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04 Mar 22:36

Atsuko Ishizuka’s clever use of social media in A Place Further Than the Universe

by ajthefourth

#IFollowEveryoneWhoFollowsMe

Child actress Yuzuki Shiraishi chooses this hashtag for her Instagram post that depicts a fairly candid shot of her stepping away from an older woman splashing water and onto a cat. The woman is Shirase Kobuchizawa’s grandmother. Yuzuki is on her way to request that Shirase take over her job as “high school girl reporter” along for the ride in the Challenge for the Antarctic expedition.

A well-known actress who according to Mari Tamaki’s (Kimari) internet research has 38,000 followers, Yuzuki shouldn’t have to beg for followers in a hashtag. It doesn’t matter that her idol debut was with a horrendously-titled song, “The Follow-backs Don’t Stop,” there’s no world where someone as popular as Yuzuki should be begging for followers, never mind promising to follow them back, which is often seen as social media suicide. Yet she does, in this post that only has two likes, two reblogs, and zero comments, less engagement than I received last night for random musings about Madeline L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door.

The image doubles as A Place Further Than the Universe‘s third episode introduction, an episode where Yuzuki will later learn that she has made friends without having to try — also that having friends doesn’t mean that said friends will be the sycophants she’s used to, which is actually a very good thing. #IFollowEveryoneWhoFollowsMe might be Yuzuki’s #brand, but it doubles as a reflection of her personal insecurities, distain for certain aspects of her job, and desperate desire to have real friends. Yuzuki opens the episode by trying to pass off her job to the ill-equipped Shirase in order to lead a more normal high school life with her classmates. She ends the episode with three new friends — Hinata Miyake, Kimari, and Shirase — and a promise to go to Antarctica together.

A Place Further Than the Universe director Atsuko Ishizuka is no stranger to pointed visual trappings and unique color filters. She’s used a myriad of clever visual tricks in her previous series — most recently Hanayamata, No Game No Life, and Price of Stride: Alternative. This also isn’t the first anime to use SNS/Instagram to focus on themes of ephemerality and time. Sayo Yamamoto framed the entirety of Yuri!!! On Ice through social media, both in the series ending sequence and later in a major plot twist that recontextualizes the entire show.

Although Instagram isn’t the most prevalent social media platform in Japan, it’s the one with the highest growth rate over the past year or so. It’s easy to see why Kimari and company would choose this microblogging platform to document their daily lives as well as their trip to Antarctica — in fact, once they partner with Yuzuki and her project, it’s part of their job. Ishizuka uses this to focus on certain thematic elements in each episode while also poking fun at her characters.

The title of each episode is introduced by a social media post identifying one or more of the main characters doing something fun, training, or working on the ship. It’s an evolved form of photo booth purikura, where the girls add the episode title and doodles of penguins in the margins (this is also present in the series’ ending, drawings appear next to the characters). Every post has more to it than meets the eye, and ties into dramatic elements or themes of the show.

In the image above, Kimari is having tea with her best friend, Megumi Takahashi. In most of the series’ social media posts, a looping animation occurs and this one seems no different. Kimari continues to put sugar in her tea multiple times in what appears to be a similar animation loop. Only right before the image cuts to the show does Megumi’s arm reach out and stop Kimari from adding more. A Place Further Than the Universe uses this simple image to explain the dynamics of Kimari and Megumi’s relationship — one that will be challenged in this episode and is ultimately left ambiguous due to Kimari’s departure. Kimari overly-relied on Megumi in the past which led to a toxic co-dependency. Megumi enjoyed the fact that Kimari relied on her so much and Kimari used Megumi’s friendship as a crutch to not move forward in life. The Antarctica trip, and Kimari’s new friend group, break this cycle, leading to a rift between the two that isn’t wholly resolved before Kimari leaves.

A Place Further Than the Universe isn’t a comedic slice-of-life series as much as it is a coming-of-age drama that also manages to hit comedic beat after beat to lighten the mood. Ishizuka’s masterful attention to detail, especially in these social media posts, adds both comic relief and melancholy transience to what is ultimately looking like a story about Shirase coming to terms with her mother’s death. After all, it takes a talent like Ishizuka to turn an episode titled, “The Follow-backs Don’t Stop” into a poignant reflection on friendship.

04 Mar 22:28

The Streaming Wars Are Here: Disney And Viacom Offer First Details About Their Services

by Amid Amidi

Two entertainment conglomerates - Walt Disney Company and Viacom - have revealed the first details about their streaming plans. Here's a look at what they're planning to each offer.

The post The Streaming Wars Are Here: Disney And Viacom Offer First Details About Their Services appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

04 Mar 22:28

Disney TV Animation Will Produce 2 New Series: ‘Amphibia’ and ‘The Owl House’

by Amid Amidi

Two new series from "Gravity Falls" artists have been greenlit at Disney.

The post Disney TV Animation Will Produce 2 New Series: ‘Amphibia’ and ‘The Owl House’ appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

04 Mar 22:27

Wes Anderson Makes History At Berlin With Best Director Win; Reka Bucsi Wins Short Film Award

by Amid Amidi

In the 68-year history of the Berlin Film Festival, Wes Anderson is the first person to win the best director award for directing an animated feature.

The post Wes Anderson Makes History At Berlin With Best Director Win; Reka Bucsi Wins Short Film Award appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

04 Mar 22:23

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Coming to Television With The Watch

by Stubby the Rocket

Terry Pratchett, Discworld, Night Watch

BBC Studios and Narrativia are teaming up to bring Terry Pratchett’s Discworld to television, starting with a six-part series titled The Watch.

Deadline has reported that after plentiful rumors, Discworld will undergo a brand new adaptation for the small screen, produced by BBC Studios and Narrativia, the production company founded by Pratchett and currently run by his daughter Rhianna and business partner Rob Wilkins. Simon Allen (Strike Back, The Musketeers) is writing the series under the working title of The Watch.

This should excite Discworld fans, particularly those who are fond of Sam Vimes and the City Watch. It’s likely that the series will center around Ankh-Morpork’s police, which would be an excellent way of introducing new fans to the Disc and all its denizens. This is just a preliminary piece of news, with no actors or dates set for the production, but it’s good to know that we can expect more Discworld in our futures.

04 Mar 22:21

Where to Find Alt-Milk Hot Chocolates That Will Melt Your Mind

by Kari Sonde

Before this glorious age of alt-milks, lactose-intolerant and other milk-averse customers had to resign themselves to hot chocolate that was thinner and less rich than it might otherwise be. No more: It’s a new era of macadamia, oat, and almond milks, all of which are deeply appealing with warm, melted...More »

04 Mar 22:21

Olive Garden, Determined to Overfeed America, Unleashes Meatball-Stuffed ‘Pizza Bowl’

by Clint Rainey

After years of being AWOL, pizza has made its triumphant return to the Olive Garden menu … but good God — it looks … different! But really, the change is absolutely correct considering that it comes from the same people behind fried-lasagna nachos. The $9 “Meatball...More »

04 Mar 22:20

Dunkin’ Donuts Finally Made Coffee That Tastes Like Girl Scout Cookies

by Clint Rainey

It’s Girl Scout Cookie season, and now you can get your fix in caffeinated form: Dunkin’ Donuts announced it will put “the delicious taste of Girl Scout Cookies® in its signature coffee and beverages for the first time.” You have read this correctly: Girl Scout Cookie coffee. It comes...More »

21 Feb 16:54

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory Is Fighting Eviction

by Serena Dai

The landlord claims the family-run shop is using too much water

The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory — one of New York’s oldest and finest ice cream shops — is fighting an eviction notice from its landlord. The Post reports that the owner of the building at 65 Bayard St., between Mott and Elizabeth streets, has been trying to push out the famed family-owned spot for allegedly using too much water.

But the Seid family, which has run the shop since 1978, says it’s a farce. Landlord Nolan Cheng — not the ice cream factory tenant — is responsible for water bills, the Seid family claims in a lawsuit filed this month. “My landlord is just really unbearable,” co-owner Christina Seid tells The Post. “He is doing anything he can to get us out to get a higher rent.”

The Seids and Cheng have been fighting about the water bills for years, with court cases dating back to 2011. As part of the dispute, Cheng claimed that the ice cream family was maliciously wasting water to rack up bills, while the Seids allege that they’re inappropriately being pushed out of the low-rent spot that costs $1,000 per month. The landlord purchased the building from the Seid family in 2005 for $3.8 million, according to Department of Finance records.

The narrow ice cream shop is known for celebrating flavors more common in China than the U.S., such as durian, red bean, and lychee. It’s been in the same family since it opened about four decades ago.

18 Feb 15:39

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan Manga Gets 2nd Anime DVD

Manga gets 10th 1-shot in Shonen Jump on February 26
18 Feb 13:49

Disney Animation Sets ‘Day Of Listening’ For Staff Amid Uncertainty Over John Lasseter’s Future

by Amid Amidi

The artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios will have their say tomorrow.

The post Disney Animation Sets ‘Day Of Listening’ For Staff Amid Uncertainty Over John Lasseter’s Future appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

18 Feb 13:33

Rep. John Lewis Announces New Graphic Novel Trilogy: ‘Run’

by Andrea Ayres
Representative John Lewis (D-GA), prominent Civil Rights leader and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, has announced along with publisher Abrams ComicArts, the second chapter in the award-winning March saga to be called Run due out in August 2018. Run will pick up where the National Book Award-winning March left off, in the immediate aftermath of the march from Selma-to-Montgomery […]
17 Feb 21:57

Crunchyroll Manga to No Longer Offer Catalog Chapters of Kodansha Titles

Fairy Tail will be exception with 30 catalog volumes
15 Feb 01:48

Little Witch Academia Translation Trickery

by sdshamshel

Little Witch Academia has been out on Netflix since last year, and it’s a wonderful show worth everyone’s time. Having watched it with English subtitles, I’ve noticed a few hiccups here and there when it comes to the translation. These are not deal breakers, but it does speak to how translation is more art than science, and it’s worth looking into the fact that translating for anime and manga comes with its own share of unique pitfalls.

One unusual aspect of the translation that even non-Japanese speakers might notice is a tendency to avoid repetition despite it being present in the original Japanese. For example, a character might say, “Witches.” Then another character would ask “Witches?,” in response. In the subtitles, the first character would still say “Witches,” but the second might respond, “What are you talking about?”

This has partly to do with the fact that using the same word over and over again is not necessarily considered bad writing in Japanese, but in English (which is famous for its sheer amount of synonyms), this can make dialogue sound extremely awkward and unnatural. Changing up the vocabulary for English not in itself a bad idea, but it can run the risk of introducing ideas or words into a character’s speech that might not reflect who they are or what they would say. It creates room for inaccuracy even as it ends up sounding a little more natural, and it’s a tricky balance to maintain.

What’s worse is that sometimes the desire to make the English sound good can backfire. Anime and manga come out on a pretty constant schedule, with little lead time between chapters and episodes. Japanese as a language thrives on context to shape meaning, and terms or phrases are often left intentionally ambiguous, becoming clearer as the series goes on. Sometimes a phrase can be so awkwardly ambiguous when translated directly that a translator might feel compelled to massage it, only for it to bite them in the ass down the line. For example, a character whose gender is unknown can get away with never being referred to by gender in Japanese pretty naturally, but someone who doesn’t know this is an important plot point might assign a gender because gender-neutral pronouns in English are not entrenched into the language.

In Little Witch Academia, to a certain extent, one of the series is a quote from the character Shiny Chariot, which translates literally as “A believing heart is your magic.” It sometimes appears in the show itself, in English, so a simple solution would have been to use that directly, but it does sound a bit clumsy. The translator decided to go with “Believing in yourself is your magic.” Initially, this makes sense, as what exactly the heart believes in is unclear, and the heroine Akko uses it as a refrain to keep soldiering on. However, by the end of the series, this turns out to be somewhat inaccurate; it’s not necessarily that Akko believes in herself, but that she is able to believe in what’s possible.

Given that Little Witch Academia was released all at once on Netflix, there was the potential to go back and fix this, but I don’t blame the translator for not doing so. I don’t know what the schedule or system is like for subtitling on Netflix. It’s just a strong case of why translating is a tricky beast.

11 Feb 13:02

Hit Ramen Chain Ichiran Is Bringing Solo Dining Booths to Manhattan

by Serena Dai

The restaurant known for tonkotsu ramen is expanding

Hit Japanese ramen chain Ichiran — known for its tonkotsu broth and solo dining booths — is finally making its way to Manhattan.

The restaurant, which first landed in NYC with a Bushwick outpost in 2016, will take over more than 1,400-square-feet at 132 West 31st St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, in Midtown, according to the Post. This location will seat 46 people and is expected to open in April.

Here, Ichiran will be going even harder on its solo dining concept. The Brooklyn location has communal dining and allows solo diners to collapse partitions to talk to friends — but in Manhattan, “they’ve done away with that to preserve the authenticity of the concept,” a spokeswoman tells Eater. The menu will otherwise largely be the same.

The company is revered for founder Manabu Yoshitomi’s obsessive dedication for tonkotsu broth and freshly made noodles. Solo dining booths, where people dine alone, might seem like a gimmick, but the original idea was that the ramen is so good, people should spend time focusing on it without distractions. When the Bushwick location opened, hundreds of people waited in line for it.

Ichiran has been planning to expand widely since it first opened here. They plan to open at least three new locations by 2020, according to a spokeswoman, though no other locations are set yet. Besides the restaurant in Brooklyn, the company also has a production facility to make the noodles. The Times awarded the tonkotsu ramen here one star, deeming it one of the better versions in the city.

11 Feb 13:01

Restaurant Workers Are Left Behind in New York’s New Paid Parental Leave Program

by Ryan Sutton

As it stands, most will make under the minimum wage while on leave — something NYC’s mayor should fix

  • New York State employers must now grant workers eight weeks of paid, protected leave. That will rise to 12 weeks in 2021.
  • Many restaurant staffers on leave will earn less than the minimum wage under this payroll tax-funded program, which pays one-half to two-thirds of a worker’s salary.
  • There could be a fix for high-cost areas like New York City: San Francisco, for example, requires employers to share the burden of leave pay with the state program, ensuring that most workers earn their full salary while at home. NYC should do the same.

The United States remains the only major industrialized country without a paid parental leave program, and given President Donald Trump’s vague support for the issue in last week’s State of the Union address, the status quo does not appear to be in jeopardy.

Some of the country’s biggest corporations have stepped in to fill the benefits void: Starbucks offers six weeks of fully paid leave to baristas, Anheuser-Busch offers 16 weeks, and Netflix actually offers a full year. But in the greater hospitality industry — one of the country’s largest employers — just 6 percent of workers in 2016 reported having access to any form of paid leave, less than half of the national average.

The consequences of this reality are nothing short of devastating: The bulk of the nation’s culinary talent can find both their finances and job at risk if they perform the very basic and biological act of having a family.

A new law in New York, spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo, will start to make things a little easier on new parents — but it’s still not enough, especially for lower- and middle-income restaurant workers.


Here’s the TL;DR on parental leave benefits in New York

As of January, most new parents in New York, or those caring for a sick relative, can take up to two months of job-protected leave while collecting up to half of their paychecks. By 2021, parents will receive up to two-thirds of their paychecks, and the leave time will increase to three months. The program is funded by employee payroll deductions, capped at $85/year.

The operative phrase is “up to.” The maximum weekly benefit, which will be earned by anyone making more than $68,000 a year, is $653/week. So an executive chef with an annual salary of $95,000 — well above average but not out of line for a top culinary professional — will only earn the equivalent of $16.30/hour, based on a 40-hour work week. That’s just 36 percent of her income, not ideal considering her rent doesn’t drop by 64 percent when she has a kid (the gender pay gap becomes a lot more real when the state cuts your wages in half).

On the lower side of the income spectrum, many waiters and cooks bonding with a newborn will earn well under the NYC minimum wage, which would make it nearly impossible for a single person to live in the city, never mind protect a new parent facing a world of financial obligations.

Is this better than nothing? Of course it is. But the state plan brings up the question of whether these policies are generous enough to actually allow metropolitan-area hospitality industry employees to take advantage of them at all. The answer is no, they’re not, which is why restaurants should be required by law to supplement the state leave program — just as they do in San Francisco.


No one should earn less than the minimum wage on leave

A little context first: Restaurant workers in any state are allowed to take unpaid leave, if they can afford to do so, and if they meet the strict qualifications of the federal Family Leave Medical Act. That law, which turns 25 this week, guarantees that new parents can stay at home for at least 12 weeks and then return to their job or a similar one. The catch is that it only applies to full-time staffers who have spent at least a year working for venues with 50 or more employees.

Translation: Many waiters, cooks, and bussers who hold multiple, part-time jobs to make ends meet, are left out.

The lack of federal paid leave, made worse by the FMLA’s insane eligibility requirements, is an “astonishingly unprogressive policy,” Eater’s editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt wrote in her 2016 inquiry, “The Restaurant Industry’s Motherhood Trap.

Indeed, this hostile environment toward childbearing, combined with gender pay disparities and systematic sexual harassment and abuse in the hospitality industry, explain why women have a hard time rising to some of the highest-paying jobs in restaurant kitchens. Under 20 percent of the country’s head chefs are women, and those top female chefs earn on average just 78 cents for every dollar a male head chef earns — compared with 88 cents in 2014 or 97 cents in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Governor Cuomo’s new initiative deserves credit for plugging up weak spots in the FMLA. In addition to covering full-time employees at businesses of any size, the state leave program is open to freelancers and part-timers who work fewer than 20 hours per week. And there is no requirement to have worked for a full year before taking off; the threshold is 26 consecutive weeks for full-time employees, or 175 non-consecutive days for part-timers. Citizenship or immigration status does not affect eligibility. And employers must maintain an employee’s health insurance during the leave program. That’s really great news.

The not-so-great news is that scores of restaurant workers will still receive unacceptably low pay while on leave.

Consider the case of a cook in New York City, who makes the local average of $577/week. Under Cuomo’s plan, that cook would make half that, or $289/week during leave in 2018. That works out to just $7.27/hour, far below the prevailing minimum wage.

And these rates will go down even further after taxes are withheld. (Yes, parental leave pay is taxable income.)

These ignominies highlight a particular problem of the New York parental leave plan: Unlike the minimum wage, which currently varies from Long Island to New York City to upstate, the parental leave plan does not contain adjustments for the higher costs of living in certain regions.

To drive home how tough it would be to survive on the new leave plan, consider the following. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the monthly costs for a family of two with one child in New York City, after rent ($1,400 — good luck finding that apartment), health care ($1,030), child care ($1,045) and other expenses come to about $6,811. For our purposes we’ll subtract the child care number, lowering the total to $5,766; the point is to think about the period during which a father or mother is bonding with the child at home.

Let’s assume the cook earning $577/week, or $2,308/month, has a partner making $3,468/month, the NYC average for an experienced bartender. Even at full salary, the parents will be barely scratching by. Things will become a heck of a lot tougher with one parent’s pay cut in half, putting the couple’s monthly wages at well over $1,000 short of what they’d need.

And if they have another child in 2021 when the program is fully implemented, the mother’s pay rate will be about $9.65/hour, still well less than the future minimum of $15/hour.

Cuomo is surely aware that his program needs to be beefed up; that will take resources and time. But for now here’s a practical suggestion, albeit one that will also require resources: No one should earn less than the minimum wage while on leave. That needs to be fixed immediately.


San Francisco requires restaurants to pay parental leave

New York City, under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, could still do a lot to help fill the gaps that the state is leaving. The key is to take the right lessons from a city with a slightly different (and unfortunately shorter) leave policy: San Francisco.

Former SF city supervisor Scott Wiener realized that middle- and lower-income families ended up foregoing leave because the California state program, which pays roughly 60 percent of a worker’s salary for six weeks, wasn’t sufficient for the high-cost Bay Area. So he authored a bill that let San Francisco do what the city does best: It puts some of the burden on employers. Restaurants and other businesses with 20 or more employees are required to make up the 40 percent difference that workers are losing from the state program.

Quite simply: In San Francisco, a worker’s leave pay is equal to her regular pay — up to a certain point. And the “up to” part of the equation is a lot more generous than in New York State; that California figure currently stands at $105,404. That means even wait captains and executive chefs can end up earning their full salary during leave.

De Blasio should consider a similar plan: Anyone on leave at a restaurant or other business with, say, 11 or more employees — the limit that determines the appropriate minimum wage — should receive their full salary, with employers paying out whatever staffers lose through the state program. And the parental leave pay cap should rise from $68,000 to a number that’s a bit closer to San Francisco’s — at least $95,000.

To be fair, anything that increases the cost of doing business could be passed along to the consumer in the form of a price hike, and restaurants both in NY and SF say they’re already struggling to keep pace with a slew of new regulations, from the rising minimum wage, to the Affordable Health Care Act’s employer mandate, to mandatory sick leave, to the very real prospect of the state eliminating the lower tipped minimum wage.

 Getty Images/Eater

But for what it’s worth, San Francisco’s restaurant worker population remains at a 10-year high — despite not having a tip credit, despite the city’s $15 minimum wage, despite the city’s leave program, which has been in place for over a year, and despite the state’s larger leave program, which came into effect over a decade ago.

This risk of repeating this experiment in New York is worth it.


NYC restaurants should share the parental leave burden, too

Some New York City employers are already making changes. As of 2017, all employees who have worked at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group for at least a year will be eligible for 100 percent of their full salary during the first four weeks of parental leave, and 60 percent for the second four weeks.

Claus Meyer, who runs Agern and Great Northern Food Hall, has recently bumped up his own family leave program to 50 percent of an employee’s wage at eight weeks paternity and 12 weeks maternity leave, with double that time available as unpaid leave.

The two Meyers surely have more resources than others to implement this policy. But it’s hard to believe other high-profile restaurant groups, which can afford to spend steep sums on say, publicists and social media coordinators, can’t figure out a way to make some form of parental leave sustainably work as a published, transparent benefit.

Talk to a high-profile restaurateur these days and one of the things they’ll eventually tell you is how the industry is being over-regulated. But there’s a reason for that over-regulation. The restaurant industry, despite its rising status, continues to provide some of the lowest-paying jobs in the country (and New York) and remains one of the biggest violators of wage laws.

If the largely male class of chef-owners and operators truly care about the professionalization of their industry, one of the smallest and most reasonable measures they could take is to contribute to the pay of their mostly female colleagues taking leave, colleagues who are already underpaid vis-a-vis their male counterparts. The fact that they haven’t consistently done this yet suggests that the only course of action is a legal requirement for sharing the burden on paid leave.

If San Francisco can handle it, New York can handle it.

Ryan Sutton is Eater NY’s chief restaurant critic.
Editors: Serena Dai and Stefanie Tuder
Photo illustrations: Eater

11 Feb 12:54

Samurai for a Day: Fuefuki’s Battle of Kawanakajima Reenactment

by Tiffany
Tokyo has some places—Shinjuku’s Samurai Museum, for one—and events that offer visitors the chance to put on samurai armor. While an experience like that is already fun in itself, how about taking it to the next level and fighting as a samurai? That’s right, there’s an annual historical reenactment that wannabe samurai can sign up for: the Battle of Kawanakajima reenactment at Yamanashi Prefecture’s city of Fuefuki. Think you’ve got what it takes? Then let’s get down to business. The Battle of Kawanakajima Utagawa Kuniyoshi,The Battle of Kawanakajima, marked as public domain There were actually five—not one—battles fought at the plain of Kawanakajima (a part of present-day Nagano Prefecture) durin

The post Samurai for a Day: Fuefuki’s Battle of Kawanakajima Reenactment appeared first on Tokyo Cheapo.

11 Feb 12:31

Tanuki to Kitsune Anime Shorts Premiere on Friday

18-episode series to stream on YouTube, DVD will compile 20 episodes in May
11 Feb 12:25

Crunchyroll Streams Thunderbolt Fantasy: The Sword of Life and Death Puppet Film

Film available now to premium members outside of Asia
05 Feb 15:11

These Sheet Pan Garlic Mushrooms Are Side Dish Goals — Delicious Links

by Sarah Rae Smith

We often see mushrooms as a welcome addition to an already tasty side dish or protein on a menu, but we forget they are delicious all on their own. Well move over, mushroom risotto, mushroom lasagna, or even beef Wellington with that thin layer of tasty mushroom paste below the surface! Sometimes we just want mushrooms. Plain and simple.

READ MORE »

04 Feb 13:04

The Absolute Best Fried Chicken in New York

by Hugh Merwin

Excellence in fried chicken demands (1) a hot and crisp exterior, (2) juicy meat, and (3) enough, but not too much, salt. Flourishes aside, let’s say this applies equally to Nashville-hot, Japanese karaage, and Taiwanese night-market chicken, all of which are now thrillingly abundant in the city. Here, the absolute...More »

30 Jan 11:24

Hisui & Narutaki VS. The Best of 2017 Anime

by reversethieves

It was a difficult thing, but we narrowed down our favorite U.S. anime releases from 2017. Let us know yours!

Best TV Anime

narutaki_icon_4040_round Little Witch Academia by Studio Trigger Sometimes taking a short film and turning it into a series shows the concepts’ limits, and sometimes, as was the case with Little Witch Academia, it shows how rich with story possibility the world was.

LWA can be enjoyed by anyone, an all-ages anime that we rarely get to see in the U.S. beyond a handful of films. A world of magic which was a visual delight, and the stumbling around of a girl who failed as hard as she succeeded made LWA the show I just never wanted to end.

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department by MADHOUSE A quiet, underplayed quality permeated ACCA. It was a compelling character drama and, somewhat paradoxically, a political thriller at the same time. The series had a tendency to slip-in a major revelation with little fanfare, sometimes resulting in making me question if I had understood correctly.

Honestly, I can understand why this series has gone a bit overlooked for the year. It’s not exactly a show that screams at you, but that’s exactly what made it so engrossing.

hisui_icon_4040_round March Comes in like a Lion by Shaft As I have stated before this is a title that resonates with me very deeply. Rei’s depression feels real and relatable. The show is always sympathetic to him but also willing to show the ugly side of his personality.

The episodes this year really move the story forward any expand the cast both in how they interact with Rei and as individuals. Kai Shimada and Hinata Kawamoto arcs stand out as amazing journeys that add to Rei’s development while standing on their own brilliantly. Their look at success, failure, bullying, and determination will stick with you long after the show is over. That said stories with AkariNikaidou, and Takashi Hayashida should not be overlooked despite being smaller stories attached to other characters.

It is also worth noting that the show still looks wonderful and sounds great. I admit the SHAFTisms poke through at least once an episode but overall Chika Umino’s brilliant framing of scenes to convey tremendous amount of emotion in untouched. The openings and ending continue to be stellar and always bookend the show wonderfully. Also the fact that you can track Rei’s progress as a human via the openings show a very deliberate craft in their presentation. The continue to be wonderful gems worth experiencing even outside of the show.

It is really a show I could easily give all the awards to without regret. It always touches me on a level that refuses to let me forgot the show in the best way possible while not always being comfortable. It always helps me better understand who I am and what my little trip through life is all about. Any media that does that is worth its weight in gold.

Ninja Girl & Samurai Master by TMS Entertainment The combination of silly gags and history is pretty much right up my alley. Ninja Girl & Samurai Master is a wonderful blend of both of them. It is a splendid mixture of the dramatic and bloody adventure of rise of Nobunaga Oda mixed with Ninja Nonsense. It has just enough historical fact that you feel most episodes are teaching something but the comedy makes it all go down smoothly. It is not a series you can use a reference for a paper but it is a great jumping off point if you wanted to start to learn about the Sengoku period.

I loved that each episode stayed around long enough that you got a substantial amount of entertainment but never wore out its welcome. I was a little saddened that the series ended after 52 episodes because Nobunaga conquest of Japan was just getting started in earnest. But now that anime are far more able to come back after a hiatus of several years I look forward to when there is enough manga for another season.

Best Movie, Short, or OVA

narutaki_icon_4040_round Your Name by CoMix Wave Films Your Name took the theme of love over distance that Makoto Shinkai is so good at it and brought it to a broader audience. It was a little complex, definitely melodramatic, at times humorous, and absolutely romantic. Beautiful animation and a fantastic soundtrack completed the package. It was a fantastic experience that I won’t soon forget.

Our Love Has Always Been 10 Centimeters Apart by Lay-duce This late in the year OVA series was a pleasant surprise. Inspired by the Vocaloid Gumi song and music video “Hatsukoi no Ehon,” this is a love story of two young artists. It portrays not only the difficulty of closing that final gap between two people, but also how we choose to pursue our dreams.

hisui_icon_4040_round Fate/stay night Movie: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower by ufotable Ufotable has made a name for itself with its adaptations of Fate titles. Before them Type-Moon anime just had the stigma of being extremely mediocre when compared to its source material. Then the Kara no Kyoukai changed everything. They looked amazing and were actually faithful where they needed to be and made some tweaks where it would be better for the medium. Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works proved that the Garden of Sinners movies were not a fluke and that Ufotable could do the same thing with a TV series. The Heaven’s Feel movie on the other hand is just a level above what came before it. It shows that while Ufotable did before was amazing they still could be even more impressive.

The real skill in the first Heaven’s Feel movie is the ability to know what to focus on, what to cut, and what need tweaking. Ufotable is taking the longest arc in Fate/Stay Night and adapting into three movies. That it doable but it requires a fine ability to know when to be economical and when to be lavish. The Studio Deen movie of Unlimited Blade Works is case study in how you can generally get the idea of the route across while falling short of capturing the essence of the original. The next two movies can fall part but the first movie does an exceptional job of telling the story of Heaven’s Feel without feeling like a clip show.

I could go on about the magnificent animation and powerful score but those elements are just wonderful ornamentation that make a great production exceptional. It is the master class in storytelling that place this movie in a category of its own.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star by Production I.G The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a manga that begs to be given an appropriate level of care to be fully realized. With average animation its  rich story and excellent characters would still elevate it ahead of the pack but it needs an extra bit of effort for the breathtaking artwork of the original to pull everything together. The loving detail placed into the art of the manga is an important pillar of the original so any adaptation needs to capture that to really express the wonder it invokes. Production I.G wisely made their first foot forward with series an OVA that can properly bring this story to life.

It was interesting that they decided to adapt a later story from the manga but in a way it makes perfect sense given that it is an OVA. Then introductory story was being saved for the TV series. The TV series is meant to not only cater to the fans of the manga but also hopefully draw in people who have not read the original. Therefore you start with the first meeting  of Chise and Elias like in the manga. The OVA is more for reader of the manga. Therefore a story from Chise’s childhood is more meaningful for them Plus they make it clear where fans of the TV can jump in and go and watch the OVA if they wish to see it after watching the first half of the TV series.

Those Awaiting a Star is a wonderful encapsulation of the mood of the series as a whole. It is filled with beautiful moments of joy, terrible moment of dread, and always shows a magical world filled with the full spectrum of experiences in which discovery is the only one that is always present.  It is also a fascinating look into many of the experiences that make Chise the broken woman she is at the start of the series.

Those Awaiting a Star was a brilliant reassurance that everything was probably going to be all right with the TV show and thankfully it has proven to be the case.

Best Anime Woman

narutaki_icon_4040_round Moriko Morioka from Recovery of an MMO Junkie Moriko left her job, retreated from the world, and found solace in online gaming. We don’t know the gory details, but she wore her stress and anxiety clearly. Moriko was neither too much of a parody (although there were funny moments) nor too self-loathing (although there were too-close-to-the-mark moments). I understood her conflicting desires to stay secluded and wanting to reconnect. It was deeply rewarding watching her take step after step forward.

hisui_icon_4040_round Mordred from Fate/Apocrypha By the end of Fate/Apocrypha most people realize a great crime has occurred. It turns out that despite the beginning of the series might have you believe Mordred is not that main character of the novel. It is in fact the far less interesting Sieg. After the first few episodes it feels like a bit of a bait and switch. By the end my roommate was actively mad especially since he hated how Sieg’s story hijacks everything around it. If nothing else it shows how much Mordred leaves a strong impression on the viewer so they latch onto her and her tragic adventure with Kairi Shishigou.

The superficial joy of Mordred is she is a classic antihero. Mordred and her Master don’t care what means they use to win the Holy Grail War so they are willing to fight as dirty as they need to. Proper magic and chivalric combat are something that neither of them have any time for. It gives them a sense of freedom few of the other characters have. At the same time despite everything they are still heroes and do the right thing when push comes to shove. They just take their time coming to that decision. Also their fights are just cool. They have some of the best scenes in the whole series.

But the real reason she works so well is that she has a great character arc. She starts of wanting to win the war so she can challenge Caliburn like Artoria did. She wants validation and a bit of revenge at the same time. She wants to throw her right tot the throne in Artoria’s face while also getting her approval. At the series goes on she questions what it means to be a ruler and the importance of her wish. By the end her time with Shishigou and the remaining Yggdmillennia  members gets her to reevaluate her choices. In the end she leaves the series with a greater understanding of herself and Artoria. If this Mordred and Artoria were to meet again their interactions would be much different.

It is a shame that Sieg never got anywhere as compelling a story. She entered a champion and left a hero. What she really deserved was the main character spot.

Best Anime Man

narutaki_icon_4040_round Orga Itsuka from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-blooded Orphans Orga didn’t always make the right decisions; he was a flawed leader who frequently found himself in over his head. He was also selflessly dedicated to his found-family, the only family he’d ever know. Throughout the series, he navigated politics, brutal battles, betrayals, and so much tragedy seeking a place in the universe for that family. Orga’s fate was one that has stuck with me all year.

hisui_icon_4040_round Kai Shimada from March Comes in like a Lion At first it seems that Kai Shimada is going to be an utterly disposable opponent for Rei. Everything points to Masamune Gotou being the big antagonist of the arc and the only thing Rei is focused on. Kai Shimada is poised to be merely a speed bump on his path to Gotou. We never even see his face for the first half of the match as everything is focused on Rei’s inner monologue and what he is going to do next. Then in the middle of the match Rei’s realizes he is losing. He forgot to pay attention to the obstacle in front of him. Then Rei completely loses which throws you for a loop. It is a bold introduction to the character that makes a man who normally blends into the background jump out at you.

Past that point Kai acts as a mentor and senpai for Rei who clearly needed someone to guide him. But it is also clear that Kai and Rei are not on completely different levels. Kai is older and more experienced but still has far to go himself. So at points they seem like equals and friends. At some point they might even play against each other. Kai’s story is both simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming as he deals with the major defeats and gets to enjoy minor victories. When Kai faces off against Souya Touji and is utterly outclassed it opens Rei and the audiences eyes to a very different level of play. Rei might not learn new shogi techniques but he learns a lot about the game.

Kai Shimada exemplifies the value in examining and elevating what might otherwise be characters who would fade into the background. At first Rei and the audience can barely see Kai but by the end they cannot forget him.

Best Sequel or Ongoing Anime

narutaki_icon_4040_round Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower by Sunrise New characters, a cult, and revelations about human experimentation bring a whole other dimension to the Thunderbolt universe. And of course the central rivalry rages on. This series is also beautiful production-wise just like the first with impeccable animation and another killer soundtrack.

hisui_icon_4040_round Kirakira PreCure a la Mode by Toei Animation The last two PreCure have been interesting entries in the franchise. Go! Princess Precure had critical acclaim but apparently did abysmally when it came to ratings and merchandise sales. People like Kate and I loved it for how it drew on old shojo conventions while putting a brilliant modern spin on them but it apparently did not connect with kids. Maho Girls Precure! on the hand was far more standard iteration that drew more on Harry Potter. If was a fine show but it never hit the complex highs of its predecessor.  The thing is that it did extremely well. I feel  Kirakira PreCure a la Mode has hit the medium between the complexity of Go! Princess and the simple inviting nature of Maho Girls.

Best Mascot Character

narutaki_icon_4040_round Pikario and Kirarin from Kirakira PreCure a la Mode These twins were great mascots and great characters. Their dedication to the art of dessert making was what bonded them, tore them apart, and healed them.

hisui_icon_4040_round Shogi Cats from March Comes in like a Lion It turns out that Rei’s rival Nikaidou actually makes picture books on the side. Naturally one of the books he has written explains the rules of shogi in a simple and colorful fashion so children can get into the game. He draws all the shogi pieces as warrior cutie pie cats. In the show this lets Nikaidou explain the basic concepts of the game to the Kawamoto sisters while being visually interesting. This also lets them have an ending that uses the cats to repeat the information. It not only helps explain the game to reviewers who don’t know the basics of the game it is also just damn entertaining.

If anyone is surprised there is a ton of Shogi cats merchandise they are a fool.

Best Ensemble Cast

narutaki_icon_4040_round Tsuredure Children by Studio Gokumi This show didn’t have a main character so it fits perfectly in this category. The antics of these couples ran the gamut of sweet and simple to outlandish and bizarre. Each character brought their unique personalities, hang-ups, and romantic expectations to the table.

hisui_icon_4040_round Restaurant to Another World by Silver Link Look. The star of Restaurant to Another World is the food. If that were not the case then the show would be doing something gravely wrong. That said the people eating that food are an important aspect of the show. I mean someone has to eat the food and make yummy noises. But the cast of Restaurant to Another World is there for more than just elevating the show beyond an animated foodie blogger’s Instagram.

There is a fairly fleshed out fantasy land to connects to the Nekoya one a week but we rarely get lore dumps about that world. Most of the information and this D&D setting is given through the iterations of the characters. Their stories give most of the insights into the geography, politics, customs, and mechanics of the lands were the Saturday customers comes from. This lets the world mostly roll out organically while fleshing out the patrons of this unusual restaurant.

The other great part of the cast if how they slowly become more and more integrated At first the cast is nothing more than the two main staff members and several regulars. Everyone interacts with the Master, Aletta, and Kuro out of necessity but they slowly start talking to their fellow foodies. As time goes on various characters invite new patrons to eat at the restaurant which always changes the dynamic of the restaurant. At the same time established characters begin to cross paths with new people and other customers in a variety of methods. This expands their characters as well as their world.

The cast quickly becomes as important and intriguing as the food that they eat.

Best Anime I Unexpectedly Liked

narutaki_icon_4040_round Recovery of an MMO Junkie by Signal. MD There are a lot a lot a lot of stories out there using MMOs as set trappings. At this point when I see a description with the words MMO, I usually just skip to the next thing. Luckily, someone pointed me in the right direction when it came to this series.

hisui_icon_4040_round Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid by Kyoto Animation I was not a fan of I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying. It just seemed like the anime equivalent of The Big Bang Theory. (I will admit that is overly harsh short hand but you get my point.) So I had no real interest in seeing a different anime based on a manga by the same author.

But as chance would have it my roommate decided to check out the first episode since we had not watched it for a SWAT review for the blog. We were both surprised that the show was far better than we could have ever imagined it to be. Since it is animated by Kyoto Animation it looks wonderful but I think they put an extra amount of thought into the show that makes it feel beautiful besides just looking beautiful.

But beyond that the show had a warmth and inclusive nature that really elevates the material. The little family of KobayashiTohru, and Kanna draws you into the story and enhances the humor. You find yourself quickly won over my their makeshift household that balances goofy and heartwarming exceptionally well. Some characters like Quetzalcoatl and Riko are a bit one note but even they shine given the right circumstances.

I was super surprised that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was not only funny but actually had a little something to say beyond Tohru looks good in a maid outfit. I liked it enough that I might actually give manga by Cool-kyou Shinja a second glance now which is something I would have never said in the past. That in of itself is a huge accomplishment which speaks volumes about the quality and heart of this show.

Best Opening

narutaki_icon_4040_round GO” by Bump of Chicken from Granblue Fantasy the Animation This opening was full of adventurous spirit. It started with the characters in mist and shadow, slowly making their way towards one another. As the singer’s voice started to swell, the world opens up. It made me excited to start each episode.

hisui_icon_4040_round Aozora no Rhapsody” by fhána from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid The season this came out I wanted to spread the awards around so I gave the prize of best opening to Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju mostly because despite problems with the last episode I felt that show should get some praise. Now that we are looking at the year as a whole I felt it was time to give the opening to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid its proper due.

The opening is just so damn stylish and vibrant. Every piece of it just pops with energy and dynaminism. Tohru does not just simply run across the screen as super speeds. She runs around the screen filling up the screen with afterimages all running in place until she finally starts running at the screen creating afterimages allover the place. It is a fun way to show her super speed that stick out in your mind. Even sullen Mr. Fafnir gets a bright and cheerful screen of his dour face appearing out of blooming flowers. Plus who can’t love the image of pixel Kanas slowly trailer off the screen.

It is just an energetic opening that does so well to convey the joy that the show is just filled with. Since Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is mostly a slice of life show there is little coding to do in order to seed later plot elements. It is just an opening that shows that just because you’re a slice of life anime does not mean you have to be subdued or sleepy. The comedy, excitement, and  tenderness in the show all come through in the opening.

Best Ending

narutaki_icon_4040_round “KING OF THE WILD” by Shounan no Kaze from Tiger Mask W Stark and dramatic, the art and music were a perfect complement to each other. Almost like an entrance theme it left quite an impression.

hisui_icon_4040_round Datte Atashi no Hero” by LiSA from My Hero Academia The gimmick of making all the superheroes into fantasy adventure characters is still stands out to be as clever and fun. It reminds me of when people mas lists of “What D&D class would these characters be” or when fan artists re-imagine a cast in a different genre. It is a way of making something that is usually rather rote and perfunctory and makes it spark as if it were something the staff cares about like an opening.

28 Jan 16:54

5 Women Have Sued Monster Energy, Alleging a Culture of Abuse

by Clint Rainey

The energy-drink industry is getting its first taste of #MeToo: Monster, whose shtick never seemed particularly female-friendly, has been accused by former employees of allowing male bosses to discriminate against and even abuse women, sometimes violently. HuffPost says five women have filed lawsuits alleging that Monster’s...More »

28 Jan 16:50

Internet Cheers After KFC Names Reba McEntire the New Colonel

by Clint Rainey

In a brilliant PR move, the role of KFC’s ever-changing Colonel will now be played by Reba McEntire. The legendary country singer appears in ads for KFC’s new Smoky Mountain Barbecue Chicken — a half-Memphis, half-Carolina style that the chain predicts will become its “most broadly appealing...More »

28 Jan 16:49

How To Make Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker — Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

by Meghan Splawn

Tucking into a hearty bowl of tender beef stew is like dinnertime nirvana. Within the rich, beefy broth are creamy chunks of potato and carrots and perfectly tender pieces of beef that fall apart in your mouth. The ingredients are humble, but the resulting stew is completely luxurious. It just might be the single best cold-weather supper ever.

If you've long considered beef stew a Sunday-only dinner affair, then allow me to introduce you to the beef stew you can start on a weekday morning and come home to in the evening.

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27 Jan 12:57

Immerse Yourself in Escape Games at Tokyo Mystery Circus

by Tiffany
Originating in Japan, real-life escape games have grown in popularity in the recent decade, and they’re just as exciting as they sound. As the name implies, the objective is often to escape something, such as a prison cell or haunted house, but these games can also be about, say, solving a murder mystery or finding a lost treasure. Usually played in groups of 3-5, the games make for a fun activity among friends, and they involve solving puzzles to find clues and get answers within a time limit. |credit| Celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2017, SCRAP, Japan’s pioneer creator of escape games, has created plenty of hits, including English ones such as The Red Room and Escape from the Haunted Manor. Now, they’re launching t

The post Immerse Yourself in Escape Games at Tokyo Mystery Circus appeared first on Tokyo Cheapo.

23 Jan 11:11

Hisui & Narutaki VS. The Best of 2017 Manga

by reversethieves

It was a difficult thing, but we narrowed down our favorite U.S. manga releases from 2017. Let us know yours!

Best New Manga

narutaki_icon_4040_round Cells at Work by Akane Shimizu If I can be entertained and learn stuff at the same time, well is there really anything better?

Each character (cell) is bold in their depiction and each is sooo serious about their job. But I guess they have to be to keep this blundering human alive! From getting the flu to the creation of cancer cells to seasonal allergies to getting a blood transfusion, the fun never stops.

All of this is weathered with a big dose of humor. The jokes, reactions, rivalries, team-ups, and just general eccentricities of these characters (cells) makes every chapter a hilarious and educational romp.

Cells at Work! is a unique and charming manga that I’d never seen before. And just this month it was announced that Cells at Work! will be getting an anime. I hope this brings loads more people to the series.

Real Girl by Mao Nanami Nerd boy meets real girl and together they navigate the ups and downs of love. In this opposites attract scenario, the series steers away from putting its characters into boxes. This is especially true with Iroha who has past relationship experience, a rare thing for a girl romantic lead.

The depth and sincerity of the romance in Real Girl is endearing. Mao Nanami strikes so many great notes in her sweet portrait of two people falling in love, one of who happens to be an otaku.

This series wraps up with volume 12, coming out in February. But I won’t have to miss it for long since it will be getting an anime very soon!

hisui_icon_4040_round The Black Museum: The Ghost and the Lady by Kazuhiro Fujita When Florence Nightingale appeared in Fate/Grand Order lots of fans seemed perplexed by her portrayal in the game. They expected a gentle healing Caster that kissed people’s wounds and told the pain to fly away. In fact, they assumed that the pink haired lady with a white crown would be Nightingale when it eventually turned out she was Medb. Instead, they got a gung-ho Berserker drawn by Jormugand’s Keitarou Takahashi that was adept at healing but also was a no-nonsense tough as nails combat medic. It turns out that her portrayal in the game was heavily influenced by a single manga. That manga is The Black Museum: The Ghost and the Lady.

If you have been on this site long enough you know that we really loved Le Chevalier D’Eon. It was a great series that mixed historical fiction with fantasy. I love stories that mix historical characters real with the fantastical elements of the time. I think if the gameplay was more my style could really get into the Assassin’s Creed games. The story combines the famous story of the mother of modern nursing and the legend of the Man in Grey of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It is a clever combination that adds a bit of Homunculus to spice things up.

The core of series is the relationship of Florence Nightingale and the Man in Gray. They have a lively relationship that really grows both of them as characters. Considering Gray is an old ghost who is impossibly set in his ways this is no small feat. At the same time, the setting is informative and fascinating. The horrific conditions that Nightingale is forced to work in at the start almost seem more inhuman and insane than the conflicts going on around her. The addition of the supernatural angle is merely a pleasant spice to an already great dish.

The series is also only two thick volumes long. It a world of sprawling epic likes One PieceDetective Conan, and Boys Over Flowers it is nice to be able to sit down and get a full and rich story that you can read in a single day with only minimal effort. You get a nice chunk of Nightingale ‘s life with Gray and hits lots of her early days in nursing especially in Crimea. This lets you feel as if you read the equivalent of a long movie without the story ever dragging or wearing out its welcome. If anything you might only curse that it is not longer.

It goes without saying that I would love to see an anime adaptation of this manga but I figured I would stoplight another series there and let The Ghost and the Lady winning this prize mostly speak for itself.

The Promised Neverland by Posuka Demizu and Kaiu Shirai As of late Shonen Jump is in search of a new hit. With Naruto and Bleach out of the magazine, they seem in constant search of new titles to fill those coveted blockbuster spots. One Piece is still going strong and My Hero Academia is doing a good deal of heavy lifting but there is still a void of mega-hits outside of them. I have a feeling The Promised Neverland will never fill that hole but it has a much more interesting legacy to step into. I think The Promised Neverland fills the role of the next Death Note for the magazine. It will never be the merchandise machine that Naruto is but a title that feels different from the normal fare in Shonen Jump and can bring in a different audience than the more conventional titles as well as appealing to the traditional fanbase.

The Promised Neverland distinctly has that cat and mouse psychological thriller that you might usually see in a seinen magazine with a bit more of all ages bent. That said this is still a series where man-eating demons often kill and consume their adolescent prey. Sometimes on-screen. It places it somewhere between One Piece and anything Go Nagai on the sliding scale of disturbing shonen violence.

That is what I think makes it a successor to Death Note. It feels a bit more daring than most of the other titles in the magazine while still being firmly in the demographic. Also, the Promised Neverland feels a bit smarter. While strategy and cunning often play a part in sport and fighting shows it feels a bit simpler than the more Machiavellian mental chess matches in something like The Promised Neverland. Also, there is often a bit more on the line. Overall it seems a nice transition into more mature titles while still being a good fit for the magazine.

I have a feeling The Promised Neverland is going to be one of those titles that goes under most people radars until it gets an anime. Then I expect to explode like Attack on Titan. If you’re not reading it I think you should at least keep your eyes on the series.

Best Ongoing Manga

hisui_icon_4040_round JoJolion by Hirohiko Araki JoJolion is a bit of an odd duck in the greater JoJo’s cannon in the same way that Diamond Is Unbreakable was. So far there is no clear ultimate antagonist, the stakes are high but a bit unclear, and the end game of the story is a bit murky. But much like Diamond Is Unbreakable is feel like the primary draw is discovering that is going on in the town. If anything Diamond Is Unbreakable may have tipped its hand too quickly with Kira and Araki has realized sometimes teasing out the mastermind is something you can do for great effect without losing your audience before then. So far JoJolion has kept the story engaging and tense without putting all of its cards on the table.

That said JoJolion has done a good job of keeping the story exciting and mysterious so far with the Rock Human antagonists. They are a bizarre bunch that feel slightly different from the standard stand users but still tap into the great Jojo’s formula. Dolomite and Urban Guerrilla both had a great sense of tension when they confronted Josuke and Yasuho. They are good fights that reveal just enough information so that the plot always feels like it is moving forward.

I would also like to mention that the recent  She Saw story arc really helped show that Yasuhois vitally important to the story and not just a sidekick or support character for Josuke. I really felt like she was on the borderline between being a main heroine and just a love interest with a lot of screen time and this was a vital push in the right direction.

I am really interested to see where the story goes from here. Wherever it goes you know it will be bizarre.

Space Brothers by Chuuya Koyama There was a time when Space Brothers  was the constant talk of the town when it came to stories for adults. But that slowly stopped once the anime went off the air. It was not that people stopped loving the adventures of Mutta Nanba. It is more that any manga without an anime loses some traction with fans. That is a real shame because the story has remained consistently strong, moving, and inspiring since the manga has continued.

Mutta’s trip to the moon feels like the emotional climax of the story. For the longest time everything has been building up to Mutta finally realizing his dream of exploring space and he is finally doing it. At the same time the story is tying in all of the other storylines in both subtle and dynamic ways. Chuuya Koyama does a great job with tension in the mission. It seems far more leisurely and character based than anything before it. There are these moments when you think they are going to hit a disaster but things actually gets solved with a bit of humor and ingenuity.  When the real disaster hits you have been lulled into sweet sense of security so it hits really hard. Brilliant timing.

It is simple. If you stop with the story of Space Brothers when the anime ended now is the time to start reading.

narutaki_icon_4040_round Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino This series has been consistently at the top of my reading list. The story developments in the volumes from 2017 were some of the biggest and most crucial for Handa’s future.

Satsuki Yoshino has a firm hold on when the story needs to be wacky, needs to be serious, and needs to just be. More than just an eccentric comedy in the idyllic countryside, Barakamon is full of life-affirming spirit.

Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina This series is still going strong at 28 volumes. In fact, I think it’s actually gotten better as it goes.

What started out as a beautiful story of friendship and romance has developed into a thoughtful look into navigating life changing decisions as the end of high school approaches. The friendships and love have only gotten deeper and more true as the real world starts closing in.

I’m going to be very sad to say goodbye to these characters in just a couple more volumes.

Best Manga-ka

narutaki_icon_4040_round Akiko Higashimura As a prolific manga-ka who works on multiple series, she is extremely focused. Watching her work (check out her YT channel!) is impressive. More than that though, Akiko Higashimura consistently feels like she is looking directly into my awkward soul whether through her nerds in Princess Jellyfish or her not-adults in Tarareba Girls. I look forward to seeing many more of her stories in English in the future.

hisui_icon_4040_round Eiichiro Oda I know that Kate will tell you that Oda has gone on hiatus but that is just her wearing her homicidal hatred of Sanji on her sleeve. It turns out that he is still writing manga and it is very good. This current Whole Cake Island Arc has been an interesting ride which has a great mixture of comedy, adventure, and drama. Sanji has always been one of the more flat characters so a some added depth really helps make him more than just the lecherous cook. Plus they have been hinting that there he had some major secrets for years now so it is nice to see some of those checks have finally been cashed.

It was also interesting to see the return of Capone Bege. It was always clear that he would come back but it is super surprising that he is a reluctant ally. From his first appearance you would naturally assume he would be a major antagonist or at least the ally of a major villain. It is the sort of mix-up that makes Oda manga worth reading.

I have been really enjoying Carrot as a temporary crew member. She does not seem like someone who is going to stick around but she has a great dynamic with the crew and really adds a good bit of goofy humor as well as a nice bit of firepower. Much like Marguerite I will be sad to see her go but I will appreciate the time we had with her.

Oda really wins this spot barbecue after two decades of writing manga he is still able to surprise his audience while tying together the many plot lines built up over the hundreds of chapters of the series filled with foreshadowing for most of the major reveals. Amazing.

Best Manga That Should Get an Anime

hisui_icon_4040_round Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura I have to say part of me is always perplexed that Vinland Saga has never gotten an anime. It really seems like a prime candidate because it seems to have all that you would want for an anime. It is a great historical setting that has action, intrigue, and a merciless  quest for revenge. It has all the flashy fights for simple entertainment but also enough meaty story surrounding it that it does not feel like total cotton candy. Plus the viking setting is not touched enough in anime and manga that it feels fresh and different.

My only theory is that they are waiting for the manga to be near completion before they green light the anime so they can run the whole story without interruption. If that is the case then all we can do is wait.

narutaki_icon_4040_round Kigurumi Guardians by Lily Hoshino This manga is such a “this could only happen in manga setup” which makes it absolutely perfect. Magical guardians. Giant-sized stuffed animal mascots. Beautiful and clandestine student council president. Hyper-sexual transformations. Villains from another dimension stealing hearts.

This series is at turns delightful, strange, funny, familiar, unique, and bizarrely accepted by the cast in such a way that I also embrace it.

22 Jan 21:06

This Memo Pad Reveals Architectural Sculptures As You Use It

by Kenya Foy

Prepare to have your sloppy childhood attempts at stick figure flip book animation completely blown out of the water. Japanese company Triad is the creator of Omoshiro Blocks ("fun blocks"), memo pads that slowly reveal an architectural treasure with the removal of each page.

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22 Jan 21:04

What Women Thought Of Trump Through Year One

by Harry Enten and Kathryn Casteel

Graphics by Julia Wolfe

The 2016 election was marked by a clear gender divide. In fact, men and women differed in their voting choice that year more than they had in any other modern presidential election.

A year on from President Trump’s inauguration — and the Women’s March protest that filled the National Mall the following day — that gender divide persists. Trump has a lower approval rating among women than men, and that gap has stayed about the same size throughout his first year, according to SurveyMonkey data collected from over 600,000 Americans. When you further divide the results by respondents’ party and race or ethnicity, some of the differences among subgroups have stayed relatively steady while others have changed significantly since the election.

In February 2017, 53 percent of men approved of Trump compared to 38 percent of women. That 15 percentage-point difference in approval remained in December 2017. For comparison, the difference by gender in former President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Gallup’s weekly surveys in December 2009 was never greater than 6 percentage points.

It’s unfair, however, to look at men and women as monolithic groups. College-educated men and women, for example, were less likely than their non-college-educated counterparts to approve of the job Trump was doing as president throughout the year. Similarly, men and women who live in the Northeast and West were less likely to approve of Trump than their counterparts in the Midwest and South.

Perhaps more interesting is the president’s approval rating among various age groups, which has shifted over time. Trump’s approval rating among 18- to 29-year-old women stayed pretty stable during 2017, while women 65 years old and over have soured on him a bit.

In fact, the gender gap among young people may have gotten slightly smaller, while it may have grown during the year among those age 65 and up. Across all the monthly averages of Trump’s approval rating since February, December’s 20-point difference among this oldest subset was the largest gender gap of any age group.

Not surprisingly, party affiliation also makes a big difference in how men and women tend to feel about the president. Republican women are, for example, far more likely to approve of Trump than independents or Democrats are, regardless of gender.

Yet even when we control for party, the SurveyMonkey data reveals a consistent gender divide. Fewer women in all three political affiliation groups — Democrats, independents and Republicans — approved of Trump than did their male counterparts.

That fact that the gender divide remains large even after controlling for party is somewhat unusual. In December 2017, the difference in Trump’s approval ratings among men and women in the same political group was between 3 and 7 percentage points. According to the 2008 American National Elections Study and the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, at the end of both George W. Bush and Obama’s presidencies, the gender gap between men and women in the same party53 was less than 2 points in both cases. The fact that Trump does worse among women across the political spectrum suggests that women’s feelings about his policies or personal history are independent of the partisan divide to at least some degree.

The SurveyMonkey data also indicates that Trump’s actions may have eaten away at his base. According to the 2016 exit polls, Trump did equally well with Republican men and women. But over the course of 2017, Trump’s support seemed to drop more among GOP women than GOP men.

A widening of the gender gap to 7 percentage points (if the current number holds) among Republicans may not seem like a lot, but an erosion of support among Republican women that produced a gap of that size would have been more than enough to deny Trump the White House if 2016 voting patterns had matched Trump’s 2017 approval ratings.54

The gender divide also persists even once we control for party and race and ethnicity. In an average of monthly surveys since February 2017, men were more likely than women to approve of Trump for each of the 12 combinations of race or ethnicity (white, black, Hispanic and other) and party (Democrat, Republican and independent).

Even among Republicans, black women don’t like Trump

The president’s average approval rating during 2017, by demographic group

Race Party Men Women Diff.
White Republican 90.2% 87.5% -2.7
Democrat 7.6 6.3 -1.3
Independent 43.4 37.2 -6.1
Black Republican 68.2 48.2 -20.0
Democrat 11.7 5.6 -6.1
Independent 23.4 14.9 -8.5
Hispanic Republican 78.3 66.4 -11.9
Democrat 12.0 7.4 -4.6
Independent 28.8 17.6 -11.2
Other Republican 86.1 81.4 -4.7
Democrat 14.4 8.2 -6.2
Independent 40.1 29.3 -10.8

Source: Surveymonkey

Yet the gender divide is not consistent across all 12 groups. White Democratic men and women are separated by just a point. White independents have a 6-point gender gap. But the largest gulf is among black Republicans. SurveyMonkey interviewed 5,000 black Republicans, and men in that group were by far the least likely male Republicans to approve of Trump — just 68 percent did, compared to 90 percent of white Republican men — but approval among black Republican women is even lower.

Only 48 percent of black Republican women approved of Trump’s job performance in an average of responses to polls taken from February through December, which is actually lower than his disapproval rating among this group. That is, even among black Republican women who are sticking by the Republican brand, a plurality — 50 percent — still disapprove of how the president is performing in office. Fortunately for Trump, his lower approval rating among black Republicans doesn’t have a major effect overall, given that black Republicans made up only about 1 percent of voters in 2016.

Trump’s approval rating wasn’t the only place where we saw dramatic differences in opinion between genders in 2017 — topics touching on sexism, gender equality and women’s rights in the U.S. often dominated the news, and public opinion on them has shifted over the course of the year. Ahead of the first Women’s March in January of 2017, research and polling firm PerryUndem surveyed registered voters on the state of gender equality. About a year later, the researchers asked some of the same questions and found that views among certain demographic and partisan groups had changed.55

Enthusiasm for women in politics is growing

Percentage of respondents who agree that the country would be better off with more women in political office

Party Gender 2016 2017 Diff.
Democrats Men 68% 87% +19
Women 82 89 +7
Independents Men 46 60 +14
Women 58 67 +9
Republicans Men 28 42 +14
Women 28 59 +31

Source: PERRYUNDEM

Over the past year, more voters, particularly Republicans, have come to feel that the country would benefit from having women in politics and, overall, voters have spent more time thinking and talking about sexism and sexual harassment in the U.S.

In PerryUndem’s most recent survey, published in December, 69 percent of all voters said they thought the country would be better off with more women in office, up 17 points from last year. The biggest jump was among Republican women, 59 percent of whom now agree with that statement, a 31-point increase from the previous year. Republican men also became more likely to support the idea of women in elected office, as 42 percent backed this position in the latest survey compared to 28 percent previously.

Yanna Krupnikov, a professor at Stony Brook University who studies political psychology, said the increase could partly be caused by respondents not having Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in mind when they answered the question in 2017.

“When asking that [in 2016], since they’re Republicans, they’re more negative to women in office because they’re thinking about Hillary,” Krupnikov said. But she also noted that media coverage of women who want to run for political office could have played a role in the change, particularly among women, who may have identified with some potential candidates or held similar ambitions.

Perceptions of sexism have also shifted. In PerryUndem’s most recent survey, 44 percent of voters thought sexism was a big problem, a 14-point increase from the year before.

In addition, a few weeks before the 2016 election, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 68 percent of likely voters thought Trump had probably made unwanted advances toward women. Just over a year later, PerryUndem found that 76 percent of registered voters thought Trump had definitely or probably sexually harassed or assaulted women. The same percentage thought there should be an investigation into the sexual harassment and assault accusations against the president. Even among respondents who said they viewed Trump favorably, 43 percent said that the allegations of harassment and assault should be investigated.

More broadly, 57 percent of voters in the most recent survey said they wouldn’t tolerate a politician who faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct even if he or she could pass laws they supported. And almost three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents in the most recent poll said stories of sexual harassment in the news have made them think more about sexism in society.

“We’ve been very aggressively confronted with [the fact] that, regardless of whatever we say in our society, that women are not treated equality and are being treated as lower-class citizens,” said Lilliana Mason, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland, referring to the numerous allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by high-profile men. “Before all of this happened and even before the 2016 campaign, there was a generally accepted idea that women were doing OK in society.”

As Trump enters the second year of his presidency, we’ll see if he can bring more Americans together than he was able to in his first year. This data suggests he has a lot of divides left to bridge, including major splits along gender lines.

22 Jan 20:53

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