Welcome back to "Cel Shaded," your weekly dose of anime and manga news and commentary. Or to be more precise for today’s column, it’s scheduled to be a weekly dose unless two newspapers merge into a single, take-on-all-comers unit like those mechanized Voltron or Power Rangers creations. When that happens, a rare opportunity to fit two columns into one week arises as schedules get tweaked.
So here we are, with "Cel Shaded" on Thursdays and me with another chance to make a first impression. For those of you who read my last column in the Star-Bulletin on Sunday, the fifth-anniversary column I promised about Monkey-AME is still coming next week. But for former Advertiser readers perhaps reading this for the first time – or for those of you who need a refresher course – I offer this "frequently asked questions" roundup:
Question: What is "Cel Shaded"?
Answer: It’s a column devoted to exploring various aspects of the anime and manga pop culture phenomenon – from what’s going on with the anime and manga itself, to the fans who enjoy it and the way it’s influencing other parts of pop culture.
I’ve been the ringmaster of this circus since June 2005, inspired enough by the turnout at the local Kawaii Kon anime convention that year to give a weekly column a shot. "Cel Shaded" remains the only weekly anime column printed in a major U.S. metropolitan daily newspaper. I’ve been an anime and manga fan since the late ’90s and writing reviews for our "Drawn & Quartered" feature since 2003. I’ve also written a book, "The Rough Guide to Manga," available worldwide at a fine Internet retailer near you. (Yes, I plug it whenever I can. Royalties are nice.)
Also appearing from time to time will be my coworker, friend and the person I’ve dubbed my "tag-team partner in fandom," Wilma Jandoc. Wilma’s our pioneering anime and manga columnist, contributing to "D&Q" ever since it debuted in 2001.
Q: OK … so what’s this "anime" and "manga"?
A: Anime (pronounced "AHH-nee-meh"), for the most part, are animated TV series and movies with origins in Japan; manga (pronounced "MAHN-gah") are Japanese comic books. That’s the easiest, most technically correct answer.
What’s muddied the waters in recent years, however, is the growing number of anime and manga with American origins that have heavy Japanese influences – the animated features "Batman: Gotham Knight," "Halo Legends" and "Afro Samurai," for instance, and OEL (original English language) or global manga like DC Comics’ "Megatokyo" and Yen Press’ "Nightschool" and "Maximum Ride."
Q: Why call your column "Cel Shaded"?
A: The term refers to an art style in video games where characters look more like cartoon characters than computer-generated characters. Since this column is all about drawings and animated characters, I just thought it would be a perfect fit.
Q: What is that you’re holding/wearing in your mug shot, anyway?
A: The hat is of a Puchu, these cute little critters running around the anime "Excel Saga," and the stuffed doll is of a soot sprite, made famous in the Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Spirited Away." Consider it my form of casual cosplay (costume play) … plus it adds a sense of fun to the column. And having fun is what life is all about, right?