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Special Guest: Peter Van Huffel

Hello everyone,

I guess it's my turn to tell you my "current views on life, anime and mankind in general" (I hope you don't mind the quote here, Nikkou). While I won't bore you to death with my views on the first and the last, I'm more than happy to share my views on what is in the middle. But I will digress a little and you'll notice that a large part of the links are rather manga-related than anime-related, because that's my thing.

I started this column by taking a look at previous "guest stars" and if I'm not mistaken, I'm only the second person in this column who's been born and raised in Europe. More exactly, I'm living in a small, trilingual country in Western Europe of which the capital is better known world-wide than the country itself.

How did I get into the world of Anime, and Manga in particular? Well, it's been a converging process of three obsessions in my life: animation, Japan and comics.

  • First of all, I've watched animation as long as I can remember. One of the advantages of living in my country is that you get to see the television channels of all our big neighbours. In one of them (France), anime has had a steady exposure and following since the seventies. It wasn't called anime at that time, we didn't even know it was Japanese, but when I was in primary school, I and most of my friends used to watch lots of series popular at the end of the seventies/beginning of the eighties on French channels.
  • Amongst those were great series like UFO Robo Grandizer (called Goldorak in France),   (called La Bataille des Planètes in French), , Captain Flam, and many others that I forgot...

    My favourite series was (), a French-Japanese joint production with a very original idea and great stories developed into a wonderful anime (by Shingo Araki). That's where I got my interest in Greek mythology from.

    After a few years of silence, my interest in anime got renewed around 1986 when I was intrigued by the maturity of series like and especially (Signé Cat's Eyes in French). These series were very mature compared to other kid stuff on television and they made a big impression on me. Moreover, the dub was very good and the soundtrack was great. After that, I went to university and I stopped watching anime for the sake of my good grades.

    I would probably never have bothered again, if it weren't for my discovery of Maison Ikkoku. For this series, I don't have enough superlatives to do it justice. The French dub had some flaws, but the voice acting was good and especially Godai's voice was superb (it took me a while to grow accustomed to the Japanese counterpart, where Godai is done by the same actor who also did the voice of Chibi from Urusei Yatsura, but now I'm convinced that the Japanese voice is even more fitting the character and I'm cherishing my LD collection of it - which cost me a small fortune).

    Finally, realising that all the animation I had been attracted to was Japanese, I was totally lost and started watching whatever I could lay my hands on. Nowadays, I've become somewhat more picky.

  • Japan, the Japanese culture and language have always fascinated me. Though I've never been to Japan till recently (lack of time and money), I've got the feeling I know the country better than some of my neighbouring countries.
  • It's very haughty to say this, I know. Some things have contributed to this feeling: reading books, watching documentaries, studying the language for several years (and collecting the appropriate certificates to prove that I've done so, which still doesn't mean anything by the way), having frequent contacts with the big but secluded Japanese community in my country, having some good friends in Japan.

    For those interested, I can recommend (only a few basic links):

    On Japanese language:
    : alternative sci.lang.japan Frequently Asked Questions.
    . : online Japanese lessons.
    : it was a sad day when I heard of the passing of this wonderful resource, it's still somewhat alive here.
    : a great archive of freeware/shareware on the Japanese language.

    On Japanese culture:
    : this should provide you with the basic info you need.

  • I happen to live in a country that has a rich comics culture (called 'stripverhalen' in the northern part and 'bandes dessinées' in the southern part). It may not be considered an artform in the same way as it is in France, but many of the great masters of European comics are fellow countrymen. My collection of European comics is about the same size as my collection of manga, and though it doesn't grow that quickly, I value it a lot as most of them are high quality works.
  • Actually, I'm a bit of an exception in the sense that I equally cherish Japanese as well as European comics. Most of the people over here that read one of the two won't touch the other. They don't mix. This can lead to strange things. Every autumn, there are two conventions. One on European comics, and another on manga, anime and American comics. I'm nearly the only person who visits both. I find this single-mindedness really a shame. For those of you who are interested anyway, here is a link to an extensive linklist that provides you with a viewport on another world of comics:

Okay, now that you know that I like animation, Japan and comics, you won't be surprised that I'm fond of manga. I started out with a couple of series (Gunnm, Maison Ikkoku, Akira) and expanded my horizon to almost any genre except for the ladies' part of the manga spectrum). Although I started out buying translations, I soon realised that it would be less frustrating, cheaper and much quicker to buy only the original Japanese tankoubon instead. I didn't want to limit myself to the popular series in the west and soon discovered other gems. Needless to say, I became *slightly* addicted and was craving for more good series. But I was lacking some good recommendations to filter out the ninety percent of junk manga (which still leaves several thousands of worthy series). One of the few resources I've always found valuable in this respect was the Usenet Manga Guide. In 1997, I noticed that it wasn't updated anymore. I contacted the previous maintainer, he replied, from one thing came another, and that's how I got to be the maintainer of the . You've guessed it, here's the plug you were waiting for. I don't think I'm exaggerating if I say that it has grown into one of the biggest western resources on Japanese manga, thanks to the support and contributions of many fans. It is still far from complete, and will always remain incomplete because of the sheer volume of manga coming out every month. To those who worry about a recent lack of updates: after two years, I decided that I needed a little break to renew my energy and I will resume soon (I can feel the itch again).

It's not the only resource and I'll give you some links to sites (Japanese and others) that I've found interesting enough to visit regularly.

Hoshisato Mochiru's Living Game
Mochiru is one of my favourite authors. I like the humour in his works, his wonderful characters, great stories, daily life descriptions. He has some other works that also have webpages that you can reach from this site too. Actually it was not long ago that Hans mailed me with a new link for the site located , but the is still available too.

EX: The Online World of Anime & Manga
What can I say? Why do we need paper magazines if there are webzines like EX that excel them all?

There was a time that made some false pretensions about bringing Inuyasha out concurrently with the Japanese version. Hah. Check this out if you want to know how to follow up the Japanese original closely.

Takahashi Rumiko may have written and drawn my all time favourite series, but I never quite understood why she's so popular in the west compared to other authors who have created an oeuvre that is at least as valuable as hers. Adachi Mitsuru is one of them. This site does a great job of presenting an overview of all his works. Very popular series are , Rough, Touch to name only a few.

I probably don't have to introduce Katsura. He's popular enough. Master in the usage of greytones (who needs colour anyway), the drawing of cute girls and nice POV's :p. Though he has some problems coming up with good stories nowadays, his previous Video Girl should be read by everyone. This site is THE site to visit, especially if you're craving for translation scripts.

This is one of the better resources of information on manga in the west. It has good reviews on lots of series, with a tendency towards the shounen part of the spectrum, but with a lot of attention for lesser known titles/authors.

Futaba-kun Change Homepage
Care to see what Ranma could've been if Takahashi would've more parodying and daring in her stories? Than this is for you. Futaba-kun Change is being brought to the west by , but if you've got the original Japanese volumes (like I do) and need some good scripts, then this is the site for you.

I find it completely unbelievable that this series doesn't get the attention it deserves. It has got everything: good action, great humour and slapstick. A recognisable, crazy cast of characters, short stories which fit perfectly in a monthly format (later volumes have larger story arcs though). So why doesn't anyone pick this up? Beats me. Anyway, the site is old and not updated anymore but is still worth a visit.

The most recent work by Tsukasa Houjou. This mangaka is not too well known in the west (except for France and Italy I think). Again, lack of western publications is the main reason for this. This work really hits the top. It's published in Allman and displays GORGEOUS artwork (Lord, how can anyone draw so beautifully), combines exciting storylines and witty humour. Family Compo is being published in France nowadays, BTW. Other series worth noting are his and Cat's Eye. City Hunter is nice too, but it's not my personal favourite.

Kodomo no Omocha  and Marmalade Boy
I'm not really a shoujo fan, but these two series struck a chord with me.  The first often being called the "acid" version of the other, they both are exciting, full of emotions, while successfully avoiding the pitfalls that make lots of other shoujo series hard to stomach (for me at least).

Other series that I like and that are in desperate need of a good website:

Momoiro Sabbath (Pink Sabbath)
There was a link on the Turnpike to a site (that's how I discovered it, thank you Anipike), but the link is dead now. This series contains lots of humour and slapstick (and some slight nudity, but only played for laughs). It's about a high school boy who has the soul of the demon king in his body and becomes the target of a number of witches. Not unlike Tenchi Muyou, they crash down at his place or in the neighbourhood and zaniness ensues when they use their powers, cook up some spells, or do anything else a witch or sorcerer would do.

OL Shinkaron
It appeared in the late Mangajin and is still published. Featuring four panel strip gags, it's the best you can get on Office Lady humour.

Woaw, look at the time. I could go on "ad infinitum" citing great manga series, but I'll wrap it up here. Go to my site if you want to know more. I hope it has been as nice a trip for you as it has been for me.

Anipike not being responsible for Acts of God or the vaguaries of humans  ;)
this column will appear 'as and when' articles come in. New articles will
be announced on the "New List" page. (So original, da yo..^^)

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Last Update: 4/24/00