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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #521  (Vol. 11, No. 12)  This edition is for the week of March 15--21, 2010.

"The Bounty Hunter"  by Mike Smith
Megacon 2010  by ED Tucker
Saturday Horrors on USA Network  by Chris Woods
A Shift in Focus  by Jason Fetters
Poetic Justice .... Movie Notes .... If I May Brag For One Moment .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

A Shift in Focus

There is a growing shift in geek culture from a sci-fi/Western comics base to embracing everything from Japan. Geek culture used to celebrate Star Trek, the television series and movies, DC, Marvel, and independent comics, Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games, and a variety of niche markets. I remember fondly reciting classic movie lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There are some fans that still hold onto this classic image. However, a large fan base is currently changing over to anime, manga, Jpop, and all things related to Japanese Pop culture. This is unheard of in the U.S. Sure, there was the Beatles and the British Invasion but that was still Western.

Instead of embracing patriotic Country songs, the new geek fans are singing along with current Japanese idol singers like Hamasaki Ayumi, Utada Hikaru, and Ayaka. Some even attempt to locate local karaoke bars that have International songs, especially from Japan at places like Tampa Karaoke on Dale Mabry.

Just walk into any Barnes and Nobles or Borders Bookstores and check out the entire section devoted to manga. The world of Japanese comics has reached a feverish popularity as companies like Viz Media translates manga into English and now offers many titles that 20 years ago would not have existed because there was no demand.

There is a manga title that is certain to please all different types of comics fans from superheroes, to Sci-Fi, to horror, and giant fighting robots. Comic Cons still have all the DC and Marvel fan favorites but a increasing interest in manga and anime is also present.

Cartoon Network used to offer anime through the Toonami program that hooked young fans on popular titles such as Dragon Ball Z, Gundam Wing, Sailor Moon, Gigantor, and One Piece. This was evident to me when a couple of years ago, I went to Metrocon, the largest anime con in Tampa Bay, and saw all the legions of young fans wearing headbands and screaming, “Naruto.”

It is fascinating that such a foreign, Eastern culture such as Japan should have such a strong impact on American fans. The more hardcore fans learn Japanese and become overly focused on Japan only titles. Once a company like Viz translates a title, that title loses its uniqueness to this niche group. Some travel to Japan to teach English just to watch anime for free on TV.

Despite all the differences between the two countries, more American fans are devouring anything from Japan like ramen noodles, Pocky, Hello Kitty products, green tea, sushi, rice cookers, Japanese video games, toy robots, Ultraman, and the latest Miyazaki anime.

Thanks to the Internet, geek culture is trying to keep up with what is hot in Japan right now. Just to get an idea of how big Anime has gotten, take some time to visit I-Tunes and see the sheer number of Anime-related podcasts.

Most fans out there love Cons and Anime Cons are all over Florida with huge turnouts in Tampa and Orlando. Young fans dress up as their favorite characters and embrace Cosplaying. Vendors sell anything from typical anime/manga related goods to kimono and tea sets. The traditional along with the modern sell because both are from Japan.

Now many employees working in the Anime Industry, are lamenting the Anime Bust. Toonami has left Cartoon Network, companies are looking for the next Naruto, and Japanese idols singers are showing up at U.S. Cons just to rescue Anime. However, I do believe that the next big thing is just around the corner. It is only a matter of time before it hits. Anime fandom is stronger than ever as young fans are just getting started and older fans still keep the faith.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.