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Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade
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Written by maehara   
Thursday, 28 May 2009 00:00
Schoolgirl Milky CrisisSchoolgirl Milky Crisis is just the sort of title that results in raised eyebrows, especially when it's your wife that opens the package it came in. It's not a dodgy photobook, though, but a highly-entertaining collection of tales from the parts of the anime and manga business that we don't usually get to see...

Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: (n.) 1. A silly name for a generic anime show, made up to protect the innocent in Jonathan Clements long-running insider column about the Japanese comics and cartoons business. (n.) 2. A hugely entertaining collection of nearly two decades of articles, speeches and interviews by Jonathan Clements, manga and anime translator, sometime voice actor, and co-author of the Anime Encyclopedia. Mixing reviews, cultural commentary, insights into classic manga and anime titles, interviews and profiles of Japan s top creators, and hilarious insider stories from the anime trade, Clements is your guide to this fascinating and often very strange world, with new illustrations from fan favourite artist Steve Kyte.

So goes the official introduction to this collection of tales, anecdotes, lectures and reviews. Jonathan Clements is a name that should be familiar to all but the most recent anime fans - as a translator, he's had a hand in translating anime, but he's perhaps best known for the Anime Encyclopedia, a hefty tome co-written with Helen McCarthy that attempts to provide a complete history of anime. It's impressive work - and as you would expect, someone with that level of knowledge of the anime industry has some good stories to tell.

The vast majority of what you'll find in Schoolgirl Milky Crisis has been reposted from other sources, from the late lamented Newtype/USA and PiQ, to the UK's own Neo, via a myriad of other publications. The book is split into several sections - some look at the inside working of the business, others are personal stories about trips to anime conventions and other events. There are also sections that reprint reviews that Clements has written, or provide transcripts of lectures that he's given. What they have in common is a sense of humour that leaves you sniggering your way through each story, wondering how - if the events described really happened (and I've got no reason to doubt that they did) - half the shows we see on our screens ever got there. It's not just the Japanese that suffer from this, either, as both the Korean and Chinese animation businesses are revealed to be just as off-the-wall. There's some fun to be had in trying to spot which show is masquerading as "Schoolgirl Milky Crisis" in each story, but I confess I'm not having much luck!

The reviews included are also well worth reading. Words are Clements' stock-in-trade, and so when he comes to write about anime his way with words and knowledge of the background to the movies and shows he's writing about comes through in a way that really catches the attention, and in places points out aspects of shows you've seen that you hadn't noticed or ever considered. It also points out to this part-time reviewer how these things should be done, in an ideal world, and to be honest leaves me a little wary when writing this review - after all, I'm hardly as well qualified to be critical.

While the book's humour is what makes it an easy and enjoyable read, though, what you really get out of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis is a far better understanding of the steps that shows go through on the way from realisation, to production, and through localisation for Western audiences before they end up on the shelf at HMV. Many anime fans have an idealised and simplified idea of what goes on behind the scenes, and often fly into online righteous anger when what they see at the end of the process doesn't reflect their expectations, but Clements sneakily provides an education that will perhaps - hopefully - leave readers a little more understanding of the tightropes that are walked at the various stages of production, and a little more appreciative of the end results.

The end result here, meanwhile, is a book that will be accessible and enjoyable by just about anyone, but that for fans of anime and manga is really something you should get your hands on. And if you figure out just what show "Schoolgirl Milky Crisis" is at any point, don't forget to let me know...

Rating - ****

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