One of the most surprising, and gratifying, things that has happened since I started my blog, Tim Maughan Books, is the positive feedback I’ve had for the anime reviews—especially from people I know are far from being massive fanboys like myself. It’s gratifying because its part of the reason I started writing them—to try and introduce the medium to people who had never really indulged in it all, at least not past perhaps watching Spirited Away with their kids. The problem is, once you’ve had your first taste, where do you go next? Type ‘anime’ into Google and the results are bewildering, and without a little bit of guidance and a quality filter finding something to watch can be a daunting task. So, here is my list of 10 ‘mature’ anime films you really should see. They are in no particular order, the term ‘mature’ is kind of loose, seeing as at least two are really kids’ films, and this is purely personal opinion. If you disagree, see you in the comments section.
Fiction and Excerpts 
From movies to comics and video games to hit TV shows, zombies have been swarming all over popular culture for the last couple of decades in a fury of brain eating, moaning and unstoppable, civilisation-ending shuffling. But with the zombie apocalypse such a standard, pervasive trope in modern genre entertainment it’s easy to forget where it all began—in the early days of horror cinema the zombie was a very different figure; a slightly laughable and much more ghostly one, based largely on misinterpreted Haitian mythology, and depicted in b-movie flicks such as White Zombie (1932) and Revolt of the Zombies (1936).
It took the 28 year old, and then very unknown, TV ad director George A Romero to re-define the zombie into the classic creature we know now, with the ultra low budget classic Night of the Living Dead (1968). Now, nearly half a century later, a new documentary film Birth of the Living Dead takes a look back at not just the unique filmmaking experience that Romero and his crew of guerrilla filmmakers undertook, but also at the movie’s just as revolutionary social commentary and lasting cultural impact.
Take a look around the geekiest parts of the internet this year and you could be mistaken for thinking Hollywood is in crisis. Apparently this has been a terrible summer, with most of the season’s much-anticipated science fiction blockbusters turning out to be critical under-performers. First off Star Trek: Into Darkness put everyone into panic mode by suggesting that the man they’ve put in charge of Star Wars’ future might just not have much grasp of filmmaking beyond mashing together identifiable, nostalgia sparking tropes, and then Man Of Steel came along and horrified the fundamentalist comic book congregation by portraying their Christ figure as someone that would resort to murder and the leveling of entire cities.
But the real killer blow came via Pacific Rim, a movie so hyped for so long by the film nerd hierarchy that they couldn’t bring themselves to see how utterly dismal it really was, perhaps because the only way to observe the true atrocities of it’s script and performances while not experiencing physical embarrassment was to peer at it through the gaps in your fingers. “Yeah, it was dumb,” its defenders say, “but at least it knew it was dumb.” Trust me, after nearly 40 years of unsuccessfully trying this same defense on parents, teachers, lovers, bosses, law enforcement officials and editors I’m really not convinced.
Something quite odd happened to me today. I think I just experienced, for the first time, the odd sensation of having something you dreamed up for a story happen in real life.
Nearly 3 years ago I wrote a short story called Paintwork (reprinted here on Tor.com earlier this year) about augmented reality graffiti. In it the main protagonist, a young artist called 3Cube, replaces the QR codes on corporate advertising billboards so that wearers of augmented reality glasses (known as spex) are lead to their artwork instead of the advertisers message. It was a fairly simple idea, based on seeing how artists and vandals in my home town of Bristol abuse the ubiquitous billboards that line our streets. I had some really nice feedback about the story, and I was pretty happy with it—people seemed to like it, and at the beginning of the year myself and some friends even made a short based on the opening scene and this particular concept.
Enjoy this reprint of the title story from Tim Maughan’s short story collection Paintwork, a collection which also contains the BSFA Award nominated “Havana Augmented.” His collection comes highly recommended by Cory Doctorow and Ken MacLeod. His short story “Limited Edition” has been shortlisted for the 2012 BSFA Award.
“Paintwork” is a near-futuristic story of a virtual-reality graffiti artist specializing in defacing and reprogramming QR codes who is confronted with a series of impossibly fast takedowns of his latest series. He must find the artist who is dissing his works while struggling to face the validity of their critiques.
“Ballardian—resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in JG Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”
-Oxford English Dictionary
“It seems to me that what most of us have to fear for the future is not that something terrible is going to happen, but rather that nothing is going to happen… I could sum up the future in one word, and that word is boring. The future is going to be boring.”
-JG Ballard, 1991
Drained swimming pools and drowned cities, crashed cars and deserted highways—the term “Ballardian” has not just entered dictionaries but also the public and media consciousness in the years since the author’s death. But by doing so there is a danger that some sense of meaning has been lost; that by becoming a soundbite to be thrown about by lazy critics, journalists and even politicians it has not just lost multiple layers of nuance, but come to represent something Ballard never intended—a cliche of inhumanity and dystopia associated with a man that, contrary to popular perception, never celebrated either.
The main problem with talking about anime adaptations of video games is knowing where to start. Just go and look at this list over on Wikipedia and it’s clear that games have been a constant source of material for anime movies, films and direct to video releases for decades—there’s literally hundreds of entries, many of which are familiar names, while plenty of others will seem utterly alien to western gamers.
So you think you know Judge Dredd, huh?
Maybe you know the character from the 1995 Sly Stallone movie and think he’s a cheesy gun-toting meathead that stomps about in black lycra and gold trim, randomly shouting catchphrases like “I AM THE LAWWWW” and “I KNEW YOU’D SAY THAT” and taking his helmet off at every opportunity to a hugely pompous orchestral soundtrack.
Maybe, like me and a lot of Brits my age, you know Judge Dredd from the weekly stories in 2000AD comic and think he’s the ultimate anti-hero; a comic character you’re meant to be afraid of rather than applaud, created by some of the UK’s greatest comic writers and artists to poke fun at everything from American superheroes to American politics and pop culture, while also being the star of numerous epic science fiction adventures.
Or maybe you don’t know anything about Judge Dredd at all, and all the above barely makes sense to you.
The important thing is it doesn’t matter. Whether you were scared by the ‘95 movie, are a huge fanboy or a complete newb, it should have zero impact on your enjoyment of the 2012 movie adaptation Dredd which sets out with only has one main objective: to be a cool, ultra-violent, low budget sci-fi action movie.
Neal Stephenson is a name that shouldn’t need much in the way of introduction to readers of speculative literature – five of his last six novels have been New York Times bestsellers. His latest book Some Remarks is non-fiction – a collection of essays, articles and interviews on everything from the history of science and today’s current lack of innovation to movies and the boom of geek culture.
Stephenson recently grabbed headlines with the announcement of Clang, a Kickstarter-funded video game that aims to be the “ Guitar Hero of sword-fighting.” He was recently here in the UK promoting Some Remarks and the paperback edition of his last novel Reamde, and I was lucky enough to grab a couple of hours with him over drinks to discuss all these subjects plus more: including the problems facing contemporary science fiction writers and the long awaited movie adaptation of his 1992 cyberpunk classic Snow Crash.
The idea of the western world losing it’s economic, military and cultural dominance to the east is hardly a knew one in science fiction it was a mainstay theme in cyberpunk in the 1980s, and perhaps most memorably explored on the screen in Blade Runner. But Ridley’s Scott’s dizzying glimpse at an Asian dominated 2019 Los Angeles was made thirty years ago, and now it seems to be a subject that SF is shying away from. We might not have flying cars or replicant slaves, and our streets might not be full of Japanese signage and imagery but there’s little denying that China and India’s economies continue to grow and dominate while North America and Europe’s not only wain, but at times seem as though they are teetering on the edge of a very real collapse.
March 2012 has been a tragic month for science fictions fans. First we saw the passing of Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie, followed closely by the passing of French comic book and SF movie visionary Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud. And as if both were not painful enough, last week saw news that anime legend Noboru Ishiguro had also died at the age of 74.
Ishiguro may not sound familiar to US science fiction fans, but like Moebius he’s another figure whose influence extends further than his name. There are few people in anime history — especially within science fiction anime — who worked on so many landmark series and franchises. And he started early too — in 1963, while still a student, he got his first work as an animator on Tetsujin 28-go, arguably the first giant robot anime series. A massive hit in Japan, it is the story of Shotaro, a young boy who takes control of the eponymous robot built by his late father to fight crime and invading enemy robots. A year after Ishiguro joined the already long-running production, Tetsujin 28-go was one of the first anime series to receive a U.S. translation and TV broadcast in the form of Gigantor, fueling an early interest amongst American SF fans in Japanese animation.
The passing of Jean Giraud this weekend has shaken many science fiction and fantasy fans who are familiar with his work, and thanks to the nature of the internet and social media, intrigued many who are not. To the uninitiated the attention may seem baffling — why such an outpouring of sadness and love for a seemingly obscure French comic book artist? The answer is both simple and surprising: Giraud — or Moebius, the pen name his fans prefer to use for him — may not have been a household name himself, but his influence over the very biggest SF names and works is undeniable.
Studio Ghibli is much deservedly probably the best known anime studio in the west. Spirited Away won the studio’s legendary co-founder Hayao Miyazaki an Oscar back in 2002, and The Secret World of Arrietty is currently wooing both critics and audiences during its theatre run in the U.S. It’s the 17th movie from the production house, first founded by Miyazaki and fellow director/animator Isao Takahata in 1985, but the pair’s careers stretch back much further than setting up the influential studio.
If you have even a passing interest in anime there’s a very high chance you know that Studio Ghibli’s latest offering, The Secret World of Arrietty, opens in U.S. theaters this Friday. What’s perhaps more surprising is that us fans here in the UK had the unusual pleasure of first seeing the movie back in July of 2011 and, in fact, the Blu-ray/DVD was released here last month. It’s unusual because us poor limeys usually have to play second fiddle when it comes to anime releases; economies of scale and the niche nature of anime fandom mean that we often miss out on some releases altogether, and can find ourselves waiting for up to 6 months after U.S. releases for the ones we do. So what makes Arrietty so different?
With giant battling robots being one of the first images to spring into people’s minds when you mention anime to them, it’s no surprise that military science fiction was for years one of the most popular genres in Japanese animation. In fact there’s so many shows depicting some kind of futuristic and usually mechanised warfare that it can be hard to know where to start. Which is why I’ve picked out just four examples from the action packed and epic through to the dark and philosophical that I think most military SF buffs will find interesting.
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