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MANGA AND ANIME BACK TO BASICS

By Kokoro-chan and Jawad

To the uninformed and uninitiated they may look like bland black and white speech-bubbled boxes or silly little moving 'cartoons', but to fans who understand; it's an entirely different world hidden inside those dimensions, sometimes even better than the real one. Like master manga-scholar Frederick Schodt, author of the 1993 book Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, said, "Japanese comics in general are a playing out of the subconscious. Maybe they fill a role similar to dreaming. You work out your stress, explore fantasies, and then you go back to work and normal life." Manga/Anime, thus have been entertaining us over the last sixty years (officially) and continue to show more promise for the days to come. So enough with regular reviews, in this special issue we take a moment to look around and explore some basic concepts and fun facts regarding one of the most unique forms of visual art that is the Japanese Manga/Anime.

First there was Manga
The origin of Japanese Manga, as many scholars affirm, is deep-rooted in ancient artworks like the 13th century 'Chôjû-jinbutsu-giga' scroll, the 18th century graphic narrative 'Kibyoshi', 'Ukiyo-e' and 'Shunga' woodblock illustration styles and of course, the influence of 'Kamishibai' street theatres quite similar to our traditional 'Bioscope' shows. Although many argue about the apparently superior role of US comic-book styles in shaping Manga as it is today, Japanese Manga successfully retains its own flair of individuality and distinct elements of humour/expressiveness that somewhat hint towards its ancient ancestry. Chôjû-jinbutsu-giga (literally meaning 'Animal-Human caricatures'), for example, features comical scenes like frolicking frogs in a monk's robe or rabbits wrestling as Sumos. Quite the hilarious children's Manga that would make. So basically while the Egyptians made hieroglyphs and the Greeks painted owls and naked people on pots; stuff that now sit in museum displays only, the ancient Japanese passed their days, among other things, making whimsical and almost stupid drawings of creatures/humans and gave birth to the booming Manga industry of today. 'Accidental genius,' would be an appropriate phrase here.

The Transition from 2D to 3D
Japanese filmmakers began experimenting with the animation technology during the beginning of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia - “The oldest known anime in existence first screened in 1917 - a two-minute clip of a samurai trying to test a new sword on his target, only to suffer defeat.” In 1918, 'Momotaro' by Kitayama Seitaro became Japan's first worldwide success in Anime. However, Osamu Tezuka's 'Astro Boy' was the first successful milestone of Manga-turned-into-Anime worldwide. Tezuka is revered in Japan as the god of Manga/Anime and was the first person to invent and apply the 'cinematographic' style of art in Manga. Granted, many of his works were hugely influenced by Western elements especially that of Disney animations, Tezuka won the hearts of audience both home and abroad by producing famous titles like 'New Treasure Island', 'Kimba the White Lion' and 'Black Jack'. Tezuka founded his very own 'Mushi Productions' and afterwards other notable studios like Kodansha, Ghibli, Bones, Madhouse etc. also came into play.

Behind the Scenes
Manga and Anime both fuel huge and flourishing industries and contribute considerably to the country's economy. In case of Manga, as is common knowledge, a head Mangaka (artist) usually leads his/her group of assistant artists into production and therefore, is known as the 'Sensei'. Interesting, however, is the fact that the person who actually decides the allocation of panels in a Manga (Komawari) is credited as the author (Sensei) while most drawings are done by assistants. This goes to show the significance of sequencing or serialisation compared to actual artwork. On a different note, an intriguing info regarding the production team-chemistry would be the dark rumours of Manga artists having traditionally volatile relationships with their editors, often complaining or being poorly paid, ill-treated and verbally abused. Sharon Kinsella, a prominent Manga-researcher says, "The manga world vibrates with secrets and rumours about artists abducted by their editors, artists who escaped through toilet windows, artists who fled their studios overnight, artists who beat up their editors; leaving them with facial scars and artists who commit suicide."

Anime, on the other hand, involves purely technical methods and terms including story-boarding, involvement of voice-actors (Seiyuu), cell-production etc. Most anime these days are computer-animated and according to Wikipedia, “…often considered a form of limited animation. That means that stylistically, even in bigger productions the conventions of limited animation are used to fool the eye into thinking there is more movement than there is. Many of the techniques used comprise cost-cutting measures while working under a set budget.”

Some Fun Facts
1. Manga can literally mean "vernacular and corrupt or whimsical drawings"

2. The trend of using huge eyes, first popularised by Osamu Tezuka, was originally influenced by Disney characters like Betty Boop and Mickey. Big eyes are supposed to work as a portal into the character's soul… or something like that.

3. Hair colour (however weird that may be) generally indicates the personality type of a character: the fiery ones with red hair, the gentle ones with black or similar colours, the cute ones pink and the evil ones having blonde hair etc. are some common practices.

4. Osamu Tezuka, creator of 'Black Jack' is actually a licensed physician with a medical degree from Osaka University's College of Medicine.

5. Masashi Kishimoto, creator of 'Naruto', has a twin brother named Seishi Kishimoto who is also a Manga artist (666 Satan). The character Uzumaki Naruto was inspired by Son Goku of 'Dragonball Z' and Uchiha Sasuke by the Manga 'Sasuke' by Sanpei Shirato. The outfits were inspired by the movie 'Matrix'.

6. Rumiko Takahashi, creator of 'Inu Yasha', is considered as the First Lady of Manga/Anime and known for giving a woman's touch to manga for boys and creating material that evoked an otaku (nerd) interest in kawaii (cuteness).

7. An underground society of amateur artists practice 'Doujinshi' or amateur original/fan art and are permitted to hold sales fairs known as 'Comiket' only twice a year.

8. Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, has recently helped pass a bill banning Manga and Anime containing 'harmful' contents for children. The bill was met with general disapproval and accusations of being 'vague and confusing' and as protest, many renowned Anime houses have decided to boycott this year's International Anime Fair.

9. Amazing as it may sound, there are women mangaka drawing gritty stories for the boys (shounen and seinen) while there are male mangaka exploring their talents in drawing romantic stories intended for girls (shoujo and josei). Hiromu Arakawa (of Full Metal Alchemist), Amano Akira (Katekyo Hitman Reborn), Mizuki Kawashita (Ichigo 100%) are all women and they are fantastic at the manga they write. Same goes for the male authors that write Strobe Edge, Kare Kano and similar shoujo manga.

10. One of the reviewers believes One Piece to be the best manga ever and idolises its creator Eichiro Oda as the King. This point was raised because both the reviewers hate the number 9.

Our Top 10


To wrap up this article, very recently we conducted a survey on Facebook asking them about the anime they think are the best in the last 20 years. We had about a thousand votes. And from these votes, we present you the list of the top 10.

Now there will be a lot of people (including one of the reviewers') who will feel that many great anime have been left out. We can't help agreeing. This is only a reflection of public opinion, so please bear with it! Until next time.


CRYSIS 2

By Shaer Reaz

NB: A Beta version was reviewed earlier in this magazine, this is the real thing. So, no confusions.

It's no secret that almost no one we care about liked the first Crysis game. It literally melted PCs with its mind boggling graphics but had the horrible FPS gameplay and a storyline that made us wonder if it was written by a five year old. Well, EA and Crytek GMBH have come up with a sequel, making people ask if there was any point to another one. Why not let it stay dead and buried instead of getting all the hate cooking again? Initial impressions of Crysis 2 aren't that bad, however.

The gun and “freeze ray” wielding squid-aliens are back. Having finished Crysis 1, it was only when I was playing the first level on Crysis 2 that I managed to learn (somehow) that they're called Ceph. Meh. Didn't really care about what they're called or why they're here on planet Earth. That's how boring and uninspiring the storyline of the Crysis series is. You'd think someone might have found a new and improved way of re-telling the classic story of aliens landing on Earth and humans fighting back.

This time, the aliens are attacking New York City and you're a hapless Marine caught in the middle of it. Due to some massive complications (told through some confusing and poorly done cinematic), you end up inside the Nanosuit of super soldier Prophet, one of the main characters from Crysis 1. Oh and there's this deadly virus thingy that's floating around killing all the citizens of New York (including Prophet), conveniently leaving a barren and ravaged cityscape for you and the aliens to battle out on. It also allows the developers to create closed off maps that require you to progressively find entry and exit points at each of the “sections” as certain areas have been quarantined. This might prove a bad idea in EA's case, since the open ended jungle maps in Crysis was one of its redeeming points.

The urban jungle setting provides fast and quite fun gameplay even though you have a lot less mobility. The lack of tactical movement options ends up providing a shakier and edgier combat experience. One thing that tries very hard to mar that experience is the innumerable AI bugs. Enemies will get stuck in mid stride and will refuse to die, APCs will ram into a tree and refuse to dislodge, etc. A patch is seriously needed for the complete experience. Other than the bugs, the AI is quite well modelled, with the enemy intelligently ducking behind cover when you're shooting at them, trying to stop you from out-flanking them, using waves of attacks and occasionally falling behind, waiting for reinforcements. In some cases their hyper-awareness (even on the least difficulty setting) is more of botheration instead of a challenge, but the Nanosuit's abilities like Stealth, Strength, Agility and Armour make it a slightly fair game.

Graphics is typical Crytek. It looks brilliant, with every NYC trash can and its contents modelled to perfection. Unlike Crysis 1, however, Crytek made sure that the game can be run on PCs with moderate performance capabilities and not just on a thousand dollar gaming chassis. It also transitions onto other gaming platforms, the first time a Crysis game is available on XBOX-360 and PS3. How are the console gamers supposed to get up to speed with the story from Crysis 1? You don't, apparently. No need to.

It's still full of glitches, it still doesn't handle the way a modern FPS should, and it still looks sublime. Oh, and the gaming sites are still “raving” on about Crysis 1, so we'd recommend doing a little more research before you spend your cash on Crysis (1 or 2), as most of that cash trickles down to the reviewers on the said sites. A game's rating also depends a lot on the reviewer's personal opinion too, so you can safely assume I am completely biased. Try it out if you want, and send your thoughts to shaer.reaz@hotmail.com if you want to bash me for bashing Crysis.

Rating:
Plot: 5/10
Gameplay: 6/10
Graphics: 8/10
Overall: 6/10


Chart Toppers: Changing Tastes

By Sifana Sohail

20 years ago (on this very day in 1991), Roxette's 'Joyride' topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts. And this week, 20 years later in 2011, Katy Perry's 'E.T.' is at the top. Music has changed a lot over the course of the last two decades; just looking at these two songs will make the fact very obvious. Very, very obvious.

A little background information:
Roxette is a Swedish pop duo who peaked during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The song 'Joyride' was their first single and the last of their songs to top the Billboard charts. Part of their 1991 album of the same name, it garnered a great deal of international attention for itself including great reviews.

Katy Perry, on the other hand, is an American artist. Born Katy Hudson, she changed her name so that she wouldn't be confused with actress Kate Hudson. 'E.T.' has been at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for five non-consecutive weeks. The song also features Kanye West's vocals.

Joyride is purely a pop song. It focuses on catchy lyrics and has a catchy tune, accompanied by whistling. Although E.T. also falls in the pop genre, it's a pop, electronic and hip-hop ballad.

Its lyrics contain numerous alien references and like Daryl Sterdan said, it uses the 'stomp-stomp-clap' beat present in Queen's “We Will Rock You”.

It's said to have darker, more mature themes compared to Katy Perry's previous releases and received mixed reviews. Some critics dismissed it as 'awkward' and lacking in potential while others praised Perry for trying out a different tune.

In comparison, Joyride received mostly great reviews; Rolling Stones magazine said that the “music has heart, something that makes even the catchiest melody more appealing” and that, despite its “glossy, Sgt. Pepper-style arrangement, (it) never comes across as mere candy-coated pop.” Good, right?

As for the Music Video:
The music video of Joyride starts with the appearance of a tour bus and a red sports car. Basically, the entire music focuses on Roxette members Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle singing and playing guitar on the aforementioned red sports car, then on what appears to be the wing of a plane as they zoom over cities, in front of a train, on a subway...

The background changes repeatedly and it's quite amusing. Overall, it's nothing inspired, but will give you a few laughs, though you might stumble at the brightly-coloured spandex for a bit.

E.T. starts off with a robot lying in mounds of litter, its 'heart' shining while the song "Where in the World Can My Lover Be?" by Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters is playing in the background. It then shifts to Kanye West inside a UFO spinning in anti-gravity.

As the video develops, Katy Perry is seen, appearing as an alien, dancing in space. She then floats down to earth, which is covered with garbage. There she discovers the robot, and when she kisses it, it turns into a dude.

The video is peppered with clips of different organisms to give it a more extra-terrestrial feel, I guess. Katy Perry dresses up as at least 3 aliens in the video, and the random putting of sunglasses on was kind of... pointless.

The videos can't even be compared, not really. The themes of both of the songs are completely different, while Joyride is a happy-feeling, catchy song; E.T. is darker and definitely more mature.

Marie, wearing leather and spandex (not together) is in stark contrast to Katy, wearing cat eyes, flowing dresses and a ton of makeup. It really does give you a sense of how music has changed. My two cents worth: Definitely Joyride, its lighter and it provides better stress relief from cramming for exams.


Music Then, Music Now

By TheAlien4mEarth

If there's one thing that teens are instantly synonymous with, its music: loud, expressive music. It gives meaning to our lives and it gives our parents a headache. Let's have a look at how this essential ingredient of teenage life has changed in the local scene over the past 20 years.

In the beginning…
Azam Khan was already over when the 90's creeped in, with Souls and Miles following suit. Ayyub Bacchu, James and Hasan rocked the crowds in those days. Underground bands were just beginning to come together, with Artcell, Black and Aurthohin leading the way.

The music scene got a real makeover in 2003, when Habib brought out his hit album “Krishno”. It was a refreshing change that made listening to Bangla music cool again. Before long, every frog-throated Romeo out there was scrambling to be part of this newfound popularity.

Tahsan split from Black along those lines, to try his luck with a mellower sort of sound. He was almost a brand name in the early to mid 2000-s, when songs like 'Irsha' and 'Prematal' were big. 'Aalo' followed later, but that seems to be the last shot in his arsenal, and we haven't heard from him since.

Hard to believe, but Fuad was only known to a niche audience back then. He only became a concert favourite after the release of Variation 25, which included popular sing-alongs like 'Nitol Paye'. His next album 'Bonno' was much more widely received, anticipated even. Not long after, he was working with young stars such as Mila and Shunno, who later went on to become big names in their own right.

Somewhere along the middle…
Private radio stations had just appeared by then, and they added a new dimension to popularising music, both homegrown and foreign. Now, every young person on the bus has got their ears plugged in, lip-synching to the words on the radio.

Somewhere along that line, Bangla music went off on a tangent when Stoic Bliss appeared with their tongue-in-cheek 'Abar Jigae'. That was the first taste that the country got of homegrown hip-hop. Though Stoic Bliss kept things light with songs like 'Pakhi Paka Pepe Khae', others that followed took things to a different level, focusing more on life on the streets of Dhaka.

Since then, there has been a slow, but sure movement in the local hip-hop department, with groups like Deshi MCs and Uptown Lokolz coming out of the shadows. Individual rappers featured with bigger names at first, but eventually went for their own solo albums.

And all this while, the underground rock scene has been going strong. Regular concerts at the RCC or even at Abahani Gym were where the youngsters learnt their trade. Now, young bands like Shunno lead the way with their unique set of sounds. But while rock continues to thrive with a healthy variety of sounds, Bangla pop seems to have been taken over by the constant barrage of new arrivals.

The only solid presence in this sea of newbies seems to be Arnob, who has done us proud by going international with his very own mix of Bangla folk.

Kids these days…
These days, everything is being remixed and repackaged. Even established artistes are rethinking themselves to keep up with the times. Aurthohin's 'Chaitei Paro' and Shafin Ahmed's 'Priotoma' are just two examples of this relatively recent phenomenon.

Over the years, the image of female singers in the music industry has changed drastically. In just a short period of time, they have gone from being traditional and delicate to strong and edgy.

We are a more musically aware bunch than kids were before. Wherever the new sounds are going to take us, today's kids are bound to follow. Can't wait to see what they come up with next. The journey looks to be an exciting one…

 
 

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