Life on the Fringe

Kicking the Habit

By diverting his meager resources towards the purchase of a house, car payments, utilities, and food, Patrick almost goes clean. Don't worry too much, however; it can't last long.

by Patrick King

I have no desire to grow up. I admit that physically, I have no choice but to acquiesce to nature's cruel plan for every living creature, but I plan to never forget my appreciation of video games, to find Muppets entertaining forever, and to respect the power of fantasy to inspire people to live a better life.

This year, I'm facing my toughest challenge yet.

Costs that I managed to avoid in my younger days are finally catching up to me. I'm paying rent, utilities and loans every month. I'm investing cash in my upcoming wedding. My fiancée and I are getting a house.

Suddenly, I found myself unable to justify spending $800 a month on anime, video games, manga, books, CDs and computer equipment. What wasn't going to the essentials was suddenly going into the mysterious new beast known as “savings,” which is imminently going to be dissolved into a magical poof and transmuted to a down payment on the place that we'll call home by the end of the month.

I stopped ordering everything that was on sale. I didn't get a copy of Sin City, or X-Men Legends II, or any volume of Samurai Champloo beyond the first.

I stopped getting artboxes altogether.

I'm not sure how many TRSI studio sales I've missed. Okay, I am sure; I've missed six. Yes, I'm counting. I'm nothing if not thorough.

At this point in time, I only have six items on backorder. That's all. Six! Most of them have been delayed indefinitely (such as the intriguing Metroid manga from TOKYOPOP –- ordered last year), and those that are not are only five dollar items.

This is significant, coming from a person who used to have 100-200 items on order at any given moment since 2002. For a long time, the list of video games that I didn't own was shorter than the list of games that I did own.

The only way that I could save money was to stop buying unnecessary items altogether. I couldn't trust myself to only order one item online, or to even window shop at the neighborhood bookstores. I quit going on my purchasing sprees, cold turkey.

To my surprise, I don't miss any of it.

I no longer need to scour the net in search of the latest greatest series. I'm not killing myself looking for deals online, I'm not standing in line in video game stores, trying to get a game that I don't have time to play anyway, and I'm saving tons of money in the process.

Never before have I realized how much work it is to keep up the fanatic level of interest that I've held in my favorite subjects, or how relaxing it is to just let it all go.

Now before you start worrying for my health, before you start doubting your own devotion to anime and manga, I must admit that I haven't given up on either of them yet. Mostly, it's thanks to a series that's barely been released in America –- a show that reminded me why I put so much money, time and effort into what I collect.

My cousin came in for the annual Japanese Festival at the St. Louis Botanical Garden. The Gardens are lovely, and the event is always a blast to attend –- if you're in the area or you can drive here easily, it's worth checking it out. It's usually held over Labor Day weekend, so perhaps I'll see you there next year.

Anyway, my cousin is as much a fan of all things Japanese as I am. However, he always gets his hands on raw Japanese releases, as opposed to domesticated releases. On this trip, he brought with him the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, every volume of the Midori no Hibi manga, the Japanese edition of the Ghost in the Shell 2 manga, and the anime TV series, Beck.

I enjoyed Advent Children, although Final Fantasy VII is not my favorite Final Fantasy game by a long shot, but it still boasts a great story -– just not as impressive as some of the others in the series. I adored Midori no Hibi, and Beck? Well, that particular show reminded me of why I got into anime in the first place.

I'm not sure exactly what made me like it so much, but watching Beck was a similar experience for me to watching Cowboy Bebop for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the characters, I appreciated the music, and I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Thanks to Beck, I feel obligated to keep supporting the things I love. Once again, I have the motivation to pick up the rest of Samurai Champloo, to finish off Paranoia Agent, Samurai 7 and all the other great series that I still haven't gotten around to. It reminded me that there are countless shows that I haven't seen yet that might turn out to be the best show that I've ever seen.

On the flipside of the rejuvenation that I found within Beck was the disappointment that came from reading the Japanese edition of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell 2. That is to say, the version that I assumed hasn't been edited for delicate foreign audiences. I was pretty surprised to see nudity in a book that I knew was “clean,” but I quickly jumped to the conclusion that what Dark Horse released in America was the “creator approved” edition of a manga that was deemed not as marketable as it could have been. This assumption actually turned out to be wrong (to my great embarrassment). As I was informed following the publication of this column, there were in fact two editions of Man Machine Interface released in Japan. Dark Horse secured the rights to the newer (and longer) edition, which lost the scenes depicting nudity and sex but gained an additional 50 color pages of story.

Dark Horse was not responsible for the changes apparent between the Japanese version I read and the American edition I bought. In this case, it truly was something that occurred at the behest of the original artist, and nothing could be done to change it. In fact, the final edition released by Dark Horse in the States is most likely far superior to the initial “Short Cut” release.

I'm annoyed at myself for jumping to conclusions whenever I detect any sort of change in a book from an older edition, and I cannot express enough apologies to Dark Horse for assuming they made such a change for the worse. Even with works such as Initial D, Case Closed, and Ten-Ten, I understand the market reasons for toning down a book, for wanting to appeal to a wider market, and for fearing the book to be pulled from store shelves (or not stocked in the first place) due to graphic content. America is a scary place to release a book that might offend people.

There are market-based reasons for editing a creative work, but doing so makes it a book that I no longer feel obligated to buy. Yes, there might be a wider prospective audience by toning down a series, but there is also a specific group of fans that will definitely not buy it if it's been messed with. So long as publishers are aware of this, then I guess that I don't care what they do.

I discovered a few things during my anime, manga, and video game fasting. First of all, the domestication industry is still far from perfect; however, there are many series out there that are worth spending my hard-earned money to get (and yes, Ghost in the Shell 2 remains one of them now that I know the truth). Finally, as I cut my anime and manga budget down to a more responsible level, the fact that some companies still insist on putting out edited products that don't appeal to me fits rather well into my plans. It's easy to be selective when I know that an adaptation is a stumpy unnatural mutation of the original version, and I need all the help that I can get when it comes to culling undesirables from my shopping cart.

The industry will go on without me –- a fact that has been clearly obvious to me since I started caring about it so much -– but more importantly, in a worst-case scenario, I can go on without the industry.

I just hope it never comes to that. I suppose I'll be okay as long as I have access to my cousin's untouched imports.

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