Editorial: It’s about time they came back!

Hey Moonies! I had tried my hardest to restrain my excitement from pouring out onto this newsblog as this is hardly Sailor Moon related, but I failed! And hey, it’s my newsblog so I’ll post what I want :p (Just kidding. I am on topic most of the time!)

By now, most of you have probably heard the Spice Girls have reunited and are staging a comeback ! They will be doing a short set of concerts around the world, and there will be a Greatest Hits album. There will also be a documentary too! I think I speak for every fan who has stuck with them for years when I say “THANK YOU!” (huge shout outs to the fans at DenDen!) While I am happy that they are finally getting back together, there’s another reason why I think that they really needed to be back in the spotlight.

The stars of today just aren’t being good role models to teenage girls. You barely go one week without hearing about Britney Spears’ club escapades, or Lindsay Lohan being completely whacked out on drugs, or Paris Hilton getting out of almost everything because of who she is – with her money. Where are the positive, female, role models in this world? They seem so few and far between in pop culture these days. It’s a shame that the ones that should be looked up to are barely mentioned by anyone at all! I often worry when I see younger girls wherever I am – especially the ones I see that dress like the “idols” of today. I have seen girls under the age of 10 think that Paris Hilton is the greatest thing since sliced bread and they romp around in mini-skirts holding toy chihuahuas in ballerina outfits. I think the only scandalous thing the Spice Girls were guilty of were their fashion choices (and the odd bizarre antic in public). But they were out on a mission , to let girls everywhere know that they had a place in this world and they could do anything. As ridiculous as it sounds, they were an influence on who I was as a teenager, and who I continue to be. And now that they are older and a bit wiser, it’s about darn time they rekindled their message to the world. It’s not like Sailor Moon is around as much as it used to be for this generation.

So, I’m elated and ecstatic to hear that they are back. I hope for a moment, even though it’s very short, that they can use their time in the spotlight to make the positive impact they had a decade ago on today’s young girls. Ginger, Posh, Scary, Sporty, and Baby, may your Girl Power be stronger than ever!

Just for kicks, here’s the short (and slightly cheezy!) featurette they put together announcing the tour.

Why is Canada Being Gipped?

An Editorial on Anime Distribution.

In my spare time, I do a lot of activism relating to Anime, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I stop at no end to make my voice heard. For example, two years ago when reckless actions from an independent retailer nearly caused anime to be banned from sale in my province, I fought back by writing to the Government and the Film and Video Classification Board. I wrote and visited stores and got the word out to other otaku to do the same to fight this. And it was successful!

Make no mistake… if you think about it there are a lot of issues with anime that need resolving, especially in Canada. And I think many of these issues are under reported. Sure we have all heard the recent news stories about channels in Canada adding anime to their schedules. Blocks such as YTV’s Bionix, Razer’s Kamikaze, and G4/TechTV Canada’s Anime Current have improved the anime programming landscape. The addition of The Anime Network to nearly most of Canada and Gong Anime to Canadian Joost beta testers is also adding to this revolution! But while everyone has an opinion about what they can and can’t see on TV, not many really talk about another big issue.

Which brings me to the bigger issue of anime distribution in Canada. Unless you live in a bigger city, the chances of you finding your favorite title is slim. If your city has an HMV , you may be in luck with new releases. If your city has a London Drugs, you may be able to find some rare gems. If you’re a bigger city with lots of independent comic book stores and big box stores like Best Buy and Future Shop, you probably won’t have a problem finding your favorite title. However if you live in a small town, your local Best Buy and Future Shop probably don’t have large anime sections, and aside from special ordering or ordering online, you may be out of luck. Or, if your local comic book store has a large selection, you may have to pay a lot more than the MSRP due to comic book stores needing to pay more to carry a product. It’s really a sad day when a person who wants to buy an action, drama or a comedy flick can go to their entertainment store of their choice no matter where they live, but anime fans almost always have to go to great lengths in many cases, just to get what they want.

Anime Retail in Small Town Canada versus Small Town America:

The following is a comparison between two cities. We’ll call my current city of residence Town A. Town A is in Canada, and lies in a province with barely a million people, and Town A’s population is approximately 175,000 people. Town A has had a Future Shop for at least 10 years, and a Best Buy for nearly three. For those who are unfamiliar, it is worth noting that Best Buy owns Future Shop in Canada and the prices of anything at each store are the same. It also has 3 HMV locations, and three independent stores (of which two are sister branches), for purchasing anime. HMV is a Canadian chain which sells music, movies, and now, some video games. The lone independent store is quite large, and not just devoted to anime, catering to gaming, sci-fi, and comic crowds. The other two have smaller locations and cater to the same crowds as well. If worse comes to worse, an otaku in Town A has the choice of traveling to another town or city, or ordering online from Amazon.com (not .ca since they barely carry anything) or their online store of choice. Not bad, you would think.

Town B is approximately 6 hours driving distance from Town A. Town B is in the United States, in a state with a population of 635,000. Town B has a population of below 60,000 people. Town B has a Best Buy, a small F.Y.E. boutique, and one independent comic book and card store, that does not sell anime. Otaku in Town B also have the option of ordering from their online store of choice, or travelling to another town or city.

Just over a week before my excursion to Town B, I went on a shopping trip looking for some anime. More specifically, I was looking for two volumes of a series that had been released in the last three months, and I figured I was able to find them here. I went to my local Best Buy and Future Shop, and did not find them. What dismayed me even more was that Best Buy had less than 20 DVDs in stock (mostly carrying things like InuYasha and a few volumes of Ghost in the Shell and Eureka 7), and Future Shop had slightly more in stock but it was more odds and ends of other animes that were older (such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Akira) and barely anything else. I found this to be very odd. My next venture was to London Drugs which probably had about 20-30 titles in their stock, but mostly odds and ends again from ADV, Funimation and Bandai. I then went to two independent stores. The lone store did not have it, but had a selection that was twice as large as London Drugs and with a bit more variety. The other store had a vast and large selection, but there was a problem. They had one of the volumes I was looking for but the price after taxes was nearly $36 Canadian. This shocked me. I shouldn’t have to pay nearly $40 for a DVD containing only four episodes. This price seemed a bit ridiculous to me. My final shopping destinations consisted of 2 HMV locations, which were selling older volumes of the series for that same high price. I had to wonder why this was happening. And it wasn’t just this series. “Mainstream” releases such as the Miyazaki releases from Disney cost anywhere from $30-35 in Canada at nearly every retailer. I was more than shocked when I saw these price tags and wondered of this was a general trend or if this was just in Canada. May long weekend was approaching, and I decided to pay Town B a visit.

The first store I ventured to was F.Y.E. – which before I had known as a Sam Goody. Sam Goody usually carried everything under the sun. If I was looking for anything, I knew I would find it here. I would have thought the turnover of Sam Goody and Suncoast to F.Y.E. would have been smooth, but I was in for yet another disappointment. The store had moved to a much smaller “boutique” in the mall, and had approximately a selection that was on par with London Drugs. This is a specialty retailer with about as much variety as the electronics section in a drugstore. Something is drastically wrong here! The prices though seemed anywhere from $8-10 cheaper after conversion to Canadian Dollars. I still left the store dismayed after not finding anything I was looking for and decided not to renew my membership to their loyalty program. My expectations were very low for my visit to Best Buy. And when I got to that blue and yellow behemoth, boy was I surprised!

Town A’s Best Buy had one shelving unit with four shelves devoted to anime. At best, this unit was stocked ½ to ¾ full. Town B’s Best Buy had an astonishing (and fully packed) three shelving units full. Moreover, the prices were a lot cheaper compared to prices seen in Best Buy and Future Shop in Canada. Lo and behold, I had found several copies of the two volumes I was looking for! The price? Each one was 23 US dollars, which converts to 25 Canadian dollars. This was ten dollars cheaper, and a much more reasonable price to pay. There was no way I could afford two volumes in Canada with only $50.

So What is Going On?

Still, this doesn’t make sense. This has left me with many more questions. Town A is 3 times the size of Town B. Therefore it only makes sense that Town A has more otaku. Why are stores in Canada just not stocking as much anime as their US counterparts? Why is anime so much more pricier in Canada compared to the United States? Why are many titles harder to find in Canada than they are in the United States? If Best Buy and Future Shop are owned by the same company which owns Best Buy in the United States, why is there such a drastic difference in the stores’ stocks and prices?

Nearly three years ago I had the opportunity to meet Roland Parliament (Melvin and ADR director) and Stephanie Morgenstern (Sailor Venus) at the CN Anime Expo in Toronto. Both had stressed that Sailor Moon had really put Canadian talent on the global map, in a world where it is much harder for Canadian stars to be seen compared to stars from other countries. A lot of anime is also dubbed here in Canada, in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. The studios that dub these series and movies use talent from all over the country. And it’s probably worth mentioning that two series that really started the anime boom in the mid-90’s; Dragonball and Sailor Moon were dubbed in Canada! On another note, many of the Sailor Moon DVD releases never made it to small town Canada. I remember I saw the odd ADV or Pioneer/Geneon videos in a store. Only after Best Buy opened did I see the Geneon DVDs, and luckily I was able to purchase all of the Geneon releases of the series. I never got to own the ADV releases of the series in entirety, I got very lucky when I found two volumes of the dub at a con. It’s a sad day when stores in Canada don’t support their own talent as much as their American counterparts.

I don’t have any answers to these questions. I have heard stories and rumors that it is a lot harder for companies to get their anime up here, but at the same time I do know that some of the companies have Canadian distributors. But Canadian Anime distribution is shady at best. Some stores will order direct from the distributor in the US, others will go through distributors in Canada. We’ve all heard the stories of Bandai changing their distributors a few times over the years in Canada but things aren’t improving as much as they should. Buena Vista Home Entertainment is responsible for shipping out Ghibli titles but a lot of the other , non-Miyazaki releases like Pom Poko and My Neighbors The Yamadas were never found in a store here. Sometimes you can’t even find bigger hits like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle in a department store! Things like Porco Rosso, The Cat Returns, Nausicaa, and Whisper of the Heart were found on release nearly everywhere , but now are scarce and over priced if they are found. More popular Funimation releases and ADV releases can be found in small quantities at HMV and London Drugs. No matter what company is putting out the anime the prices are a lot higher than they should be. And it’s not fair that Canadians have to pay the price.

I can’t answer for the stores themselves – sometimes “small town otaku” can get lucky close to the day of the release of a DVD if they go to an HMV. I know the ones in Town A at best get 2-3 copies of an anime DVD on a release date, and once they are sold it takes a long time to restock. And as for prices, I could understand a couple of bucks here and there. But 8-10 dollars is too much.

So What Do We Do?

It’s difficult to know where to start in trying to get some changes made. Writing to a store may yield a response that would say to contact the distribution company saying the company may not be sending them enough copies. The company may yield a response to contact the store saying that the stores are ultimately responsible for what they carry. And it’s anyone’s guess as to who sets the prices for anime in Canada. Maybe the companies need to get their distribution sorted out hopefully for once and for all in Canada? Yes, there’s always online ordering but then this goes back to a question I posed earlier: if someone who wants to purchase an action, comedy, or drama can go to a store in their town or city, why can’t an otaku have nearly the same amount of access to anime that a non-otaku can have to their films of choice? Anime used to have a fanbase in North America from the 80’s to the early 90’s that was small and secluded, but since then the size has skyrocketed enough to be a good chunk of the entertainment market in North America.

Something is very, very wrong with this picture. And it seems that every year it is getting worse. Readers, feel free to post your comments and thoughts about this issue below! If anything, I hope I have given readers something to think about the next time they go shopping for anime, no matter what side of the border they are on.

New Feature: What The Heck Were They Thinking?

Obscure Portrayals of Sailor Moon in Newsmedia!

We too often hear of Sailor Sightings in the media. Or for the most part, the positive ones! Rarely does anyone ever mention the negative or obscure sightings! What we’d really like to know is What The Heck Were They Thinking when the writers came up with these obscure mentions!

Case #1: Phil Spector likes to Cosplay?

Phil Spector is currently awaiting a murder trial, but he’s using some pretty strange tactics. Why would anyone want to get sympathy from a jury wearing “a dazzling Sailor Moon haircut made entirely out of pulsating fibre optics.” . Where are the grammar police? Unless his hair is made out of fibre optics, we’re pretty sure they meant to use the word “wig” instead of “haircut”.

Tangents aside, who’d want a fiber optic wig that long?

Case #2: College Students Just Don’t Get It!

College students love to write editorials! But what happens when they try to use a Sailor Moon reference? THEY FAIL! And they make Sailor Moon totally not look cool.

We’d like to know since when did Sailor Moon attract only “leather-fringe-sporting or burlap-sack-bound 60-something fetishists” . The last time we saw Mamoru, we’re pretty sure he wasn’t any of those things! We’ve also never seen Sailor Moon Shuriken on eBay! We highly doubt they even exist for that matter.

Yes, we all know college students have a certain pride about their cartoon nostalgia. I’m sure we’ve all met someone who has their favorite cartoon of the eighties. But there are better, more tasteful ways to do this!

Case #3: Some People Just Don’t Do Their RESEARCH!

City of Heroes is a popular MMORPG which allows players to create their own superheros. Jay Doherty, a character designer for the series was recently interviewed by WarCry online. And he has a very interesting life story. Yes, we understand that this is probably a joke, but does he actually know that Sailor Moon was created by a woman ? The rat and the turtles remind us more of Ninja Turtles than Sailor Moon. And if he had five female friends, we doubt that he really played a Tuxedo Kamen-esque role in their lives. The next time you are going to fake something, at least make it believable!

Case #4: Hey, Not Everyone Who Wants To Learn Japanese Wants To Learn It Because They Are Sailor Moon Fans!

SquareEnix makes awesome games other than Final Fantasy. Chrono Trigger, Drakengard, Radiata Stories, aaaannnndddd Seiken Densetsu (or better known as Mana). There’s two new Mana games coming out very soon, but Chris Antista seems to think that Sailor Moon is one of the largest reason any Otaku wants to learn Japanese. Though it may be true of some fans, it’s probably not fair to say it’s true for the majority! Other people might have legitimate reasons, such as not wanting to learn French or Spanish in school, wanting to converse with exchange students better, or maybe because they’d like the option to watch any japanese movie or show without having to rely on subtitles all the time!

Case #5: Oh MSNBC Why Are You So Concerned About Naming the Series?

Everyone knows that Sailor Moon was a huge pioneer for anime in North America, if not just for shoujo anime. But we found it awkward when MSNBC declined to mention the name of the series, but instead described it .

“If this seems over the top for an art form that, more times than not, features Japanese teenage girls in short skirts conquering bad guys…”

The article would have had a lot more power if they could have named some of the anime that began the boom in North America. While Pokemon was a marketing champion, there were other series before it. Without them Pokemon might not have been picked up by a distributor in North America, were these series not there to pave the way for it.

It drives us nuts when journalists miss key points beyond the mainstream like this!

Thus ends our sifting through the news for stories that make us scratch our heads and wonder… WHAT THE HECK WERE THEY THINKING ?

Remember Back in 1995…

An Old Promotional Flyer from Sailor Moon’s Canadian Debut!

I came across this tonight while going through my files, and I thought that I should share this with you all. There’s going to be no formality to this post, as I’m just going to write my thoughts…

Many years ago, YTV used to hold contests during their New Years Meltdown cartoon blitzes held from December 31st to January 1st. Viewers, (if I remember correctly) would be entered in for a draw for big prizes and “mystery prizes” when they would send in a postcard to YTV (yes , there was a time before email)!. I was in grade six at the time and I had won one of the 30,000 Mystery Prizes, a door hanger (whoopee.), and a photocopied letter with Paul Maguire’s autograph (Yeah, they couldn’t even send us a real one…). I don’t know where either of those are now :S.

But, I guess they kept my address and I got sent a promotional pamphlet probably the June or July before Sailor Moon premiered in 1995. I saved it, like most kids do when they get “important” pieces of mail! This was probably just after the time I started to really get interested in the Canadian Media Industry. YTV had pulled Power Rangers off of the air (which was a favorite of “the cool crowd” back in the day) and all the news coverage of why and the workings of the CRTC interested me.
I’m glad I saved it, but I digress…

I had found it again while going through boxes in our basement about a year ago, and I scanned it thinking I could use it for something or other, and this is that something! Now, I didn’t scan the whole thing. I may scan it all later, but I am posting this much for now.

Click the image for full size – The Zone has been around for a very long time. This is the second set, and probably lasted the longest of the 4-5 that it has had since its inception in 1992. The host you see there is “Fresh” Phil Guererro – who now from what I read plays in a goth band and still acts. And there’s Snit in the background! That animatronic television with the teeth! Anyway, spot the glaring “Megaverse” error…

And this is a very large image. This is the schedule Sailor Moon had followed all through it’s initial run in 1995-96. I remember coming home from school and waiting for tired Alvin and the Chipmunks to finish up so I could watch Sailor Moon, and I didn’t get off the couch until Rugrats had ended. Aside from Hello Kitty and Keroppi , Sailor Moon was a huge pioneer for anime on this station back in 1995. And the rest, as they say, is history. YTV is now one of the premiere stations in Canada for eager anime fans.

Looking back on all this, it saddens me to see how in 12 years this series has been through so much turmoil not only here but all over the world. Many countries never got to see the last season, the movies, or the specials. It’s even sadder to think that while the series was “homegrown” in Canada that many provinces (including mine) never saw the dvds in any store. Short of ordering online, there was little recourse for us to own the series. It’s still up in the air if anywhere out of Japan will ever see it again. Genvid.com reported earlier that Toei will be releasing the first three seasons on something akin to iTunes soon, and for a relatively cheap price. Of course I’m happy to see the anime in Japan again, but there will always be a sadness, at least with me that the series isn’t here anymore.