The other day, I went into my local library in Palatine, IL. It has a wonderfully huge selection of manga and comics but that’s for another story. Next to that section is the high school summer reading list selections. To my surprise, there wasn’t a single classic work of fiction or non-fiction on that list. To be fair, there were two works that could be considered important: The Audacity of Hope and Road to Perdition. I’m not sure what the point of a summer reading list is. Is it to keep kids bored with irrelevant or unimportant books that haven’t shaped our culture? Are these book lists prepared in hopes of propagandizing them into a certain way of thinking? Are the lists catering to lowest common denominator: easy reads that serve up violence, sex, and drugs? Who are we to question a team of college trained English teachers? They must know better. But what if the whole team was built by one person with an agenda? Oh, that sounds like how some schools select teachers. What’s the point of a department head if they can’t decide which ideas get into the classroom? Perhaps the intelligent books have been expelled? My local high school could have selected books from the ALA’s huge list of non-fiction and fiction books, so there would at least be some classics on them that way. Anyways, inspired by my outrage and Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, I will provide a summer reading list. Unlike other teachers, I’ll tell you my agenda up front: I want to provide a challenging list that encourages thought and encourages the thinker to be a better person. So go to your library and check these out! 10 Non-Fiction books. 10 Fiction books. Hopefully, this short summer reading list will enlighten and entertain you more than what has been offered by some academics. Please feel free to reply and expand this list.
Sensei no Otaku says: “Expect much from your students and they will exceed those expectations.”

1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

by George Orwell

Orwell’s novel was published in 1949 and it focuses on a repressive, totalitarian regime. The story follows the life of one man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime’s propaganda by falsifying records and political literature. Smith slowly grows disillusioned with his false existence and begins to rebel against the system. Who is Big Brother? What is Newspeak and Doublethink?

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s novel creates a world that is totally engineered for the happiness of man. Bioengineering is used to design different classes of people so they will be happy with their designed lot in life. Movies, music, sports, tourism, religion, drugs, and food are all designed by science (and the government) as well. What happens when a person’s engineering was messed up? What happens when these designs fail?


Atlas Shrugged

by Ayn Rand

Rand’s longest novel explores a United States where leading industrialists and businessmen refuse to allow the government to exploit their labor for the “general good.” With their strike these creative minds hope to demonstrate that the economy and society would collapse without the profit motive and the efforts of the rational and productive. Who is John Galt? Why should the lazy be rewarded with the efforts of the hard working?

Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s novel presents a future society in which the masses are pleasure seekers, and critical thought is outlawed. 451 Fahrenheit refers to the temperature in at which paper burns. The central character, Guy Montag, is a fireman. But they are not needed to put out fires anymore since buildings are fireproof. The firemen “heroically” burn books that encourage critical thought for the good of society. What happens when Montag starts having critical thought? Why are books on my list not on summer reading lists?

On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s mostly autobiographical novel tells of the spontaneous road trips of Sal Paradise and his friends across America. It is the defining work of the Beat Generation- inspired by jazz, poetry, and drugs- the novel reads like all three at once. It is the story of one man’s pilgrimage for truth and meaning in this crazy world. Have you gone on your own pilgrimage for truth and relevance? What about contentment?

Journey to the West

by Wu Cheng’en (translated by W.J.F. Jenner)

A classic Chinese mythological novel based on traditional folktales. We learn about the birth of the Monkey King and his rebellion against Heaven, about the birth of Sanzang and why he is searching for the scriptures, as well as his preparations for the journey. It tells the adventures of Sanzang, a priest, and his three disciples: Monkey, Pig and Friar Sand. Will good triumph over evil? What must we overcome to defeat it?


The Lord of the Rings

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien’s epic masterpiece was originally released as trilogy, however, you must read all three books to get the entire story: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule over all. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. What happens when absolute power is accessible to men? What can one small person do in this big world?

Titus Andronicus

by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy that depicts a Roman general who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, the Queen of the Goths. After returning from a triumphant war with the Goths and the recent death of the emperor, the people of Rome declare that Titus is the new emperor. He declines and graciously gives the throne to the emperor’s eldest son Saturninus. Titus gives Tamora over to the emperor as a slave, he chooses to elevate Tamora to his queen. What happens when the people you served loyally turns on you in revenge? Can there be justice in revenge?

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s epic novel is set during the Great Depression, and focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads. They are driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a nearly hopeless situation, they set out for California’s Central Valley along with thousands of others in search of land, jobs, and dignity. What happens to those in desperation? Will they hold to their principals or throw them out for what is expedient?

Night On the Galactic Railroad

by Kenji Miyazawa

Miyazawa’s most beloved work has sometimes been translated as Milky Way Railroad, Night Train to the Stars, or Fantasy Railroad In The Stars. Giovanni is a boy from a poor family, working hard to feed his sick mother. His kind friend Campanella cares for him in spite of others that bully him. Giovanni and Campanella end up on a train that goes on a fantastic journey through the Milky Way. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to face death?

The Book of Five Rings
by Miyamoto Musashi (translated by William Scott Wilson)
A classic treatise on the Way of the Martial Arts written by the legendary Samurai, Musashi! The skills taught in this book go beyond the battlefield and are useful anytime, anywhere.

Zen and the Love of Nature
by D.T. Suzuki
Considered a leading authority on Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki uses simple, often lyrical language, as well as poetry and anecdotes, to give the reader a new appreciation of nature and the world around us.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
by Scott McCloud
Highly recommended by many comic book artists and writers: its a comic book about comic books. McCloud explains the details of how comics work. His answers go beyond comics and answers how to compose, read, and understand other visual languages as well.

Holy Bible
by the All-loving Almighty Creator God
The central religious text of Judaism and Christianity. The Holy Bible is the most influential book on the planet. The Bible transcends all cultures and has shaped the minds (and changed the hearts) of millions of people from every nation and race for centuries.

Darwin’s Black Box
by Michael J Behe
Behe’s thesis: Charles Darwin’s theory of life’s evolution through natural selection and random mutation fails to account for the origin of astonishingly complex biomolecular systems. He argues the systems are irreducibly complex and could not have evolved, but they do demonstrate intelligent design.

Genesis Flood: the Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications
by John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris
Whitcomb, a Geologist, and Morris, an Hydraulic Engineer, start with the premise: the Bible is the infallible Word of God. From there, they present the Biblical record and the scientific implications of the flood. They systematically dissect each implication with science. Their system eliminates the need for contortions of both the Bible and of science.

America: the Last Best Hope (vol.1 and vol. 2)
by Dr. William J. Bennett
Dr. Bennett presents a thorough history of America. He doesn’t revise history into propaganda like many common history books- it presents America’s flaws and triumphs. In spite of our shortcomings, he presents America as the world’s best hope for freedom and liberty.

Great Speeches in History
compiled by Naxos Audiobooks
This audiobook compiles speeches from Socrates, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, and many more. These speeches fight for justice, for freedom of speech, and sometimes even for their own lives. These orators demonstrate the best use of language in compelling listeners to action and to thought.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
by Donald Miller
Miller starts with this comparison: I never liked jazz music until I experienced it- I used to not like God until I experience Him. Miller writes about his youth and his vague understanding of a distant God. After coming to know Jesus, he pursued what he thought was the Christian life with great zeal and eventually burned out. In this intimate, soul-searching account, Miller describes his remarkable journey back to a culturally relevant, infinitely loving God.

A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred
by Brennan Manning
Brennan points out that self-hatred is the root of what is wrong with almost everything in today’s world. He argues that religion and society has set us up for failure, guilt and self-hatred. He offers a glimpse of Jesus that liberates us from this oppressive failure, guilt, and self-hatred. He teaches us how to love ourselves and others by accepting the love of God.

On this memorial day, after reading Paradigm Shift: Equilibrium and Paradigm Shift: Agitation, I’m reminded of this quote:

The retired veteran said: Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident… Then there are the wolves, and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy… Then there are sheepdogs, and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

To all of our men and women in the armed services and police, thank you! Thank you for being the warriors that protect us from those who crave to destroy us!

paradigm shift p46,47

Dirk Tiede has created a believable Chicago with endearing characters in Paradigm Shift. kate mcallistermike stuart Kate McAllister and Mike Stuart are Chicago Police Detectives that work in the Violent Crimes division. They mercilessly and courageously hunt down violent criminals in Chicago. In meantime, the sheep are oblivious to what danger we are in. I go to Chinatown for breakfast and get some red-bean-paste sweet rolls and a green tea. Around the corner, Kate and Mike track down Triad gun traffickers in Chinatown! I hear the gun battle in the background, but I think “Oh! Fire crackers, must be near the New Year Celebration!” I go to a coffee shop to write in Old Town. A couple of blocks from the El that I just got off of, Kate and Mike are investigating a savage “man eater” or perhaps a serial killer case! I continue to write in peace. I’m so glad that we have police protecting us from the wolves that lurk just around the corner. But how do the sheepdogs fight their inner wolf and continue to protect us? It seems Kate must fight against this wolf within, will she win? I hope so. I hope to learn the answer to this question and many others when Dirk releases Paradigm Shift: Emergence later this year. If you can’t wait, you can read it on webcomicsnation.

Dirk exquisitely produces scenes from Chicago: his renderings of downtown, Chinatown, police stations, and the streets that lurk below the elevated train all create a familiarity and reality. I feel transported to where the action is – as if I’m a sheep watching the sheepdogs in action.paradigm shift p66,67 Dirk also creates characters that have depth- you can see their broad range of emotions. For example, we see Kate tired and lonely walking home from work, later we see her an angry berserker smashing a gunman’s head against the wall, then later we see her baring her sarcastic fangs at Gina, the chief forensics investigator. Dirk also allows us to see into her mind and dreams on occasion, which creates empathy and concern for her. Dirk’s action scenes are very well done and the pace is fast and furious, they almost leave me breathless at the end of them. Amid the creation of realistic charters and backgrounds Dirk weaves a tale of mystery, suspense, and the paranormal. This work reminds us that our men and women in blue (a shout out to our armed services too) have a tough job, not only do they fight against the wolves that hunt us sheep, they fight against their own wolf-like nature to keep us safe.

Sensei no Otaku says: “If you want a manga that makes you think, laugh and occasionally look over your shoulder, then Paradigm Shift is a must read.”

Paradigm Shift is not rated, it would probably be rated 16+ for occasional language, violence and gore. However, the stuff isn’t too explicit or continuous, so it might be a rated 13+. Either way, teens and adults will enjoy.

paradigm shift pt2 cover

Sensei no Otaku: rating scale 0 (rotten)-10(sweet) asian pear
Overall: 9asian pear Story: 9asian pear Art: 9

Positive: Mysteriously dark and familiarly funny.

Negative: You can notice a slight progression in skill level from the first page to the last, but artists should get better with time.

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anime central 2009 badgeGood news! My sabbatical from writing is over! 2008 wasn’t a good writing year for me – I spent all of my creative energies fighting inner demons and surviving work. 2008 wasn’t a good year for ACEN either: poor layout of programs was their death. However, 2009 was an amazing year for ACEN- the layout of programs was just the beginning.

Friday:

I wander into the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center with my mail-order badge and anime central 2009 programfind an almost empty registration hall. The lines were so short, I go in and get my program books with no wait. I scout out the artist alley and vendors which was laid out right next to the registration, a very good idea! I waited for opening ceremonies, it started a bit late, but I don’t remember when it ever has started “on time.” It has to be a lot of work to get all 40 guests in one place. Afterwards, I ate lunch and watched one of my favorites: Samurai 7, a creative sci-fi epic that is based on Akira Kurosawa‘s masterpiece: the Seven Samurai. I attended Manga Publication: hosted by Fred Perry and J.L. Anderson of Antarctic Press. Most interesting concept I learned: the electronic format of comics might be able to save the industry if they can find ways of keeping it from being pirated once it is in electronic format. We need a cybermarine corp to surf the electronic ocean to destroy all those cyberpirates! Sensei no Otaku commands: “If you like something, BUY it! So the artists can continue to make more of it! Don’t be a freeloading thief!” I met Josh Elder an Russel Lissau at the Making Comics and Manga panel: very informative, and inspiring. At the Friday night Premieres I witnessed Romeo X Juliet, a fantasy adaptation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. The scene were Romeo and Juliet meet eye to eye in the garden during the Rose Ball was so beautiful and touching- I cried it was so moving. Romeo X Juliet made such a strong impression on me that I don’t remember the other premieres I saw. A long windy-rainy walk back to Motel 6 ended the night.

Saturday:

I wanted to go to the Japanese and Mythology panel, however, I got to the room too late after my long walk from the Motel 6 in nearby Schiller Park. My disappointment faded when I wandered over to the video rooms and watched Hikaru no Go and Ramen Fighter Miki. Never seen Ramen Fighter Miki before and it was hilarious! Then I went to the ADV films panel: hosted by Tiffany Grant and Matt Greenfield. The panel was interesting: Matt talked about Switchblade films and new ADV releases. I won a Platinum Complete Collection of Neon Genesis Evangelion by winning a round of jan-ken-pon against Tiffany and the whole audience (thanks to my students for playing paper-rock-scissors with me at school). Then I went to the Funimation panel: I was glad to hear that Sgt Juliet at rose ballFrog is finally getting worked on! I love that manga and the anime has to be just as fun! They showed some trailers: Romeo X Juliet is my favorite out of the series they are now releasing. They are also changing their mode of DVD sales. They will be releasing their anime in 12 or 13 episode box sets. The individual DVDs “take up too much self space” at stores. Saber Matthews was texting me during the panels so I don’t remember all the titles that they announced. Afterwards, my friend Saber met me outside the con. He had to work that weekend and decided to register at the con. I was thinking… man we are going to be in line forever, but his wait time was amazingly short (not even 20 min!). First we saw some tricked-out street racing cars. In the middle of the car show was a stage for the con’s DJs to do their thang. Cosplayers and norms were in a brake dancing ring. The most memorable performance was by a tall black dude with  a white mask and a red suit (possibly inspired by Kenichi Ebina). He began his dance with some pantomime moves and then started break dancing. I thought “That’s performance art for sure!” The artist alley was next. Dirk Tiede was the Kate and Mike's winter nightfirst artist we met. I was so glad to see him. He’s a great artist and a generous guy. He mentored a student of mine when I taught in Chicago. He has a produced a comic: Paradigm Shift and is working on volume 3…I’m so looking forward to it.  I purchased an amazing print of Kate and Mike enjoying a winter evening in Chicago from him. We wandered around and an amazing piece of art stood out: Kevin Yan‘s rendering of Orihime- just breathtaking. At first glance I didn’t even realize she was Orihime until I studied the painting closely. Kevin Yan is an artist who has worked with some comic book studios and he shared a table with his lovely girl friend Jinny Liang who is also a very talented artist. Then I stumbled upon Megzie from Madison. She’s a cute new artist with a lot of talent. After a year of studying art she decided to change majors and is now studying Mathematics Education (Yeah! another math teacher!). Then we came to Josh Elder and Russell Lissau’s table. They were selling and autographing copies of their The Batman Strikes, Mail Order Ninja, and other great works… and they live in the Chicago area! Didn’t know you could write for a comic and animation series and live in Chicago… technology is great! To end our quest of artist alley we met Misako Rocks! kevin yan's orihemeShe grew up in Tokyo and now lives in New York city and writes and draws for a living! She was signing and selling her own works: Biker Girl, Detective Jermain, and Rock and Roll Love (which sold out!). She asked us to come to her panel later that night, we said we would. Then we wandered into the vendors area…I went into the vendors area with a mission to find one DVD: Tenjho Tenge vol. 2, but epic fail! My only consolation was a Final Fantasy key chain from AnimeStuffStore.com and a tie-dyed phoenix tee (my favorite tee… I own two of them now) from OffWorldDesigns.com. I have to confess: after so many years I still have a crush on the owner of PurplePlum.com, now known as AnimeStuffStore.com, she is so gracious and lovely (she also remembered me -sigh)! Later, we went to a panel by Josh Elder and Russell Lissau about writing for the Batman Strikes. We, unfortunately, forgot to go to Miskao Rocks! panel and went to Otaku’s Guide to Philosophy, which was very sophomoric and limited in its approach. Saber told me that I should start my own philosophy guide… I plan on it. We are sorry Miskao, you Rock! We went to Denny’s for dinner…saw lots of con goers there and afterwards we went to the ACen Guys Present: Nobody likes you (and here’s why)- Socializing at Cons. It was funny… kind of like the late late late show with a slide show. Then we crashed in the video rooms, we watched a few episodes of Claymore: very good character designs and interesting story.

Sunday:

I have struggled with missing church for an anime conference. Some years I have left the con and went to church and sometimes I stayed at the con and prayed and read my Bible. Last year I prayed that there would be a worship service at the con.Vic Headshot I thought that God’s presence made known at the con would be so life giving to everyone around. Caitlin Glass My prayers were answered this year. My soul needed the Sunday Worship service lead by Vic Mignogna and Catlin Glass. Vic sang and played a keyboard, Catlin joined him in song (she is so lovely and such a beautiful voice). Vic shared the gospel of God’s amazing love through the powerful work of Jesus. Catlin shared her testimony of God’s power to heal broken hearts. I wept, thanks Catlin for being so honest. I too suffer from a broken heart, healed by God. God heals our broken hearts so we can heal the broken hearts around us. Catlin and Vic encouraged us to befriend each other, no reason to be strangers in a crowd. So the audience shared names, prayer requests and of course, favorite anime titles. The service was refreshing and renewing- God used Vic and Catlin to spark the fire that this Phoenix need to rise again. Vic and Catlin, I’m praying for you! I attended Vic’s Q&A session later in the day, since I never really met him- I was curious to see how he carries the good news outside the worship service. God bless him, he does! I learned that he has recorded the Gospel of John (The Message) and gives them away at autograph sessions (it is also available for free download at his fan site: Risembool Rangers). He was very enthusiastic and loving toward his fans: he encouraged us to call our mothers! He often stopped during his Q&A to take pictures, give hugs, and record personal messages for fans that couldn’t be there. He was also very loving and gracious towards the tech crew that couldn’t find an audio cord so he could show some projects that he had worked on. Now for the bittersweet ending: I watched the Anime Central 2009: AMV contest and stayed for the closing ceremonies. The AMVs: very cool. The closing ceremonies: sad, but they are planning next year’s Acen as we rise and read and love.

Sensei no Otaku says: “Truth and love fuels the flame that helps a Phoenix to be born again.”

Master Keaton: Excavation I contains the first five episodes of this series, it was animated by MadHouse in 1998 and was produced by Pioneer- now Geneon. It is an adaptation of Naoki Urasawa and Hokusei Katsushika’s manga by the same name. Each of the episodes on this volume provide glimpses into Taichi Hiraga-Keaton’s past (survival instructor, master sergeant in British Special Air Service, archeology grad student, father) as well as entertains with suspenseful storytelling.

Master Keaton

Mr. Keaton is a professor of archaeology in Japan and is routinely called on to investigate for Lloyd’s of London – the world’s leading insurance market providing specialist insurance services since 1688. The cases he receives are increasing with frequency- so we see how this shakes up his peaceful life as a professor and father. The series is episodic in nature- so the stories are concluded at the end of each episode which makes for enjoyable and casual viewing. This is a nice change of pace, considering that most anime series continue telling one story over a long set of episodes. The animation is fluid and realistic, but its age is apparent. The variety of realistic character designs and different locations throughout the world create a sense of adventure. The series also brings real history and events into the series to make the anime even more realistic and believable. The opening theme seems to be a tribute to Keaton’s English heritage with an orchestra and bagpipes and the ending theme seems to be a tribute to his Japanese heritage with a happy J-pop tune. The rest of the soundtrack varies in orchestration just as the locations in each episode vary. Most of the voice actors mimic a variety of different foreign accents, which is usually a challenging task. There are very few repeat characters, so that also presents many challenges for the actors; however the actors overcome these obstacles and the dub is surprisingly good (with a few exceptions).

In episode 1 (Man in a Maze), Keaton travels to Greece to investigate the death of a veteran. Real battles and historical events influence the outcome of the episode. Keaton also shows off how resourceful he is towards the climax of the episode. In episode 2 (Little Giant), Keaton travels to Germany and is hired by a woman’s family to rescue her from the life of being a terrorist. A bounty hunter, Stuart Pitock is also on her trail and pegs Keaton as meddling amateur; little does Pitock know the jokes on him. In episode 3 (Strange Tale of Lasagna), Keaton is hired to retrieve aSpecial Air Service badge nine-year-old girl from her cold and filthy rich grandmother in Italy and transport her to France. Here we see Keaton’s charming fatherly instincts deliver a happy and touching ending. In episode 4, (Immortal Man) Keaton is traveling on assignment in snow covered Poland. He runs over… into an elderly man who claims to be immortal. Keaton is dragged innocently into a conflict with the Russian Mafia! Keaton, of course, is resourceful as always and saves the elderly man’s life- or does he? He is immortal… Anyway the immortal man has a story that will amuse and surprise any history buff –especially Professor Keaton. In episode 5 (Paris Under the Roof), apparently all this traversing around the world leaves the college in Tokyo no choice but to fire Mr. Keaton. He gets a job in an adult education center in France and is pleasantly surprised by who he meets. This is a heart-warming conclusion to this action-backed volume. The Special Air Service motto: “Who Dares Wins” could easily serve as an overall theme of this volume and perhaps even the series.

Sensei no Otaku says: “Master Keaton is a sensei worth sitting under: he is clever, charming and always tells a good story.”

Master Keaton is rated 13+ most likely for realistic violence.

Master Keaton vol. 1

Sensei no Otaku: rating scale 0 (rotten)-10(sweet) asian pear
Overall… 10 asian pear Dub… 8asian pear Story… 9asian pear
Animation… 9 asian pear Art… 10asian pear Music… 8 asian pear
Positive: The suspense and action are masterfully balanced with humor and charm.
Negative: Some of the accents are comically performed, but that’s unavoidable.

Ever since I moved to the Chicagoland area I have attended Anime Central (ACEN). I think its one of the reasons I’ve decided to continue living in the area- that and the Chicago Art Theaters (I actually watched Cowboy Bebop: Knock’n on Heaven’s Door 4 times in one day here) usually show an occasional anime movie on the big screen. Yes, I am a hopeless otaku. Anyway, I’ve digressed.

acen 10 limited edition hologram badge (holograms blurr when you scan them)

You always remember your first… convention. It was in 2003 when ventured from my hermit-caveman like existence as and otaku and went to ACEN. I got lost in the swarms of otaku. Waiting in lines, long lines. Pushing through crowded stomach-curdling odorous hotel corridors- understanding what GOT SOAP? is all about. Going broke in the crammed vendor’s room (hoping I had enough quarters stashed back in the car to take the tolls home). I finally retreated to the safety of the familiar cold and darkness – a different cave, the 24-hour viewing rooms – to hide from crazed cosplayers, sugar-rushed teens, and the hairy Sailor Moon bubba-dudes. I hid in the viewing caves for the rest of the convention, hoping that whatever brain-infection those bubba-dudes had – was not contagious. As I drive home – after searching for quarters in between the seats of my VW at 2:00am – I’m thinking I’ve just left another world – a magical land – where anime is everywhere and in everything – on t-shirts, on screens, on posters, in plushies, in toys, in food, even in the cute girl that was sitting next to me right now… no just a dream… in the viewing-caves with those even cuter cat ears. *prrr* Kawaii!

ACen 2003

Now it is 2007, ACEN is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Armed with the experience of many anime cons loaded into my plasma cannon, I boldly explore the magical land called ACEN. This year there were many improvements, I didn’t wait in line to get into the con- I had my badge sent to me by mail, but I got it at the last minute. The staff had a botch-up with those and many other con goers didn’t get their badge in time for the con, but they promised that they will definitely fix that problem for next year’s con. The hotel corridors where crowded, but ACEN’s GOT SOAP? campaign has caused a decline in the pungent odors of the past. I now have a better job and I know how to feed my anime/manga craving through internet shops throughout the year (Cyberspace is my Akihabara!)- so the vendors didn’t make me go broke- and the vending room was spacious enough to handle the swarms of otakus.

ACen 2004I think I have improved too. I’m glad I didn’t catch the brain-infection that makes hairy guys want to dress up as magical princesses, but I understand them – I think. I don’t cosplay, but I envy those who do. I’m used to sugar-rushed teens – I’m a high school teacher. My students know I’m an otaku and I work hard to coax my covert-otaku students out of their hermit-caves. I even spent most of my time at the convention meeting people and attending panels instead of retreating to the viewing-cave. I did checkout the viewing rooms –I crashed there in the late evenings and to eat throughout the day. I only watched a few hours of anime, I saw: Gunbuster, Samurai Champloo, Solty Rei, Ergo Proxy, Tokko, and Nerima Daikon Brothers… addicts live in denial… ok, maybe I did spend 9, no, 12 hours or so watching anime at a the con, it is ANIMEcentral after all. Besides, I spend that much time watching anime in a normal three day period at home… wait I’m defending my addictive behavior… digressing again.

ACen 2005I attended lots of life-transforming panels, despite the fact that the programming schedule was not published and in my eager otaku hands until late in the day on Friday. I wondered into this AnimeFood Magazine panel on Friday afternoon. Now I’m, well… you are reading the results (this was written for the Aug/Sept issue)… and I’m loosing more sleep to my addiction. Later that day I went to Mime and Voiceover Acting panel co-hosted by Kirk Thornton and a lovely voice actress (*sigh* I can’t find her name in my notes…*sniff*… in my fuzzy memories, in the ACEN program, website, forum, or …*burning tears*… I can remember her lovely voice and her gentle spirit speaking to me… but not her name… *hangs head in shame*… *sniff* I will find the strength to continue, maybe.) Kirk is so laid-back and down-to-earth, I didn’t even realize that he his one of the most prolific voice actors in the business with over 200 roles to his credit including some of my personal favorites: Jin (Samurai Champloo), Hachimaki (Planetes), and Kuze (Ghost in the Shell: 2nd GIG); until I got to reading my program later that day. Neither one of them talked of their actual roles (or I could have redeemed myself by finding her name in the credits, no I haven’t found the strength to go on), but they talked about the art of voice acting- how seeing anime without voice is similar to acting mime and giving voice to those mimes. Then they took many questions from the attendees for most of the hour. They closed by speaking with us on a more personal level while David Fleming came in to set up for his Lost in Translation panel. I can still remember what she said to me…*sigh* my cherished secret.

ACen 2006

I must first say this about David Fleming, he is the most important person in the US anime business, period. He has translated some of the most influential and incredible anime ever: Akira, Vision of Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: SAC, Samurai Champloo, and Gankutsuou, to name a few. He is very witty, intelligent, and patient. I mention the last characteristic, in particular, because the ACEN tech staff didn’t have the appropriate equipment setup in the room. I rush over to the gofer hole across the hall from the room and try to get someone’s attention- they ignore me. Another gofer wanders in, I tell him of the problem and he replies: “You’re gonna have to take care of it yourself because we don’t give a f&@k.” I was shocked, how could they disrespect David Fleming like that (yeah they dissed me too, but I’m immune to that sort of thing, being a teacher and all). Later, I find another staff member. He cared! He was also enraged about the gofers attitude and wanted their names so he could ban them from ACEN forever – I couldn’t remember their faces or names – I often have trouble with my student’s names too. Anyway, I rushed back to David’s panel. He starts the panel without the required tech stuff. He was good humored about the whole ordeal; he had us gather around his laptopAnime Central 10… 2007 as he showed us what he does. He had an original storyboarded script of a Ghost in the Shell: SAC episode for us to look at. I was actually holding a GITS script! Am I in heaven? No, the tech gear never arrives. After David’s panel the Gankutsuou panelists arrive – David decided to stick around for that panel since he did the translation work. Luckily, forty-five minutes after contacting the ACEN staff member, the appropriate tech gear arrives. The panel was intriguing – they did a comparative study of other adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo with Gankutsuou and even showed us some very rare videos of previous French adaptations. There were many other great panels later in the weekend like: Translating Manga presented by Trish (Ranma ½), Toshifumi Yoshida (Negima!) and their very adorable microphone-munching toddler of a son, How to Work with your Writer/Artist presented by Richard and Shannon Townsend (Otaku-no-Yen), Creating Manga/Comics: Japan and US with Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun, Gungrave) and Philp Moy (Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack).

There were also lots of other things to do at the con like gaming, cosplaying, dancing, and speed-dating. With so many things to do I can’t understand the lounging hoards of sugar-crashed teens in the hotel, well, maybe I can relate to them too. Just like ACEN, I too have changed throughout the years. For the better? Yes. Now, if I could just remember her name…

Sensei no Otaku says: “An A+ to the first student to tell me her name! …please?!” *sigh*

asian pear

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