We're still livin'. Livin' in the eighties! We still fight! Fight in the eighties!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kenshiro Loses the Eye of the Cat! Fans Turn Grey Hair to Fame!


In the "day late and dollar short" department...

Geez, you step out the door for fifteen years and when you come back home, you hardly recognize the place.  Luckily, some things are easier to find than others, some you don't have to search that hard for.  On that note, Mike Pinto had an interesting screed on his blog a few months back that I recently tripped over when doing searches for once-familiar names.  Basically, he wonders whether or not anime fandom has grown to the point where it might start recognizing certain "fanboys-gone-grey" in a way similar to how science fiction conventions used to (and probably still do, but I haven't been to a con in ages, so I dunno for sure) have special "Guest Fans of Honor." Mike explains:
But there was always that tradition of taking these old timers and inviting them to be the Fan Guest of Honor at a convention. It was the little bit of loving light some of these folks would get, it was a subcultures way of saying “thank you for writing that fanzine that I read when I was a teen and thought that I was the only science fiction fan in the universe”.
Now, being a member of the anime old geezer committee myself, I'm incredibly biased, but it doesn't sound like all that bad an idea to me.  In fact, I'd be surprised if con people like Dave Merrill and Meri Davis who were fans themselves back in the day hadn't already thought of something like this. Again, I've not been to an anime con since AWA in '97 or '98 (JAMM), so I don't know.

That said, the incident that got Mike's dander up (hit the link and read for yourself) might easily be explained by the fact that, well, there's just not a whole lot of information available to the newer convention organizers about what the hell went on back then.  Whereas sf fandom revolved around fanzines, anime fandom consisted, for the most part, of a bunch of couch potatoes sitting around watching cartoons.  And since this was before the 'net exploded, there just isn't a whole lot of recorded history available about who did what to whom. Sure there were a few club newsletters and APAs and such but compared to what's available today, we're talking cave men with tin cans and string here.  So even if Joe Anime was responsible for amazing advances in anime and music kung fu back then, how would anyone know it? 

"Beware the legendary art of Hanage Shinken!"

Basically, it's not a great situation to be in, but I feel it's mostly up to US to re-earn that respect if that's what we want. It's partly our own damn fault if no one knows what went on back then. Hell, I've been googling my eyes out over the past several weeks and have found almost nothing outside of a few Dave Merrill web pages, a one-page history of Denver anime fandom, and a bunch of Fred Patten essays. Say what you will about Fred, but he's one hell of a librarian. If every old anime club from 1980-1989 had its own Fred Patten, I might not be making this post. In a lot of ways, our generation of anime fandom is STILL not doing a whole lot more than collectively sitting on the floor in front of the teevee...I guess old habits die hard.

Now, about that power creep thing...

Over at Oguie Maniax, Carl is comparing a few fighting manga and how they deal with the fact that the protags have to get stronger and stronger, which forces the creators of the things to come up with nastier and nastier baddies to keep up. Even before the fighting games hit it big, this was a staple of even the earliest RPGs, which is something that every DM who ever ran a Champions or AD&D campaign can attest to. Since most players like to play the same characters, coming up with that foe to keep that 95th level dwarf paladin busy is a bit more difficult that it was when he had a hard time picking up an axe, much less smiting anything with it. 

One of the cooler aspects of Wizardry 7 was that DWBradley stuck in a critter at the very end of the game who was EXACTLY the same as one you had a tough fight with (and maybe even lost characters to) at the end of the beginner's dungeon in the game.  Unless you had a really good memory or had read about it in advance, you were unlikely to remember it and I imagine a lot of smiles came from a lot of computer gamers when the thing went down during the first round of attacks...

Beware the dreaded solo fairy ninja with the cane of corpus!!!

But enough about that. Since I'm practically honor bound to stick my big honker into any and every blog that even mentions Hokuto no Ken in passing, I thought I'd weigh in on this one.  Carl is pretty spot on in saying that Kenshiro was amazingly badass at the very beginning of the manga - but one of the peculiar joys of this particular series is that Ken's personality type is perhaps his greatest opponent as well as his greatest strength.   Most of the fights he gets into he has to be pretty much forced into.  He very seldom goes looking for them.  And even then it seems he has a hard time screwing his courage to the sticking-place.  It usually takes a few dead bodies.

Ken has the skill to beat Shin, but not the will.  By taking Yuria, and later claiming that she is dead, Shin gives him that will. Ken knows from the very beginning that he eventually has to break Jagi and Raoh's fists, but is reluctant to do so until circumstances force him to. Even in the final fight, it isn't until Raoh produces Yuria's body that Ken does what is necessary. Ken doesn't want to fight Ryuuga or Falco - they both had to push him to fight them for their own reasons.

In the tougher fights, Buronson and Hara don't make the opponents stronger, they make them puzzles to be solved.  Souther has his pressure points reversed.  Raoh has musou tensei.  Kaiou has...well...

"I have a lot of fans in Italy!"

Uh, yeah.  What he said.  I guess.  And he mutters a lot of stuff.  And has leaky demon spirit armor. Not to mention foul smelly cavern poison mojo. Or whatever. I still want some of the stuff they were smoking during those issues...or at the very least, what these guys were smoking.  I'm pretty easy that way.

For all his faults, he did carve up Shachi like a turkey on Thanksgiving, so I can't totally hate the character. But of all the puzzles Ken had to solve, Kaiou's right up there.  Well, except for the part where Ken gets amnesia and Bat pretends to be him so he can get the crap beaten out of him by the big blind guy who...well, by that time I'd stopped caring. 

BTW, what is it with Jump manga and amnesia, anyway?  My two favorite Jump manga end with the main characters forgetting all about 15+ volumes worth of stories...might explain why Hara and Tsukasa Hojo ended up in business together...

"So, let me get this straight. We end up in America, but our comic doesn't?!!"

::sigh::  Much as I like his later work, you never forget your first love. 


  1. OK, testing again! AARRGGGH!

    The problem is, the current Ameriotaku(tm) just doesn't give a crap about us old people. Almost by default if they DO care they're not classifiable as Ameriotaku.

    We're old, we like old shows, we need to go away. So they think.

  2. I had a big thing about this on my LJ, but the gist of it was that anime fans aren't a bunch of creepy inbred chainsmoking mundane-hating circle-jerks the way literary SF fans are (anime fans are horrifying, but in completely different ways). The literary SF convention world is in a death-spiral of irrelevance, and copying their methods isn't recommended.

    It's one thing to be somebody who started a convention that's still running, or published an influential magazine, or set up the Anime Web Turnpike or whatever. But Pinto's ire was aroused on behalf of a guy who did one thing, once, twenty-seven years ago, and whose contribution to anime fandom as a whole since then has been to remind people that he did that thing, that one time, twenty-seven years ago. An interesting anecdote to drop into a convention panel, sure. Reason to be held up as an Honored Guest, not so much.

    Anime fandom asks, what have you done for me LATELY? And that's a legitimate question. We're talking about children's cartoons here. Fandom's gonna skew young. And that's not to say that 22 year olds aren't going to discuss "Raideen" with knowledgeable authority, because I've seen it happen, but that people who haven't contributed to fandom in two decades aren't going to be on their radar and when you take them to task for not knowing That Guy Who Did That Thing Twenty-Seven Years Ago, they have every right to ask, "why should I?"

    Then there's the fact of the matter that being a "Fan Guest Of Honor" , along with a buck-eighty, will get you a cup of coffee, and a lot of strange looks, and that's about it. Better to focus your efforts on something a bit more worthwhile.

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