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Column by Scott Green
FUNimation Licenses Afro Samurai
FUNimation has acquired home video, master toy and merchandising rights to Afro Samurai, an animated mini-series based on a graphic novel by Takashi Okazaki that will premiere on Spike TV in 2006 five-part mini-series. Samuel L. Jackson is set to voice and co-produce the mini-series. Namco (Tekken, Soul Calibur) is also working on a video game. The animation studio GONZO (Full Metal Panic, Gantaz ) describes Afro Samurai as a fusion of animation, science fiction and hip-hop.
"Afro Samurai has a fascinating story line and will undoubtedly have GONZO's stunning animation. High impact titles like this emphasize FUNimation's 'quality over quantity' strategy," says Gen Fukunaga, president and CEO of FUNimation Entertainment. "This is truly a unique project with an impressive team. GONZO is on board as series producer, Samuel L. Jackson is the voice of the lead character and also serving as co-producer, Spike TV is set to telecast the , and NAMCO is creating the video game."
The tale of Afro Samurai takes place in a unique world that is part ancient Japan and part futuristic science fiction fantasy. Samuel L. Jackson stars as "Afro" the solitary samurai on a quest to avenge the wrongful death of his father. It is a story of bloody hardship and pain. Afro sheds no tears and knows no love. Forever chased by powerful enemies in a lawless technology- speckled dystopia, he evades bullets and blade to reach his final prey: a man who will not die.
Dark Horse Picks Up Shin Lone Wolf and Cub
Dark Horse announced at the New York Comic Con that they have licensed Shin Lone Wolf & Cub, Koike Kazuo and Mori Hideki's follow-up to Lone Wolf and Cub, starring the famous child in the baby cart after the original revenge epic.
The release name for the series, which might be New Lone Wold and Cub, and format, whether it will be released in the 6.0" x 4.3" dimension of the original Lone Wolf and Cub, are still being considered. Hideki Mori who takes up the job of illustrating the epic from the late Goseki Kojima. Mori employs an art style and vigorous, organic brushwork which is strongly reminiscent of Kojima's, but he brings his own individuality to the task.
Koike begins the new "Lone Wolf and Cub" manga right where the original ended, with Daigoro amidst the aftermath of his father's revenge. A mysterious samurai appears at the seashore and forms a new bond with the boy.
Volume 1 will also contain an essay by Koike about his return to the manga epic after almost thirty years, and his thoughts on the international popularity of the story, including its influence on the film ROAD TO PERDITION.
No formal release date has been set, but it is tentatively schedule for the fourth quarter.
Other announced titles include Mail, Kurosagi Delivery of Corpse, Translucent, and Who Fighter.
|The Kurosagi Corpse
Mail and The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service are modern horror titles illustrated by Housui Yamazaki (who also writes Mail/9. Yamazaki is the protÃ©gÃ© of Eiji Ohtsuka-creator of the notorious manga MPD PSYCHO (which was adapted for TV by Takashi Miike) -who performs the writing duties on KUROSAGI. Both MAIL and KUROSAGI also share ultra-stylish covers from the design studio of Bunpei Yorifuji-Dark Horse is working to have the English versions be as close to the original designs as possible.
MAIL is about private detective Reiji Akiba, who has a theory about those awkward moments and weird coincidences we all encounter in life. They are actually encounters with the dead-their way of sending us a message. But you may not want to open such strange mail from beyond-not unless you can see the ghostly attachment, like Akiba can. And not unless you carry a gun that can kill what isn't alive, like Akiba's aptly-named magic Mauser, Kagutsuchi-"the tool between God and earth"-digging a divine grave to lay to rest the evil dead. Vol. 1 of Mail opens with a model's photo shoot at what was a lovely riverside. But someone's thrown their trash away here: human bones. When the negatives in the darkroom reveal hidden horror, it's time for the magazine to hire Akiba. The answers lie in the secret basement of a shunned house...but they don't lie peacefully! Mail was recently made into a live-action Japanese horror movie starring Chiaki Kuriyama-"Go-Go Yubari" from Kill Bill.
THE KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE: where your body is their business! Five young students at a Buddhist university, three guys and two girls, find little call for their job skills in today's Tokyo…among the living, that is! But their training gives them a direct line to the dead…the dead who are still trapped in their corpses and can't move on to the next reincarnation. The five form the Kurosagi ("Black Stork"-as opposed to the white one that brings you into the world...). Whether investigating an upper-class family cult of mutilation and murder, or the unquiet bodybags returning to an American Air Force base from Iraq, the kids from Kurosagi can smell a customer a mile away-it's a good thing one of the girls majored in embalming-and their Buddhist cool (it's only the body, after all) towards the hideous cases they become involved with makes KUROSAGI a cross between SCOOBY-DOO and se7en! The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: whether suicide, murder, accident, or illness, they'll carry your body wherever it needs to go to free your soul!
Vol. 1 of THE KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE will premiere in July, and Vol. 1 of MAIL in August.
Who Fighter will be collected with Heart of Darkness and Tanks, as one of Dark Horse's upcoming World War II themed releases. Creator Seiho Takizawa's talent has been described as being in the detailed, realist tradition of Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo. The collection has been descrubed as "the 'Weird War' of manga".
Who Fighter, a play on "foo fighter" is a World War II UFO tale. A Japanese air ace named Kitayama manages to shoot one of the fireballs down-or did he? As ominous signs and visions begin to follow in his steps, Kitayama wonders if he's lost not only his memory of the incident, but also his very mind...
Heart of Darkness is a short story retelling of Conrad's inspiration for Apocalypse Now from a Japanese solder's perspective. Japanese war hero, Colonel Kurutsu, has gone rogue, setting up his own private kingdom deep upriver in the jungles of Burma. Captain Maruo, sent to execute him, finds the true reasons for the Colonel's "desertion" are very different from what he was told.
The third story Tank is a surreal voyage through a hundred years of armored vehicles.
In an uncommon deviation from the norm, the collection has been arranged between Dark Horse and creator Seiho Takizawa directly rather than through a Japanese publishing house.
The works will be translated by Toshifumi Yoshida with lettering is Steve Dutro (Eden).
The one-shot WHO FIGHTER will be released in October.
Translucent is a shojo romance/drama with a twist of sci-fi. A very different tone from samurai drama and violent horror is struck by Kazuhiro Okamoto's TRANSLUCENT, the story of an introverted junior-high school girl named Shizuka, who one day begins to turn literally invisible as well. The mysterious disease, whose cause, cure, and path of contagion are all unknown as the story begins, becomes a metaphor in the ordinary lives of the students in her class as they try to work their way through their relationships and friendships. Although not considered a shojo manga in Japan, Dark Horse believes TRANSLUCENT is a title, like OH MY GODDESS!, that will also interest shojo readers in America. Writer and artist Okamoto knows how important surfaces are to people-especially at this time in people's lives-and TRANSLUCENT's shifting variables between what people can see, what people think they see, and what people wish to see in themselves and others makes for a manga of emotional sensitivity.
Vol. 1 of TRANSLUCENT will premiere in December.
Manga Spotlight: Lady Snowblood
Volume 2 The Deep-Seated Grudge
Kazuo Koike and Kozuo Kamimura
Release By Dark Horse Manga
While the movie adaptation of Lady Snowblood was the lynchpin inspiration behind Kill Bill, the original manga was in turn an works as inspired remix of elements. Period drama, a perennially popular genre in Japanese media from manga and movies to TV drives a juxtaposition a revenge epic, the florid melodrama and symbolism of 70's shoujo manga and the raunchiest sex and violence of 70's exploitation cinema.
In turns Lady Snowblood is beautiful and salacious. The volume opens with a scene of visual poetry. A supremely composed woman in a kimono walks through a field of flowers. Her careless gesture plucking a stem to place in her mouth is betrayed by a penetrating forward gaze. Foes rise up and unsheathe knifes, attaching the woman, who, as in a dance, raises her umbrella and unsheathes her own blade. In the same motion she cuts her foes and resheathes the blade. Flower petals rise up like waves and burry the bodies in floral sea foam as they crash down of earth.
The narrative similarly crashes from this beuatiful scene into something far grittier. Yuki Kashima follows the path of vengeance laid out at her conception into a village of the most destitute beggars, hoping to use their information network to find one of her targets. These caricatures of the dirty and deformed stand in stark contrast to Yuki's poised perfection. As illustrated in this example, she's a unique entity capable of adapted into any strata of society in her quest, a detail that is full capitalized upon.
While the mission of revenge evokes Lone Wolf and Cub, the attention to the workings of the time period is reminiscent of Koike and Kojima's Samurai Executioner. Historic religious shifts play significant roles in the stories of this volume, but so do less written about but representative details of history, such as the friction between western corporate life insurance and traditional death support systems. As with the other Koike translated works, the scholarly depth of Koike's inspection of history enhances the narrative for several reasons. It captures a dynamic evolution of history. Every sector of life contributes to the framework of power that the swordsperson protagonists work through. While Samurai Execution focus of occupation, Lady Snowblood seems to be a compendium of scams: the people who can accumulate money influence knowing the death anniversaries of members of prominent families or how clerks skim from the tills.
Lady Snowblood violence is full of edged brutality, particularly in her origin (the origin of Lady Snowblood herself rather than the back-story of her mother and the impetus for the vengeance, presented in the first volume) and training, but as seedy as the violence goes, it doesn't compare with the sex. Even when the sex is erotic, the context is disturbing. This volume in particular has a fairly graphic scene of a rather ugly woman masturbating, along with a discussion of female masturbation in it's cultural context. There's a very erotic lesbian sex scene, but involving a nun disguise, used to weaken and kill a woman with TB. Even the volume ending features a disturbing shadow of a sexual nature.
Kazuo Koike teams with an illustrator more with a more cartoon style than Goseki Kojima in Kazuo Kamimura. Compared to Lone Wolf and Cub, Lady Snowblood wears genre rather than grit. It captures the symbolism and cinematic spirit of a scene rather than the earth and physicality. While Lone Wolf took convoluted battle structures and exotic weapons (a team of fire watchers and their ladders at one point) and kept the spectacle ground in metal and mud, Lady Snowblood follows more of the rules of cinema flair.