It's time to nominate the contenders for the 2018 Ursa Major Awards! You can send in your nominations until February 16, 2019. We'll see which of them get onto the final ballot in March, when voting opens, and the winners will be announced at AnthrOhio in late May.
If you really liked something in 2018 that had anthropomorphic content, either inside or outside the fandom, you can nominate up to five things in each category! Nominations are completely optional - you can even skip entire categories. All you need to do is go to the nominations page, click where it says "Enroll", and give it a valid email address. You'll be emailed a code, and you can use that to log in and fill out the nomination form.
Fred Patten was born in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 1940. By the time he was ten years old, he'd become interested in science fiction and had started to collect SF books and magazines. From 1958 to 1963 he attended UCLA, where he graduated with a master's degree in Library Science. During his university years, he discovered science fiction fandom, joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), and started to write for fanzines.
In the 1970s, Fred became a partner in a bookstore in Long Beach, and also developed an interest in manga and anime from Japan. In 1977, along with Mark Merlino and others, Fred was one of the founding members of North America's first anime fan club, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. Partially through the C/FO, he and Mark expanded their mutual interest in animals in cartoons and science-fiction, which was a major step in the early evolution of furry fandom. A lot people aren't aware that in North America, both anime and furry fandoms share an originating root!
There is a balding man with glasses, standing in the corner, cradling a book against his stomach, reading. You saw him a lot. At the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society meeting hall, the APA collation room, in the library, at science fiction conventions in function rooms and room parties, at San Diego Comic Con in the Rowrbrazzle contributor parties, at furry parties.
His name is Fred Patten, and was in no way the passive participant he seemed. With a partner he opened a book shop in Long Beach, California that not only carried SF and Fantasy books, but comics from all over the world. He reviewed SF and Fantasy literature for fan and professional publications. His apartment was literally wall-to-wall books. He collected SF/F art, storing paintings in his bed frame. I don't think anyone knew where he slept... or if he did.
Mary and the Witch's Flower (メアリと魔女の花 or Mary to Majo no Hana in Japanese) is the first feature-length film to be released by Studio Ponoc. The film was released in Japan in July 2017 and had a limited theatrical run in the United States in early 2018 prior to its home video release. It is based on the 1971 children's novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart (which I haven't read and cannot comment on how closely it follows). At a high level, the film could be described as a sort of Harry Potter meets Kiki's Delivery Service. Some anime fans have noted similarities to the anime series Little Witch Academia.
This is the third film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It is no coincidence that the art style of the film closely resembles the works of Studio Ghibli, as Yonebayashi had previously worked there and was director of The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There. Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura and many others who worked on the film were also alumni of Studio Ghibli, which had largely disbanded its creative department following the release of Marnie in 2014. The characters of Mary, Madam Mumblechook, and Doctor Dee are voiced by Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent respectively in the English dub (Hana Sugisaki, Yuki Amami, and Fumio Kohinata respectively in the original Japanese).
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a feeling this year’s furry content is coordinating their themes. It’s always interesting when common threads start to show up near each other, especially when they were not intentional. I remember when Fred Patten’s anthology Furry Future was thought to have had prejudice as a subtheme by a non-furry reviewer. It might have seemed odd that all but one story in the anthology touched on the idea of social inequities without coaxing from the collection editor, but it was just coincidence that the writers felt like writing stories about that theme at the time.
It is surely strange coincidence that just after I played a game with a deeply ingrained theme of a protagonist diving head first into responsibilities to the point of self-detriment that there is an anime playing off this same subject released onto Netflix. However, unlike Yet Another Research Dog, which was a highly niche affair that probably only I had played of those I know, Aggretsuko was already slaying the fandom by the time I had gotten around to hitting the play button.
So what is all the hub about and is it worth the hype?
“Kemono Friends” (けものフレンズ) began in Japan in 2015 as a mobile game. A manga was serialized in “Monthly Shōnen Ace” (one of Japan’s “telephone book”-sized comics magazines) from May 2015 to March 2017, and a 12-episode anime TV series was broadcast from January 10 to March 28, 2017 on Wednesdays. Sequels are currently in production.
The plot is that Japari Park is a huge island zoo of real, extinct, and mythological animals. A mysterious substance, Sandstar, turns all the young female animals into “Friends”, Japanese cute girls about 10 to 12 years old with furry ears and tails. Kaban is a girl who wakes up in Japari Park with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Her first friend is Serval, a girl with serval ears & tail, who names her Kaban (bag) because of her backpack. Other characters they meet include Raccoon, Fennec, Alpaca, Crested Ibis, Jaguar, Beaver, Prairie Dog, Moose, Gray Wolf, and others. Lucky Beast, a mysterious robot rabbit, seems to be in charge. Kaban is helped by Serval and Fennec through the Park to learn who she really is.
Everyone expects “Kemono Friends” (in English, “Animal Friends”) to come to American TV and DVD soon. But for now, if you like Japanese animal girls (ears and tails only) of more species than just cats, dogs, and bunnies, then you can watch “Kemono Friends” on Steam's gaming service, or Crunchy Roll.
The Boy and the Beast (aka Bakemono no ko – English trailer) is a 2015 animated film from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda, who directed the film Wolf Children in 2012. Both are of furry interest; this one even more so!
Ren is a 9-year-old boy who runs away to the busy streets of Tokyo after his mother dies. He has no way of contacting his father, whom his mother divorced, and has no love for his mother's relatives who want to take him in. Angry and upset, he wanders by accident into a parallel Earth, the beast world, where everyone is an anthropomorphic animal.
In the city of beasts, the current Grand Master (a rabbit) intends to transcend and reincarnate into a god, with two possible successors: a bear named Kumatetsu, or a boar named Yozen.
Can’t think of a better title than that, so why try? Several places on the Net (including Flayrah) have already made note recently of The Boy and the Beast. It’s the latest anime feature from Hosoda Mamoru, the man who brought us Summer Wars and The Wolf Children. As you can tell from those works, the man has an interest in anthropomorphic characters — and this new one just may be his most furry feature yet! The Boy and the Beast “… tells the story of a lonely young boy who strays into a parallel world inhabited by supernatural creatures, where a bear-like beastman becomes his companion and mentor.” It’s set to premier in Japan this July. No word yet on any planned release in North America, but most of director Mamoru’s works have made it over here eventually. Check out the article over at Twitch Film — it includes a trailer with subtitles.
Sentai Filmworks have released Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the God — Complete Collection, bringing together all 12 episodes of the anime TV series based on the original manga by Sayori Ochiai. Here’s part of the review by Charles Solomon over at Animation Scoop: “For 15 generations, Makoto Saeki’s family has maintained the Inari shrine to the agricultural god Ukanomitama. Makoto lives there with her widowed father, a well-meaning, slightly befuddled man. Because her bloodline makes her the heiress to the shrine, teen-age Makoto has ‘the gift': She can see and converse with Gintarou, the resident fox-spirit who is a herald of the gods. Heralds traditionally live and work in in pairs, but his partner left many years ago. Gintarou is later joined by Haru, a much younger female fox spirit brought to Inari by Makoto’s friend Satoru… Gintarou functions as a sort of substitute father/big brother to Makoto. He’s gruff, cranky and lazy, but his façade of indifference can’t disguise his affection for her.” I like Mr. Solomon’s description of the fox spirit: “Gintarou has a scarred fox’s head stuck onto a burly human body. He looks like a macho delegate to a Furries convention.” So noted! The 2-disc DVD set is for sale over at Best Buy.
Discotek Media have released all 26 episodes of the original anime series Sherlock Hound in a special 6-DVD box set. “Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) during his time at Japans largest animation studio, TMS. Before he went on to create Totoro and Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki captured a whole generation of children’s imaginations with his retelling of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries using a loveable cast of canines. Sherlock Hound, released as either Famous Detective Holmes or Detective Holmes in Japan, is an anime based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series where all the characters are depicted as anthropomorphic animals, the majority dogs, though Holmes is a fox and his enemy Professor Moriarty is a wolf. The show featured regular appearances of Jules Verne steampunk-style technology, adding a 19th-century science-fiction atmosphere to the series.” You can order the new box set over at Discotek’s web site.
Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics, based on Fred Patten’s weekly columns from Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research animation website, was published March 26 by Theme Park Press. It is available in paperback and digital formats, and on Amazon.com.
The book is about animation and comic books rather than specifically anthropomorphic animals, but cartoon and CGI funny animals are a major theme. Topics include anime cat girls; Pokémon and Monster Rancher; Astro Boy and Atomcat; how a popular 1970s anime TV series led to the import of thousands of baby North American raccoons into Japan as pets, whose descendants are ruining thousand-year-old Buddhist and Shinto shrines today; animated Summer Olympics mascots like Misha the bear cub, Sam the eagle, Hodori the tiger, and Cobi the sheepdog, from 1972 to 2012; Patten’s favorite childhood comic-book funny animals like Amster the Hamster, Doodles Duck and his nephew Lemuel, Nutsy Squirrel, Dunbar Dodo, and SuperKatt, and how he would still like to see them animated; Crusader Rabbit; rats in animation; Reynard the Fox in animation; and Disney’s forthcoming 2016 Zootopia.
Lots of fandom folks (anime, furry, science fiction and otherwise) got excited this fall with the news that the team behind Cowboy BeBop had created a new, openly-silly science fiction anime called Space Dandy. The teaser trailer started making the rounds on YouTube. Well now comes even better news: Thanks to the efforts of Funimation, Space Dandy will be the first ever anime to premier in Japan and dubbed on American TV, simultaneously. It’ll be part of Adult Swim’s Toonami collection. Here’s what the producers say: “Space Dandy is a dandy in space! This dreamy adventurer with a to-die-for pompadour travels across the galaxy in search of aliens no one has ever laid eyes on. Each new species he discovers earns him a hefty reward, but this dandy has to be quick on his feet because it’s first come – first served!
Gusk? Budori no Denki (The Life of Guskou Budori) is a 105-minute anime film released in 2012. The story had been previously adapted into anime in 1994, however the 2012 version did it with anthropomorphic cats - largely identical to the cats in the 1985 anime film Night on the Galactic Railroad. Not coincidentally, both films were directed by Gisaburo Sugii, and both were based on stories written by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa, published in the 1930s.
The 2012 Life of Guskou Budori is visually rich, but has an incredibly dull narrative. Full spoilers ahead! Budori, his parents and his younger sister have an idyllic life in a forest by the mountains, but two years of sudden cold weather leads to the death of his parents and everyone leaving the local village. Oh, and his sister is taken away by a mysterious entity. To paraphrase:
Supernatural cat: I'm here to save you from famine. You're good kids, but that won't help you. Hey girl, if you stay here, you'll starve. Come with me.
(Budori's sister goes to him, seemingly in a trance.)
Supernatural cat: Well, bye! (vanishes)
Budori: ...Hey! You thief!
Space Dandy is cuming (pun deliberate) in January 2014 – but not to America.
The news is spreading that it was announced at guest Shinichir? Watanabe’s panel at Otakon 2013, August 9-11 in Baltimore, that he is directing Studio Bones’ new TV anime space comedy, Space Dandy, scheduled for broadcast next January in Japan.
This is exciting news because Watanabe is the brilliant director of Cowboy Bebop, and two of the sequences in The Animatrix, among others. Though Dandy may be human, there are plenty of anthropomorphic aliens in it, starting with Meow, his partner.
Watanabe said that this will be "not an anime to be taken seriously." Oh, you think!?