“Marcus,” said Dr. Vayer. “I’d like to have a word with you about the…item…on your desk.”

The graduate student turned his chair around, bumping his knees against the wall of his tiny shared office. “Yeah, isn’t it great?” he gushed. “It’s a limited-edition import. I got the last one they had online at Chibi-Go-Lucky, number 498 out of 500! It’s Shiraishi Noriko from Explosive Ice Force Pagan-5 in her Ultimate Aquatic Combat Goddess form.”

Vayer looked at the statuette, which took up most of the top of the office’s only file cabinet. It depicted a girl, pale to the point of near-translucency, with forests of suckered tentacles where each of her limbs ought to be and wearing nothing but a tiara. The squishy pseudopods were…well, “very busy” was the tamest euphemism that suggested itself. “We’ve had some…complaints…about it,” Vayer said. “Mostly from the female graduate students.”

“I can understand why they’d be jealous,” Marcus beamed. “You can’t get these anymore, and Shiraishi Noriko sets a standard of sensual purity that it’s hard for any woman to live up to.”

His graduate advisor cleared his throat. “That’s one way to approach it, I suppose,” he muttered. “Would you mind taking it home?”

“Not a chance,” Marcus beamed. “It’s such a rarity that I want to share it with the world and my fellow students who weren’t fortunate enough to get one.”

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Kordo(偽の翻訳)was first a manga drawn by Sei Iwashi and lettered by Joanna Suzuki. Published by Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns Press beginning in 1991, the comic was successful enough to interest TV Tokyo, which commissioned an anime series in 1993. Kordo the Series ran 197 episodes with 5 original video animations (OVAs) and remains in syndication with major Japanese satellite providers.

The series was popular enough with foreign audiences that fansubs were soon circulated with English subtitles. Exchanged at anime conventions, the bootleg tapes quickly became prized collector’s items, with even third-generation copies fetching $50-$100 par cassette. A petition to bring the series to English-speaking audiences in an official capacity garnered over 100,000 signatures–just enough for TV Tokyo to confirm that they had no plans for localization.

Occasionally, veteran fans of anime have wondered why Kordo has attracted so many fervent admirers. Its plot and storylines are typical of many “magical schoolgirl” tropes present in Japanese media, and the animation, while lush by anime standards, pales in comparison to deluxe OVAs with much more highly-regarded stories. Iwashi and Suzuki, who maintain strict control over their intellectual property and hand-drew many cels for the animation, have been silent on the matter.

Some have been so bold to suggest that Kordo owes its success to subliminal messages inserted into both the manga and anime. It’s certainly true that the animation has reportedly provoked occasional seizures and psychotic episodes, but that’s hardly unheard-of; the 1997 Pokémon episode “Dennō Senshi Porygon” (でんのうせんしポリゴン) famously caused over 600 such seizures. Skeptics point out that scarcity is a far more likely reason for the program’s success (at least overseas).

But when Iwashi and Suzuki announced a sixth OVA to debut for the series’ 25th anniversary, few could have known that the secret of the program was about to be finally, violently, revealed.

“Why do you have all the panels drawn backwards?” Rich said, examining Sadie’s artwork.

“You’re supposed to read it right to left,” she said.

Rich wrinkled his nose. “Why? That’s really confusing, not to mention counterintuitive.”

“Because it’s manga!” Sadie cried as if she’d been waiting for the question and the chance to educate its boorish originator. “Manga is written and read right to left!”

“But isn’t that because manga is Japanese and they read right to left?” Rich said, squinting as he tried to follow the flamethrower-toting faerie through the correct sequence of her adventures.

“Look at the translated ones in the library, they’re right to left too.”

“Of course not. They only translated the word bubbles and stuff,” Rich said, flipping a page and carefully examining a panel where the flamethrower faerie was suddenly tiny with stub limbs and wildly swinging a mallet. “If the whole comic was flipped it would create all kinds of problems. But you wrote in English and drew from scratch–very nicely, might I add–so it should be left to right.”

“That’s just not how manga works!” Sadie fumed.

“And your English text is left to right inside the bubbles on your right to left pages! If you really want to be authentic, shouldn’t you write the words right to left too? Or is that tfel ot thgir?” Rich could barely contain a smile at Sadie’s reaction so far.

“Give me that,” Sadie grumbled, snatching the comic back with an expression not unlike the flamethrower faerie. “Philistine.”

“Anime is just too weird for me, man,” Caleb said. “It’s like seeing regular Saturday morning cartoons ground up and regurgitated by someone’s really twisted subconscious.”

“How d’you ever expect to be taken seriously as a geek with that attitude?” Sean replied. “Here, we’ll get you started on something easy and non-threatening.” He began rummaging through the stack of pastel-colored keepcases.

“No, really, let’s just watch something-”

“Here, how about Dimensional Galactic Rogue Outlaw Roku?” said Sean, blindly waving the case. “It’s about a schoolgirl who’s last in a long line of Galaxy Warriors and has to fight off the Tentacleoids while going through Ariabachi High. Also she reverts to a jellylike omnigel when she’s angry or stressed.”

Caleb bit his lip. “Uh…no.”

“Okay, okay, we can try Bio Sword Arc Unlimited. It’s based on the legend of Joan of Arc, except in modern-day Kunioshi Prefecture. Junior high student Jan’nu Daruku is touched by the kami Hachiman and granted the power to shape her limbs into weapons to fight an invasion of mutant deep-sea squid roused by nuclear testing.”

“I’m sensing a pattern here,” Caleb sighed. “No.”

“What pattern? Those are totally different shows!” Sean snorted incredulously. “Fine, we’ll go super-basic: Initial Ghost Priestess Salvation. Yuki Tanaka learns that she’s the reincarnation of Kamakura period empress Fujiwara, and the only one who can save her classmates from the return of the subterranean cephalopodal elder race that cause the collapse of the shogunate.”