki family which gains its prestige from the Business Industry, and because of this, since Azuma was a child, he had been raised and instructed to maintain a good appearance and become a support for his brothers; though it also appears that he should not outshine them in any way, judging from how he was told to quit the piano when he showed progress above one of his brothers and later took up the flute instead.

As he is a student in the Music Department of the school, people would assume that he would continue on to pursue a career in the Music Industry but that is not the case. He’s merely pursuing the musical career until the end of High School and according to his grandmother can only regard it as a ‘hobby’ before he must continue on to study a major in college that would benefit his family’s business and assist his elder brothers.

He excels both musically and academically and is shown to occasionally help out the student committee's works, though it doesn't seem that he's part of the student council itself.

[edit] Personality

Throughout the story, Yunoki Azuma is shown to have two sides to his personality; a ‘White’ personality that he publicly display to his peers and what we see from the beginning of the series, which is that of a charming, considerate, and ‘princely’ character, and a ‘Black’ personality that he shows to Hino Kahoko and we only see from volume 4 of the manga onwards (He shows his "Black" side to Hino at the end of Episode 11 and the first minute in Episode 12), this personality is similar to that of an antagonist in a way that he is deceiving everyone and picks on Hino whenever they’re alone. It is assumed by Hino that the ‘Black’ personality is his true identity, though after meeting his grandmother and learning about the constraints and burdens he holds towards his family, Hino starts questioning whether if that’s really the case.

[edit] Relationships

Hihara Kazuki : Kazuki is Azuma's classmate and is shown to be his best and possibly only close friend. They first met before the school's opening ceremony in their first year; Kazuki assuming that Azuma was his senior and asking him for directions before he later found that Azuma was the student representative for the new students, and it appears they've been friends ever since.

Hino Kahoko: Kahoko is the main protagonist of the series, and Yunoki was one of her possible love interests in the dating simulation game. In the manga and anime, Kahoko's personality and her view of the world slowly attracts Azuma to her, to the point that she's the only one he's revealed his dark side too. While he passes off his flirtatious bullying and harassment towards her as 'teasing' and jokes, he evidently shows jealousy and disdain when he learns that she asked Tsukimori and Hihara to go on a 'date' to the amusement park with her before she asked him (Referenced from the 35th chapter of the manga). He usually refers to her as 'Hino-san' in front of others and simply 'Hino' in private (He eventually refers to her as 'Kahoko' occasionally later in the anime).

Yunoki Miyabi: Miyabi is his younger sister, and the only one of Azuma's siblings that is introduced thus far. She is shown to care about her brother's well being.

Takashina Ayano: One of Azuma's omiai candidates, she was fascinated by him as a child and became determined to become his wife. Azuma, however, isn't really keen on that idea and enlist Kahoko's help to dissuade her by passing Kahoko off as h


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No, just no!! Zac Efron should NEVER be Light! First, I have absolutely no idea if he could do a good job for the role (so I'm actually kinda neutral about that aspect, but meh). SECOND, I don't feel like being reminded of High School Musical if I were to see a Death Note movie!! x__x That would be sooo lame. (Selfishness noted.)
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So we have decided to take the Whiskey Developer Podcast (The Speakeasy) in a new direction. In the upcoming podcasts (and related blog posts) we'll be talking more about code and the tools and tricks we're using to help us build our sites. Along with each podcast, we'll be publishing code snippets and examples to help listeners follow along and hopefully use/discuss the code we're releasing. The goal being, to give the community a deeper understanding of the technology we use to build our sites and to help budding developers grow 

In this podcast, we discuss how we go about setting up the data structures for our sites - as well as how we use Python and Django to abstract a number of repetitive tasks in the process. We also talk about the current projects each of us are currently working on, as well as what you can expect from the team in the near future.

The associated code samples (and all future code samples) are hosted at GitHub.

The Podcast:

The Source Code:


As a side note - Dave's audio gets a little wonked up about halfway through the podcast (I'm still trying to nail it all down) -- so bear w/ us :)

Enjoy... and as always, we welcome all feedback and questions.
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He looks the part, I'm not arguing that. Does he have the chops? Light's not the most complicated character out there in movie-land, even if he is more layered than your average teen movie hero. So it's plausible.

But I don't relish the idea of having to sit with all his screechy little fangirls in a movie theater for two hours.

...If I wanted that, I'd spend more time at YaoiCon.
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"50 Hottest Sci-Fi Women" feature on UGO
"50 Hottest Sci-Fi Women" feature on UGO





I was checking the mail on my domain and saw the above sponsored link tonight. I clicked on it and was taken to a page-by-page photo feature (I HATE THOSE!) on UGO called "50 Hottest Sci-Fi Women" from last November. Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop was #44 [link] and desired for being "strong in all the right ways" and "not just a steteotypical anime chick". The only video-game character was Samus Aran at #8 [link].





















Among the "Related Features" in the sidebar was
"Top 50 Animated Hotties" and being curious, I clicked down that trail. The earliest comment is from December 8th so I'm guessing that's when the feature appeared. Each entry explained "what makes her hot" and "who should play her" if there were a live-action adaptation. Anime characters took 11 spots: Maya Natsume from Tenjho Tenge (#4), Kei and Yuri from Dirty Pair (#11), Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon (#12), Faye from Bebop (#16 - with text & image copy-pasted from the Sci-Fi Women feature! Lazy UGO!) , female Ranma from Ranma 1/2 (#20), Asuka from Evangelion (#28), Ryoko from Tenchi Muyo (#31), Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell (#35), Saya from Blood: The Last Vampire (#37), Trixie from Speed Racer (#45), and Agatha June/Princess from Battle of the Planets/G-Force (#47). [Chun-Li from Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (#15) and Tifa Loveheart from FF VII: Advent Children (#10) were also listed but I consider them to be primarily video game characters.]

Characters I'd never heard of before were Holli Would from Cool World (#3), Kimberly from Space Ace (#18), Firestar from Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends (#22), Taarna from Heavy Metal (#33), M'Ress from Star Trek: The Animated Series (#36), and Kylie Griffin from Extreme Ghostbusters (#38).

Personally, I don't care for UGO's young male demographic bent but I would include Motoko, Asuka, and Faye among some of my favorite female anime characters, although there are some others I like more (e.g., Saki, Genshiken; Mireille, Noir, et al.)
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"Parallel universe or alternative reality is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with one's own." - Wikipedia

Rebooting a franchise is difficult, especially one with such a history and fandom as the Star Trek fandom. One needs a thick skin and a love for the franchise and the fandom. J. J. Abrams has definitely proven that love and care over the course of two hours that is the new Star Trek, which manages to start a completely new thread of story telling that old fans know nothing about without screwing up what they already know (already no small feat) while still paying a faithful homage to the original (perhaps an even larger feat). All the while, Abrams creates a fun and entertaining movie that is easily accessible and doesn't require intense experience of the franchise to understand or enjoy (probably the largest feat overall).

Besides, it's not the first time the franchise has played with alternate realities. Mirror universe, anyone?

Abrams and his writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman manage to create fun-filled and entertaining ride while simultaneously remaining unshackled by and utilizing the original Star Trek canon. The story is eventful and action-packed, but it has meaning aside from being a simple summer blockbuster. Indeed, the Federation and the galazy are in danger again, and it's up to Kirk and crew to save it both once more and for the first time.

Is this confusing anyone? Time travel tends to do that. Don't think about it too hard and enjoy the movie.

Back to Kirk and crew, you'll find many of the actors doing their roles incredible justice. The three that particularly come to mind are Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Anton Yelchin (Chekov). You'll almost have a hard time believing they aren't the incarnations of the late Deforest Kelly and James Doohan and the thankfully still-with-us Walter Koening while they are also able to stand independent of their seniors in their roles. Zachary Quinto of Heroes fame does a great job of Spock as well, made all the more intriguing with Leonard Nemoy actually Spock as well, giving two different takes on the same character that both fit incredible well. Chris Pine does a good job capturing the essence of Kirk, as does Zoe Saldana with Uhura, but they don't seem to adapt their senior actor's performances as much as they make the parts their own. It does not detract from the movie or their roles, however, as they perform just as well as everyone and make their parts believable (some heavy-handed romance not withstanding).

With the villain of the movie, Nero (played by Eric Bana), his actions and mannerisms seem befitting someone with his situation and experience. He is not a great military tacticion, instead acting out of emotion. This brings a slightly-more unbridled fury not typically seen in major Star Trek villains that tend to be more cold and calculating. This does not seem out of sync with the franchise though as his origin and methodology fits in quite well. It is a turn to the more action orientation this film has over some previous films. However, Nero's rage and the subsequent battles that stem from it are very fitting.

And of course, one cannot forget the most important member of the franchise: the NCC-1701 USS Enterprise. She's pretty. Very pretty. There's a lot of nice shots of the ship in space, in combat and generally in any sort of action or just being stationed. She seems a faithful redesign of the original. The sets of the interior (and the technology overall) do a good job maintaining something that would look futuristic to us but not too futuristic in the Trek time line. Be warned though for those with intimate Trek ship design knowledge, I can't speak to the sets staying to scale inside the ship there they would actually fit, although talking with friends tell me that might be just as on par with the original series as most everything else.

Now in full disclosure, I consider myself a Star Trek fan. I'm not to the caliber of many people I know, especially not with an encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise or the technical data of every ship. Aside from Enterprise though, I have seen either a good majority, if not all, of every series and movie ever since I was watching The Next Generation as it aired on television. I used to run around as a little kid with a little TNG Starfleet emblem stuck on my shirt and even made my own cardboard Enterprise-D set for my action figures.

Speaking as a fan of the franchise, I enjoyed this movie and its faithfulness to the characters and the overall story. Speaking as someone who typically enjoys summer blockbusters, this won't disappoint and does not require heavy Trek experience to understand or enjoy. This summer will be packed with blockbusters from pre-existing franchises, such as Transformers: Rise of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. With any luck, they'll be just as accessible and entertaining while full of fan service as Star Trek is. I recommend seeing this movie.
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http://moonstorm.podomatic.com/entry/2009-05-07T14_22_22-07_00
The week me and lunermoth talk bout Japan's plan to promote anime overseas.
San Francisco is going to get one cool building the summer.
There more trouble in the anime world with BEI and broccoli but ADV make a save and Kodansha is bringing a classic back.
Is this all because some bubble has burst.
Next up will the US Death Note be bad or awesome.
Cruchyroll gives some translators a chance and gives of some Gundam 00 love.
Then how do you manage a 48 member band? Check out some of Takashi Murakami other work.
Also why haven't anyone incensed library wars.
We also admire some vary hot figures.
Give a shout out the HeeroYuy for wining this weeks Userday. A meh to moot and a grate AMV by Aceofclub5.
News on Spice and Wolf II OP and ED
Finally SPJA Finalist.
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ANIME EXPO® ANNOUNCES KARI WAHLGREN AS AN OFFICIAL 2009 AMERICAN GUEST OF
HONOR

Nation¹s Largest Anime and Manga Convention Welcomes Voice Actress of FLCL,
LUCKY STAR, BLOOD+, WITCH HUNTER ROBIN, SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, WOLF¹S RAIN, LAST
EXILE, EUREKA 7, SCRAPPED PRINCESS, IGPX: IMMORTAL GRAND PRIX, NARUTO,
ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, STEAMBOY and Many More!

Anaheim, California (May 5, 2009) ‹ Anime Expo® is proud to announce Ms.
Kari Wahlfren as an official Guest of Honor of the nation¹s largest anime
and manga convention held July 2-5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Convention
Center. More information can be found on the website www.anime-expo.org
<http://www.anime-expo.org> .

Ms. Wahlgren has entertained millions of anime audiences. First as the
Vespa-riding, guitar-bashing Haruko in FLCL. Since then, she has played a
number of significant anime roles including Kagami in LUCKY STAR, Saya in
BLOOD+, Robin in WITCH HUNTER ROBIN, Fuu in SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, Cher in WOLF¹S
RAIN, Lavie in LAST EXILE, Anemone in EUREKA 7, Pacifica in SCRAPPED
PRINCESS, Satomi and Luca the Cat in IGPX: IMMORTAL GRAND PRIX, and Tayuya
in NARUTO. Ms. Wahlgren also provided the voice of Ariel in the movie
³Robotech: the Shadow Chronicles,² Scarlett in the anime feature ³Steamboy,²
and the Princess in the movie ³Naruto: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow.²

Ms. Wahlgren has also done voicework for a number of video games including
Prince of Persia, Final Fantasy: Dirge of Cerebus, Dead or Alive Extreme 2,
Spiderman II, Justice League Heroes and James Bond: From Russia with Love.
Other games that Ms. Wahlgren worked on include Tales from Symphonia, Metal
Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Tekken 5, Command and Conquer III, Star Wars: the
Force Unleashed, Star Wars: Empire at War, Star Wars Episode III: Return of
the Sith, Armored Core IV, Guild Wars III and IV, Transformers, and all
three games in the Xenosaga series.

Ms. Wahlgren is also active in original animation; she plays Emma Frost in
the animated ³Wolverine and the X-Men² series, she provided the voices of
Li¹l Condi and Li¹l Hillary on season 2 of Comedy Central¹s ³Li¹l Bush² and
was Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl/ Duo Damsel and Shrinking Violet on the
Kids WB¹s ³Legion of Superheroes.² Ms. Wahlgren also voices the role of
Jeera on Nickelodeon¹s ³Tak and the Power of Juju² and played Nova, the
Yellow Monkey, in ³Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!² Ms. Wahlgren has
appeared on Ben 10, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Kim Possible,
Disney¹s feature films ³BOLT² and ³The Little Mermaid III² and Dreamwork¹s
³Shrek III.²

Ms. Wahlgren joins Daisuke Ishiwatari, Toshimichi Mori and Morning Musume as
official Anime Expo® 2009 Guests of Honor.

Attendees, Press and Industry Members are also encouraged to view the video
coverage site of the 2008 convention at www.AXBackstage.org
<http://www.AXBackstage.org> .

Red & Black Sponsors include: FUNimation, Silver Sponsors include: Anime
News Network and Digital Manga Press, Patron Sponsors include: COPIC,
Central Park Media and The Right Stuf, Media Sponsors include: ImaginAsian
TV, Animation Magazine, Anime Insider Magazine and Anime News Network.


About Anime Expo®
Located in Los Angeles, California - Anime Expo®, the nation¹s largest
anime/manga convention, serves to foster trade, commerce and the interests
of the general public and animation/ comics industry. This event serves as a
key meeting place for the general public to express their interest and
explore various aspects of anime/manga, as well as for members of the
industry to conduct business. AX 2009 will be held July 2 ­ July 5, 2009 at
the Los Angeles Convention Center in Southern California. More information
can be found at its website (www.anime-expo.org).

About Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) is a non-profit
organization with a mission to popularize and educate the American public
about anime and manga, as well as provide a forum to facilitate
communication between professionals and fans. This organization is more
popularly known by its entertainment property ­ Anime Expo®. More
information can be found at its website (www.spja.org <http://www.spja.org>
).

| |
VIZ PICTURES TO RELEASE THE DARK ROMANTIC COMEDY HAPPILY EVER AFTER ON DVD 

Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s Award Winning Film About A Married Couple’s Unconventional Relationship Is Based On Popular

Manga Comic  

San Francisco, CA, May 5, 2009 – VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, has announced the DVD release of the live-action feature film - HAPPILY EVER AFTER on May 12th. The DVD will also include the original theatrical trailers, director and cast profiles, and insightful tips on Japanese culture. The DVD will carry a suggested retail price of $24.92 U.S. / $35.99 CAN and will be distributed in North America by VIZ Media.  

To complement the release, VIZ Pictures has launched a HAPPILY EVER AFTER giveaway contest for a prize package that includes the DVD, film poster, a premium Japanese cotton towel, and an Anime Sampler Pack courtesy of The Right Stuf / Nozomi Entertainment. Fans are encouraged to visit www.shojobeat.com/moviepack47 for contest details and online entry forms. 

HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a visually striking romantic comedy from celebrated director, Yukihiko Tsutsumi (Memories of Tomorrow, 20th Century Boys) and based on a popular manga (graphic novel) series created by Yoshiie Gouda that has sold more than half a million copies in Japan. The film stars popular comedic leading man Hiroshi Abe and actress Miki Nakatani, who drew international acclaim for her role in TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO (also available on DVD from VIZ Pictures). 

In this heart-warming film, Yukie (Miki Nakatani) works hard at a noodle shop and struggles to make ends meet, while her husband Isao (Hiroshi Abe) hangs around all day gambling and getting into trouble. On top of everything, Isao's uncontrollable temper often results in the dinner table getting overturned and their meal on the floor. Everyone advises Yukie to leave Isao, but her love for him is unconditional because he was the one who initially saved her from misery with his unconditional love. Miki Nakatani won the 31st Japanese Academy Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Yukie. 

“Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s unflinching camera style captures the drama of the strife this couple encounters, as well as the many comedic moments that will incite laughs and tears with equal measure,” says Seiji Horibuchi, President and CEO of VIZ Pictures. “Despite the many struggles this couple faces, they always manage to face adversity with laughter and ultimately remain in each other’s hearts. We look forward to this unique film resonating with domestic audiences.” 

About VIZ Pictures, Inc.

Based in San Francisco, CA, VIZ Pictures, Inc. distributes Japanese live-action films and DVDs, with particular focus on Japanese "kawaii (cute) and cool" pop culture. VIZ Pictures approaches each release from a J-pop fan's point of view to serve manga and anime generation in North America. VIZ Pictures titles include DEATH NOTE, KAMIKAZE GIRLS, LINDA LINDA LINDA, PING PONG, THE TASTE OF TEA, TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO and others. The company will continue to offer the hottest visual entertainment straight from the "Kingdom of Pop" for audiences of all ages in North America. VIZ Pictures, Inc. is an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC, the San Francisco-based leading U.S. publisher of Japanese manga (comics) and merchandise licensor of Japanese animation such as the popular "NARUTO" animated TV series. For more information please visit www.viz-pictures.com or www.viz.com. 

| |

IRASSHAIMASE! ANIME EXPO® 2009 ANNOUNCES ANIMAID CAFÉ TO DEBUT AT THIS YEAR¹S CONVENTION

Nation¹s Largest Anime and Manga Convention Looking for Maids & Hosts

Anaheim, California (May 6, 2009) ‹ Ever imagined or wanted to experience
the maid cafes of Akihabara, Japan in the U.S.? After much anticipation and
planning, Anime Expo® 2009 is proud to present its first ever Maid Café at
the nation¹s largest anime and manga convention held July 2-5, 2009 at the
Los Angeles Convention Center. More information can be found on the website
www.anime-expo.org <http://www.anime-expo.org> .

Hosted by the Funky Fresh Cosplay Group, AniMaid Café is an event you will
not want to miss! The AniMaid Café caters to all guests with both Maids and
Hosts. Enjoy the evening with food, drinks, live performances, fun
interactive games, contests, prizes, merriment and much more! Don¹t miss
out on your chance to be a ³master² at the nation¹s largest anime and manga
convention.

The AniMaid Café is also looking for volunteer Maids and Hosts!

Volunteers assist with serving of guests and looking after certain areas.
Interested individuals/parties are encouraged to apply and final decisions
will be maid by the AniMaid Café management staff. Requirements are as
follows:

· Must be at least 18 years of age or older
· Must have a great personality and works well with others
· Must be in good health (in order to participate in live events)
· Must be willing the make/buy his/her own Maid/Host outfits (subject to
approval by the AniMaid Café management staff and must be in line with the
Anime Expo® dress code)
· Must be able to make meetings for trainings (Most trainings will be
conducted in the Southern California region consisting of Los Angeles and/or
Orange County areas)

Interested individuals/parties should send an email correspondence to
animaidcafe@yahoo.com with basic information about themselves and a picture.
Further information will be provided upon receipt of initial application.

Attendees, Press and Industry Members are also encouraged to view the video
coverage site of the 2008 convention at www.AXBackstage.org
<http://www.AXBackstage.org> .

Red & Black Sponsors include: FUNimation, Silver Sponsors include: Anime
News Network and Digital Manga Press, Patron Sponsors include: COPIC,
Central Park Media and The Right Stuf, Media Sponsors include: ImaginAsian
TV, Animation Magazine, Anime Insider Magazine and Anime News Network.


About Anime Expo®
Located in Los Angeles, California - Anime Expo®, the nation¹s largest
anime/manga convention, serves to foster trade, commerce and the interests
of the general public and animation/ comics industry. This event serves as a
key meeting place for the general public to express their interest and
explore various aspects of anime/manga, as well as for members of the
industry to conduct business. AX 2009 will be held July 2 ­ July 5, 2009 at
the Los Angeles Convention Center in Southern California. More information
can be found at its website (www.anime-expo.org).

About Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) is a non-profit
organization with a mission to popularize and educate the American public
about anime and manga, as well as provide a forum to facilitate
communication between professionals and fans. This organization is more
popularly known by its entertainment property ­ Anime Expo®. More
information can be found at its website (www.spja.org <http://www.spja.org>
).

| |

Chapter nine
Long ago . . .

"Sakumo-san, thank you for coming," the blond Jounin said, stepping back into the office.

"Is everything all right? Kakashi--"

"Is in the yard, with the students. I called you because . . ." He petered off, sitting down at his desk and rubbing his eyes. "Sakumo, Kakashi has started wearing mask. Do you have any idea why?"

"No," Sakumo said, too tired to be truly concerned. "Have you asked him about it?"

The Jounin frowned. "I thought maybe you could ask him. I'm a bit worried about him; I've never had a student quite so--"

"Thank you," Saskumo interrupted, standing. He knew it was rude. He couldn't bring himself to care. This man had implied things about his son--his son, who was brilliant and--and--and now he had something else he had to deal with. He couldn't do all this. "I'll talk to him." He walked out of the office and into the yard.

Kakashi sat alone on a swing under an old tree, watching children play. A long cloth was tied around the lower portion of his face, knotted behind his head.

"Kakashi?" his father called, managing to smile slightly when blue eyes looked up at him. "Come on."

Kakashi got to his feet, very thin and straight. He had tested in the Chuunin exams just a few weeks before; only eight months after becoming a Genin. The Third had put him under the care of one of their younger Jounin, a man that everyone said was a genius. They had no other Genin they could pair a six-year-old with. No one else could compare with Kakashi. Sakumo was proud of his boy, and yet still wondered if his wife had been right. If it wasn't too much, too fast. He felt like he didn't even know his child anymore. The year had been . . . bad.

And now his son was wearing a mask.

They walked in silence for a long while. "Why?" Sakumo asked finally.

Kakashi shrugged.

Silence stretched awkwardly. "I'm very proud of you," Sakumo said after a while.

Kakashi didn't respond.

"We haven't spoken lately." Weeks, since they had had a real conversation. Anything beyond 'good morning' and 'have a nice day.' Sakumo blamed himself. There was no one else to blame. He had isolated them from their village. He had ostracized their entire family. He had become so involved in his own pain that he had forgotten his only child, leaving him almost entirely in the care of a Jounin he barely knew.

He was a failure, but Kakashi was suffering for it.

"Why are you wearing a mask?" Sakumo asked again, the words quiet. He put a hand on his son's arm, stopping him.

The boy--the child, really--pulled away, glaring. "I don't want to look like you. I don't want to see my face, and I don't want the others to see it, either. I hate you, and I hate what you did, and I hate that I look like you."

"Kakashi--" Sakumo started.

"Leave me alone," Kakashi snapped, turning and bolting down the street.

Sakumo almost followed. But--no point. Not in any of it. All he did was bring his child pain. He sat heavily on a bench, his head in his hands.

There was no way out of anything.

**
Now

"So, you were how old when you became a Jounin?" Iruka asked, a note of barely hidden incredulousness in his voice.

Kakashi didn't smile, though it was a chore. He was proud of what he'd accomplished, and it was nice to have someone he actually cared about sound impressed. "Thirteen."

"Huh. And how old when you became ANBU?" Iruka asked again, folding laundry.

That one, Kakashi had to think about. "Seventeen," he said finally. "I'm pretty sure I was seventeen."

"Huh." Iruka folded two towels, setting them on a pile, and reached for a bedsheet. "If you were a Jounin by the time you were thirteen," he said slowly, "who was in your team?"

Kakashi shifted. His limbs still felt vaguely sluggish, and he was getting cold again. It seemed like he slept most of the time, still. "Other Jounin," he said, pulling the blanket up around his legs. Outside, rain pattered against the building, distant and faint. He could taste the burn of ozone, and suspected they might have lightning later.

"Were there other Jounin your age?" Iruka asked. He was frowning at a hole in the sheet, his finger wiggling through it as if that might make it go away.

"Not really. Itachi, but he's a bit younger than me. And we didn't travel in the same circles."

Iruka just looked at him for a moment. Kakashi looked back. Discomfort grew. The impressed look had given way to an entirely too thoughtful one. "Yes?" Kakashi asked, uncomfortable.

"Hmm? Oh, nothing," Iruka said, shaking his head as if rooting himself back in his body, and returning to folding. "I just--well, you and Uchiha Itachi were really the only geniuses that had to grow up alone. The Sannin all had each other, and even still, Orochimaru turned out like he did. I was trying to figure out if there was a difference between those that handled it all right, and those that didn't. It seems like you'd be awfully isolated."

Kakashi frowned behind his mask. "I wasn't isolated."

"So you had friends?" Iruka asked, perking up.

"Well--I didn't need them."

Iruka was looking at him thoughtfully again. "Hmm," he said, and tied two socks together.

"Hmm?" Kakashi asked. He really disliked having someone draw conclusions about him. He drew conclusions about people, not the other way around. Another reason he preferred lying to telling the truth. People didn't make decisions about you.

Outside, thunder growled.

"Nothing." They were silent for a moment.

Kakashi sprawled back out on the couch, feeling sleepy once more. He stared out the window at the setting sun, at the reds splashed across the sky.

"Why do you wear the mask?" Iruka asked.

Kakashi just shrugged. Then he grinned, both eyes curving. "Makes me mysterious."

Iruka snorted and carried the clean clothes to his bedroom, then came back for towels and sheets. He tossed a blanket on the couch and it bounced across, half unfolding over Kakashi's legs. Kakashi pulled it farther up, enjoying the heat.

He was getting tired of being tired all the time. Of being cold, and exhausting easily, and sleeping for most of the day. Especially of this stupid damp storm, which made his bones hurt. Still, he could see the improvement. Taking a shower left him trembling from fatigue, but at least he could get all the way through one without having to sit down.

A few more days.

**

Iruka put the towels away, and walked back into the living room. He could sense Kakashi fading again, could feel the man's chakra ebbing, and knew that he'd be sound asleep in another half hour.

Still, Kakashi roused himself and blinked owlishly. Iruka was getting used to the Sharingan, and the clean scar that marred the smooth flesh around it. He no longer felt the urge to stare. He still wondered, though, why the mask.

Kakashi apparently wasn't willing to answer that question.

"What did you do today?" Kakashi asked, leaning heavily against the arm of the couch.

Iruka headed into the kitchen, talking through the doorway while he prepared dinner. The window was sleeted with rain, making the night even darker. "Oh, mostly work."

"You were home late."

He couldn't quite suppress the grin, and he leaned around the doorway to see Kakashi. "Sorry, honey," he said, near mockingly.

Kakashi snorted a laugh. "Well, Shikamaru's not quite as good company . . ."

"You win at Shougi yet?" Iruka asked, heading farther into the kitchen. He peered into cupboards, wishing he'd gone grocery shopping. But the storm had been threatening, and he hadn't wanted to get caught . . .

"I've won several times, thank you. He's just won more," Kakashi added, in an undertone.

Iruka laughed.

"Where were you?" Kakashi asked again.

"Visiting Mizuki," Iruka answered. He had ramen, mostly left over for Naruto, and some vegetables . . . maybe if he chopped enough vegetables, the ramen would be edible.

"Mizuki? Didn't he try to steal the--"

"Yes," Iruka said, before Kakashi could finish the thought. "He's still in prison. I try and see him at least once a week." The carrots had gone bad. He sighed and tossed them into the garbage. Scratch that idea.

A shadow fell across him, and Iruka looked up to see Kakashi leaning against the doorframe, trying to look nonchalant and still looking very pale. "Didn't he use you?" Kakashi asked.

The kitchen lit up for just a moment, and thunder snarled.

Iruka frowned. "Eventually. But he was a friend, and everyone makes mistakes."

"Most people don't try to kill each other," Kakashi said dryly. "You can't tell me that betrayal didn't hurt you."

Iruka scratched at his forehead. He hated these conversations. "Of course it did. He was my best friend. But everyone's redeemable, Kakashi," he said softly, back turned. "I have to believe that."

Kakashi was silent behind him. "Hn," he said at last.

Maybe they could just order food.

"Want me to cook?"

That was it. They were ordering food. "You go sit down before you fall down," Iruka said, frowning. "I'm going to the place down the street. What do you want?" He pulled a menu off his corkboard and handed it to Kakashi.

Kakashi shook his head. "Order often?"

Iruka didn't bother with an answer.

**

"Why are we talking about this?" Iruka asked, throwing out the pick-up dinner containers before settling back down on the floor with his plate. He could feel his face burning.

"Because it's funny," Kakashi said cheerfully.

"My sex life is not funny," Iruka muttered, only partially annoyed. Even he could see the humorous side, he had to admit.

"No, but your lack of a sex life is hilarious."

He mock-glared at Kakashi. "Isn't virginity supposed to be a turn-on?" he said, his plate in his lap. "Maybe I'm lying just to be sexier."

Kakashi laughed. "But you nearly had sex in a tree." It was almost a question.

Iruka groaned. "You know, when you made Genma stop teasing me, I thought you were going to let this drop."

"I was just making Genma drop it. That doesn't apply to me. So. Sex in a tree?"

"It was just fooling around, thank you," Iruka said, sniffing.

The apartment lit for a brief moment, as another bolt of lightning tore through the sky.

"With Mizuki?"

Iruka eyed Kakashi. "Apparently I have a thing for guys who look old," he said.

"Hey!" Kakashi protested instantly.

Iruka grinned.

"I was born with this hair," Kakashi said.

"So was Mizuki," Iruka answered. "Besides, why are you harassing me? I mean, I somehow doubt you have a secret life as a sex fiend."

Kakashi looked smug. "More than you."

"You don't know how much fooling around I did," Iruka countered.

"I know I'm not a virgin."

Iruka looked at him carefully. Kakashi looked utterly smug. "You're not a virgin?" Iruka asked doubtfully.

Kakashi shook his head.

"You've had sex?"

Kakashi nodded.

Iruka seriously doubted it. "When?" he demanded.

Kakashi hesitated.

"That's what I thought," he said, snorting. "You can't possibly tell me that you, the guy who says he had no friends because he was a Jounin at thirteen, has had sex. You don't even drink, so you couldn't have picked up at a bar."

Kakashi was looking mildly amused, eyes half lidded.

"And since you don't have a peer group--oh, wait, I know," Iruka said, waving his chipsticks in the air. "You had sex on a mission."

Kakashi grinned.

"I've got it!" Iruka said dramatically, standing up and carrying his plate into the kitchen. He still couldn't see out the window; rain was coming down in sheets. "You were on a mission, and something terrible happened, and so you had sympathy sex!"

There was no answer from the other room.

Iruka put his plate in the sink, grabbed a glass of water, and started to wander back out. "Only, you were really young," he said thoughtfully. "Got it! You were scared and got taken advantage of, but it was really okay because--"

He stopped dead in the doorway.

Kakashi wasn't smiling. He wasn't eating. He was staring at the doorway with half-lidded eyes, gaze cold. "I wasn't taken advantage of," he said quietly.

Iruka flinched, and went pale, the meaning of that statement sinking in with the realization that the rest of it hadn't been denied. "Oh. Oh, Kakashi, I'm sorry," he said softly.

Kakashi was sprawled back against the couch, feet propped on the table, gaze still half-lidded and deceptively bored.

"I didn't mean--" Iruka stopped, cringing internally. Of all the stupid things. It wasn't as if people having sex on missions was an uncommon occurrence. Not terribly common, either, but stranger things happened. "I'm really stupid sometimes," Iruka said, half stuttering over his own words.

Kakashi kept looking at him with that disinterested stare. "That's all right," he said casually. "Better to have sympathy sex than to be used and betrayed, and go back for more."

Iruka froze. Better to have sympathy sex than be used. Better, because to be used meant you were weak. To go back to the user was stupid, and foolish, and needy and--and desperate.

Mizuki.

Something tightened in his chest, something hard and cold and painful. Carefully, he picked up Kakashi's dinner plate and carried it back into the kitchen. Better to have sympathy sex then be used. He scraped off what was left of the meal, set it down in the sink, and started to run water. Stupid to allow yourself to be used. Worse to go back to the user.

Mizuki had used him. For sex? To steal? They hadn't been friends. Mizuki admitted it, told him he was foolish and naïve and good for nothing. And yet he kept going back to the man.

He'd hurt Kakashi. That much had been obvious. He hadn't meant to, but--

But--

But what? But he had, so it made Kakashi lashing out all right? It made it all right for Kakashi to say something calculated to hurt? To imply weakness in Iruka? It was effective, that was certain.

Lightning tore through the sky, and in that moment he saw Kakashi's shadow blasted on the wall in front of him. Thunder pealed into the silence.

"I'm sorry." The words were still cold.

Iruka didn't respond. He was shaking. He didn't dare speak.

He heard Kakashi take a deep breath, and step forward. "I didn't mean that."

"Yes, you did," Iruka said. His jaw was so tight it hurt. Better to have sympathy sex then be used. To be used and return was pathetic.

"No. I'm sorry."

He dropped his water glass into the sink, and it shattered. "No, you're not," he snapped, picking out the still-whole base and throwing it toward the trashcan. "You say things like this, and I don't know why you feel a fucking need to say these things--to, what? Get a reaction? I've seen you do this before--hell, you did this to me when you nominated Team Seven for the Chuunin exams! Well, you got a reaction."

He felt the hand more than saw it, and snarled a look over his shoulder. "Don't touch me."

Kakashi pulled away.

Iruka swept up the last of the glass with a towel and tossed all of it into the garbage. Then he turned to face Kakashi.

He was still shaking. "Mizuki was a mistake," he said. "But before that, he was a friend when I needed one. You're just an asshole." He turned back to the sink, hands braced on the counter. "Get out of my kitchen."

"Iruka--"

"Get out!" Iruka yelled. There was a moment of silence. Then he felt Kakashi retreat.

He stared at the running water for a long time. It hurt. He'd hurt Kakashi, but it hadn't been on purpose. That--that had been calculated. And it worked. It brought up all the things that had torn at him when Mizuki had betrayed him. All the insecurities, that he was only good for being used. That Mizuki had only been his friend so he could laugh behind Iruka's back. That he, himself, wasn't worth anything.

Pathetically needy. Used.

"Shit," Iruka hissed. He couldn't stay here.

He looked at the rain out the window, then shut off the water and stormed into his bedroom. He ignored Kakashi, sitting carefully silent on the couch, and changed into sweatpants and shirt.

"I'm going jogging," he said, walking straight through the living room and to the door.

"It's raining."

Iruka didn't answer, just bolted out and slammed the door behind him.

He ran. If he went hard enough and fast enough, maybe the anger would burn out. Maybe he'd forget everything.

His clothing soaked through almost instantly. He kept running, splashing across empty streets and out, away from the people and bright windows. Somewhere dark.

Trees arched overhead. He ran deeper into the shadows, focusing on the uneven ground beneath his feet, the cold rain hitting hot skin, anything but the hurt.

Kakashi didn't know how to be friendly. This wasn't worth it. He'd thought they were friends. Iruka knew people, but somehow it seemed like every time he got close, things went bad.

Maybe there was something wrong with him.

Iruka stopped running. Rain streamed down his back, mingling with sweat. He put his hands on his knees and panted, breathing in gasps. His clothes were plastered to his skin, his flesh pimpling with cold.

When he looked up, he realized he was at the monument. He put a hand out, palm flat on the black stone. It was wet, and cold, and it made him shiver.

His chest hurt from breathing. He rubbed an arm across his face, wiping away moisture. It dripped back in, from his hair, from the rain. One finger traced the names of his parents, shaking. He fell forward slowly, folding his arms across the stone and leaning in, as if they were there. As if he could feel them, somewhere, watching.

"I need help," he whispered. Rain pelted his head, hammering down through his hair, on the back of his neck, on his spine. "I don’t know what to do."

He rolled, dropping his arms and staring up at the sky, leaning back against the monument.

They'd been gone for twelve years. Twelve long years, and suddenly it was like it had been two days. That darkness opened up inside him, nearly swallowing him, and he realized he was crying. Iruka slid to the wet ground, bracing his arms on his knees and resting his head.

He needed them, and they were gone. He'd needed a friend, and Mizuki had used him. Kakashi was right. Kakashi was an asshole, who hurt him. But Kakashi was right.

By the time he'd worn himself out, had berated himself and hated Kakashi and run through the entire gamut of emotions, the storm was fading. He was shivering, his teeth chattering, and he was soaked. Iruka stood, his body protesting, and started the long walk back to his apartment.

He was tired. Bone-weary. It took much longer to get back than it had to run away.

He opened the door and nearly staggered inside.

He froze. Silence reached him, broken by the sound of his teeth knocking. He clenched his jaw to hear over them, and realized what was missing.

Kakashi.

Carefully, he walked through the room, toward the back. The bathroom was empty. So was his bedroom. He looked out the window, at the drizzle still coming down, and remembered the cold. Remembered Kakashi, still struggling with blood loss and minor organ damage, and barely able to even keep his own body heat up.

He shrugged into a coat and ran out the door.

| |

Chapter Eight
Now

"Ow."

Iruka looked up, frowning. "How can you be such a baby?"

"You're pulling my stitches," Kakashi grumbled.

"I'm not pulling your stitches. I'm not even near your stitches," Iruka said, frustrated. He lifted the ball of cotton, preparing to dab antiseptic on the slash along the back of Kakashi's arm.

"Ow."

"I haven't touched you yet!" Iruka exploded.

Kakashi flinched, and looked back over his shoulder. "Sorry."

Iruka took a deep breath. He needed to act like Kakashi was a child. That was all. Just the same way he would treat one of his students.

One of his students who was naked to the waist (with the exception of the mask). Who was very well muscled. Whose skin was crisscrossed and threaded with long, pale scars.

Iruka paused, eyes tracing the mesh of white lines. His mouth had gone dry. "You get injured often?" he asked softly.

Kakashi twisted, peering back farther, shoulders sliding under Iruka's hands. "Sometimes. Not usually badly."

Iruka nodded wordlessly. He touched a knot of flesh, twisted and gnarled, just under one shoulderblade. "How did this happen?"

Kakashi reached back with one long hand, feeling the scar for himself. "Kunai. Moved enough to keep it from getting my spine, but not quite enough to dodge entirely," he said nonchalantly.

Iruka kept staring.

"Iruka?"

"Hmm?" That scar traveled up, under Kakashi's mask. Three more scars traveled across it.

"You all right?"

"Fine," Iruka said absently. His hands slipped, sliding down the indent of Kakashi's spine. Wickedly twisted flesh wrapped around the Jounin's waist, notching over one hip, and vanishing into his pants. Iruka's fingers drifted over what he could see, feeling how the chakra was fainter there than everywhere else. The chakra pathways healed better than skin, but not perfectly. Damage them badly enough, and the person would never recover.

His mother had lain in a hospital bed, her chakra lines cut, bones and nerves shattered and torn. She had slowly faded away into nothingness.

The body under him twisted, and hands grabbed his. Iruka jumped and looked up into mismatched eyes. He blinked several times.

"Are you all right?" Kakashi asked quietly. His eyes flickered back and forth, between Iruka's own.

"Fine," Iruka said after a moment. Then he smiled sheepishly, realizing how distant he'd gotten. "I'm fine. Really. Sorry. I just--I don't--"

"You have scars, too," Kakashi said, smiling and releasing Iruka's hands to tap the bridge of his own nose.

Iruka touched his scar reflexively, then slid back on the couch. "I know. It's not that, I just--" he gestured to Kakashi. With the other man turned to watch him, he could see scars on his chest as well. "Sorry. I'm not used to so many. I mean, not since my parents--" he stopped there. "I'm just not used to it."

Kakashi watched him. "You've been on missions," he said finally. "I'm sure you have a few yourself."

Iruka felt his face turning pink. "Not so many. I haven't really done that many missions."

Kakashi turned his head away, smothering a sudden yawn, then turned back. "Why not? You're a Chunnin. You could do missions."

Iruka shook his head. "I prefer teaching. I like the kids, and I'm good at it. And I really don't like killing people."

Kakashi watched him for a moment more before nodding solemnly. "Some don't." He settled back against the couch, his energy fading. Iruka scooted closer, lifting the man's arm and dabbing antiseptic on the wound inside his elbow.

"Do you ever talk about your parents?" Kakashi asked, almost sleepily.

Iruka glanced at him. He was staring across the room, and Iruka followed his gaze.

A picture of the three of them, before their death, smiled back at him. He looked away. "Not really. Who wants to hear about that?"

Kakashi lifted his shoulders and dropped them again. "My parents died. I'd listen."

Iruka stopped and looked at Kakashi, who was staring right back at him, slouched on the couch. Something niggled in the back of his mind. Something he didn't like about that statement, that he couldn't quite place. After a moment, Iruka stood, bending over Kakashi to reach the rest of the cuts. On his neck, and the back of the man's arm, and various smaller, less dangerous ones, on his torso. He bandaged them wordlessly, then picked up his things and headed into the bathroom to put them away. By the time he came back out, Kakashi was asleep.

**
A long time ago

"I don't understand."

Sakumo sighed and shifted, gathering Kakashi's knees in one hand and pulling him more snugly into his lap.

"Is it because I joined the academy?"

There was a bare pause. Not long. But long enough.

Kakashi swallowed and stared hard at his knees. "I know Mother doesn't want me to be a ninja. I can stop. I won't be a ninja anymore."

"It's not because you joined the academy," his father said quietly.

Too late, though; the silence said everything. His mother was gone, and Kakashi knew why. He remembered them fighting. They fought about it a lot.

"It's not because of that," his father said again.

Kakashi squirmed until his father let him down. He stood in front of the man, looking up at him solemnly. "I'll quit."

"No," Sakumo said loudly.

Kakashi's eyes widened. He'd never heard his father talk to him like that.

"Kakashi . . ." Sakumo wilted, elbows on his knees. "Kakashi, something very bad has happened with your mother. She's going to live in a different place now."

"Very bad?" Kakashi asked softly. Suddenly, he wanted to cry. "Will she be okay?"

"She'll be fine," his father said, refusing to look up from his hands. "But she can't live with us anymore."

"Can I see her?" Kakashi asked.

Sakumo hesitated. "When you're older," he said finally.

Kakashi stared at him, as if he could divine the truth from what his father was saying. Finally, though, he had to concede defeat. "Promise?" he asked softly. He wouldn't cry. He wouldn't do anything like that. He was strong. He was going to be a ninja.

"Promise."

**
Now

It had been bothering Iruka all day, and it wasn't until he saw Genma snap his toothpick in two--though why that triggered his memory, he had no idea--that he realized what it was.

"My parents died," Kakashi had said.

"Just wait," Genma had said, "the next thing he'll tell you is that his mother is dead."

Iruka took a deep breath as his temper rose, snarling through his blood. There had to be a reason. A misunderstanding. Maybe Genma was wrong. Maybe Kakashi had meant his father was dead, not both parents.

"Genma?" Iruka asked, deceptively calm.

Genma--who was studying his broken toothpick with a frown--grunted.

"Where's Kakashi's mother?"

The Special Jounin shrugged, fishing a senbon out of his pocket. "Not sure anymore." He flipped it through the air, catching it in his teeth before chewing on it.

"Are you certain she's alive?" Iruka asked. He nearly held his breath, waiting for the answer. If he wasn't certain, then maybe she was dead, and Kakashi hadn't misled him.

"No idea. But last I heard she was." The senbon flicked from one side of his mouth to the other, sharp and glimmering.

The rest of the day passed in a haze. Eventually, Iruka closed up and headed back to his apartment.

By that time, anger had had a chance to boil. His parents were dead. There was nothing even remotely all right about saying someone was dead when they weren't.

He opened the door, fury building to a storm, and immediately had to swallow it.

Shikamaru was sitting across from Kakashi, staring hard at a Shougi board. Kakashi was slouched back in a nest of blankets, eyes half-lidded.

"Shikamaru?" Iruka asked. "What are you doing here?"

The boy looked up and shrugged, frowning slightly. "Asuma asked me to come keep Kakashi company for a while."

"Ah." Iruka wondered how to get rid of him. Shikamaru, however, didn't need a prompt--after a moment's study, he stood.

"I should go. We can finish tomorrow," he said, and made a quick exit.

"I think he cheats," Kakashi grumbled, staring at the board. "He won three games out of five. That's just not normal. I'm good at this . . ."

Iruka stood, nearly trembling. He took a deep breath. Then another. Kakashi still hadn't noticed. "What happened to your mother?" he said at last, trying to sound as conversational as possible.

Kakashi didn't look up. "Dead."

Iruka nodded. "Oh. When?"

"Years ago."

"How?"

"On a mission. What do you think about this set-up he has going?" Kakashi asked, poking at pieces.

Iruka still hadn't come entirely into the room.

Kakashi finally looked up.

"Genma seems to think she was alive fairly recently."

Kakashi just watched him.

Slowly, Iruka took off his shoes and entered the room. He didn't look at Kakashi. He wasn't sure if he could. "Is she dead or not?"

There was a long moment of silence. Iruka prayed she was dead. That it was a misunderstanding. Anything.

"No," Kakashi said finally. "She's not."

Anger and hurt rose like a tsunami, swamping Iruka. She wasn't dead. Kakashi had lied to him, and for no reason he could see. The man had made something so important nothing more than--than--

"Why would you say that she was dead?" Iruka nearly yelled, furious. "Is this your twisted way of trying to make friends? To say something I might relate to?"

Kakashi's eyes closed, a smile under his mask, and he shrugged nonchalantly. "She's dead to me."

"Dead to you and dead aren't the same thing!" Iruka shouted. "Dead to you means you were angry and glad she's gone, but if you ever decide you still love her you can go see her!" Something twisted in his stomach, something black and yawning. "I can't! My mother is dead, no matter what I wish!" It was then that he realized how much it hurt. To use something like that, to make everything he'd dealt with nothing more than a device to get close--

Iruka whipped away, stalked to the kitchen, turned, stalked back. Kakashi was staring hard at his hands. The smile had been wiped from his face.

"I'm sorry," Kakashi said quietly. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

Iruka glared at him. "You asked me what I wanted, in order to date you. I want truth. Where is your mother?" he ground out finally.

Kakashi was silent for a long time. When he spoke, he didn't look up. "In another country. Being held for trading vital information to one of our enemies."

He felt like the room had dropped out from underneath him. Iruka stared. "What?"

Kakashi still didn't look up. "She hated being a ninja. When my father enrolled me, she was going to take me and run. In trade for sanctuary, she traded information on our village. My father found out. He stopped her. I learned about it when I was older."

He was very wooden. Iruka, hands braced on his hips, glared at the far wall. Then he glared at Kakashi. Then the wall.

He stood, silent.

"I understand," Iruka said finally, still angry but trying to be reasonable, "why you might tell someone your mother was dead if they asked. But why volunteer that information? Why lie?"

Kakashi didn't squirm. "You looked like you wanted to talk. I thought maybe . . . maybe if you wanted to talk, you'd talk to me."

"Kakashi--" Iruka said loudly. He heard his own voice and stopped dead, took a deep breath, and tried again. "Kakashi, if I wanted to talk to you, I would. I would talk to you if I felt I knew you, and trusted you. But I don't!" His voice was rising again, and this time he couldn't bring himself to care. "You lie about nearly everything from what I can tell, and I'm not sure I even know you!"

Kakashi sank further into the couch. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry!" Iruka yelled. "Tell me the damn truth!"

Kakashi stared at his hands. "I did."

"After I caught you in a lie!"

He glared even harder at his hands. "I'm sorry."

Iruka opened his mouth to shout something else, but nothing came to mind. Instead, he stormed into his bedroom and slammed the door.

It felt so good, he slammed it again, just for good measure.

**

He rolled over on his futon, staring at the bedside clock.

Three thirty.

With a frustrated sigh, he swung his legs over the side and stood, shuffling out of his bedroom in nothing more than drawstring pants. A glance at the couch showed Kakashi, sprawled out in black ninja basics, a vague shape in the dark.

Iruka stared for a moment. The man's eyes were closed, but his breathing was fast. Awake.

Iruka walked into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and walked back out into the living room. He stood in front of the table with the game of Shougi still laid out, and watched the man pretend to sleep.

"I loved my parents very much," he said into the silence.

An eye fluttered open, but Kakashi didn't otherwise move.

"When they died, I was--" he couldn't even begin to explain that hurt. That sense of utter despair. Of loneliness. The void that opened up, that not even the village could fill. The anger at being left alone, and the guilt at being angry. The firm belief that, had he been there, he could have done something. That he should have died too.

He realized he was holding his glass tight enough to make his hand sore, and forcefully relaxed. "It hurt," he said finally. "More than anything else ever has. And it never stopped."

One eye glowed dully red in the dark, almost invisible.

"I reacted more than I should have. But when you lied about that--" he stopped again. He was shaking.

Kakashi sat up slowly. Blankets slid as he shifted, moving over on the couch. The sound of fabric against fabric whispered through the air.

If he apologized again, Iruka might kill him. Apologies meant nothing.

"I don't remember much of my mother," Kakashi said quietly. "And I wasn't close to my fa--" he stopped dead. His head dipped, a silhouette against the window. It came back up a moment later. "I was angry at my father. I didn't mean disrespect towards you, or what you've gone through."

Iruka's eyes were burning. He nodded sharply, hoping Kakashi couldn't see how wet they were. It was too much for a single day. Too much anger, and remembered grief.

"I never changed your bandages," Iruka said after a moment, when he was sure he could talk.

"It's all right," Kakashi answered simply.

Iruka set down his glass of water and picked up the supplies, shifting over to the couch. He sat down in the vacated spot, settling things in his first aid box while Kakashi pulled off his shirt. Slowly, the anger was draining out of him, replaced by exhaustion and weariness.

He untaped the worst of the injuries, a stitched gash near Kakashi's spine, and swished alcohol onto a pad.

They sat in silence for a long time. The sting of alcohol drifted between them, quickly dispersing, leaving only the way Kakashi smelled. Clean, and warm, and vaguely of sun. Then Iruka spilled more alcohol onto a pad, and the sting was back between them.

"This is bleeding," Iruka said, watching the gauze turn pink.

"I ripped the stitches earlier."

Iruka didn't respond, only checked it before putting a new cloth on top and taping it over once more. The silence stretched between them, bordering on uncomfortable. All Iruka could think of were his parents dying. Not much else would come to mind. But--he could work with that. "How old were you, when your father died?" he asked into the silence.

Kakashi 'hmm'ed. "Eight," he said finally, and said nothing more.

"That must have been hard."

Kakashi's hand tightened on the edge of the couch. Underneath his fingers, Iruka felt the man's muscles tense.

"Not really," Kakashi said. "It was his choice." The hands relaxed after a moment, but the tension didn't ease.

"Just because it's his choice, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt." Iruka re-bandaged Kakashi's arm, then let his hands travel across the man's shoulders to the other side. Quietly, he dug his fingers into heavy muscle, hitting pressure points. The knots gave way, and some of the tension drained off.

"Whoa," Kakashi said quietly.

Iruka grinned, where Kakashi couldn't see. "Where did you live, afterwards?"

Kakashi shrugged, gracefully. "The Fourth let me stay with him for a while. Before he was the Fourth."

Iruka nodded, checking the deep cut under Kakashi's arm.

"Five years later, I moved into the Jounin bachelor apartments, and just stayed."

Iruka's mind sped, thinking. Five years. "You were thirteen?"

Kakashi 'hmm'ed again. "What about you? Where did you live, after your parents died?"

Iruka flinched from the memories, then took a deep breath. It wasn't fair to ask Kakashi, and expect to not be asked in return. "In a foster home, for a while. Eventually, in my own apartment that the village paid for." He remembered being lonely, and feeling lost.

Mostly, that had gone away.

His hands fell to his knees, looking at the broad expanse of Kakashi's back. In the dark, he couldn't see the scars; only a lot of pale skin. "I should let you go back to bed. You need to sleep."

"I'm feeling better," Kakashi said, twisting to look back. The expanse of his skin was broken by the mask, black and inky. Silver hair sprouted above it, half of it crushed and the other half sticking up.

"I know. You'll probably be well enough to go home in a day or two. But right now, sleep."

Kakashi sighed and looked like he might protest, but Iruka could read the exhaustion radiating from him. He stood and got his glass of water again, heading toward the bedroom before Kakashi could argue.

*********

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