Category Archives: Anime and Animation

Fanime 2018 Observation

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

It may seem odd that as of late I’ve posted about animation, but my recent activities have put me in touch with some worth discussing.  My recent speaking engagement at Fanime 2018 gave me a lot to think about – because there’s some insights into where anime and animation may be going.

One of the things I do every con is scope out what’s popular in cosplay and the artists alley.  It gives me an idea of what’s going on, what’s popular, and what we may want to pay attention to.  What I saw has me thinking about a few shifts in anime, animation, and gaming.

My Hero Academia

This superhero show – deserving the praise it’s received – was huge.  Plenty of cosplayers.  Plenty of merchandise.  It was pretty much the dominant anime at the convention.

This has me wondering if the show gets a wider distribution or viewership if it’s going to be the new gateway anime.  I can’t think of anything that truly fit that definition for years (but see below), but MHA could well be it.  If we actually have a new gateway anime that’s a cultural game-changer, meaning more people get interested in the broader anime-and-related scene.

Land of the Lustrous

I only just started watching this gorgeous, hard-to-describe show about living gemstones in a strange world.  I have had friends recommending it, but started watching it because it was far more represented at Fanime than I expected.  I had been concerned that the “limitation” of being on Amazon would affect it, and apparently I was wrong about that or the word “limitation.”

If this representation indicates penetration, that’s excellent news for both Amazon and for unusual anime – because LotL may look like a CGI action anime/magical girl thing but it’s certainly not.  I have trouble describing it.  At this level of attention I suspect it’ll remain a fixture for awhile and shows there’s an appetite for more unusual things out of Japan.

Yuri On Ice

The famous skating sports drama/romcom was less represented this year, but still holding on in cosplay and merchandise.  Considering how it’s been represented in the Olympics, it still reaches people.  I consider it a minor gateway anime if only due to exposure.

But it’s not going away at least in American fandom.

Video Games

Overwatch was still well-representated in both areas, though I saw slightly less Cosplayers.  I think Overwatch is not only popular (in a justified way) but clearly its cast, its character designs and character “skins” encourage cosplayers.  Anyone doing a game wanting mindshare should keep cosplayability (which is now a word) in mind.

Fire Emblem, the game series, was also very well represented.  With a huge cast over many games, and a prominent current one, I met many cosplayers who’d dressed as characters from the series.  Again cosplayability and interesting characters brings mindshare.

Of course back when FFX-2 came out, it was clearly cosplayable.  This is just following in those footsteps.


So there you have it.  I think we have a new potential gateway anime, Amazon’s investment in LotL seems to have brought interest and passion, and characters and cosplayability produce some real passion.

– Steve

How Aggretsuko Tackles Multiple Important Subjects

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As you may guess, I’ve been analyzing  Aggretsuko lately.  I just ran a marathon of the series for a different group of friends.  This dark office comedy from Sanrio bears multiple viewings because it’s a well-crafted show.  It just happens to look cute until you realize what’s going on.

Having seen it again with another group of people, many more insights came to mind.  These provide good advice to writers, but also are an example of another point – good media is worthy of a repeat performance so you can learn from it.

As the rewatch progressed, several major traits of the show became apparent. Let’s discuss them first.

By the way SPOILERS.

Let’s talk the women of Aggretsuko.

  • First, it’s about the rage and anger women feel – and often sit on.  Though the main character is clearly filled with rage, other women in her sphere have dealt with problems as well.  They all coped with it their own way – while admitting it’s awful.
  • The show is also about strong and positive female friendships and mentorships.  The women help each other out, and there’s little of the stereotypical catty infighting female characters are often saddled with.  The relationships among everyone aren’t always healthy (indeed that’s true of the entire show), but there’s a lot of positive female-female interactions.  It was delightful.
  • Retsuko is a great and flawed main character.  Totally understandable, obviously making mistakes, forging ahead.  We’ve all known people like her and probably been her.
  • Many ways to be female.  Aggretsuko, in the character of Gori (one of my favorite characters), takes on common tropes about women.  Gori is portrayed as a large and strong gorilla – in fact she tries to increase her strength.  However, though there’s humor in how she shows off her muscles, she’s not portrayed as un-femminine but actually very feminine.  Gori in fact seems to delight in being “girly,” fashionable, talking relationships and more – and of course perfecting her perfect walk so she and her friend Washimi appear utterly badass.
  • Washimi, Gori’s partner in adventure, is a supportive mentor figure.  She’s honest about the problems of the world, but is also supportive of her fellow women.  Strong and capable, she’s also very caring – strength does not mean cruelty or ego to her.  Washimi is another character we need more about.
  • Finally, consummate butt-kisser Tsunoda turns out to know exactly what she’s doing, manipulating the ego of her manager.  It may not be admirable, but she knows what she’s doing, she has the power, and she’s making people’s lives easier.

I can’t explain how much of the show is a delight because of these female characters.  This weekend I and my co-author spoke on our book on Sailor Moon, Her Eternal Moonlight – and much like that series, it has a diverse cast of great female characters.  There’s no “designated girl” – there’s just women.

Now let’s talk the male characters.

  • Haida, the Internet’s New Boyfriend, is a great example of a nice guy who doesn’t become a Nice Guy.  He’s a decent person, not perfect, but a reliable person.  He screws up by not being able to express his feelings – and everyone pays for it, as often happens in real life.
  • Retsuke, Retsuko’s love interest is fascinating.  He honestly comes off as autistic or otherwise not neurotypical, and considering the work that went into the show, I assume this is intentional.  He’s clearly kind but also terribly unaware of what he’s doing.  I actually hope we get to understand him more – because as noted, I think his portrayal is more than “spacey” and a lot could be done here to understand people.
  • The Yoga Instructor, a big stereotypical monosyllabic jock – actually cares about his charges and helps advance relationships.  Sure he’s kind of a plot device but he’s a well-meaning one.
  • Manumaru the big, feline bro-buddy to Retsuke is a great example of someone a mix of both good traits and toxic masculinity.  He’s clearly fun to be with, boisterous, likeable, and cares about Retsuke.  He’s also pushy, doesn’t help Retsuke understand emotional issues, and can ignore the feelings of others.  He’s another one I’d like to see more of because such a character with good or bad traits could be fascinating to explore – and clearly hit it off with Fenneko.
  • Mister Ton.  The literal sexist pig of the series could have been a one-shot no personality villain; he’s a stew of toxic masculinity.  As it goes on we find there are different sides to him – and while many of those sides are still “jerk” not all of them are.  Most importantly he does seem to have some respect for Aggretsuko – he thinks SHE will be the boss one day, and its clear he remembers their musical battle when he councils her on her relationship.  Most interesting to me is how he rallies his team to help with a deadline and becomes a different person – I’ve met people like this who’s best sides come out in a crisis and fade when the crisis is gone.

Aggretsuko shows us plenty of positive women, exploring character types and ideas we just don’t get enough of.  On top of that, it even gives us some look at the different men in the character’s lives and their own flaws.  Of course many of the flaws of the male characters make the lives of the women around them worse – and they don’t realize it – which is a good point to remember.

Once again on a second viewing, I found so much in this show.  I’m sure one day I’ll find even more.

– Steve

Sailor Moon Update 5/12/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

And where’s the Sailor Moon Book?

. . at the editor. Sorry, no much of an update there.  It’s a waiting game now.

I’m hoping to get it back this month- if we get it in time, Bonnie and I can edit it together as we’ll be visiting each other.

We can hopefully do editing all in one go, which will easily beThe book itself is not large – about 160+ pages when formatted for print – so we can probably manage a first run edit in a reasonable time.

At that point we’ll likely do a handoff between us, each take one more shot at editing, then I’ll format it for Kindle and Print. Print pre-copies are also great to look for problems.

Still on track for September, so stay tuned!

– Steve