Filed Under ( by Maestro on 03-08-2007

Just a quick post to remind everyone that our Mascot Design Contest will be ending in a few days on August 7th.  If you’re planning to enter be sure to send us your entry before the deadline. :)  We encourage everyone to remind their readers about the contest!  The basic info is included below, but there’s also some FAQs on the contest page itself, so check it out if you have any questions before contacting us. Mascot Design Contest

Can you draw well? Do you want your drawing to be seen by the world?  Here is your chance! is looking for a mascot to represent our growing anime community. or in short, has been set up for two years devoid of a mascot that will represent us. Hence, we require talented artists to draw an original anime style character that we can use on our websites as well as for future merchandise.

The winning design will be awarded $30 USD, or a gift certificate for the same amount at the website of their choice.  The winner will also have future opportunities to draw different variations of the mascot as develops merchandise and earn additional money from it.  Additionally, the first and second runners up will win $10 USD and $5 USD respectively.

The following criteria are what we’re looking for in the mascot:

  • A cute, young adolescent female character.
  • Neutral hair color (brown, black, blond).
  • Their outfit should include the letters AB on it visibly using Georgia as the font, with weight bold. (Georgia may be downloaded here if you need it.)
  • Digitally colored.

Submissions must meet the following technical requirements:

  • Minimum 300dpi
  • Canvas size minimum 12″x12″ (3600px x 3600px at 300dpi)
  • PNG format

The winner will need to submit their design in Photoshop PSD format after being notified that they’ve won prior to the winners being announced publicly.

Once you have finished your entry, please send it to us.  The contest will end on August 7th, 23:59 hours, GMT Time.  Any late entries will be discarded.  We look forward to receiving your wonderful entries and wish you luck!

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Filed Under (, IRC Channel) by Maestro on 24-07-2007

Note from Maestro: I didn’t actually write this, one of the channel regulars did and asked me to post it.  They wanted to remain anonymous for various reasons.  This probably won’t be very funny to people who don’t hang out on the IRC channel, but for the IRC regulars it’ll be a lot of fun.  If you don’t already, visit us on the IRC Channel, we even have a Java client available that you can use to connect from your browser. :)

Edit (2007/07/24, 19:00): Updated with some new info from the author.

The Setting… At the frontier of the Internet, there’s a small IRC network called IRCHighWay. It’s not an especially large or busy place, but it’s interesting enough. On that network, there’s a small channel called #animeblogger. There aren’t many people there, but there are enough people to make it a place worth visiting. People roll through every now and then, meeting with the regulars or just by accident. No one’s really sure anymore how it got started or how they wound up there, but it’s a place called home by many now.

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This is a followup to my last post about needing some help financially.  In the comments on that post, and also in a post on Hinano’s blog a few people have misinterpreted things.  So please let me clarify this for record:

  • Making donations is not required if you’re hosted with us, or if you wish to be hosted with us in the future.  If you can’t make a donation that’s fine, you’re welcome to enjoy our hosting the same as it’s always been.  We are merely asking those that can and who would like to help out to make a donation.  We’re not going to think poorly of someone if they don’t or can’t, and this policy is not going to change in the future.  Donations are not mandatory.
  • It will not help financially for anyone we host to move to other hosting.  We’re in no danger of going over our bandwidth or disc space quotas, and are unlikely to get anywhere near hitting those quotas in the foreseeable future.  In fact we’re still happily accepting new bloggers and will continue to do so.
  • The site is not going to go away, period.  I’m just having a bit of a tough time financially and need some help covering the hosting bill for a few months.  This isn’t a permanent situation.  There are also contingency plans in place for others to take over the site if I become unable to for any reason.

I hope that helps clear things up a bit.  We appreciate everyone’s concern but we don’t want people worrying needlessly. :)  If you have any questions about anything please don’t hesitate to E-mail me and ask. (Note: you will need to remove the obviously extra text from the address before you can send.)

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Filed Under (, Site News & Info) by Maestro on 05-12-2006

Let me start off by saying that the site’s not going anywhere, I know that some people are going to (justifiably) worry when the read the rest of this.  Some things will change, nothing really drastically, but the site is not going away.  In the absolute worst case I’ll turn it over to someone else to maintain.

With that said, I’m writing this to let everyone know that on July 1st of this year, I lost my job.  Technically my position was just eliminated and my contract not renewed, but the real reason was because of my health problems.  Nothing can be done about this, I live in an “at will” employment state anyway and they made sure to do this in a way that they don’t look like they were discriminating against me because of my health.

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(2007-10-09): Currently new account requests will be delayed until we can get our hosting upgraded.

You can still send in a request but we won’t be processing it until hosting is upgraded.


This is probably the most asked question about, and it’s largely because we’ve never really advertised the fact that we offer free hosting for anime/manga blogs.  When I first started the site Matthew did mention the free hosting in a post on his blog, but that’s it, until now at least. :)  In a lot of ways it’s the worst kept secret in the anime/manga blogging community because it has been mentioned on our Forums several times, for example in this thread.  When anime/manga bloggers report needing new hosting you’ll often see people recommend they talk to me, for example this entry at Hige vs Otaku.  I’ll also respond to such posts and offer hosting if I see them, but I don’t always see them before the hosting situation has been resolved.  So how do you get a blog with

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Filed Under (Misc, Other Stuff) by Maestro on 30-10-2006

It’s time for Halloween again, a holiday custom made for cosplay if there ever was one, at least the way it’s celebrated in the United States.  Even though most of us in the US associate Halloween with kids wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating for candy, the practice of wearing costumes is fairly recent historically.  According to the Wikipedia entry on Halloween, wearing costumes or masks didn’t really occur until 1900.  It was only in the 1950s that Halloween masks started being mass produced and the holiday changed to what we know it as today.  In the 1990s companies started to commercialize Halloween even further and started selling more, and more varied, decorations in addition to costumes and masks.

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Filed Under (, Antenna, Forums, Wiki) by Maestro on 29-10-2006

Pretty much all of us have to deal with spam at some level.  No matter how annoying the spammers are at any one level they get worse the more things you have to deal with.  For example, just dealing with spam in E-mail can be a real pain if you don’t have good filtering and you have the misfortune of having a common username (even worse if your username is a common English word).  If you’re a blogger you have to deal with comment and trackback spam as well.  It doesn’t matter how popular your blog is or how much you post, as long as there’s a single post that the spambots can comment/trackback to they’ll eventually find you and start spamming your blog.

Spammers, and their spambots, view every single script they can find online as a target.  Those of you who’ve had tagboards or shoutboxes will know exactly what I mean, spammers will try to see if the tagboard/shoutbox script can be abused to send their spam E-mails.  You’ll end up with mail headers from their test attempts posted as comments.  As annoying as they are though, there are some very smart people out there writing the bots that they use to attack us.  In dealing with spam on the site, I’ve noticed that the patterns of attack are very different depending on the attacked service.

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Filed Under (, Site News & Info) by Maestro on 27-10-2006

When I first set up my blog my original intentions were to review older anime series.  I quickly found out that I didn’t have 1. the time, and 2. the desire to do proper reviews and so my blog has been rather disused.  In fact I think most of my traffic of late is from spambots trying to post comment spam.  After thinking about this for a while I’ve decided on a new direction for the blog.  Since has grown so much since I started it back in February 2005, I think it’s important for there to be a way for me to communicate with the anime/manga/gaming blogging community in an “official” capacity as the founder/owner of  While official announcements about the site will be made to the site announcements mailing list and the forums (and eventually to the main site), here I’ll be able to provide further insight into the reasoning behind them.  This doesn’t mean I’ll completely stop reviews, there may be the occasional one that I do, especially if there are cases where I’m requested to review something.  It just means that my main focus now is not on doing reviews but on communication.  That and doing more regular posts (every 6 to 12 months isn’t working too well. ;) )
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Viz has earned themselves a reputation over the years of over-Americanizing and modifying their titles.  Ranma 1/2 is a good example of this, I distinctly remember one episode where the subtitles had Ranma & Akane’s dads singing Camptown Races.  Lately they have been doing a lot better about this, keeping the Americanization to at least an understandable level and not modifying the actual dialogue much from the original beyond the needs of translation.  They’ve done even better with Shoujo Beat (with one title actually retaining honorifics) and the Shoujo Beat manga titles as well.  Well, for some of them, as Ultra Maniac is absolutely horrid, reflecting Viz at its absolute worst.

The modifications are both major and minor.  Some of the minor ones could be overlooked if it wasn’t for the major ones that follow.  Examples of minor changes are changing 1st years/2nd years/3rs years to 6th graders/7th graders/8th graders.  (Although they leave the classroom signs unchanged, which will likely cause some confusion.)  Another, mostly minor change is that Nina has been given a magic word to use when casting her spells.  The manga doesn’t have one, the first time she casts a spell she says “power up” when she pushes the button, which is appropriate for the spell she’s using.  The second time she says simply “transform” which fits the spell then as well (which is turning the beads she poured into the box into a magic ring).  Now, she says “Spamola”.  I’m not sure if this is the same word they gave her in the Ultra Maniac anime (where Nina was made more of a standard magical girl complete with transformation sequence) or not but it still sounds utterly stupid.

The major changes begin soon however, in chapter 2 in fact.

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As reported by Anime News Network, FUNimation made an interesting announcement at Kamikaze Con:

Funimation also announced that, at upcoming cons, they would be circulating petitions in order to bring the Sakura Taisen games to the US.

Personally I’ve still associated FUNimation with bad Dragon Ball Z anime episodes, but I’m seeing that this is no longer the case.  Because of a discussion over on Matthew’s Anime Blog, I remembered I had a copy of the first volume of Fruits Basket, which was put out by FUNimation.  Fruits Basket was brought up as a really nice release because it came out on only 4 DVDs, even though there were 26 episodes.  Having gotten a DVD burner recently I’ve really learned how low bitrates can really destroy a video, even on DVDs.  Most companies (anime and otherwise) still seem to prefer DVD5s, which hold about 4.7GB.  On these, if you have extras taking up space as well, 4 episodes is about the max you can get on it and have really good bitrates and video quality.  If the company’s willing to fine tune the encoding, 5 is also possible, but this is unfortunately rare.  DVD9s on the other hand are dual-layer and can hold a littler over 9GB of data.  You can pack more episodes on these discs and keep a high bitrate for a quality picture.

So, I wondered which FUNimation had done.  Was it 6 episodes + extras crammed on a DVD5 with noticeable video quality problems, or had they used a DVD9?  A quick check and it was clear, the first volume contains 6 episodes and is around 7GB.  Additionally I checked the bitrate through the first episode or so and it became clear it had been fine-tunes quite a bit.  The rate varies quite a lot, I’ve seen it around 2mbps, and as high (so far) as 7mbps.  I’ve yet to see any noticeable video quality degradation.  In fact what I watched looked simply stunning!  When the video needs the higher rates it has it, and when it doesn’t (and there are a lot of low/no motion scenes in these episodes) the rates goes down to save space.  The only real problem I can find with it is the audio is only encoded at 256kbps.  I suspect this is done to save space for the inevitable volumes with 7 episodes and they wanted to keep the audio encoding consistent across volumes.  That I can live with.

So back to the main point now.  It’s obvious to me now that FUNimation is not the company I remember, they’ve changed quite a bit and are doing quality work.  What impresses me the most here is that this is on a shoujo title, something other companies seem to treat like an unwanted stepsister compared to their other titles.  Add to this that they’re trying to get the Sakura Taisen games brought over and, well, wow, what a change!

For those who don’t know, the Sakura Taisen games aren’t exactly like standard dating sims, but there are components of that in them, something that no one seems to think a US audience would be interested in except the bishoujo H games.  Personally I think there’s a market for dating sims in general here, at the very least there’s lots of guys who don’t have any luck with women who would likely enjoy them.  I think there’s a bigger audience than that though, they can appeal on many levels: trying to win the hearts of the girls  you like is fun, and in a game it’s not nearly as painful if you goof things up; most are set in high school, I know to me there’s a LOT of appeal to being back in high school again when things were much simpler; and many would enjoy the different culture as well.  Anime fans can relate to this one, not only is it a dating sim, but it’s a return to high school and a chance to experience virtually a bit what it might have been like to go to school in Japan.  (Granted it’s not very realistic, but it’s a game and it’s the closest we’re going to get. ^_^)  Do note I’m not talking about H games here, I’m talking about the non-H dating sims.

Sakura Taisen though adds in the whole story that we’ve only seen bits and pieces of in the OVAs and TV series.  I understand there’s much more to what’s going on and the whole story is quite intriguing on its own, even without the dating sim aspects.  I think they would do well here.  Not blockbusters, but they’d do pretty well, certainly enough to cover localization costs.

Incidentally I do know of one game released in the US with dating sim aspects.  Thousand Arms for the PS1 is a RPG.  In it you’re a “spirit blacksmith” and you forge skills into your weapons, along with one of the girls.  What skills can be forged depend on your relationship level with the girl.  You have to go on dates to change the relationship levels, and you have options you have to pick to try and get the best date possible.  Annoyingly you really have to tick them off sometimes too to lower the relationship level to add skills to new weapons you acquire.  Still, the dating sim aspects were there.

Too bad I will most likely not be attending any cons, I’d like to sign the petition, I urge everyone else to do so as well!  Even if the Sakura Taisen games aren’t your favorites, if this is successful it may lead to other titles being brought over that we never thought we’d see.  I know I’d like to see Tokimeki Memorial come over sometime, from what a friend’s told me about it I think it’d be great fun. :)

(Please correct me if I’m wrong, I haven’t played them but have seen them in action and have a good friend who’s played them all, but I do not claim to be an expert by any means.)

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