Otaku culture goes Worldwide (Pants)

For a good chunk of years now, CBS has been home to two Worldwide Pants-produced late night talk shows: The Late Show With David Letterman and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. During that time, guests from a variety of walks of life have graced the stages of the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York for Letterman and the CBS Television Studios in Los Angeles for Ferguson. TV and movie stars are a given. And, of course, there’s The Manga Cookbook and Hatsune Miku.

… wait, what?

Indeed, in what seems to be a total booking coincidence, two properties with ties to anime/manga fandom will make their way to the same mainstream American broadcast TV station within a span of a month. Earlier this month, the Manga University-published cookbook, which features recipes for Japanese dishes from chef and registered nutritionist Yoko Ishihara coupled with illustrations by Chihiro Hattori, showed up on the lectern of Ferguson’s cyborg sidekick, Geoff Peterson. The two even bantered about it during the show’s ending “What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?” segment:

manga cookbookAccording to Glenn Kardy, Manga University publisher, the story of The Manga Cookbook’s journey to the show began back in April, when Ferguson announced he would be leaving The Late Late Show in December. Kardy subsequently tweeted the following on Manga University’s Twitter account:

Those of you who follow The Late Late Show know that Ferguson has joked in the past that “Super Happy Fun Time Hour With Robot and Old Man” is what his show’s called in Japan.

Let’s let Kardy take the story from here, as told to me via email:

I guess he took notice, because he started following Manga University on Twitter. Which meant I could now send him a private message. And I knew just what I wanted to ask.

Every night on the show, a different book can be seen atop the lectern where Ferguson’s sidekick, the robot-skeleton Geoff Peterson, stands. I’d always thought how cool it would be to see a Manga University book there. Now I had my chance. I contacted him to see if he’d help us get a book onto his show. And he agreed!

I chose to send him “The Manga Cookbook” because I thought he’d find its quirkiness appealing. So, I knew that the book was going to be on the show, but I had no idea Ferguson would actually talk about it on the air.

Kardy was “blown away” by the mention. “His comment was priceless — ‘I like this. This is like Pokemon for hungry people,'” Kardy said. “He also tried to teach Geoff how to hold the chopsticks, which  was hilarious. I couldn’t have asked for a better script!”

Sales of the book — which you can buy on the Manga University website, by the way — have been robust since the book’s appearance.

“Now, if I can only figure out how to get “The Manga Cookbook” an appearance on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ …” Kardy said.

Meanwhile, over on The Late Show, the most famous of the virtual Vocaloid superstars is scheduled to perform on Oct. 8, ostensibly to promote “Hatsune Miku Expo” events in New York, including an art exhibit running Oct. 9-19 and a concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom Oct. 17-18. (There’s also a concert and a Halloween party Oct. 11-12 in Los Angeles.) Now, I’m really curious to see what kind of reception Miku gets — unless I’m mistaken, I’m inclined to believe that most of the younger audiences who understand her appeal are more inclined to watch The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, or Jimmy Kimmel Live!, or Conan O’Brien’s show on TBS. Whatever happens, though, I’m sure it’ll be quite entertaining.

Kickstarter talk is in the air, everywhere

I have to admit that when it comes to communication, I’m far more comfortable with the written word than I am with speaking to people. Part of the reason is that I really hate the way my voice sounds when I’m speaking. The other part is that I get nervous as heck … I’m really quite awkward in social situations, too.

So that’s why, in the 10 years I’ve been working the anime/manga beat (yup! 10 years!), I’ve only willingly put myself in front of a recording device all of two times. The first time was for this video interview with then-Anime Vice editor-in-chief, current Anime News Network contributing writer, and still all-around cool cat Gia Manry, posted to the site on Feb. 28, 2009.

Here’s the original Anime Vice page that it was posted on. Note the comment by RedRose. And now you know why, three years, four months and 23 days and counting, I have yet to watch a single second of this footage. The memories of that day — lunch at Ulupalakua Ranch in upcountry Maui, followed by that interview with me and all my apparent head-bobbing glory — are more than enough for me, thankyewverymuch.

I would’ve been perfectly happy with that being my first and last venture into the recorded-for-the-Internet world, but alas, fate sometimes has a way of taking plans, ripping them up, stomping on them and then grinding them in to the dirt. And its roots were planted in my Twitter enthusiasm for Digital Manga Publishing’s Kickstarter drive for Osamu Tezuka’s Unico, Atomcat and Triton of the Sea, which, as of my writing this post, was just a few hours from completion.

In retrospect, perhaps my cheerleading was a bit much. It’s easy to get caught up in the Kickstarter hype, watching the contribution level rising, knowing that you, yes, you, are one of the people helping to make the project pitch become a reality. (Full disclosure: I signed on for one of the limited “Power of Love” $165 packages.) But I was not expecting to get this kind of response to one of my tweets in late June.

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I met Glenn Kardy, the man behind @MangaUniversity, at HEXXP in 2010. Great guy. Totally respect him. I feel really bad that I’ve never had a chance to write up the interview I did with him at that convention. But that tweet, along with a follow-up response from Ed Chavez at Vertical, opened the floodgates for several days’ worth of Twitter discussion debating the merits of a large manga publisher like DMP using Kickstarter as a way of funding their book-publishing ventures. It’s a discussion that I by and large stayed out of, not wanting to stir up any more controversy than I already had.

Manga Out Loud. Podcast by Ed Sizemore. Cute logo by Lissa Patillo.It was around this time that Ed Sizemore, co-host of the “Manga Out Loud” podcast with Johanna Draper Carlson, contacted me about being a podcast guest. I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant at first — me? Why me? I’m just a fan out here in the middle of the Pacific who’s already seen his best days in the sun and is now slowly fading away, tucked away in a corner of the sprawling staradvertiser.com network of sites. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that yeah, I probably could hold my own. And hopefully the other people Ed invited would be able to carry the load as well.

The other guests were great. Joining me via Skype in recording on Monday were Erica Friedman, president and founder of Yuricon and ALC Publishing and writer of the Okazu blog, and Ben Applegate, one of the people behind the DMP Kickstarter campaign who’s now picked up additional work at Kodansha USA. We talked at length about the Kickstarter campaign — there, you can find out the reason why I haven’t mentioned the DMP Kickstarter on Twitter since that time — and Erica, Ed, Johanna and myself also discussed Tokyopop’s resurrection and Viz’s new Neon Alley anime venture on the PlayStation Network. It was quite the experience, I must say … especially listening live to some of the parts that I think Ed left on the cutting-room floor. (I won’t divulge the nature of the discussion. I’ll just say that for the four of us around for that particular part of the recording session, it was … pretty wild.) I understand Matt Blind, he of the Rocket Bomber blog chock full of manga sales statistics and retail bookseller commentary, also joined Ed on another day to talk about Kickstarter.

So yes, you’ll probably want to give this month’s edition of “Manga Out Loud” a listen, to hear our great discussion and cringe at the nails-on-chalkboard quality of my voice. You can find show notes and a download link at mangaoutloud.com/webpage/episode-61-more-kickstarter-with-matt-blind-erica-friedman-jason-yadao-ben-applegate. That podcast officially makes it the second time that my voice has been recorded for the internet.

Will there ever be a third opportunity? We shall see. My inner voice is screaming at me “OH DEAR GOD NOOOOOOOOOOO,” but my sense of self-confidence has a tendency every so often to grab a giant mallet, bonk it over the head and knock it out. You never know.