Marc Staff Bio
A bit of info about AAW staff member Marc.
Marc "Makosuke" Marshall, AAW Founder, Webmaster, coder, and Main Reviewer
How I Review
Before I get started, here's the important info for those wondering how I review, since I wrote most of those here. Essentially, I like anime. Good anime, bad anime, indifferent anime, I pretty much enjoy everything--that's why I started AAW in the first place. I'm not a connoisseur, but I do know a "quality" show when I see one. I also won't shy away from recommending something that is basically bad, but creative. I'll let you know what I thought was good, what I thought wasn't, and what the bottom line was for me, and maybe venture a guess as to the kind of folks who might enjoy it if I wasn't one of them.
As for my rating system, keep in mind that there is honestly no way to compare, say, Boogiepop Phantom and Elf Princess Rane to each other--they're just too different. So the stars are a gauge of quality within the general category of what it's trying to be--funny, fun, deep, artistic, whatever.
That's about it.
Why I Review
While in retrospect I've liked anime since I was a very small child, I became an anime fan in a more specific sense before high school. That was coming up on two decades ago, but despite growing up, getting a job, and over a decade of marriage, I'm still an anime fan. I take this to mean that, for whatever reason, I'm not going to stop being one, so I've chosen to embrace it. I started fiddling with what later became AAW way back in the '90s as a way to goof around on this new "web" thing, since I enjoy talking about anime almost as much as I enjoy watching it. I still enjoy both the web and talking about anime, so why not make something of it? It's an outlet for the thoughts that come up while watching anime, and if I get even one person to discover a truly great series they wouldn't have otherwise, I'll consider the effort worth it.
The first anime I can remember watching was Voltron; it may not compare too favorably to the greats in the transforming robot genre, but I loved that show as a tyke. To this day, I've got one of the toys in my closet, and along with Robotech it no doubt planted the seed of anime love in my psyche. Of course, it wasn't until years later that I even realized that it was Japanese animation--all I knew at the time was that it was better than the other cartoons on TV.
Voltron went off the air, I forgot about it, and years passed. Then one day I ran across Akira in the video rental place. Despite my protests ("What do you mean you heard it's really violent? It's a cartoon!"), my brother rented it, and I was hooked. Next came Vampire Hunter D, the Castle of Cagliostro (I'm still a Lupin III and Miyazaki fan) and then a movie from the opposite end of the spectrum, Windaria.
Windaria was a turning point for me; violence and action were the reason most of the other people I knew liked this bizarre "new" animation, but something about a "cartoon" telling a serious story struck me. The second big step came when I ran across two less-mainstream tapes at a cinephile rental place: Project A-ko and Gunbuster. My friends thought Project A-ko was just too weird, but I loved it, and had a strange desire to get all the in-jokes. And something about Gunbuster that I still can't quite put my finger on really grabbed me.
Both these tapes were also subtitled, so that was also when I realized that I was a sub fan--the allure of the Japanese language sucked me in.
It's a slippery slope
Now, since my local rental place only had the first two volumes of Gunbuster, I had no way to find out how the story ended. A few letters (this was pre-email, if you can believe that), a Books Nippan mail order catalog, and a whole bunch of allowance money later, I was in possession of my first anime video. (Yes, I was a member of the Books Nippan Japanese Animation Fan Club in the early '90s, way back when that was pretty much the only way you got your hands on untranslated manga. I still have the catalogs and my membership card.)
From then on, there was no turning back.
Miyazaki: Raw and uncut
The only other noteworthy milestone was when the teacher in a Japanese class I was taking (he was a bit of an anime fan himself) loaned me untranslated tapes of My Neighbor Totoro, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaa. That both firmed up the hold of the language on me (Fansub? Back in my day a fansub was pretending you could understand Japanese!) and reintroduced me to the masterful storytelling and visual talent of Miyazaki and his studio Ghibli.
Same old, same old
I've seen quite a bit of anime since I first started out, amassed a respectable collection of videos (or horrifying and space-eating, if you ask Akemi), learned to speak some Japanese, and got into manga a bit. I even bought a LaserDisc player back when so I wouldn't have to worry about wearing out tapes, and I later bought a DVD player literally the day the first anime video was released on DVD--that, that was a joyous occasion.
This "Internet" thing looks like fun
Around that early DVD milestone the Internet started to take off, and, after surfing the fanweb for a few years, I got this urge to throw my own effort into the collective pool. I'm still not quite sure why I did that, but if you're reading this, you've seen the fruits of my (and a few other folks') labor over the past decade or so.
Less obsessed than I look
I may sound like a hardcore otaku fanboy, but I actually have a laid-back take on the whole scene. I like anime, I get together with friends to watch it, and I write about it. But I'm not really into the anime "scene"; I don't read news sites, look for insider info, or follow rumors of upcoming releases, and I've never even been to a con. I don't watch that many fansubs (heck, I don't watch that much anime, period), and I probably can't name any show released in the last few months. Not that there's anything wrong with doing any of those things, but I prefer to just sit back, fire up the TV, and enjoy the show. No trivia, obsessions, or baggage, just a short escape to another time, place, or reality.
If you're wondering why, in that case, I've written several hundred anime reviews, easy: I (metaphorically) like the sound of my own voice as much as the next guy, and if you write a review now and then in your spare time consistently for over ten years, you end up with a lot of them.
I read it for the articles
I should also say that I enjoy almost every aspect of anime itself. First off, I am a fan of animation as a visual art form, and I can enjoy any movie that looks good enough--watching fluid animation or well drawn art is a pleasure in and of itself. And yes, that means I do even enjoy an American movie or TV show once in a while. I may not think much of the plots or presentation, but there is no denying that Disney knew how to paint a picture, and no matter how you cut it, when you spend tens of millions of dollars to animate a movie, it usually looks pretty good.
But if animation was all I went for, I would probably have done a web page devoted to Prince of Egypt. As with almost every other anime fan, I also love the characters, and nothing Disney has ever produced can match whatever that special something is that permanently endears a character to us fans. Whatever that something is, I enjoy spending some video-time with Ryoko, Lum, or Lupin III as much as the next guy. And yes, of course I like the girls. In a healthy, respectful way. Honestly.
Finally, there are the stories. I won't try to claim that most anime writing is of any notable quality, but there are those gems out there that stay with you, and even when the writing isn't much worth noting, so many anime stories have a sense of wonder or vision that you don't often see elsewhere. The sheer imagination that goes into the setting of even some of the cheesier sci-fi stories makes them worth watching.
Consistency is not my strong point
That pretty much sums it up. If you're wondering what kind of anime I prefer, the answer is almost everything. I enjoy a good-natured tug at the heartstrings (Kimagure Orange Road, for example), a finely crafted piece of action (Ninja Scroll), a subtle comedy (Patlabor), a wacky comedy (Tenchi Muyo), a really wacky comedy (Excel Saga), a downright strange comedy (The Ultimate Teacher), a quiet tale of suspense (Vampire Princess Miyu), an epic adventure (the Dagger of Kamui), and even the occasional shoujo series (Tokyo Babylon or Revolutionary Girl Utena).
My favorite stories would probably be either light comedies (in the Tenchi Muyo vein), things that make me laugh very hard (Kyouran Kazoku Nikki), intricate, subtle, and preferably well animated stories of vision (Boogiepop Phantom and Wings of Honneamise, for example), and a nebulous category that I define as deeply satisfying fun (Tokyo Godfathers, Baccano).
I also try to take a broader look at anime in context; I'm not an anime historian, but I do go out of my way to track down the little known (outside Japan) series that form the foundation of modern anime. Things like Ge-ge-ge no Kitarou, Ninja Hattori-kun, and Doraemon, for example.
About the only thing that I don't much care for is dubbing, but I'm an "originalist" and I speak Japanese, so I won't be one to cast stones at those who prefer anime in their native tongue (if you enjoy it more, why not?). Heck, they even released a version of Ghost in the Shell in Japan that was dubbed in English with Japanese subtitles. And note that when English is the original language--say, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust--I prefer the English. Again, "originalist," not Japanese-obsessed.
If you're wondering what non-anime things I do, I have a BA in Physics (yes, a BA, not a BS) and an everything-but-the-thesis attempt at a Masters in International Development Technology. I work as a fuel cell control systems programmer and IT guy at an alternative energy research laboratory. I have a flesh and blood Japanese wife (who this site is named after), with whom I spend most of my free time. In the tiny amount of remaining spare time, I like obsessively fiddling with my computer (which of course everything at AAW was created with). Always a Mac, currently a 27" 1st-gen i7 iMac and a Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro 17" (for those curious, previous AAW workhorses were a 1st-gen 17" MacBook Pro, and before that a Rev A G5 dual 2.0GHz, which replaced a G4 dual 533MHz, and before that a PM6500/250; I also have a 2009 mini running as a server/media center). I occasionally enjoy console video games (new and old--I've been a Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda junky since the first installment of each series) and paper-and-dice role-playing.
For those wondering where the "Makosuke" moniker came from, it's based on what Akemi started calling me way back when we started dating, so it seems appropriate.
Not what you'd call healthy
On a final and entirely unnecessary note, I was also exceedingly ill for the entirety of 2006, and though I'm doing much better now it lead to an almost complete lack of productivity of any sort and nearly no anime watching at all. It has also been a lesson that I really didn't need or want in how much you should appreciate any day you are able to eat, speak, stand up, take a walk outside, stand on the beach or in the forest, hang out with friends, watch a movie, play a game, go to work, or even just sit in the sun. I've gone for months straight without being able to do any of those things, and absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Appreciate what you've got, and don't take it away from anybody else.
You can contact Marc via the AAW feedback form