animefringe december 2003 / editorial
The Year in Review

What a year for anime and manga fandom. Last December, all the signs were certainly pointing to better times to come, but it was a blast watching them unfold. TOKYOPOP's smaller, less expensive, more authentic style has now essentially become the standard for manga releases as scores of new titles are released each month. Yet, other publishers are still improving upon their excellent example, such as Viz, which has a few major manga releases selling for as low as $7.95 (US).

Aside from price reductions, we've also received some great titles this year. I never could have imagined that long-awaited series along the lines of Rurouni Kenshin, Trigun, Berserk, Hellsing, Kare Kano, Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, FLCL, and Azumanga Daioh would all make it to my hands within the span of a year. We're even getting more Amerimanga, such as Gold Digger, Reality Check, Megatokyo, and Dragon Arms, among others.

Then there are the series that I wasn't anticipating at first, but now sit at the top of my must-have list. Boys Over Flowers, Cannon God Exaxxion, Hot Gimmick, Please Save my Earth, Flowers and Bees, Alice 19th. If it's the goal of the manga industry to make me poor, then mission accomplished. It's a good thing indentured servitude isn't around any more, otherwise I'd be running errands for Viz, TOKYOPOP, Dark Horse, CPM Manga, Raijin Comics, ADV, Comics ONE, Antarctic Press, or Studio Ironcat for the rest of my life.

With the manga they've been putting out lately, I'm not sure I would dread such a fate.

Even without the great manga releases we got this year, 2003 saw classic anime series like Aura Battler Dunbine, Boys Over Flowers, and Kimagure Orange Road finally made available on DVD, as well as the release of surprisingly good series such as Super GALS, Risky Safety, and Heat Guy J. For CLAMP, Chobits and the X TV series have been essentially wrapped up while Angelic Layer is just beginning.

Of course, there are a whole slew of irresistibly addictive anime series that I'm now waiting for, such as Haibane Renmei, Last Exile, Initial D, and Witch Hunter Robin (which was released over here far faster than we predicted back in our February feature of the stylish show).

This year, we also finally got a DVD release for many outstanding anime films, such as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Millennium Actress, and Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service, and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. The entire fan community celebrated the domestic success of Miyazaki's beautiful movie, but hopefully, this is merely the beginning. So far, next year looks even brighter. Tokyo Godfathers, Howl's Moving Castle, and the promise of a sequel to Ninja Scroll are all on the way, and I can't wait.

Starting this year, you can now find wallscrolls in Waldenbooks and the Hellsing soundtrack at Best Buy (assuming you can determine whether they put it under "Soundtracks," "Rock," "International," or something that makes less sense). T.M. Revolution now has a CD and DVD available stateside, and pretty soon ADV's soundtrack lineup should be sprouting up in music stores across the nation.

In a month's time, the FLCL and Fruits Basket soundtracks are bound to be released, and I'm still waiting for an official proclamation regarding the Cowboy Bebop soundtracks. I've already imported those CDs, but I'll purchase them again to support the fledgling domestic industry. So far, domestic soundtrack releases have had a refreshingly low MSRP, and if that pattern holds, I'll buy them all the faster.

So, for this month's column, I just wanted to thank everyone in the industry for working so hard to spread the love of Japanese culture to the English speaking world. And, more significantly, I'd like to salute everyone in the fan community that keep supporting manga and anime releases. Also, to all the great print magazines, manga anthologies, fanzines, webzines, as well as news, fandom, and retail websites that keep me going - thanks!

To wrap things up, I hope everyone out there has a great holiday season. I apologize for not writing a more inflammatory column for December, but right now, I'm so excited about all the great things that happened this year and all the exciting things coming soon, I can't think of anything to argue about. So, once again, from a fellow anime and manga addict, happy holidays, and we'll see you all next year!