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Carol Chung, bubble tea lover / anime addict, recently attended the eNerGy Anime and Game Festival. Here's her report:

When going to an anime festival, here are a few preliminary concerns…
1. coming to terms with your own inner geekdom
2. tolerance for high school teenyboppers who are also geeks
3. an ability to sit on your ass for hours at a time

The weekend before Thanksgiving was the eNerGy Anime & Game Festival at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in Manhattan. Despite the lack of festivity organization and technical problems, it was a good opportunity for US anime addicts to get a preview of what’s new coming to the US market.

Energy-Sc

It was a 1 night, 2 day event kicked off with a rather weak gaming night with only about 10 games. They had Rumble Roses, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, Godzilla: Save the Earth, Katamari Damacy, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and a couple of other anime based/styled fighting games. Katamari Damacy is this bizarre game where you rebuild constellations by snowballing bits of trash into an enormous sized ball. The bigger the ball of trash, the bigger the items can be rolled into it—like rats or a car. The game night allowed for hotshot teenyboppers to brandish their button mashing skills against others. Although rather weak, they did keep most of the games open for play during the entire festival for people to play while waiting or in between screenings.

The screenings varied in content from kid stuff like Hello Kitty, violent tongue-in-cheek tv shows, and naughty live action. There were trailers, 30 minute shows, and featured length films screened. Whether you’re a newbie fan or a hard core otaku of anime, the genre itself is becoming more and more mainstream, whether you like it or not. There’s Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and the Anime Network cable channel. The Lebron James Nike campaign has an anime-kungfu style. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 has an anime segment on Oren Ishii, which was done by Production I. G. And if you’re not convinced yet—dig this, fashion designer Anna Sui is doing the clothing design for the characters of Gankutsuou’s last episode.

So now that you’re a believer, you ask—what’s hot?

They showed Full Metal Alchemist, which is currently on Adult Swim. This show is amazing. Although they dubbed it over in English, it's still worth checking out. The series takes place in an alternate reality where alchemy and the concept of equivalent exchange play out in exploring the value of life.

Paranoia Agent, from the makers of Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue, seems to have a rather loose story line of a kid on roller blades assaulting people with a metal bat—but underlying all that is a philosophical and psychological storyline that critiques society and should not go by unnoticed.

Kakurenbo is a dark version of hide and seek played by only by children, where disappearances occur and rumors of demons are half-heartedly mocked. It’s the first film from Yamatoworks Studio. It uses CGI and cell animation. This is a really dark and beautifully created story. The style is sort of similar to Texhnolyze with the sepia tonality and use of masks and children.

Otogi Zoushi is a tv show that takes place in the capital of historical Japan, Kyoto. It’s produced by the same people (Production I. G) who worked on Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The opening was an uber-hip black and red chiaroscuro scene. The fight scenes are cool, but not as strong as they could’ve been. Hopefully the story will play out to live up to the reputations of some of their past projects.

Samurai 7, just as the name implies, is a tv show that was inspired by Akira Kurosawa, but with a sci fi twist. The style incorporates CGI and cell animation. It’s by the same people who did Blue Submarine No. 9. Instead of bandits, there are tyrannical robots preying on humans. (Oh, those evil robots…) It looks like an interesting twist to such a world-renowned story. Let’s hope it will be… but you never know… those robots can be quite troublesome…

And if robots getting their asses kicked just ain’t your cup o’ tea, then check out Naruto. I’m gonna warn you right here and now, that this show is very entertaining and highly addictive and currently has over 100 episodes, so be prepared to shell out the green. It’s just a fun show about a young ninja to be, Naruto, who’s got this wicked fox demon inside of him, and his fellow students facing numerous life threatening perils to protect their village and the troubles and tribulations of just plain growing up. (yea, growing up as a young ninja was tough for me too…)

Jungle Wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu (that’s a mouthful ain’t it?!) is about a small boy in a jungle that’s being raised by a single mom. Then one day his mom brings home a small girl to live with them. It’s all cell animation, for you ol’skool anime addicts. This show is so cute and weird like only the Japanese know how to do. I think my bit torrent download has a few more days to go till I hole up in my apartment for a couple of days.

From the creator of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe brings you Samurai Champloo, a hip hop infused, historically inspired (but absolutely inaccurate—hence the term ‘inspired’) storyline about two very different rogue samurai and a girl who are on the path to find the samurai who smells of sunflowers. Even though its been dubbed—and I absolutely hate dubbing—its just as humorous dubbed as it is subtitled. The fight scenes are incredible with lots of action and creative moves that incorporate a break-dance fighting style. The music is heavily influenced by hip hop blended and consumed by Japanese culture then spat back out in a way that may seem a little off, but oh so right. Needless to say, I love this show—don’t pass it up.

So there you have it, my impression of what’s worth checking out. One of the things that the festival aims to promote is “bridging the gap between two cosmopolitan cites.” However, most of the stuff that was shown has already passed in Japan and is just coming out in the US. Although the gap may be getting closer with the rise in popularity of this subculture in the mainstream, the gap will continue to remain if viewers in the US are still a season or more behind Japan. Even though there are tons of legal hurdles, if fan groups are able to put out a fansubbed version of a current anime show out there through bit torrent about a week behind, I think the companies can do it as well. They may have to drop the dubbing, but dubbing usually sucks anyway so no loss there. Besides, reading and watching isn’t such a hard task, now is it? Promote literacy! Plus it would only be beneficial for companies to start looking into launching shows for both markets at the same time because of the technological capabilities of instant communication and the rise of popularity of anime in US mainstream media.

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