As an anime blogger in 2016, I’m thankful for many things. I’m thankful to the hardworking animators, writers, seiyu and other members of the animation industry for making such interesting stories for us to enjoy every week. I’m thankful for the spread of the Internet, which lets J-List reach customers from New Zealand to the Netherlands and California to Connecticut, and which lets an American live in rural Japan without any inconvenience at all. I’m also thankful for…anime gifs? Yes, these mild-mannered short animated files, which show 3-5 seconds of action from a certain anime, are somehow uniquely helpful for introducing new series to fans in a way that catches their interest. I’ve sought out entire anime series and films based on a single interesting gif I found bouncing around the Internet, like this one that led me to watch the Hanasaku Iroha movie about Ohana’s MILF-ilicious mother when she was a girl. While I post a lot of interesting fanart pictures and memes to J-List’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to help introduce new shows to fans, it’s usually the animated gifs that get the most fans saying, “Wow, what show is this? I want to watch it!” If you’re on social media, make sure to follow J-List’s accounts and interact with us!

The Japanese are masters of influencing emotions using voice, and I’m often amazed at the eerie beauty of the voices that enter my ear here. If you watch anime in Japanese, of course, you know how talented the Japanese voice actresses are, and their ability to bring to life a character — such as Kuroneko, Shiina Mayuri and Charlotte, all performed by S-rank seiyu Hanazawa Kana — that would otherwise be (literally) two-dimensional and inert is one of the major attractions of the genre. But the strangely compelling beauty of Japanese voices isn’t limited to anime: you can find females who are specially trained to speak in a uniquely soft way in various professions, too, such as female bus guides, who entertain passengers on long sightseeing trips, and Japan’s legendary elevator girls, the uniformed women who stand in the elevator and announce each floor for you (although they’ve almost completely disappeared).

But speaking in a cute voice isn’t just for a few professions with high customer visibility. I’ll never forget the time I called NTT, Japan’s sprawling telephone and Internet provider, to get help with some computer hardware I was having problems with. The voice on the other end belonged to an extremely kawaii-sounding female NTT employee, and bastard that I am, I expected her to take down my information and then transfer me to some male technician who would tell me how to fix my problem. I was quite surprised when the cute female voice quickly proceeded to help me debug my router and fix the TCP/IP problem I’d been having, solving it in no time. I had to hang my head in shame for a bit after that.

Great news! We’ve started this year’s Ecchi Lucky Bag early this year. In Japan there is a fun custom where stores sell a secret sealed “lucky bags” filled with unknown contents to customers. This year we’re coming out swinging with our best awesome lucky bags yet, filled with tons of great products accumulated by the J-List staff all year long, a huge value for you. And there are no duplicated products with the new J-List Box boxes, so you can order those separately and never worry about getting duplicate items.