Count_Zero (Level 20)

I unlocked 2 Xbox Live achievements yesterday:
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 Background Reading - is going to become my sporadic attempt to put together a series of articles based on various books about anime and manga - to give give long time fans like myself, burgeoning fans like our own Tom Pinchuk, and absolute newcomers something to check out to give them background on the genre, recommendations for new to watch, or general explanation of various cultural idiosyncrasies. What better way to start then a general primer on the medium, eh?

Finding a “canon” of important works in any field is generally difficult to settle on. Do you go by popularity, artistic merit, influence on other works, early works of prominent creators, or a combination thereof?

The Rough Guide to Anime, by Simon Richmond – in Penguin Books Rough Guides series, probably has the best “canon” list of anime titles available, and certainly makes for the best English language primer to anime currently in print in the US, and makes for interesting reading for long-time fans and newcomers alike.

As the title states, this book is a “rough guide” - not only in terms of the series, but in terms of the depth of the book. It's not supposed to be any sort of academic text to the appreciation of the medium. It simply tells you what you need to get your feet wet. The book opens with a brief history of animation in Japan, from before World War Two to the present, discussing the evolution of the medium and its outgrowth from manga. We get some general information on some of the big names (Tezuka in particular), and some basic background to set up, in terms of Japanese society, where we are when we get to our “Canon”

The “Fifty Greatest Anime” takes up the majority of the book. Lists tend to be generally controversial, but the list in this book manages to be successful at not only being “safe” but also “comprehensive”, a difficult task at best. Unfortunately, this also means that many titles on the list are also out of print, or will be out of print soon as of this writing. Classic works by Tezuka like Jungle Emperor Leo and Astro Boy make the list, as well as the complete filmography of the late Satoshi Kon (still alive when the book was written), and many of Hayao Miyazaki's works. Other classics like Evangelion, Mazinger Z, Cowboy Bebop and Utena have made the list as well. It's a fantastic list, and I simply cannot disagree with any of the choices on the list.

The later section of the book covers various genres, like Eastern and Western Fantasy, comedy, and historical fiction, as well as names to look for, in terms of studios, directors and writers, and voice actors, as well as a basic tourism guide. The genres and names sections include examples of works by those names, studios, and in those genres. All of that is generally useful, though unfortunately they don't do a good job of indicating whether the shows mentioned are licensed or not. While I have no doubt that Richmond would rather his book be ever-green and have to worry about license statuses of some of the works he mentions – considering that Legend of the Galactic Heroes has not been licensed and likely will never, ever be licensed, it would be probably have been helpful to mention what series would not have been available in the US at the time of the book's printing.

Nonetheless, long time fans of anime and newcomers to the fandom alike will find a lot of value in this book, both through background on the medium as well as recommendations for new series and films they might otherwise have overlooked.


The Canon

In The Rough Guide To Anime, author Simon Richmond lists these films and series as his "canon" of the greatest and most important anime in the history of the medium. Reasons for their inclusion are listed in the book, and they are presented in the order they are listed in the book (ISBN 978-1-85828-205-3).

1. Akira
2. Astro Boy

All three Astro Boy series are included under one entry.

3. Barefoot Gen
4. Castle in the Sky
5. Cowboy Bebop
6. 5 Centimeters Per Second
7. Fullmetal Alchemist

The TV series and movies are included in this entry.

8. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
9. Ghost in the Shell
10. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
11. Grave of the Fireflies
12. Gunbuster
13. Howl's Moving Castle
14. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
15. Kiki's Delivery Service
16. Kimba the White Lion
17. Little Norse Prince
18. Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro
19. The Super Dimension Fortress Macross
20. Metropolis
21. Millennium Actress
22. Mind Game
23. Mobile Suit Gundam
24. My Neighbor Totoro
25. Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind
26. Neon Genesis Evangelion
27. Night on the Galactic Railroad
28. Ninja Scroll
29. Only Yesterday
30. Panda and The Magic Serpent
31. Paprika
32. Paranoia Agent (TV)
33. Patlabor The Mobile Police (OVA)
34. Perfect Blue
35. Porco Rosso
36. Princess Mononoke
37. Puss in Boots
38. Revolutionary Girl Utena
39. Samurai Champloo
40. Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal
41. Serial Experiments Lain

42. Star Blazers
43. Steamboy
44. Spirited Away
45. Taro the Dragon Boy
46. Tekkon Kinkreet
47. Tokyo Godfathers
48. Urusei Yatsura
49. Whisper of the Heart
50. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise
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The harem romantic-comedy anime has often been popular among anime fans, both in Japan and in the United States. In this sub-genre, one of the more popular franchises has been Tenchi Muyo (translated as “No Need For Tenchi”) and its spinoff series, which were licensed for US release by Pioneer (later known as Geneon), and which has been kept in print by Funimation. This guide should help most anime fans who are new to the franchise get their feet wet, giving them what they need to know about the core series.

What You Need To Know 

 Tenchi Muyo is an anime franchise created by Masaki Kajishima and Hiroki Hayashi. The series was originally created for an OVA series to be animated by AIC. The success of Tenchi Muyo helped them start several later OVA series, including El-Hazard, the original Oh! My Goddess!, and Battle Athletes.

In the United States, it also was one of several very popular anime series to be released here in the mid-90s.

The Story 

 While the series has several differing continuities, the basics of the series are the same.

Tenchi Masaki is an ordinary high school student in rural Japan, who with his father, a widower, and works and trains at his grandfather's shrine. One day Tenchi encounters Ryoko, a beautiful woman and an alien space pirate, who falls in love with him. Ryoko also has a living space ship, Ryo-ohki, which can also take the form of a cabbit, a cuddly animal that is half cat, half rabbit. Shortly after-wards, Ayeka along with her sister, Sasami, members of the royal family of Jurai come to Earth. There they also encounter Tenchi, and Ayeka falls in love with him as well, and begins fighting with Ryoko.

In the course Tenchi soon discovers that he too is part of the royal family of the house of Jurai, through his grandfather. He also meets Washu, a super-genius, and something of a mad scientist, along with Mihoshi (and Kiyone) of the Galaxy Police.

On Continuities 

 Like Patlabor, the Tenchi Muyo franchise has multiple continuities. The continuities have different lineups, and the characters themselves change somewhat between continuities, so before we talk about characters, we need to talk about the series and what continuities they fall into. 
Series and FilmsKajishima ContinuityHasegawa ContinuityTenchi TVTenchi In Tokyo
Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-OhkiTenchi Muyo: Ryo-OhkiFirst 6 Episode of Tenchi Muyo: Ryo-OhkiTenchi TVTenchi in Tokyo 
Tenchi TVTenchi Muyo: GXPTenchi Muyo: Daughter of DarknessTenchi Muyo In Love 
Tenchi in Tokyo  Tenchi Muyo In Love II  
Tenchi Muyo GXP    
Tenchi Muyo in Love    
Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness    
Tenchi Muyo In Love II    
  • There is also a manga, which is similar to the Kajishima continuity, with a few differences, and isn't included in any other continuities outside of its own. However, for all intents and purposes, the characters in the manga are identical to the versions of the characters in the Kajishima Continuity.


 Throughout the continuities, the main characters stay the same, though their personalities and powers vary somewhat.

Tenchi Masaki: Tenchi Masaki spent most of his life thinking he was a, more or less, ordinary kid. His mother died when he was very young, so he was raised by his father and grandfather, and spent a lot of time around his grandfather's shrine. He would later discover that his grandfather was actually an alien, a member of the royal family of the Empire of Jurai, and because of this Tenchi, and his mother before him, had inherited great power. The first of the other characters he meets (outside of his own family) is always Ryoko.

In OVA Continuity (Kajishima and Hasegawa) : Tenchi's great power is in the form of the “Light Hawk Wings”, a combined energy shield and beam weapon, which can normally only be created by a ship. In this version Tenchi cares for all the girls as friends.

In TV Continuity : Tenchi's Great Power is the Jurai Power, a special ability held by all in the Jurai Royal Family. In this version Tenchi has legitimate affection for both Ryoko and Ayeka.

In Tenchi In Tokyo : Tenchi is a full human in this series, with no alien heritage. Instead, Tenchi is the latest in a long line of defenders of the planet, who can use special jewels to create a magic sword. Additionally, in this version Tenchi rejects all of the girls, in favor of an ordinary human girl in Tokyo, and he asks them all to leave.


Ryoko & Ryo-Ohki: An alien space pirate, who travels around the galaxy with Ryo-Ohki, a living ship that can also transform into a cabbit, a cute and cuddly animal that's half rabbit, and half cat, and has a carrot fixation.

In OVA Continuity : Ryoko came to Earth after being pursued by Yosho in retaliation on an attack against the Jurai capital, 700 years before the series began. Yosho forced Ryoko to crash, defeated Ryoko, and then imprisoned her. At the start of the series she was accidentally released by Tenchi. In addition to being able to turn into a ship in this continuity, Ryo-Ohki can also turn into a girl around Sasami's age with the features of a Cabbit. She also possesses the ability to summon and command demons.

In TV Continuity : Tenchi meets Ryoko after she crash lands on Earth after fighting Mihoshi and Kiyone. Ryoko no longer can command demons. From a personality standpoint, she's less violent then in the OVAs, but her affection for Tenchi is deeper.


In Tenchi in Tokyo : Tenchi meets Ryoko after she crash lands on Earth with the Jurai Light Stone, along with Washu, while being pursued by the rest of the main characters. Ryoko's personality is more violent then in prior versions of the character, but she's also more deeply in love with Tenchi.




From Left: Sasami and Ayeka 
From Left: Sasami and Ayeka 

Ayeka & Sasami: Members of the royal family of Jurai. Ayeka's apparent age is 20, Sasami's is 10.

In OVA Continuity : Ayeka & Sasami came to Earth while looking for Yosho, her fiancee (and Tenchi's grandfather). She encounters Tenchi after discovering the energy released by Ryoko being freed. In this continuity, Sasami has the power of Tsunami, the Tree-Ship that is the parent of all the Jurai Tree-Ships, and is the most powerful of them all.

In TV Continuity : Ayeka and Sasami came to Earth after receiving a distress call from Mihoshi and Kiyone. Ayeka possesses the Jurai Power and is accompanied by two bodyguards, Azaka and Kamidake. Sasami, on the other hand, does not and by all appearances is an ordinary 13 year old.

In Tenchi in Tokyo : Ayeka and Sasami came to Earth attempting to recover the Jurai Light Stone. Rather than possessing the Jurai Power, Ayeka simply has a force field, and Azaka and Kamidake do the fighting for her. Additionally, Sasami is more aggressive and prone to get angry and later sulk if she doesn't get her way. Ayeka, on the other hand, is more accepting of Tenchi's “new girlfriend”. 

Pretty Sammy: Sasami has her own separate continuity where she is a Magical Girl, called Magical Girl Pretty Sammy. Most of the other Tenchi regulars appear here with radically different personalities. However, this should not be considered a main part of the Tenchi Continuity. The Pretty Sammy character did make a brief appearance in Tenchi TV, during the "Adventures in Time & Space" episodes, which essentially consisted of a series of alternate universe stories.
 From Left - Mihoshi, Kiyone
 From Left - Mihoshi, Kiyone

Mihoshi & Kiyone: Mihoshi and Kiyone are members of the Galaxy Police, currently teamed together. Their personalities, and presence in the series depending on the continuity. However, Mihoshi is universally clumsy in all continuities. Similarly, Kiyone is universally incredibly competent in all continuities in which she appears.

In Kajishima Continuity : Kiyone does not appear. Mihoshi is competent, though she is also clumsy, and disorganized in her life and her work, though she is also absurdly lucky. She originally arrived on Earth while perusing the space pirate Kagato (one of the series enemies), and crashed landed due to a vortex created by one of Ryoko's demons. Following that storyline, she's assigned to monitor Earth, and during this time she falls in love with Tenchi. She also lives with Tenchi and the rest of the girls in this continuity.

In Hasegawa Continuity: Kiyone appears in this continuity. As with Kajishima Continuity, Mihoshi is competent, though clumsy and disorganized. Mihoshi also falls in love with Tenchi, though Kiyone does not. Also, as in Kajishima Continuity, Mihoshi and Kiyone live in the Masaki household. Kiyone's role in the continuity is minimal.

In TV Continuity : Mihoshi crash lands on Earth while perusing Ryoko, and Kiyone comes to rescue her after receiving her distress call, finding her living in the Masaki household. Following Kiyone's arrival on earth, both Kiyone and Mihoshi are assigned to this sector, and Kiyone and Mihoshi move out of the Masaki household into a low rent apartment, and have to support themselves doing part-time jobs. In this continuity, Mihoshi's clumsiness is due to her being incompetent and ditzy, while Kiyone has to cover for Mihoshi's mistakes and correct her, making them a Manzai duo.

In Tenchi in Tokyo : The characters come to Earth while pursuing Ryoko and Washu. In this continuity, both Mihoshi and Kiyone have crushes on Tenchi. Mihoshi regains some of her luck from the OVA series, while Kiyone becomes something of a manic depressive.


Washu: Washu is a mad scientist, and one of the most intelligent minds in the galaxy. She is also older then Ryoko, and most other characters in the setting, though she takes on a child-like appearance. She also has the ability to create hyper-dimensional spaces, which she typically uses to build a lab in the closet under Tenchi's stairs.

In OVA Continuity : Washu is one of the oldest characters in the setting, being over 20,000 years old. Ryoko is her daughter, having been created in a test tube from Washu's own cells. Washu also is revealed to have had a biological daughter as well, the child was taken away from her by the father's family. Washu was imprisoned by Kagato, and is released on accident by Mihoshi. After this she moves to the Masaki house, to perform scientific research on Tenchi, while also falling in love with him.

In TV Continuity : Washu is the one imprisoned at the Masaki shrine, instead of Ryoko. She is released after a particularly violent fight between Ryoko and Ayeka. She isn't nearly as old or as powerful as she is in other series, though she is older then most of the other characters. Washu's personality is much more egotistical, and she has two small puppets that follow her around and compliment her in her moments of triumph.

In Tenchi in Tokyo : Washu is Ryoko's co-conspirator in the theft of the Jurai light stone. In this continuity Washu is still a mad scientist, though she's more mellow than in the other continuities.

Which Series Should I Watch or Read? 

 The Tenchi OVAs and Tenchi Universe are the most highly regarded series due to their quality. They're also easily available through Rightstuf and similar sites. They're also the most commonly watched series in the franchise, as they've been around the longest, and were also broadcast in re-runs the longest on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. The manga are also still in print, though they assume the reader has some familiarity with the OVA series.
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22 years ago, an OVA series called Patlabor began, and solidified the reputation in Japan of the team of director Mamoru Oshii and writer Kazunori Ito. The series also was licensed for US release, and became one of several gateway series for a new wave of American Otaku. This guide is to help newer Otaku, who have never seen the series before, know the basics of the franchise. 

 They rarely carry (this many) guns.
 They rarely carry (this many) guns.

What You Need To Know

Patlabor was created as an OVA series in the 80s by the animation studio Headgear, consisting of director Mamoru Oshii, writer Kazunori Ito, character designer Akemi Takeda, mechanical designer Yutaka Izubuchi, and manga artist and writer Masami Yuki. Essentially, the purpose of creating Headgear was to form a creator-owned studio, so they would have more control over their work, and be able to promote it better then they felt they could in a more traditional production environment.

The title, “Patlabor”, is a portmanteau of “Patrol” and “Labor”, and describes the giant robots used by the main characters to stop crimes performed using construction labors – giant robots designed for construction work. Ultimately, Patlabor units are basically traffic cops with giant robots.

The Story

In the not-too-distant-future, the Japanese government undertakes an ambitious project to address overcrowding by reclaiming a massive portion of Tokyo Bay. This project, called the Babylon Project, requires a massive amount of manpower and heavy machinery. This leads to the development of the construction labor and its adoption in all sorts of projects aside from the Babylon Project, all across the world. Due to the availability of construction labors, this also leads to Labor crime. Thus, police departments form Patrol Labor (or Patlabor) units, to address this problem.

One such unit is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's Special Vehicles, Second Section (or SV2 for short), which is stationed out in a very remote section of Tokyo. Because the section is so remote, the men and women of that section have very little to do between calls, except maintain the grounds and otherwise kill time. Consequently, if there's the vaguest hint that something interesting is happening somewhere in the building, everyone tries to spy on it.

The Characters

As with any ensemble cop show, we get a squad-room’s worth of characters to get to know, and they all need to be distinct and interesting. 

Captain Kiichi Goto: Head of SV2's Unit 2. At first glance he looks incredibly laid back and something of a slacker. This is actually an elaborate ruse. Goto is considerably more capable and savvy then he appears at first glance, and was nicknamed “The Razor” before he was assigned to SV2 as a punishment assignment. Has a soft spot for Captain Nagumo.




Noa Izumi: Spunky, perky girl from Hokkaido, who loves labors, and pilots the labor in Team 1. She names the Patrol Labor she pilots “Alphonse”, the same name she'd previously given her pet cat and her pet dog. Because her family runs a liquor store, she has been drinking for quite some time, having built up an incredible tolerance to alcohol – Izumi can drink every other member of Unit 2 under the table, and recover from a hangover sooner. Arguably the best pilot of SV2. Has a soft spot for Asuma. 



Asuma Shinohara: Son of the head of Shinohara Heavy Industries, one of the biggest labor manufacturers in Japan. Joined SV2 as a way of rebelling against his father. Is the Controller for Team 1, giving directions and advice to the team's pilot and carrier driver when on a call. Has a soft spot for Noa.





Hiromi Yamazaki: A large, gentle man from Okinawa. Too big to pilot a labor, he instead drives Team 1's labor carrier. Between calls he also tends SV2's garden and tends its chicken coop, and is considered to have a green thumb. Does possess immense strength, and is able of firing an anti-Labor rifle safely, and is able to fire a Labor Revolver with the assistance of Ota.





Isao Ota: Pilot for Team 2's labor. Brash, loud, aggressive, and trigger-happy. Loves firing his Labor's weapons. Expects military discipline from the rest of the team, even when its clear that they're not in the military. 

Kanuka Clancy: Controller for Team 2. Police officer from the NYPD, who is liaised with SV2 to learn how their Labor teams run, so she can organize building one in the US. Is by-the-book and maintains a business-like demeanor with the rest of the team, though she cares for them dearly.




Mikiyasu Shinshi: Driver for Team 2. The only married person in SV2, aside from some of the mechanics in the Motor Pool. Is generally meek, humble, quiet. However, he will become angry and violent if his wife is mocked, or he's mocked over his marital status. Also invariably becomes a mean drunk when drinking with SV2, and usually ends up beating up Ota.





Chief Seitaroh Sakaki: Head mechanic for SV2, and is also known, respectfully, as the Old Man. The oldest man in the unit, having not only children but grandchildren. Gruff, loud, curmudgeonly. Runs the mechanics strictly but firmly, and often threatens to throw the mechanics into the sea if they fail to live up to his standards. Also berates Unit 2 when they regularly bring their labors back in less than perfect condition.




Shigeo Shiba: Also called “Shige-San,” Shiba is the second in command to Sakaki. Is a little more laid back than Sakaki, though he can also be firm with the mechanics when necessary. A total gearhead. Is good friends with Asuma.






Captain Shinobu Nagumo: Head of Unit 1 of SV2, which has slightly older Patlabors than Unit 2, because Unit 2 got upgrades before she did. Consequently, she goes on call less often. She shares an office with Goto, which means she sees a lot of Goto's layabout act – and also is able to tell that Goto is a much more skilled police officer than he looks. Has a soft spot for Goto.




Detective Takahiro Matsui: Detective with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and friends with Goto. Whenever a case comes up that Goto needs assistance solving, Goto turns to Matsui. 





Takeo Kumagumi: Only appears in the TV series and its spinoff OVA. Police officer who used to be stationed in Hong Kong. After Kanuka Clancy returns to the United States, Takeo is transferred to SV2 to take over as Team 2's controller. Takeo is also by-the-book and blunt with Ota, and the best hand-to-hand combatant in SV2 aside from Goto. However, she has an irrational fear of the supernatural, to the point that it can cause her to faint. 


So, what order do I watch these in?

The Patlabor Franchise consists of two OVAs, a TV series, and three movies. Normally, this would be the kind of thing I'd recommend watching in order of airing – except it's in two continuities. So, here's a handy chart showing off what show is in what continuity and what order they fall in chronologically. I'll also put in some order of release information too, just to be safe. 

Order of ReleaseOVA ContinuityTV Continuity
Mobile Police Patlabor - '88-'89Mobile Police Patlabor Patlabor TV
Patlabor: The Movie - '89Patlabor: The MoviePatlabor: New Files (Interspersed and following Patlabor TV)
Patlabor TV - '89-90WXIII: Patlabor 3 
Patlabor: New Files - '90-92Patlabor 2 
Patlabor 2 - '93  
WXIII: Patlabor 3 - '01   
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So, I did a stupid little "Generate your Zanpakutou" thing online, and this is the result I got. 
Count_Zero's Zanpakutō:

Count_Zero carries Thunder Sacrament sealed into the form of an umbrella. At the command "Surge, Thunder Sacrament!" it transforms into a red, jagged throwing axe which moves faster than the eye can see. It produces an analgesic mist around the wielder.

What's Your Zanpakutō?
 Ehh, it's kind of dumb. Having an axe hidden in an umbrella is odd, and as an Oregonian, carrying an umbrella is technically a sign of weakness, but I like axes, so I'll cut it some slack. The analgesic mist power is odd (for those unfamiliar with the term, analgesic basically means "pain-killing", but I guess it kind of works, as it means that it would allow the welder to continue to fight through painful injuries. 
Doesn't say anything about my Bankai though.
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Anime News Network has provided some analysis of a document released by the Canadian Border Services Agency (essentially, customs at the border) defining the CBSA's definition of what anime products count as "Child Pornography". While the policy document does explicitly state that not all anime is porn, it does define hentai manga and anime that contains images of children or child-like figures engaging in sex acts illegal. By "child-like" they refer to characters with no pubic hair, and no breast development.
While I don't support lolicon and find it squicky, I do find the CBSA's definition of "children" to be not specific enough. By the definition they use, doujinshi featuring Taiga from ToraDora could be considered Child Pornography, because the character is flat chested. It doesn't particularly help that even now, most hentai, both in terms of manga and anime, don't draw pubic hair. It doesn't help that I've known a few college students who were over 18 but were looked like they were underage. Additionally, the reason why most  countries (particularly the United States), frown on simulated images of child pornography (in terms of drawn images, paintings, etc), is because of concerns that they could muddle the waters of what images involved actual children, who were harmed in the production of that image (and the continual distribution of that image), and what images don't involve real children at all.
That said, I do appreciate the CBSA's openness on this issue, and I'm grateful that they've taken efforts to avoid false positives.
They could take a few more.
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