Monthly Archives: March 2010

Yus! Tsunade Lives!

Since manga is still primarily the wet dreams of teenage boys, manga creators aren’t exactly known for developing strong female characters. Naruto‘s creator Masashi Kishimoto is no exception. Ino? Flirty, gossip-y hussy. Tenten? Does she ever say anything even remotely interesting? Hinata? Only known for being on Naruto’s jock 24/7. In fact, the females-as-second-class-citizens attitude is a running joke among fangirls who actually like post-time skip Haruno Sakura. Of all the kunoichi, Sakura is really the only one who has the potential to be a total Betty (Bad Ass)—she is a genjutsu-type medical ninja with superhuman strength and near-perfect chakra control, after all. But Kishimoto simply refuses to draw/write/see her that way, even though she’s one of the three main characters. It’s infuriating.

When Tsunade came along, readers got to see a nuanced female character: she’s the granddaughter of the first village leader and a student of the third; she’s one of the Legendary Sannin; she’s known real love and lost it; she isn’t so squeaky clean that she has no vices; and she’s got mad love for her village. Yes, Kishimoto draws her with huge knockers so sometimes that gets played for comic relief, but she’s the most three-dimensional female character in the manga and he acknowledges that dimensionality by making her Konohagakure’s leader. The best part? Her becoming Sakura’s shishou. It’s the original Betty training the next-generation Betty.  When Sakura finally gets to show Kakashi and Naruto what she learned under Tsunade (at 2:23), it’s awesome.com.

So knowing Kishimoto’s crappy track record with female characters, I was more than a bit nervous when Tsunade put her life on the line for the village. I just knew he was going to kill her off. He’d even alluded to 86ing her in past interviews and I wondered if doing so would encourage him to make Sakura a stronger character (student surpasses the master and all that jazz). But yesterday? Yesterday, Kishi-kun did me and other fangirls a solid and for that, I’m grateful. Since Orochimaru and Jiraiya are already dead, I know Tsunade’s time will come soon, but I’m glad Sakura gets a little more time with her master to become a stronger woman.

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Here’s Why A Remake of The Last Dragon Will Suck

The Last Dragon came out 25 years ago today. This film is near and dear to my heart, so I was shocked when I found out that it’s being remade. Someone deserves a roundhouse kick to the neck for this. Here’s why:

1) It’s impossible to make a movie this bad any worseunless you try to make it dramatic. From the clothes to the plot to the songs, The Last Dragon was pure camp. I, for one, am tired of campy movies and TV shows being remade in earnest. It’s like producers are saying, “We can’t recapture what made this quirky and silly when it was originally done so let’s step up the drama.” A few can pull it off; most can’t. This will be one of those films that won’t pull it off.

2) Rihanna won’t hold it down the way Vanity did. Although she was a total sex kitten, there was still something a little girl-next-door about Vanity. She was flirty and forward, but she knew when to step back and let Leroy take the lead. There is nothing girl-next-door about Rihanna. And rumor has it RZA is remaking Laura Charles into some sort of dominatrix. That’s just a rumor, of course, but think about it. If it’s true, how is Leroy going to take the lead with a dominatrix?!?

3) Samuel L. Jackson as Sho’nuff? Sho’no. I just don’t see it. Sam Jackson is a little bit too cool to be Sho’nuff. How about Busta Rhymes? Check out the video for “Dangerous” (watch at 2:03) and tell me he wouldn’t be the best Sho’nuff since Julius J. Carry III himself.

I’m done with this remake talk. I’m about to go and watch the original.

*This photo is the front of a nifty t-shirt I got from Brand Fury in San Francisco.


Working in Anime: Does Fangirling Pay Off?

I recently applied for a job at an anime company, for which I’d gladly give up my right nip to get. It’s not that I don’t like my current job. I’m pretty settled, but as time goes on, I find myself longing for something different. After six years, it’s to be expected, I suppose, because like passion in a relationship, passion for a job fades over time. You may start out loving it, but if you don’t shake things up every once in a while, you’ll end up hating everything about it sooner or later. We’re fickle creatures so it’s not the job’s fault. It is what it is…until it isn’t. *sigh*

Here’s the rub: does doing something related to your hobby make work better or does it just turn your hobby into work? I know people who say, “if you really love what you do, you’d do it for free.” Well, I’ve reached a point in my life where I need to start thinking about planning for retirement and unfortunately, the words “fun” and “high-paying job” do not compute. Whatever. If getting a high-paying job that has nothing to do with anime or manga means that I’ll get to retire without having to be a Walmart greeter when I reach my 60s, so be it.


There’s a Little Bit of Kakashi in All of Us

“Rin starts to understand that love is just too far beyond Kakashi’s grasp. He doesn’t know how, he doesn’t understand why, and he’s too afraid to try.” — “Fifteen” by sna

For reasons I have yet to completely figure out, I have a thing for emotionally unavailable men. It’s not intentional, mind you…at least I don’t think it is. Is it the “fixer upper” aspect of them that makes me think I can do what women who came before me couldn’t? Am I trying to right the wrongs that I see in them because those wrongs are reflections of things that I don’t like about myself? It’s all too complicated and trying to wrap my mind around it makes me feel like my head’s in a vice. However, I think it’s precisely why I find Hatake Kakashi such an irresistible character. He pushes all of my “broken man” buttons.

Let’s run down the list of facts that illustrate just how effed up Kakashi is, shall we? He was a natural-born killer before he hit puberty. His father commits suicide after being shunned by his comrades. He loses an eye and gets his teammate’s just as the kid’s about to die. He promises the dying boy that he’ll protect their other teammate, but obviously fails because she ends up getting killed, too. Oh, and his sensei—the only father figure he has after his real dad offs himself—dies protecting his village from a rampaging demon fox. This all goes down before Kakashi makes it out of his teens. If that isn’t enough to drive a person to become an emotional black hole, I really don’t know what is. And from this sordid history, the most imaginative of us fangirls create fantastically depressing relationship-focused fanfiction.

There are primarily two types of ‘ship-focused ficcage involving Kakashi: 1) the fluffy “and they lived happily ever after” love stories in which he’s capable of letting someone get close enough to him to love him despite everything he’s been through and 2) the dark psychological studies that explore how utterly insane he must be to have survived being a ninja for so long (anyone who wants to be with him is equally insane). Personally, I enjoy stories that combine elements of the two while offering a realistic version of his redemption. I even enjoy stories where he’s incapable of being redeemed because, really, Kakaski angsts so prettily.

Hatake Kakashi is a prime example of a character whose actions are dictated by the loads of crap fate has handed him. Isn’t that what we all go through? Yes, he’s fictional but we real people struggle with our lots in life, too. Me? I try to live my life couched mostly in cold, hard realism with a dash of Pollyanna thrown in for good measure. It’s all that I can do. I think it’s all that anyone can do. But I think it would be so much more awesome if I were a ninja.


Why I Like Anime and Manga

I recently went to anime night with a friend who isn’t into anime. The experience was awkward, to say the least. After we left, he peppered me with questions about what he saw. “What’s the difference between anime and other Japanese cartoons?” “What was with the girls having those baby voices?” “Is it always so over the top?” Essentially, the underlying tone of every question was, “What’s so great about this?” It was frustrating trying to explain why I find anime and manga interesting. “I just like it, OK?!?” really isn’t a good answer. Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time and ended up saying something generic—“People think that because it’s animated that it’s for children and it isn’t”—it made me think more about why I dig it. If you like something you should be able to defend your position properly. So here it goes:

As primetime television continues to go downhill (I firmly believe that “reality” TV is one of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse) and skyrocketing fees for premium cable channels make most of the decent shows inaccessible until they come out on DVD, I turn to manga and anime for good story lines. Its range of choices is more than enough to keep me entertained. Death Note, Bleach, Naruto, Cowboy Bebop, Afro Samurai…I could go on and on and on. There’s so much to explore, so much to learn, and geeking out with other fans is one of the few things that makes me truly happy.

In the end, my friend wasn’t too judgmental and I have him to thank for coming up with a definitive statement about why I enjoy anime and manga.


My First Squee

Sho’nuff: When I say “Who’s da master?” you say “Sho’nuff.” Who’s da master?!?
Bruce Leroy:
I am.
Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985)

In 1985, my cousin, Mark, who was obsessed with all things martial arts-related, took me to see Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, the cheesy, racially tone-deaf story of an African-American Kung Fu “master” living in Harlem. I was 8 and already quite accustomed to his addiction as we spent many a Saturday morning watching dubbed black-and-white movies about ninja and samurai trying to live honorably, and beating the crap out of those who refused to let them. Although I occasionally complained that I was missing The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, and various other cartoons during these times, I, too, was taken with these movies. My idolization of my older cousin made liking them possible.

At 20, Mark was a chocolate-hued god, one who owned and properly used nunchucks, knew how to center his Chi, and could administer a roundhouse kick to the head. Going to the movies with him was an honor and a privilege, and knowing that he’d chosen me, his chunky, introspective, prepubertal cousin, for such an expedition was the best feeling in the world. Looking back on it now, I can clearly see that he probably had no other options. (True fanboys rarely did back in those days. And Mark was a black fanboy from the ‘hood who wore Mandarin shirts and Kung Fu slip-ons with white socks. Options? Fugetaboutit.)

Honestly, I don’t remember a thing about sitting in that darkened theater with my favorite cousin. I draw a complete blank on that day, but when The Last Dragon finally made its HBO debut, I was hooked. I taped the movie on Betamax and spent the entire summer indoors, watching it at least once a day while my mother was at work. When Bruce Leroy rescued VJ vixen Laura Charles from the bridge-and-tunnel thugs who worked for evil arcade game mogul Eddie Arcadian, I gasped. When he saved her again from said thugs and they almost kiss as a result, I blushed. When he saved her a final time, catching a bullet in the teeth for his beloved, I was in full-on swoon mode. I knew every line, move, and song by heart by the time school started up again.

Maybe I did it all for posterity. In the time since the movie had hit the big screen, Mark had managed to get a girlfriend and when he knocked her up, their daughter instantly became the center of his world. Nunchucks and throwing stars were replaced with diapers and bottles, our Saturday morning retreats to the world of Kung Fu and karate movies long gone. Maybe watching The Last Dragon ad nauseam reminded me of how things were before my cousin had gotten “cool” and dropped his old obsession for a new and improved one. Then again, maybe it was just that, in my girlie little mind, Bruce Leroy was hotter than the sun.


I Am A Fangirl

There. I said it.

I’ve tried to keep my obsession to myself for months now, purely for reasons of self-preservation. The threat of judgment keeps me from completely going public. Depending on who you ask, I am too [fill in the blank] to be a fangirl. I’m too old, too black, or too sane to ship, squee, and occasionally glomp. “You will never get another boyfriend,” they say. “This is not what you’re supposed to do with your time,” they say. But why not? If it makes me happy, why shouldn’t I read Naruto or watch Bleach? Why shouldn’t I go to Anime Night at the local university? Why shouldn’t I search YouTube for catchy Japanese pop songs? Because it’s not what adults do? I have a mortgage and car payments, credit card and student loan debt. In my book, that makes me pretty “adult.” When I come home from a hard day’s work at my full-time job, I like to read fan fiction. Yes, I spend hours critiquing fan fiction and looking for good stories on my OTP. And I have news for you: some of those stories are better than a lot of books I’ve read. (Hell, some of them are better than sex…or, at the very least, better than chocolate.) I guess this is the long way of saying don’t judge me. Don’t categorize me and my pursuits by your standards. I don’t want to live by your standards. You chose to get married and have kids that you can take to Disneyland. I choose to stay single and take myself to Drawing the Sword: Samurai in Manga and Anime at the Cartoon Art Museum. To each her own.

Live and let live.