Day 4 Paris Trip: The Latin Quarter and the Jardin du Luxembourg

January 22, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in Anime & Manga, books, Comics, France, General, Manga, Out and About, Paris, photos, Tourism, Travel | 6 Comments
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The last day in Paris was spent with a journey to the Latin Quarter and the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens).

I’ll start with the gardens first. I walked and used the Metro but you might prefer to ride a bicycle. Throughout Paris are bike rental stations  –Velib -where you basically hire it and can return to any other station. For the safety conscious they don’t come with helmets.

Paris 308

Meanwhile, the gardens are home to the French Senate.

Jardin du Luxembourg (20)Jardin du Luxembourg (24)

Extensive grounds.

Jardin du Luxembourg (2)Jardin du Luxembourg (27)

Statues.

Jardin du Luxembourg (3)Jardin du Luxembourg (11) Jardin du Luxembourg (15)Jardin du Luxembourg (14)Jardin du Luxembourg (21)

Chess games alongside the sleeping homeless.

Jardin du Luxembourg (8)

Flower beds and bare trees – presumably the place would be spectacular to walk around in spring.

Jardin du Luxembourg (9)

Or you could play tennis.

Jardin du Luxembourg (12)

Overall, the gardens allow for a relaxing stroll around the grounds. A pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Jardin du Luxembourg (22)Jardin du Luxembourg

Even in the slight chill there are plenty of people taking the opportunity to sit around, contemplate, chat or have lunch.

Jardin du Luxembourg (25)Jardin du Luxembourg (23)

I’ve often complained that London lacks any trash cans and I realise there are safety concerns but it wasn’t until Paris that I realised why even the clear bag option may not work.

Jardin du Luxembourg (10)

Then again perhaps a slightly thicker non explosive/metallic material would still allow for a clean and safe environment?

Once out of the Gardens I took to the Latin Quarter in earnest. Home of higher education for the esteemed university La Sorbonne. Thus almost completing my pained and over stretched analogy of a trip of highs.

Latin Quarter (21)Latin Quarter (27)

Or more cultural highs at the Pantheon. Or, rather I’m sure there would be if I’d actually gone in.

Latin Quarter (22)Latin Quarter (24)

Or the high from finding a real life manga cafe in Paris – near a number of other comic/DVD/book shops. After all it is a university student district.

Latin Quarter (30)

The blue shop is Album comics but while trying to find the URL I stumbled upon the Boulevard des Bulles which is the same area.

Latin Quarter (17)

As the masthead indicates this is Boulinier and on the right down the small Rue Serpente (with a yellow awning) is the small but potentially interesting AAAPoum.

Latin Quarter (12)

Another books shop I stopped in was Shakespeare’s (towards Notre Dame). A well known second hand English bookstore where the staff actually live in the shop. As you walk around you’ll see the folded up beds and the sparse belongings in small piles so as to not disrupt the customers.  

And now a last smattering of photos from the Latin Quarter. Definitely a worthwhile part of the city to get lost in.

Latin Quarter (3)Latin Quarter (16)

Latin Quarter (23)

Latin Quarter (5)Latin Quarter (6)

After leaving the Latin Quarter I picked up my bags from the hotel and headed to the station, Gare du Nord, for my final high. The high speed train.

Gare du Nord (3)Gare du Nord (5)

Arriving back in Kings Cross.

Kings Cross (2)Kings Cross

Overall, I liked Paris, despite warnings I was not prepared for the distances involved. Realistically, I could have packed more in and left a day early but in part this holiday was about taking things relatively slowly and chilling out a bit. For the most part this was accomplished so the next time I make it to France I’ll be able to travel further afield.

Now that I’ve dipped my toe into Europe I doubt it’ll be too long before I’m back on the continent!

More photos on Flickr!

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Strolling on Sunday

July 4, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, Comics, Gaming, London, Out and About, Pop-cult, Procrastination, UK | Leave a comment

On Sunday I met and chatted with Amy at Green Park before going geek and walking around the inner city to some of potential haunts in my new home.

Green Park and St James Park are lovely and relaxing scenic spots near the Mall and Buckingham Palace. Perhaps the rain kept numbers down but the wet weather didn’t deter us as we wandered, chatted and munched on snacks. On the edge of Green Park (Piccadilly side) is where you’ll find numerous vendors selling artworks that cover the park fence and foot path. I had momentary thoughts of a Mary Poppins style chalk drawings but this was quickly dashed by the less than stellar pieces.

I now began my solitary walk through the city to check out a number of geeky and specialist shops I’d found on the net. As normal I got lost any number of occasions, with plenty of backtracking and circling around. Let’s ignore those distracting and tiring details for the specifics.

First stop was Europe’s largest bookstore – Watertone’s at Piccadilly – and Wren’s 17th Century St James’ Church next door. The church while old didn’t look overly impressive so I skipped a more thorough inspection and headed into the bookstore, spread out over several floors and featuring a couple cafes. Oh and plenty of books. Floors and floors of them. The shelves are largely along the walls leaving a sizeable amount of available space where, if they chose, they could have more shelves. At any rate for any booklover you’ll no doubt find a worthwhile distraction.

Next onto the Japan Centre. It features Japanese food, groceries, travel, books and homeware. I thought the floor space and range were limited but the supermarket was popular so perhaps I’m missing the point. Now I moved to the famed Piccadilly Circus with its neon lights and statue of Eros and down towards Trafalgar Square and the centre of London, Charing Cross.

After lunch and a reduction in the rain I moved into Chinatown and finally found a place selling Bubble Tea (a rarity in London). I asked the shop assistant and apparently there are no chain/ franchise shops in London selling one of my favourite drinks. Shame. From Chinatown I made my way to the Trocadero centre with its limited shops, cinema and fantastic arcade complex – Funland. I’m looking forward to coming back here in the future trying to build some skills. Of course if you’re not into arcade games then why not try dodgem cars, pool, air hockey, slot machines or any other fun game. I wonder how they can make much money given the amount of floor space they cover and the small number of people inside.

Walking past Virgin Radio I came to Arigato a Japanese supermarket for those needing some Asian food stuffs before moving onto Chapel street. Unfortunately I couldn’t find either of the two recommendations: Octopus – funky items and ACE – gaming, but on the plus side I got to walk down this iconic street.

An unsuccessful walk down Berwick street followed (most of the allegedly good coffee shops seemed closed) led me to Oxford Street and Games Workshop. Filled with lots of people (guys) checking out model kits. I felt completely out of my depth as it is something I’ve never been into but thought I should pop my head into anyway. Next Computer Exchange where there is a supply of second hand computer games and DVDs for you to peruse. I managed to pick up a PC version of Final Fantasy VII (probably paying too much for it) and was eager to try and play this game out of nostalgia. I realise that trying to get an old game to play on modern equipment would be a challenge and this turned out to be the case. Despite consulting numerous forums, downloading many patches (including how many viruses?) and tweaking all manner of settings I failed to get the game running. In effect wasting my money but it is nice to have and perhaps one day when I have a week to spare I’ll get it working.

Around Computer Exchange, Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road are a number of other computer shops that might be worth your while to inspect. Also on Tottenham is Casino Leisure Centre, a small arcade centre near Goodge St Station but nothing compared to Funland. Of course if you get bored with games and culture you could step into the Scientology centre next door.

Walking down towards the British Museum, particularly along Great Russell Street you’ll find several comic shops. Gosh! looks quite good. Down on Oxford Street is apparently one Forbidden Planet but I failed to locate it instead going to the other? Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury with its massive collection of collectibles, comics, anime and mange, dvds and books. Definitely check it out.

The nearby Orc’s Nest was closed on Sunday but looks to have models and the like. Further down on Charing Cross Road is Murder One a book shop for crime and romance novels – because these two go together? Being a specialist shop if either of these pique your interest it would be worth checking out. Also on Charing Cross Road is meant to be Comic Showcase. I found the sign but no clear way to get into the shop. Assuming it still exists.

Besides the above mentioned there were numerous other book shops and the occasional comic store as well to keep you interested as you walk through the city. If you get bored there is always a pub, coffee shop, musical or movie theatre nearby.

The main places I’ve listed here can be found on my Google Map.

Next week some actual real sightseeing!

Japan Photolog – Kyoto

June 19, 2007 at 10:55 pm | Posted in anime, Anime & Manga, Japan, Kyoto, Travel | Leave a comment
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Photos from Kyoto, more on Flickr!

Kyoto Train Station.
Kyoto 1

Some sort of all day musical performance at the station.
Kyoto 3

Looking down on the Silver Pavillion.
Kyoto 18

They’re so conscientious they even brush the moss.
Kyoto 23

Streets near the temple.
Kyoto 35

Along the Philosopher’s walk.
Kyoto 33

The Philosopher’s walk. Quite relaxing.
Kyoto 30

Entrance to the Heian Jingu Shrine.
Kyoto 52

Walking along the canal and back into the city.
Kyoto 55

For a fast escape?
Kyoto 56

Something going on at Town Hall involving cheerleaders.
Kyoto 59

International Manga Museum.
Kyoto 62

Autographs on the International Manga Museum’s coffee shop wall.
Kyoto 61

Day 6 – Harajuku, Ginza and Akihabara

June 10, 2007 at 5:53 pm | Posted in anime, Anime & Manga, Japan, Manga, Tokyo, Travel | Leave a comment
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On Day 6 (Sunday) I returned to Tokyo in the afternoon once again via Shinkansen and made my way to Harajuku. I was planning on seeing the Meiji Shrine and the cosplayers that make this suburb their home (particularly on the weekend). Harajuku, with its narrow winding main street is filled in equal parts funky clothing shops and food stalls on the one hand and tourists, spruikers and locals (whether cosplaying or not) on the other.

If you’re into shopping and fashion you’ll no doubt be interested in taking the time to explore all of the ins and outs of Harajuku but for me I was here to check out the people and to do it quickly. Time was ticking after all. Unfortunately, after “exploring the surrounds” (getting turned around) I found my way to a shrine or temple which was roughly in the place of a shrine listed on a Japanese language map I’d seen earlier. While it didn’t look as big as I remembered the Meiji shrine from my previous trip I put this down to the access paths were closed and not being at the main building. I wandered around a little hoping to find a big cluster of cosplayers to check out but unfortunately there were none in this area.

Of course if I’d been smarter I would have realised/ remembered that this was completely the wrong part of Harajuku but instead had to rely on Miki to tell me a few days later as she scanned through my photos.

While I didn’t get to the bridge connecting Harajuku with the Meiji shrine (where according to my guide the bulk of the cosplayers gather) I did see quite a few as I walked around but nothing amazingly outlandish. Did I take photos? No, I feel a bit weird taking photos of people, especially those who are dressing up, as I wouldn’t want to make them feel like they’re an attraction when they’re just trying to be themselves. Granted I’m saying that without knowing their individual motivations and possibly just laying my own preconceptions onto the situation.

With Harajuku done (at least in my head at the time) I was ready to move onto Ginza. Tokyo’s high end shopping district. My guide book advised that on Sunday they close the main street and it turn it over to pedestrians and (not verbatim) ‘cafes and everything spills out onto the streets in a European style’. Except not. Silly incorrect guide book.

Yes the street is closed which means you can walk at pace quite well up and down the main boulevard and there are the occasional street performers but that’s about it. There are no alfresco coffee shops just a few chairs placed in the middle of the street every so often for those weary walkers. I was glad to have gone to Ginza but annoyed that I’d bothered to go on Sunday when I could have visited realistically on any day and spent more time either in Harajuku or my next destination: Akihabara.

Akihabara is Tokyo’s technology district with every shop stocking alternatively a piece of technological gadgetry or manga/anime related products. Honestly, while I should have been uber impressed by the technology I wasn’t.  The items may have been super advanced on the inside but I was oblivious to this due to the language barrier and so I was reduced to a casual inspection of the exterior where they all looked like a variant of a TV/ phone/ camera etc. One of my stops was to the Tokyo Anime Center and it was quite disappointing. When I hear the term “center” I had imagined a variety of things, none of which were the glorified information service and gift shop that greeted me at the (small) Anime Center. It would be so much easier to just walk down the main street and wander into various shops than to bother with the anime center in it’s current size and form.

Speaking of walking, when I arrived into Akihabara I found that its streets were closed as well and this may or may not be a result of the festival that was occurring. Many, many people were working together as they paraded small shrines through the streets. I have no clue what this was in honour of but apparently there was a large festival in Tokyo over the weekend. The participants (from all ages and genders) looked like they were having a ball – it was infectious.

I checked myself into the Akihabara capsule hotel and then headed back into the area and wandered around anime and manga shops. A relatively healthy experience given the number of stairs to climb to cover each building’s floors. I was suitably impressed by the range of products in anime, manga and general merchandise. Whatever your taste there will be something in Akihabara for you – although being able to read it is another matter entirely. If I had any room in my luggage I may have bought more (as it is very cheap compared to prices in Australia/UK – although these are translated) but in the end I only purchased the latest Bleach.

Another Akhabara staple are maid cafes. I’d vaguely heard about these cafes where the staff dress as maids without knowing too much about it or doing additonal research and had considered going in just to check it out but while in Osaka I happened to watch a game show that shed a little extra light (as well as ick) on the cafes. This game show (no idea of the name) pitted various foreign otaku against each other in the struggle to be named biggest otaku. I was quite impressed by these foreigners (from a number of countries) as they had to speak and understand Japanese. After one of the challenges the contestants ended up at a maid cafe where the ‘maids’ dutifully spooned ice cream into their mouths. From what I have since gathered this maid/master relationship is the standard and honestly it doesn’t work on any level for me – even to just check it out and say I went. So I didn’t. For those more interested there are plenty of maids on the street handing out flyers. I didn’t see any cafes on street level but there are numerous signs pointing the way.

After all that walking it was time to head back to the capsule hotel. For those of you not in the know or not wanting to click the link a capsule hotel is basically a single futon in a rectangular box, it features a tv, reading light and alarm clock and the ‘entrance’ has a blind. It is quite high, lying on my back I could not touch the ceiling. The capsules are stacked two high and on this particular night I was on the lower capsule. They are highly affordable at 4000 yen per night and are often used by late night revellers or businessmen who have missed the last train home. Going on a Sunday night was a good option as there seemed little chance of drunken idiots. Men and women are segregated to different floors and there is a gender plity communal (Japanese style) sento bathing. In your little gift bag you receive toothbrush and towels as well as the Japanese yukata. I had a good experience, sleeping quite well but if you were quite tall or claustrophobic it may be a challenge. At this particular hotel the reception was 24hrs which allows for lots of sightseeing. I met a British traveller here who’d spent the past 4 nights at the hotel and had no problems and enjoyed his time.

If you’re coming to Japan and are on a budget then the capsule hotel is a great alternative, conversely you may want to give it a try before they become too old hat and are available in every airport and train station.

Day 5 – Kyoto

May 27, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, Japan, Kyoto, Manga, Travel | 1 Comment
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In all honesty I was feeling just a tad delicate the morning (oh all right, the mid morning) I set out for Kyoto. I wasn’t entirely looking forward to doing anything but a long day in Kyoto turned out to be an excellent cure.

From Osaka station I took the rapid to Kyoto, although with memories of Sakai still fresh, constantly worrying whether this was indeed the correct train. Fortunately it was. At Kyoto station I made my way through the throngs of tourists (both local and foreign) to the main concourse where a pop group marathon of some sort was taking place where different bands played all day (and were still playing upon my return at the end of the day). I have no idea if they are big names or not but the photos are already online and will be posted again here eventually.

At the tourist office (as I came sans map) I was confronted with a queue of foreigners before I got my map I also picked up a leaflet on walking tours which looked quite interesting. I went down to the food court to read their suggestions and fill up on okonomiyaki – a word despite repeated prodding from Miki and Justin I still can’t say properly. I thought that the Philosopher’s walk looked fun and would provide an opportunity to check out a different side of Kyoto, this would be particularly useful as I was already down to half a day. Basically the walk is along a canal linking a variety of sites, notably Ginkaku-ji (or the Silver Pavilion). The down side is, according to the guide, you take a bus to the Pavilion but due to traffic congestion it took about an hour. An easier approach would have been taking the subway (it’s non JR for those with the pass) and connecting with a bus further out of the city and thus beating the snarls. At any rate that’s my tip for future travels.

Now I had arrived at the street to the pavilion a very idyllic cobble path lined with shops selling various wares to the tourists. Of course it would have been a lot more charming without so many people but that’s what happens when you go on the weekend to a top destination. I had assumed being a UNESCO listed site and all that it would take a considerable amount of time walking around but in fact this was not the case. Granted I did power-walk through it but even so the path you are on leads you around the side of the pavilion and into the extremely well manicured garden (they sweep the moss) and back out again. 

Well with that checked off I began to walk and philosophise along the canal. While there were some tourists it was considerably less than at the pavilion. It is a pleasant experience and presumably during cherry blossom season it is packed with people. On the route you can duck into a number of the local shops, shrines or temples. I probably should have gone into some of these but I wanted to head back into the city and check out other aspects of Kyoto.

Unfortunately, it appeared the only way back was the way I’d come and being impatient and a little over busses I chose to walk back. It didn’t look so far. Well of course it was but on the way I saw some sort of children’s sporting day which had 80s music playing, notably “Girl’s just want to have fun” and more importantly a sign saying “Bushido“. Thinking that this may related to kendo and a chance to see kendo being played in its native Japan I followed.

I did not find kendo but I did find one huge shinto shrine – the Heian Jingu Shrine. An impressive complex of red buildings on white pebbles. While standing and pondering whether to go in I was approached by a girl sporting an ID badge and confident English asking if I wanted a free tour. Apparently the city has numerous free volunteer guides at various locations throughout the city (and not just in English). Wanting to get back to town as quickly as possible before the museums closed I asked and received a very trimmed down version as we went up to the shrine to the former Emperors and I heard how families used to come for blessings. If you’re in Kyoto try and track a volunteer down as they’re very useful for local content.

Now back to walking. Past a large canal with people hanging out and relaxing on the banks and into the centre of Kyoto. I walked along city hall where they were having some sort of launch. I have no idea what it was other than it involved marching bands and cheerleaders.

My next stop was the city museum and I finally found it down one of the side streets. Once again there was an exhibit of European art but the main display floors were available. Apparently there is the option to have an English guide but with the clock ticking closer and closer to 5PM when the museum closed I decided to ignore this offer. A good call as I paced quickly through the exhibits I heard a volunteer talking to a group of foreigners. He was definitely passionate about the city but his English lacked the confidence of my earlier guide and if you want to look at the city in a relaxed environment then that’s fine. As for the museum itself, it lacks a great deal of English (hence the guide I suppose) but does attempt some multimedia by having various TV sets around the floor that with the press of a button you can enjoy a brief clip.

If you can’t tell I was getting a tad fatigued but I wasn’t done yet. On the bundle of maps I picked up at the tourist office I had a standard tourist map and a transport map. On the latter it pointed to the Kyoto International Manga Museumbut the former did not. Somewhat odd. At any rate this is a gem. The museum is built inside an old school building complete with an astro turf lawn. Inside there a walls lined with bookshelves filled (and ever increasing) with manga you are free to take and read anywhere in the museum – including on the lawn. There are also exhibits on manga, occasionally special events, artists drawing live and a brief history of the project and school that existed beforehand.

Once you’re done with manga you can visit their small gift shop and head right next door (within the same complex but outside of the museum) to a coffee shop to rest your feet. Kyoto definitely has a coffee culture with coffee shops dotting the landscape and not all are Starbucks. This particular coffee shop – despite average coffee – is worth a stop because it (at time of writing) relatively blank walls are a canvas for visiting manga artists to sign and perhaps draw a bit.

I sat for a time and generally chilled out before walking back to the nearest subway station and returning to Kyoto station and finally Osaka.

Kyoto is a nice city – even with my brief interaction – I can tell you that. My only real complaint is that the transportation system really isn’t built for a day/ half-day trip experience. I will have to come back and get a fuller picture of this ancient city. Possibly by bicycle.

Not just Astro Boy or Portraits – Art Gallery exhibits

March 12, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, Australia, General, Out and About, Random, Sydney | Leave a comment

Over the past two weeks I’ve made my way to the Art Gallery checking out the Tezuka, Archibald and Artexpress exhibits. I enjoyed each but at the end of the day I question the cost.

The Tezuka exhibit was interesting and engaging. I had limited exposure to his work, with the exception of that old chestnut of Astro Boy although I was aware that he was one of the father’s of modern manga and anime. While he has created any number of pieces this exhibit showed a snapshot of the variety and intensity of his work but graphically and story-wise. Seeing his shifting styles, within the broader context of his work, was valuable but for those who aren’t fans or intrigued by the art I seriously doubt that the entry fee is worthwhile. While obviously there’s an economic drive for profit, if one of the goals is to expand understanding and recognition of manga then I wonder if perhaps a free version, or at least a small sample taster gallery, would have been beneficial. The exhibit showcases a broad spectrum of his work but of course the Art Gallery shop only had Astro Boy paraphernalia.

I was pleasantly surprised at my first Archibald Prize. I only found Iemma’s portrait particularly bland. Otherwise, there was such a variety of subject and styles it is impossible to get bored and at the end of the day I could not choose my favourite; I was drawn to most of them for one reason or another. I didn’t realize that there was more than portraits, with the inclusion of the Sulman and Wynne competitions as well. I enjoyed the landscapes in the Wynne collection – full of evocative and memorable images of our surroundings – or what we imagine our surroundings could be. The Sulman collection, with its representations of the every day was fun and a nice and thoughtful way of ending the walk around the finalists. Honestly, I feel that this collection was worth the money, predominantly because of the variety and number of paintings and the relative fame (evidenced by the crowds) that is generated each year by the competition.

Artexpress – a collection of HSC (Year 12) final year works – is currently on display and is free as part of the standard gallery. This a wonderful chance to see the growth and development of Australia’s young artists. Each piece has a brief description by the student and while these can be a little cloying it is genuinely refreshing to see a sense of hope and optimism (at least in the ones I read). Title wise my favourite is the pertinent “Taking photos and having small adventures”.

Lastly I finally asked an attendant why the outside of the Art Gallery is incomplete. Apparently, work was underway but then World War I came along and resources diverted elsewhere and afterwards they never got around to finishing it and now in perhaps a postmodern twist it will remain incomplete. The attendant likened it to Shubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

At least that’s cleared up now.

While these collections are in town you should check them out and if you’re interested in anime/manga and the styles employed go to Tezuka’s as well.

Oh so that’s what I like?

October 30, 2006 at 8:00 am | Posted in anime, Anime & Manga, Random | Leave a comment

I’ve been re-watching Neon Genesis Evangelion on DVD over the past week and to my surprise I realize that I particularly like the idea of giant transforming cities. Not giant robot genre but giant transforming cities.  

I’m never going to get a date now.

Actually this is really only based on a few TV shows but whenever I see it, it just seems cool; probably because it’s a bit more intricate and a higher quality animation. Presumably if I saw it all the time I’d be totally over it. I think I’ll Google this and sate my sub-genre appetite and move on.

So the Object(ive) is?

October 14, 2006 at 10:23 am | Posted in Anime & Manga, General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | Leave a comment

This week’s Sydney trip was to Object in Surry Hills. Object is a relatively small gallery space for industrial design pieces. Currently it is hosting the Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award Exhibition which showcases the top ten finalists’ work ranging from chairs and tables to lamps and bookcases. While I admit to feeling a bit like walking into an Ikea store it was fairly interesting. Personally, I really liked the Halo watch (yes my first thought was the game) in terms of being a bit funky and being different to the norm in the competition.  Check it out under the People’s Choice section.

Object also had a smaller space above with an exhibit by a Japanese designer, Yuken Teruya, and while it was quick to glance around there was one cool piece. Teruya took some paper bags, like you’d get from a more upmarket store (so not brown paper grocery ones!) and then cut away images of forest scenes and lying it on the side giving it a diorama image.

Lastly, there was another Japanese piece in the foyer: Atelier Bow-Wow: manga pod. It looks quite cool and interesting with many a nook and cranny to store manga (or presumably any book) and sit around. Unfortunately, while the sign on the front of the door said that section should be open today, it wasn’t, somewhat annoying. Especially as it looks like you can actually read the manga on display. rapt! says that it looks great lit up at night too! They also have a small blurb about Yuken Teruya.

Object is located at the St Margaret centre on Bourke Street and is conveniently just a few minutes from Oxford Street. It sholdn’t take very  long to wander around and experience the design work giving you plenty off opportunity to check out the local cafes and many other Sydney sights.  Check their website before you go to see if the current exhibits are up your alley or stick your head in between coffees.

What’s the deal with Yaoi?

October 2, 2006 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, YAOI | Leave a comment

I hope I don’t get too many flames for asking this and call me an anime newb if you have to but can someone explain why there’s so much animosity to yaoi? I’ve never watched or read any but it just seems odd that that it raises so much dislike and/or support, afterall can’t people just ignore it if they don’t like it? What am I missing? Well, that’s coming from my very limited perception of things. 

I’ve been on Google trying to find a decent article to explain the issues but with no luck. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

It’s mania! Animania!

October 2, 2006 at 8:53 am | Posted in animania, anime, Anime & Manga, Animes, Pop-cult, Sydney | 2 Comments

For my first ever anime convention/festival (and return to Sydney-things) I went to Animania. Overall it was very cool and I’ll go through my thoughts on this two day event below. I’ll also state that while I’ve watched anime for a while I’ve never tried to get a deeper understanding or appreciation, which is why I decided to come this year.

Panels

The two main panels I went to were:

  • Investigating Anime Ghost Worlds: In this panel Dr Hill from UTS gave a presentation on the spiritual world’s representation in anime. Personally, I found him to be a poor orator and had I not later checked out his profile I would never have believed that he was a fan of animation. Perhaps, naively, I thought there might have been more passion and less nerves. As to the content of the presentation, it was ok. He used Princess Mononoke to represent natural spirituality, Ghost in the Shell for industrialism/ mechanical views of spirit and machines, lastly Bleach was used for a more general spirit/heaven exemplar. I didn’t think there was too much depth too what he said. Yes, he raised Shintoism but it lacked a successful interplay and flow between religious/spiritual ideas and anime.  A greater range of anime and religious stories would have benefited the talk. Moreso, there was no comment on the issue of other philosophies and their impact on anime and Japanese culture (what with Full Metal Alchemist, and others use of these images this is startling). An audience member did ask but was told that this wasn’t his focus rather it was on local spirituality. Which seems odd and poor sentiment. Eh, the topic is fascinating but it could have been done so much better.
  • A cosy conversation with Queenie Chan: Technically, this forum was called “An Interview with Queenie Chan” but there were only a few of us so we pulled up chairs into a small circle with the facilitator, Queenie and the last forum’s speaker.  Queenie is the author of the manga “Dreaming”and was an enthusiastic speaker, and it was more of a chat about manga and anime in general. Some of the main points were the blandness of most manga, with an unfortunate focus on flash and not substantive storytelling. Drawing, developing your skills as an artist and a need to develop your own identity rather than copy others’ style. All in all, it was a good chat which was quite engaging.

Screenings

  • Otogi Zoshi: I didn’t see too much of this anime, partly because it was in the main hall pre-cosplay so there were many distractions and also as the second episode cut out half way through. On the plus side they started showing Elemental Gelade.  This anime looks like it has potential, with political intrigue and action (blood!) – even though I’m not really sure what the hell is going on. I’ll try and track down some more episodes before making a final call.
  • Elemental Gelade: Yes it was quite flashy and bright – contrasted starkly with Otogi Zoshi’s muted appearance – but there was action right from the start as the sky pirates stole from some airship before getting some weird guests and …a njnja attack? I’m willing to watch this series to see what happens, at least until I understand its unique vocabulary!
  • Gilgamesh: I caught bits and pieces of this anime while waiting for the line at the food stall to die down. The big heading blocking the subtitles (and the giant cement pole in the middle of the room) kind of hampered my comprehension. Still, it seems like something happened that turned off electronic devices leading to a return to the stone age. There are the usual forces of good and evil and a brother and sister caught in the middle. I’d like to watch the first few episodes again to get a better grasp on it, but then maybe I’m getting over the ‘special/secret power’ child (related to the villain?) genre. Then again it might just be the oppressive dark colouring because…well read the next comment. 
  • Kyo Kara Maoh!: The Demon King’s child (who has powers – sigh-) is born on Earth then returned to his ‘real’ word to take up his duties where he must prove himself and manage the competing and priorities of those that ‘serve’ him. I think what makes this series tolerable is the humour. There are large doses of it – something I missed with Gilgamesh- that help to distract from some clear (and self referenced) absurdities. Then again this was only 3 episodes in, well before the central action that presumably will involve a war with the humans. Presumably there’ll also be an explanation why the demons all like humans too.

Given that it’s an anime festival you would have thought I’d see more anime, right? Well that’s true but I’m a bit of a dabbler and prefer to see a wide range of things at the festival. Also there are some anime like Narutothat everyone’s seen. I’ll be checking out all of the above series’ if I can find them for at least the first 7 episodes and see what happens.  

Cosplay

I’ve had limited exposure to cosplay but the final awardees for day 1 of the festival are below. I’ve linked to the photos were I found them online (ie they’re not my photos, big thanks to people for taking them).  Currently photos can be found on these:

If any of the photo takers want the links removed let me know. Now, onto the winners:

  • Most original‘Anime Translator’ kind of corny, kind of funny. We have a girl in (generic?) costume with a range of anime “emoticons” that the translator then talked about in response to questions from the compere. It would have been a lot funnier had there been a specific skit. Still congratulations.
  • Runner up male – ‘Jin Roh’ this was one cool costume. Full armour, all black and helmet, deep resonating voice. A tough call between this and the winner.
  • Winner, male – ‘Alphonse, Full Metal Alchemist’. Even though he’d lost a leg (or is that added realism to the character?) the costume was amazing for all being made out of steel! Yes clanking, heavy steel! Seriously a very difficult decision with Jin Roh.
  • Runner up female – ‘Cat bus’ from ‘My neighbour Totoro’ very fun.
  • Winner, female –Princess Ai’ from the Princess Ai manga. Her costume was fantastic and very intricate. I was suprised to later learn that the manga is based on Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. Weird.
  • Runner up skit – ‘Cardcaptor‘ did a very cool dance, they were the second group up so it was tough for anyone to top them.
  • Winner, skit‘Kingdom Hearts’ ‘Donald’ and ‘Riku’ singing and dancing a humorous “I’m not gay” song. Although, oddly Donald’s costume lacked a bill.
  • Runner up group –Tekken‘ fight scene
  • Winner, group – ‘Ooran Host Club’ I’ve never seen the series so can’t comment too much on it but the group seemed very enthusiastic and into it.

Kudos to everyone, there are plenty of other awesome cosplayers. My favourites were this guy and this guy.  There were also several Lacus Klines from ‘Gundam Seed’, several ‘Narutos’ and ‘Bleach’ shinigamis.

Some people who came up could have shown better sportsmanship but I’ll put that down to lack of sleep preparing their costumes.  

Sword Demonstration and Animania Fusion

There was a display of Iaido during cosplay intermission was interesting but I think kendo is more fun. while I appreciate the art form techniques of unsheathing, striking and re-sheathing the sword but wouldn’t choose it to be my sport.

Animania Fusion was shown while the cosplay results were being tabulated. Basically, they were a variety of videos prepared by fans on any number of topics. I only watched a few but some were quite funny.  

AMVs and Karaoke

I watched a few music videos that were very good and professional looking. Some others lacked an overall sense of quality and music/image cohesion.

Karaoke finals were of high quality – although the actual pronunciation of the Japanese is something I can’t comment on – meanwhile the karaoke room was pretty fun to sit around and watch people give it ago.

Stallholders, Game Room and Food

The stalls had a variety of goods with a particularly large range from Madman. Manga, DVDs, posters and anything else you’d expect at this sort of event were here.

Game room was a lot of fun and a gaood place to chill (the DS people even had their own corner!) and it was a chance to play a bunch of games or watch others. As usual the most fun to watch were the dance games, as people showed their stuff!

The food stalls had a mixture of snacks (Pocky anyone?), Anglo (sausage sizzle), Turkish and Japanese (takoyaki and obanyaki were my choices). Other than burning my mouth on a piece of takoyaki it was all good and reasonably priced.

Festival Organisation

The Festival had many volunteers on hand to help out with things and they all seemed friendly and dedicated even if it meant standing by the food stall doors for a few hours. 

The panel facilitator was cool, originally I thought she was too talky but quickly realised that it was through both a love of the topic and because the audience (often quite small) lacked many questions.  Also, the cosplay host was good as well, chatting with everyone and doing a reasonable job given that there was range of personalities on stage.

General Comments

There were some other things I didn’t get a chance to see like the drawing competition but all in all Animania was fun and something I’d like to check out again next year.

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