Tonari no Seki-kun and Saturday Morning Cartoons

As a boy, I always strove to wake up around 6 AM in order to watch Saturday Morning cartoons.  These included shows like Garfield–which ran for a whole hour at one time and often included a TV special, Captain Planet (propaganda, but fun propaganda for all that), various shows on Boomerang, and sometimes a unique animated movie, like The Flight of Dragons.  (I had forgotten the name of this film until google found it just a moment ago through me typing in “dragons logic vs. magic.”  Technology makes things too easy!)  Most were great for a laugh or even rather exciting.

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Ah, nothing like that glorious ancient style of animation!

tonari-no-seki-kun-3411543Recently, Tonari no Seki-kun (I keep wanting to write Tonari no Seibutsu >.<), a manga which was first published in 2010, has been made into a series of animated shorts.  In this article, I claimed that it had a Calvin and Hobbes-like feel.  Watching episode one last night convinced me of how closely related it is to American cartoons.  The anime runs on gags and even the character designs do not seem like they would be entirely out of place in an American comic.  As a matter of fact, Yokoi and Seki-kun seem like they could fit in among the Peanuts characters.  Then, that ending theme with Seki-kun playing a beat on his school supplies with Yokoi tapping along enveloped me in a wave of nostalgia.

peanuts1So, I have to ask whether this nostalgia is peculiar to me or if anyone else has felt it?  Do you think that this semblance to American cartoons is deliberate on part of the manga-ka or the animators or not?

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The Freeloader to be Animated

Well, the happiest result of me visiting the Baltimore Comic Convention was to learn about Sean Bishop’s The Freeloader comic, which I have since reviewed here.  We struck up an internet friendship, and I have been learning of Sean Bishop’s adventures and efforts to publish The Freeloader ever since.  With eager ears, I learned that he pursued his dream to the Golden State, where he met many people in the animation industry.

Here's some older designs for the Freeloader.

Here’s some older designs for the Freeloader.

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But, why I am speaking of the animation industry?  After all, Mr. Bishop is a comic artist.  The reason lies in that he is trying to make his comic into a cartoon, which pleases me to no end.  Modern American cartoons have rather paled in comparison to those of the good old days and now are relegated to the extremes of children’s cartoons and the vulgar fare intended to adults.  The sole exception to this recently has been Avatar and The Legend of Korra–both profoundly influenced by Japanese animation and wonderful examples of the potential for American cartoons to be great again.  Mr. Bishop is well versed enough in American comics and cartoons as well as anime to create a truly unique story featuring the best of both animation cultures, and his comic, as well as the information Mr. Bishop has shared with me, gives every indication that it shall.

Remember how I noted that Sean Bishop was influenced by Japanese anime?  Here's the original design for Aegea.

Remember how I noted that Sean Bishop was influenced by Japanese anime? Here’s the original design for Aegea.

The original Aegea and the Freeloader.  I really hope that he can use these designs one day.  They're beautiful!

The original Aegea and the Freeloader. I really hope that he can use these designs one day. They’re beautiful!

For example, sarcasm is rampant in American cartoons, which is funny on occasion, but tends to sicken the viewer when used with much frequency.  Avatar stands as an example of a cartoon which was sincere in its aims and eschewed overdoing the sarcasm.  The Freeloader‘s humor more relies on slapstick (tsukkomi and boke, actually), and one sees that same sense of sincerity found in anime.  The plot concerns a rather screwy kid trying to make a living as a bounty hunter.  He captures a woman named Aegea for breaking curfew, who turns out to have a criminal record worth a $50,000 bounty.  The officer in charge gives her the option to work off the bounty by helping Freeloader, Aegea’s nickname for her new cheapskate partner, in hunting criminals.  Unfortunately, Freeloader’s methods anger the powerful, and he soon gets into trouble with both sides of the law.

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This will make for a great story.  I can hardly contain myself as I wait for a studio to announce that it has accepted his story.  I’ll be sure to keep you all posted when it happens!  For now, here is a link to the author’s website: http://freeloader4hire.blogspot.com/p/legend-of-freeloader.html.

A Little Review of The Freeloader

It’s been a while, hasn’t it, dear readers?  Classwork and all the activities which happen at my university have kept me away from writing for a while, but take solace that you are not the only ones with whom I’ve lost touch: my family rarely hears from me, my friends from college never do, and one of my pet cats still looks longingly out of the window as it awaits my return.  But, this article will at least reach those who are in the first two groups–my cat will have to wait until I visit home next weekend.

As some of you may have noticed, the artist whose comic I marked at the Baltimore Comic Con, Sean Bishop, commented on my article and kindly offered to give me a free signed edition of his work.  (I tell you, as surreal as it was for him to see his work blogged about, it was even more so to see one of my writings produce an effect in the physical world.)  His generosity even extended to him sending two posters–one in color and the other in black and white–of his Rurouni Kenshin drawing, which may be seen in the prior blog post.  Both of these are exquisite to behold; though, I find myself gravitating to the one in black and white, which no doubt shows to how full an extent I have immersed myself in Japanese culture.  As I promised him, here’s a little review of his work.

The story concerns a criminal with a $50,000 dollar bounty on her head, who finds herself forced to cooperate with a lowly bounty hunter in order to work off her debt to society.  This female misfit, named Ms. Aegea (An interesting name.  Make me wonder whether I’m supposed to compare the character to Queen Aegea of the Amazons or King Aegeus of the Athenians–but that’s just my classical mind at work), was captured by the bounty hunter for staying in a park past curfew–this bounty hunter had no idea of the bounty.  Judging from the scenes which show them working together, the two make a great pair.  We’ve yet to learn the bounty hunter’s proper name.  Since he makes Ms. Aegea pay for everything, she just calls him “freeloader.”  The bounty hunter pair, in which we have one rather gung-ho character and another who is laid back, reminds me of Black Cat.  I’m expecting some interesting things from the story.  I’m especially curious what the freeloader’s background is, which will probably be revealed along with his name.

One of my favorite series.

This style of drawing seems to be a pleasant mixture of the kind found in Japanese-style manga and American Sunday Comics.  This allows the characters to be very expressive, increasing certain scenes’ comedic impact.  However, one does wish that the backgrounds held more detail, but the characters draw in the reader’s attention sufficiently to render this defect negligible.

Yet, this comic book has one flaw which makes me almost prompts me to break out into Juvenalian indignation.  That Mr. Bishop realizes also it makes my complaint more justified: he committed the great and nearly unforgivable sin of making this comic too brief.  I want to know what happens next!  In particular, the final scene abruptly ends with a dark figure bombing a mailing facility as the freeloader says “That guy just…jaywalked across the street!”  The desire to know how this scene continues practically makes the reader want to scream!

Another infamous bomber. If you haven’t seen Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, you really need to.

So, Mr. Bishop is writing a wonderful comic, which I encourage everyone to either buy or eagerly wait for its page length to increase before getting it.

My First Foray into a Con

Sorry that this articles is a little delayed, dear readers. My memory of events may be slightly fuzzy, but there’s enough left for me to write an amusing account of this trip. The dearth of anime paraphernalia disappointed me a little, and I felt somewhat lost among the various American comic books—but, I still enjoyed the convention.

A friend of mine drove me over in his car. I count it fortunate that he intended to become a comic artist at one time in his life. He actually spent a semester at college for the study of art. Among the comics he described to me, Valiant comics seemed to offer the most interesting stories. (The one concerning the Visigoth invasion of Rome in which aliens help the Romans in defeating the Visigoths particularly caught my attention.) With this tenuous background, I hoped to be able to navigate the convention to a certain extent.

When we arrived in Baltimore, we were chagrined to find that parking cost seven dollars an hour at both of the parking garages we found—at least, for the first two hours of parking. I was hoping that the Old Bay garage, being owned by a prosperous company, would be cheaper than the other one. And this was true after the first two hours, but we still wound up paying $17 for three hours of parking. After this experience, I began to understand how Dante could place usurers in hell.

Although I understood that my friend was unable to purchase a ticket online because he was uncertain whether he would be able to attend the convention, buying a ticket here turned into an adventure in itself. You see, even though I had a ticket myself, I did not desire to explore the convention floor on my own. (Another friend of mine was down there, but I possessed doubts whether I should find him among the throng of people.) So, I waited on line with my friend—at which decision, one of the staff marked on how good a friend I was. The magnanimous quality of my decision finally impressed itself on me after I waited forty-five minutes on line! (I believe I told some people that the wait was one hour and twenty minutes, but I’m convinced that this is an exaggeration. At least, I hope and pray that is an exaggeration, but it sure felt that long at the time.)

But, standing on line had certain benefits: several interesting cosplayers passed by, we discussed comics and anime some more, and Stan Lee himself passed right next to us! I think that might have been worth the price of admission alone. It has been several years since I found myself so close to a celebrity—unless Catholic bishops count as celebrities anyway. So, I enjoyed seeing the man responsible for Spider Man, the Hulk, the X-men, and others, even if I could not afford the ticket to attend the special panel he headed.

After our friend and I were squared away, we on a short round of the booths, specifically looking for #1805, which contained the illustrious Scott Snyder. (My friend informed me that he was a very down-to-earth guy and everything, but one had to wait on line for over an hour before seeing him!) In this short round, I felt rather lost: very little anime or manga in sight besides the copies of Usagi Yojimbo. (Nevermind: I thought that this counted as a manga, but it seems to have been created in America. At least, it made me feel a little less lost.)

Due to my excellent navigation skills, we soon found the exorbitantly long line leading to Scott Snyder. Fortunately, my other friend was on a nearby line to another famous comic artist. So, I chatted with him for a little. He had purchased a poster of Batman from the aforementioned Scott Snyder, and I could not but marvel at the fineness of the detail. Rarely have I seen the musculature of a strong man’s back portrayed so perfectly.

This friend, being unable to guide me himself due to having to attend a previous engagement after getting some more signatures, realized that the thought of waiting on any of these lines was repugnant to me—especially after waiting on line for the ticket, so he directed me to the part of the con which contained the anime. The thought that somewhere there existed some anime products which I had missed delighted me. I hastened to search the area where he directed me only to find that I had been there previously, and, like everywhere else, it rather lacked the presence of anime. During my search, I did see a booth containing stuffed anime dolls, but I’m not into that element of the fandom. (I did consider purchasing a Kirara doll for my sister, though.) Anime was so lacking that the sight of a Naruto shirt made me happy—the only time that has happened.

I did enjoy seeing the variety of American comics. Somehow, I could never get into American comics, yet the artwork has always fascinated me with its attention to detail. There were also plenty of comics from which I had to turn my eyes. Among these, however, there was one comic which caught my eye: Freeloader by Sean Bishop. A strong urge to speak with this gentleman came over me, but my Nakajima nature prevented me. After looking this gentleman and his work up, I realized how silly I was: he’s a Rurouni Kenshin fan, from New Jersey, and his story contains two disparate bounty hunters who are forced to work together. I rather enjoy the humor that derives from such scenarios. If only I had spoken to him! I might have actually purchased a comic from the Comic Con.

Also drawn by Sean Bishop.

At some point, I consumed some food and sat around until my friend finally obtained an audience with the renowned Scott Snyder. At which point he returned to show me a poster stand were I found several anime posters. On our way there, I saw someone cosplaying as Yoko from Tengen Toppa Gureen Lagaan. She did a great job, but one doesn’t have to work very hard on putting together that costume. 🙂 So, posters of Trigun, Hetalia, and Neon Genesis Evangelion are now offering something more interesting to look at than my room’s white walls. In return, I showed him the booth selling stuffed anime characters, where he contemplated buying someone a joke gift. At this point, we were thoroughly exhausted by the convention and returned to our dormitory.