Monday, June 26, 2017

The Osamu Tezuka Story

The Osamu Tezuka Story
Toshio Ban and Tezuka Productions
translated by Frederik L. Schodt
Stone Bridge Press, 2016

The Osamu Tezuka Story is, like Tezuka's body of work, a gigantic, awe-inspiring thing that both stuns and entertains. Part corporate/pop cultural history, part struggle of the artist as a young, middle-aged, and older manga-ka, the book delivers four decades of the manga publishing world and the life of its most popular creator, whose work impacted Japan and the world. As a bonus this book and its 900 pages also deliver a great upper body workout. Because... it's big.

Anyone interested in Japanese comics or animation knows Tezuka's name. Convenient Western shorthand casts him as Japan's Walt Disney, a protean creator of world-renowned characters who dragged an artform into a licenseable, immensely profitable future; but he combined Disney's innate grasp of public taste with an inhuman work ethic and a fiercely competitive drive to excel. English-language material about manga's early days is rare, apart from Ryan Holmberg's deep-dive work at TCJ, and Western fans rely on getting bits and pieces of history sideways through old fanzine articles and questionable anime blogs informed by half-remembered nerd conversations. Discussions about Tezuka usually involve some self-appointed expert claiming Tezuka invented manga (he did not), or Tezuka invented anime (he did not) or that Astro Boy was the first animated TV show in Japan (it was not) or that the first shoujo manga was Tezuka's Princess Knight (nope). Hopefully this book will nip future tall-tale-tellers in the bud, because the truth behind Osamu Tezuka's genius is vastly more interesting than any fakey list of 'firsts.'

color Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atomu splash page from Sept. 1965 Shonen

Readers already familiar with Tezuka's exports like Astro Boy, Kimba The White Lion, Black Jack, Adolf, and Phoenix will enjoy seeing the creative struggles behind their favorites, and if they weren't already aware of the punishing demands of a professional manga artist, Tezuka's tireless pace and unstoppable mania for creation will dumbfound. The Osamu Tezuka Story details how habits of hard work were fostered early in Tezuka's life. The Osaka-born Tezuka found inspiration in the discipline of long distance running, a lifelong passion for music, movies, and insect collecting, and a love of cartooning encouraged by the adults in his life. The demands of Japan's wartime culture would, in Tezuka, result in an amazing ability to focus on tasks and maximize his own effectiveness, to juggle several different challenges at the same time, and to deliver results in widely disparate fields – talents that would serve him well in surviving the rigors of the immediate postwar period, breaking into the children's manga field and, at the same time, interning as a medical doctor. Try it sometime, kids.

#oneperfectshot | Night Call Nurses | 1972 | dir. Jonathan Kaplan | prod. Roger Corman
Choosing comics, Tezuka found himself in the center of a postwar children's magazine boom. Tezuka's Shin Takarajima, or "New Treasure Island", created with Shichima Sakai, would be a breakout hit for Tezuka. The 50s manga explosion produced an entire generation of young manga artists, battling their punishing schedules and occasionally relieving stress with three-day blowouts. Future manga stars like Shotaro Ishinomori, Fujiko-Fujio, Fujio Akatsuka, and Leiji Matsumoto appear in Tezuka's orbit as young hopefuls. Did Tezuka give his young manga acolytes aphrodisiacs to fuel their late-night manga sessions? Read the book and find out!

A popular talent feeding the pop culture needs of millions of Japanese children, Tezuka would find himself working on eight stories for eight different publishers simultaneously. Editors would haunt Tezuka's foyer fighting for priority, sometimes confining him to a hotel or, failing that, forced to track him down from place to place to beg for pages. Tezuka's organizational skills allowed him to direct production teams, with Tezuka outworking even his most dedicated assistants, and he developed a complex system to indicate to assistants the kinds of crosshatching, shading, backgrounds or environmental effects for each panel. He could direct the composition of manga pages from another room or, as communications technology improved, from another city entirely.

The late 1950s appearance of more adult "gekiga" manga challenged the competitive Tezuka to create works with more adult themes and a more realistic art style. At the same time he was working with Toei Animation on the feature length Son Goku film Saiyuki ("Journey To The West", known in America as "Alakazam The Great"). Soon Tezuka was pouring his manga profits into his other love, animation.

By 1960 Tezuka had developed a production system for working with assistants and editors, had completed his doctoral thesis, had written a live-action TV show, and was embarking on his own animation production, with facilities purpose-built into his new home. Showa-era anime buffs will be interested in the production details of Astro Boy and early shorts like "Drop" and "Pictures At An Exhibition", and fascinated by Tezuka's cost-cutting animation choices, choices that are still felt today. Tezuka's obsessive filmgoing paid dividends as he utilized cinematic techniques like montage and cross-cutting to inexpensively and quickly emphasize drama. His already overstuffed work schedule became even more hectic; story conferences would be informal, Stan Lee-style verbal exchanges where Tezuka would describe the plot and the main visuals, leaving the layout & genga for staff artists to complete. This would expand to a shift system that worked around the clock. His corporate structure split and split again, with one company handling his TV animation, one company handling his licencing, and one for his manga publishing.

early 1960s hardback "White Pilot"

Tezuka's kingdom would, like the rest of us, be battered by the shocks of the 70s. The decade would see his animation studio go bankrupt and Tezuka struggle for creative relevance in the face of personal and professional crisis, leading him to innovate new manga for children and adults and make global connections that will take him to China, Europe, and Los Angeles' nascent Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. Tezuka's animation would rebound, inaugurating a series of yearly TV specials for NHK and production on experimental, artistic works. Sequestering himself in a private studio, the decade saw Tezuka working harder than ever, inspired by deadlines and pressure yet never abandoning his painstaking attention to detail. Anime fans will appreciate the research and technical challenges he and animator Junji Kobayashi faced in creating the opening scene from his film Phoenix 2772, a dramatic "one-take" shot of differing camera angles and perspectives that took two full months. Kobayashi would later be instrumental in creating Tezuka's award-winning 1984 masterpiece, "Jumping."

Phoenix 2772's transforming robot love interest, Olga

Throughout the 1980s Tezuka continued his Phoenix manga, pushed ahead with new manga like Adolph, Neo-Faust, and Ludwig B, visited France and Brazil, produced a new color Astro Boy TV series, achieved animation awards and manga awards, and continued his all-nighters and his deadline struggles up to and through his increasing health problems. Osamu Tezuka would pass away in 1989 at the age of 60, an age that these days seems far too young. However, in those sixty years he filled every day to the fullest, leaving a life's work unmatched in any field, a life's work the 900 pages of The Osamu Tezuka Story can only begin to describe.

Toshio Ban's artwork is friendly, clean, photo-referenced to the hilt (some of the original photos can be seen in Helen McCarthy's excellent The Art Of Osamu Tezuka), and close to Tezuka's own style but not so close that the bits of Tezuka's own work seen occasionally don't stand out as wildly individualistic. The Osamu Tezuka Story proves Tezuka's own thesis of the universality of cartooning as a visual language, reminding us all of the vast market for educational, vocational, historical, and otherwise informational comics, a market that Japan has embraced wholeheartedly while the rest of the world makes do with Ikea assembly guides and comics about military courtesy or Dagwood's mental health problems.

Frederik Schodt's adaptation grapples with entire lifetimes and cultures, world wars, Japanese educational and medical institutions, the ins and outs of the manga industry, right down to specific animation techniques and obscure Japanese insects, yet never fails to keep the material relevant, interesting, and accessible to the general reader. Schodt served as Tezuka's translator on some of his American visits, giving us the unique situation where a translator is translating scenes of himself translating. Time really is a flat circle, I guess.

Every once in awhile the book feels the need to emphasize Tezuka's genius by describing his otherworldly excellence in fields unrelated to manga; astounding onlookers by mastering "extremely difficult scores" without any formal piano training, memorizing phone numbers, dictating telegrams, comprehending highly specialized texts, and caricaturing classmates from memory. Listing these prosaic "achievements" only adds a hagiographic tone to the text, and anyway, they're completely overshadowed by the tremendous achievements Tezuka actually did achieve in his actual recorded career.

Published as it is by Tezuka Productions, The Osamu Tezuka Story has a definite focus on the positive. The bankruptcies of Mushi Productions and Mushi Pro Shoji in the 1970s are mentioned but explanations are vague; the copyright disputes that kept Astro Boy out of the public eye for years are only touched on briefly, and some misfires - like the 1950s live action Astro Boy TV series that Tezuka later briefly pretended didn't exist - are not mentioned at all. And while some readers may at times want a franker, more candid account of Tezuka's life, let's face it, that isn't what corporate biographies are about; "Tokiwaso Babylon" this ain't.

What The Osamu Tezuka Story is, is a comprehensive look at the life of someone who always worked harder, who always thought he could do better, who was surrounded by amazing talent and used that rivalry to spur himself to greater efforts. It's the life of a man who survived war and occupation and disease and who lived to create, every minute of every day. A man who built studios and empires and tore them down and built them up again, because he never stopped creating. A man who could tell you the names of the stars in the sky and the names of the bugs in the dirt, and then stay up for three days drawing comics, because that was what he was, a creator.

28 years after his passing, his work remains popular and influential as reissues, remakes, and new visions bring his characters back to life. Western audiences have enjoyed their own Tezuka boom with his manga appearing here in ever increasing numbers. And with The Osamu Tezuka Story in English, we can more fully understand every part of Tezuka's boundless genius.

-Dave Merrill

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Slight Anime North 2017 Delay

Well, it's that time of year again, when the flowers bloom and the trees start greening and the anime fans descend on Toronto for Anime North 2017. Shain and Dave (of Mister Kitty and Let's Anime fame) will be there as well, holding forth on a wide range of topics for the entertainment of all, and that includes you if you're anywhere near Toronto! Please come by the con and enjoy these, our events!

Our Stupid Comics panel returns Sunday with crazy new live descriptions of some of the stupidest comics ever made, some you've seen on the Stupid Comics site and some brand-new to your horrified eyes! Again, free stupid comics will be given away/hurled at the audience!

Dave's popular Anime Hell event returns in its long-running Friday night engagement of confusing witnesses for two solid late-night hours. 

and on Saturday Shain and Dave take you through all the great cartoon shorts of the 40s that we grew watching on broadcast TV Saturday mornings, which is not even a thing any more!

and on Saturday afternoon Dave takes you through a trip back in time to what it was like to be obsessed with Japanese cartoons in the 60s and 70s and 80s. 

Neil Nadelman's Totally Lame Anime returns to smash your preconceived notions of "competence" and "good taste" as the worst anime in Asia is paraded before your uncomprehending eyes, Saturday night. 

This is followed by expert Mike Toole's exploration of the goofy, quasi-legal world of bootleg Korean animation, starring knock-offs of some of your favorite characters!

Speaking of goofy, here's Chargeman Ken, one of the goofiest anime characters to ever goof his way through his own TV series. Is it the absolute worst anime of all time? Let's get with Neil and Dave and find out!

And if you were trapped on a desert island, what anime would you take with you? An anime you could fashion into a radio or a boat? Sure. Get with Neil and Dave and discuss this vital philosophical issue as they display examples of cartoons they'd like to be marooned with. 

Mike Toole is also doing GHIBLI BEFORE GHIBLI Friday at 8pm, the ANIME ARCADE Saturday at 11am, SHORT CUTS at 3pm, and DUBS TIME FORGOT Sunday at 2pm!  

You can check the full Anime North schedule here (PDF link) and then you can start packing your cosplay and getting ready for the big show! See you there!

Monday, April 24, 2017

your bird ninja update

If you're like me, you grew up watching Battle of The Planets. Well, actually, I preferred Star Blazers. It took a while for me to really understand what was going on with those 5 bird ninjas and their struggle against Galactor. Actually, what it took was finally catching the original 1972 Tatsunoko Japanese version, the tremendously popular Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. Created by manga pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida, Gatchaman was a wild, colorful SF reimagining of his early 60s adventure series "Phantom Agents," remixed with space aliens, supercars, giant mechanical monsters, and all the bell bottom jeans the 1970s could provide. Gatchaman would return in the 1978 sequel Gatchaman II and its followup, 1979's Gatchaman Fighter

The success of Star Wars brought science fiction to the attention of every media executive in America, and Tatsunoko's earlier export Speed Racer had given the studio a beachhead in America. However, since the 1960s, new standards for children's television had prevailed in the US, so TV producer Sandy Frank's Gatchaman iteration Battle Of The Planets was chopped, channeled, rewritten, repainted, lowered, and had a new, vastly inferior transmission installed. And that's as far as I'm going with that car metaphor.

industry ad pitching BOTP to US TV markets

At any rate it's a terrific titan of 70s anime, featuring super monsters, colorful heroes, lots of kid-friendly action, anime melodrama, muscular, fairly realistic character designs, and a great Hoyt Curtin musical score. As dated and clumsy as the BOTP dub can be at times, the greatness of the original show still shines through. The series inspired a wide range of American merchandise, including model kits, lunchboxes, Gold Key comics that are not worth $20 each, sorry, and various magic slate and frame tray puzzle toys.  

Once 1978's Battle of The Planets had run its syndication course, the entire series was re-dubbed by Fred "Astro Boy" Ladd for Turner, under the new title G-Force. This new, uncut version of the series (1986) featured goofy character names ("Ace Goodheart") and new, synthesized, incessant, maddening background music. The series was shown a few times on the various channels of the Turner cable network before vanishing mysteriously.

In the 1990s Saban (you know, the Power Rangers people) took the second and third Gatchaman series (Gatchaman II and Gatchaman Fighter) and dubbed them under the title "Eagle Riders". This fairly nonsensical dub worked its way into syndication and vanished opposite a late-decade wave of newer, more popular anime imports like Sailor Moon.

Once DVDs made their appearance, Rhino Video produced six volumes of Battle Of The Planets - each release featuring two BOTP episodes, two subtitled Gatchaman episodes, and one G-Force episode.

Four years later,  anime localizer A.D.Vision released the entire 105-episode Gatchaman series, with new, accurate dubs AND subtitles, in DVD box sets with extras. Suddenly anime fans could not only enjoy the entire Gatchaman series as it was intended to be seen, but anime con panelists could spend an hour discussing the show, and then go to the dealers room and purchase an officially licensed, uncut, super-high-quality edition of the actual show under discussion, in order to demonstrate that the original series, while more violent than typical American cartoons of the period, was not the blood-drenched gore-fest popular imaginations would have you believe. The series continues to live on in the American video market: ADV's successor Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series and its compilation film on Blu-Ray and DVD. The 1990s OVA remake, the abortive CG film, the live-action film, the Zip! "Good Morning Gatchaman" shorts,  and kinda-sorta-sequels like Gatchaman Crowds remind us all that the bird ninjas continue to thrive in the Japanese cultural landscape. 

Chinese-language Gatchaman II book

Gatchaman was one of the first American anime releases to have a substantial fandom built around it; when I got into anime fandom in the 1980s, Gatchaman fans were there already, publishing APAs and writing fan fiction, cosplaying and drawing fan artwork and swapping 13th generation copies of the last 5 episodes of Gatchaman F. It's an enthusiasm that's mirrored in the culture at large; Battle of The Planets inspired two completely separate American comic book releases and continues to be a minor cultural touchstone among former 70s cartoon kids, wide-eyed with wonder at a future that gives us both Battle Of The Planets and Gatchaman and Gatchaman II and soon, Gatchaman F

-Dave Merrill

(this post has been modified from its original 2007 form to fix links and include updates circa 2017)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Worldcon '84: The Anime Room Experience

Since 1939, the World Science Fiction Society has held a Worldcon every year. Well, they took a few years off for WWII. Anyway, each annual Worldcon happens in a city at least 500 miles away from the site of the previous Worldcon, because reasons. As the pre-eminent gathering of science fiction fans and pros, it's the go-to destination for every sci-fi junkie and fantasy nerd who can scrape up plane fare, jam themselves fifteen deep into hotel rooms, and endure three hours of stern Bob Heinlein lectures on American freedom (Kansas City, '76). And as part and parcel of that swirling stew of propeller-beanie-sporting poindexters, anime fans have found themselves thrust into the heart of Worldcon on more than one occasion. 

1984's Worldcon -  "L.A. Con II" - took place August 30 all the way to September 3 - that's right, these things are FIVE DAYS LONG - at the Anaheim Hilton and Anaheim Convention Center, across the street from Disneyland and also the future site of 1998 and 1999's Anime Expo. Guest of Honor was Gordon "Dorsai!" Dickson, with Robert "Psycho" Bloch and Jerry "Janissaries" Pournelle MCing and hosting awards ceremonies. L.A. Con II had almost 8400 members, an impressive number for the time. Even for fans of "Japanimation", as it was then called, the convention was truly a magical gathering. Visiting Gundam guru Yoshiyuki Tomino revealed here for the first time that Mobile Suit Gundam was getting a sequel. A 35mm print of the Lensman anime film received its American premiere. Carl Macek screened Harmony Gold's direct-to-video Macross, the precursor to next year's Robotech. And over in the Santa Monica Salon on the 4th floor of the Hilton, the LA chapter of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization was rocking the house with a full slate of that Japanimation thing, all weekend long!

Recently uncovered in the voluminous files of Dr. Steve Harrison - who was there! - we now have definite proof of the schedule of the 1984 Worldcon's anime room.  And what a schedule it was, with a mix of the old and the new, the English and the Japanese, future franchises and lost relics waiting to be forgotten. 

always open with Star Blazers

Thursday kicked things off with Star Blazers, next straight into Tatsunoko's robot-fighting Casshan, followed by some Galaxy Express 999 TV episodes, and then dropped unsuspecting audiences into Toei's 1973's risque Go Nagai adventure series Cutey Honey.

Next up, a jarring change of pace with the considerably classier Sherlock Hound - you know, the Sherlock Holmes adventures animated by TMS starring the Famous Detective Holmes, who's now a dog living in a dog London? Sure you do. Then, back to outer space with Tatsunoko's Macross, the English dub of their Dashing Warrior Muteking, some more Star Blazers for your afternoon, and then back to Tatsunoko land for an episode of their then-new SF series Southern Cross. That was followed by an English language episode of the TMS series Adventures Of Gamba, the world-famous tale of the sailing mouse battling to defend the mouse island, popular all over the world except in the United States. 

Southern Cross and Muteking; two tastes that taste great together

This was followed by the magical girl Minky Momo, and then the always-popular "dinner break".  The rest of the evening? Galaxy Express, Lupin III, Star Blazers, Gold Lightan, a early subtitled version of Lupin III Castle Of Cagliostro, the first episode of TMS's robot anime Orguss followed by another TMS robot anime God Mars, and the wee hours would see more Star Blazers and Macross

TMS covers all the bases with mice and Mars

Friday started bright and early with Tatsunoko's 1975 outer space knight Space Knight Tekkaman, soon to be released to home video in an English-dubbed version with the C/FO's own Fred Patten on staff. The daytime's schedule of the familiar Star Blazers, Macross, Galaxy Express and Cutey Honey would be enlivened by what might have been the North American premiere of the world-famous Daicon III and IV opening animations, produced by what would become Gainax.

take that, Eleking

Take a break for some fresh air as they re-run last year's Worldcon costume contest, but be back at 5:30 for the Space Adventure Cobra film, Osamu Dezaki's love letter to the splitscreen psychedelic psycho-gun world of outer space adventure, and settle back for more Star Blazers, Macross, 999, and Orguss, with a side of art-thief coffee-shop proprietors Cat's Eye.  Oh yeah, and GI Joe

Saturday? Get there bright and early for more Star Blazers! Some Space Cobra! A little Galaxy Express, some more Cutey Honey, future-cop adventures with Tatsunoko's Urashiman, highlights of CostumeCon II, and then Carl Macek himself will introduce the American feature-length adaptation of Super Space Fortress Macross! Singing along with the theme song is not only suggested, it is strongly encouraged. 

Macross Vs Urashiman
Then get ready for vintage Miyazaki with Lupin III #155 - "Farewell Lovely Lupin" - some more Southern Cross, what appears to be the English pilot dub of Tatsunoko's Mospeada, more Macross and Galaxy Express, a special presentation of the live-action Japanese SF film Sayonara Jupiter, the English pilot for Space Adventure Cobra, and more Star Blazers, Orguss, and Cat's Eye, at which point it's 2:00 in the morning and you stagger back to the room you're sharing with a bunch of strangers to try to claim a spot on the floor, stunned with the realization that you still have two more full days of Worldcon ahead of you. 

Lupin III and Cat's Eye setting a good example for the nation's youth by stealing stuff
A few questions still remain: did the anime room continue for Sunday and Monday? And why no Gatchaman? Why no Captain Harlock or Raideen? How did Tomino feel about the complete lack of Mobile Suit Gundam on the anime room schedule? 

Tomino joins the Mickey Mouse Club; photo by Steve Harrison

Worldcons future and past would deliver Japanese animation firsts to American audiences: the 1983 Worldcon featured rooftop cosplayers and a screening of a 35mm print of Arrivederchi Yamato (it was supposed to be Final Yamato, but something got lost in translation), and the '88 New Orleans Worldcon, "Nolacon", would see both a 35mm print of Wings Of Honneamise and the premiere of Gainax's Gunbuster, and as a video room staffer, the opportunity to make VHS copies of the anime opening credits tape brought over by Japanese visitors was priceless. But in 1988, we were ready; we knew what "anime" was and were hungry for more. In 1984, not so much. For sheer impactful power of an artistic medium upon a nation unprepared for its awesomeness, 1984 was a singular year. 

Special thanks to Steve Harrison for unearthing these schedules and to L.A. Con II and the C/FO for making it all happen in 1984!

Friday, March 17, 2017

In The Days Of Anime Hasshin

Starting in the '80s and lasting until the year 2001, one of America's largest national anime clubs began in America's smallest state. This club would last the longest, have the widest reach, and the largest membership of any national anime fan group... and you might not have ever heard of it. For fifteen years Anime Hasshin published a regular newsletter full of artwork and articles, connected fans with tape-trading volunteers spreading the VHS wealth, and even had a few meetings here and there. Stretching from the VHS days to the Bittorrent era, Anime Hasshin's influence on anime fandom has few equals and was largely the work of one person, founder Lorraine Savage. I caught up with Lorraine recently and she answered a few questions about the club.
In 1986 I discovered anime by watching Cat’s Eye episodes in straight Japanese at a local Boston convention. I had never seen anything like it. I also learned that the afterschool show Star Blazers that I liked so much was actually the translated version of Japan’s Space Cruiser Yamato. Through other fans I heard about the C/FO, and then I attended the 1986 Atlanta Fantasy Fair where I met the wonderful folks Dave Merrill, Lloyd Carter and Jeff Roe who helped me get information about anime and gave me the encouragement to start my own club in Rhode Island. At the Atlanta Fantasy Fair in the anime room, people filled out a mailing list if they wanted to join the anime club. After reading the list, Dave called out incredulously, “Who’s here from Rhode Island??”

In 1986, North American anime fandom was in transition. Small groups of anime fans met in cities throughout America with only the loosest of connections. The C/FO (Cartoon Fantasy Organization) was changing from its California based leadership and Florida based publications team to administration by Texas fans. The Star Blazers Fan Club had published its last newsletter in 1984. The Battle Of The Planets Fan Club had not published a newsletter since 1981. The Earth Defense Command in Dallas was actively publishing their fanzine NOVA, but it was appearing sporadically at the time (only one issue would appear in 1986). The anime fan organizers inspired by Astro Boy, Battle Of The Planets, and Star Blazers were becoming overwhelmed by the popularity of Robotech and the subsequent wave of new interest in Japanese animation this new show inspired.

In those days it was very difficult to get information about anime and manga because everything was in Japanese. There was very little in the way of translations and no fan subtitles yet. I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I started a club for people who could share the information they could get. I had a journalism degree so publishing a newsletter was an easy solution for me. Originally called Hasshin RI (for Rhode Island), the club began in January 1987 with The Rose #1 at 10 pages.

Hasshin RI would begin with local meetings and a newsletter. The Rose would start off as a bi-monthly but soon became quarterly. A typical issue would run around 36 pages and include manga reviews, translations of interviews with anime producers, news of upcoming comics releases from Viz, Eternity, Dark Horse, and Antarctic Press, what was coming up in future issues of Animerica, Mangajin, and Anime UK, news of upcoming anime TV series coming to the American market, Anime Hasshin anime poll results (favorite show as of April 1993 – Ranma 1/2), overviews of anime shows like Galaxy Express 999 or Heroic Legend Of Arslan, reviews of translated and Japanese-language manga, translated song lyrics, convention reports from various SF and anime conventions, and classified ads from Kimono My House, Stratus Pagoda, Trans Pacific Laser, Nikaku Animart, Laser Perceptions, and the Brain/Wash Network, as well as a yearly humor supplement called The Thorn. Found throughout every issue would be spot fan illustrations from artists like Widya Santoso, Johnathan Luce, Robert DeJesus, Dan Kellaway, Akito Tanemura, Lester Swint, Shaindle Minuk, and many many others. Convention coverage included Otakon, Dragoncon, Atlanta Fantasy Fair, Arisia, and the ill-fated Tezuka Awards handed out at Anime East's last convention.

Hasshin RI/Anime Hasshin came into being at a time when the leadership of several extant anime clubs were feuding with each other, and from the start Lorraine was adamant that Anime Hasshin would not be a chapter of any national organization, but it would be its own independent club. Subsequent attempts to involve AH in the fan politicking endemic to the scene failed, and Anime Hasshin outlasted most of these clubs by a fair margin.

The first meeting was in 1986 in my apartment with four local friends. We watched Queen Millennia, Endless Road SSX, and Lupin III Mystery of Mamo. When the local club in Rhode Island got bigger we had monthly meetings at a library and at a bank’s meeting room for a few years. It drew attendees from as far away as Boston, and we usually had about 4 to 8 people attend. Peak Anime Hasshin membership was 404 members from 14 countries on 6 continents, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Poland, Germany, and England.

An important part of Anime Hasshin was its Tape Traders List; the club maintained a list of volunteers who were willing to copy anime from their collection for other Anime Hasshin members. I believe the first iteration of the list even included people willing to copy Beta tapes and PAL format videos. In the 1980s many anime fans would only copy their tapes in exchange for copies of other shows, which left new fans without many options to acquire new Japanese animation. The Anime Hasshin tape traders list featured addresses of dozens of fans who volunteered to copy items from their own collection for anyone who sent a blank tape and return postage. There were dozens of people on the list, all with widely varying collections, so no one trader got overwhelmed with requests (as frequently happened with local clubs) and anime fans in out-of-the-way places, without local clubs or conventions, could experience Japanese animation.

list of synopsis packets available for the language-impaired
Another valuable print-media service AH provided was their synopsis packets. Translations, episode guides, film synopses, and character guides culled from APAs, convention guides, out of print zines, and official sources were available for the cost of photocopying; at least 10 different packets of information were available giving language-impaired nerds a chance to figure out what was going on in Orguss, SPT Layzner, Saint Seiya, Dangaio, Amon Saga, Dagger of Kamui, and dozens of other anime titles. The Rose itself was printed in black and white on standard 8.5 x 11 copy paper, with a colored sheet for the cover, and with two or three staples holding it all together.

Anime Hasshin highlights from The Rose #50
I used a desktop publishing program to lay out the newsletter and Kinko’s to print and collate it. I labeled and stuffed envelopes myself. I got a bulk mail account at the post office to save money on postage. I was fortunate that I never had to worry about getting enough contributions. For every issue, I had numerous members sending me articles, reviews, artwork, games, classified ads, etc. That’s why there was so much variety in the newsletter. I just let people send whatever they wanted; the only rules were it had to be anime/manga related and no X-rated stuff. People loved to see their work published in The Rose. The Roses page count reached a high of 44 pages. 
The Rose covers NASFIC & Otakon

In the late 1980s, Japanese animation fandom was venturing online with messaging systems like the newsgroup rec.arts.anime, a text-based platform accessed via university computer networks, volunteer-run BBS systems, or through services like GEnie, Compuserve, or AOL. The first webpage appeared in the early 1990s, inspiring fans to create pages about their favorite shows, and the Anime Web Turnpike went live in 1995, collecting links to these websites. Sailor Moon began airing on US television the same year, and in 1998 the Pokemon TV anime would have its American debut; both shows inspiring new generations of anime fans. By the late 90s anime fans could enjoy DVDs purchased at Best Buy or Suncoast, share anime via peer-to-peer computer networks, and get their anime news from the Anime News Network website. Anime conventions would pop up in every major American city by 1999, giving fans across the country somewhere to go to get their anime fix for at least one weekend. By the end of the decade anime fandom was thriving, above and beyond the 1980s fan club model. Throughout this entire period of growth, Anime Hasshin connected anime fans, covering the new anime conventions, detailing new shows, and giving fans an outlet for communication, reviews and artwork.

Interesting observation: In the 1980s, anime fans felt lucky when VCRs came into use. We could trade copies, and fans made subtitles. We had it made. Then later, when video stores started selling anime, we were astounded to see a whole section devoted to anime with rows and rows of videos. We felt we had paved the way, and that the professional production companies had discovered that there was a market for anime.

I think Nikaku Animart is still at the same location
The last issue of The Rose was #66 in October 2001 after 14 years of publication. It was a sad farewell as membership declined, but with a promise of Anime Hasshin still existing but moving to a website. However, I had been laid off from my job a year earlier and the club just ended. People were turning to the Internet to get more and faster information.

There was surprisingly little controversy over Anime Hasshin and The Rose (if there was, I didn’t hear about it). I always got the newsletter out on time, and people got what they paid for. I was very proud to accept awards on behalf of the club: Outstanding Fan Publication from ChibiCon 1993, Best Anime Fan Club from AnimEast 1994 & 1995, and Best Anime Newsletter from AnimEast 1994 & 1995.

I had a blast making the award-winning anime fan videos “My Euthanasia” and “What’s New Pussycat.” When someone saw the murder and mayhem in “My Euthanasia,” he said, “Sweet little Lorraine made that?!” to which someone else told him, “You don’t know her very well, do you?”

One of the funniest moments I can remember from fandom was at Otakon 1995 or ‘96. A bunch of us were sitting around tired late one night and we were just staring down at the hotel’s floor, and we happened to notice that the pattern in the carpeting looked exactly like the face and rabbit ears of Ryo-Ohki from Tenchi Muyo. We couldn’t stop laughing! I also remember how excited people were at the first AnimeCon in 1991 in San Jose. It felt like we hit the big time with a big convention with Japanese guests. Anime fans and pen pals got to meet each other face-to-face and cosplay and mingle. One of the geekiest moments for me was meeting the voice actors from Starblazers at I-Con on Long Island in 2010: Amy Howard (Nova), Eddie Allen (Desslok), and Tom Tweedy (Mark Venture). Just before Allen got up to speak on the panel, a bunch of us started chanting, “Desslok, Desslok, Desslok!”

I really enjoyed running Anime Hasshin and publishing The Rose. I met so many nice people who enjoyed sharing their love of anime and manga.

Thanks again to Lorraine for sharing the story of Anime Hasshin!