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Column by Scott Green
Anime Spotlight: Naruto
Release by Viz
If you haven't heard of Naruto, you probably haven't been following anime too closely. Here's what you need to know: it's a series you're probably going to like. If you're interested in anime as close as possible to its original form, you're probably going to want to wait for the later, uncut release. And if you're older than you're teenage years, you're probably going to want to underplay you affection for the series.
As shoujo dominates manga in North America, shonen continues to dominate anime. Naruto has a good shot of taking the top spot. Bleach will probably complete. One Piece might have as well if its English dub wasn't such an abortion. But Naruto will probably cease a lock on the top position with a hold not felt since the heyday of Dragon Ball Z.
If Dragon Ball Z could be compared to silver age DC comics, with Superman moving planets and pulling off immensely imaginative feats, Naruto is silver age Marvel. Naruto follows the familiar shonen structure of battling all takers to be the best, but it also recalls the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko Marvel formula of the 60's that introduced the super-hero with human problems.
The cast eventually grows very large, but the unifying theme of the characters, and especially the titular lead is the drive to succeed to spite the limitations of social perception and dictates put on individuals... to make everyone take notice. Thanks to the complexity of the series' work building and the sincerity with which it treats its characters, Naruto manages to stay above generic "nobody understands me" teenage angst. Instead is builds specific and compelling reasons which explain the characters determination and personality
The other half of the equation behind Naruto's appeal is that it features the kind of action that draws you in and gets your heart pounding. When engaged, the action leverages a hefty arsenal of digital effects, as well as some quality and occasionally really artistic direction. It works, not just because there's a good sense of depth in the frame and plenty of impressive effects, but because it takes the time to establish what characters are capable, which invites the viewer to think about the strategy and be impressive when something new or inventive is revealed.
Many who watch Naruto will grow to love it, but, it is an abusive relationship. Naruto occasionally makes you put up with a lot. The dictates of it being a popular, weekly anime in Japan have been brutal to the long term pacing. At the end of the day there's an implicit, and always, eventually, delivered upon promise that interesting characters will throw down and put an unbelievable show beating on each other in some smartly novel fashion, but the lengths taken to stay behind the source manga can be painful.
Enjoyment of Naruto is tarnished for older fans by the size and vocalness of its young fanbase. When one set of fans is REALLY passionate about something, the reaction of another set, with a more detached interest. can be to be more subtle about interest work.
It's kindof like being a pr-wrestling fan. An intelligent person can appreciate the showmanship, be interested in what want into producing it, and be entertained by it, but in many circles, you want to keep the interest to yourself.
If you're on the older end of a fan spectrum, it's hard to come out in favor of a work that the younger rungs have very clearly adopted. There's nothing subversive about liking the series. It's a very accessible crowd pleaser, and the crowd who has been pleased tends to be a bit screechy.
The series opens in a ninja village that's comparable to a corporate town, with everyone pursing lined occupations under a hierarchical governance. A decade ago disaster struck the community when a demon, nine-tailed fox attacked. Desperate to save the village, the fourth Hokage (the Hokage being the top post of the hierarchy. This person is the fourth to hold the office. In a confusing circumstance, the Hokage in the series is referred to as the "third" because he held the office before, and then after the fourth), sealed the fox into the body of a new born baby, at the cost of the fourth's own life. Though the community was forbidden to speak of the child's tie to the massacre, he crew up without any family and ostracized.
By the time the child, named Naruto was ready to be tested for the progression from ninja cadet to ninja trainee, he was thoroughly alienated and attention starved. Desiring to be recognized, he dreams of being the hokage, but settles for being the most obnoxious nonsense.
The format of the work has evolved over it's approaching two hundred episode runs, eventually leaning more towards shonen adventure with increasing complex and lengthy story arcs, buffered by anime-only short stories, inserted to say behind the source manga.
This first set of generally episodic stories introduces the world, and demonstrates how Naturo is a screw-up with a spine of determination. He isn't a purely likable character. The village didn't do a particularly good job ensuring that the orphan was socialized, so when he's not drinking spoiled milk and spending an episode running to the bathroom, he's using his ninja skills to transform into a naked woman to torment older men. Still, he's the plucky underdog, and when his heavy beat synth-traditional theme song kicks in, and he does something clever, you can't help but pull for him.
These early episodes aren't an ideal showcase of what Naruto has to offer. The stories are a bit more childish and make of a point of showing Naruto's immaturity for his age, With action is a bit more simple and perfunctory and a the ensemble cast is in the early stage of its construction, it doesn't yet establish what makes the unique.
The first release of Naruto will be in the English dubbed, edited version as seen on Cartoon Network. Some anime fans may wish to wait for the upcoming uncut collections, but it's one of the better TV adaptations of anime series, with, for the most part, good voice work, a faithful translation that leaves in more original terms that many manga translations, and a bit more hitting and sexuality than you might expect from TV sanitized material. When the worst complaints that can be level against an adaptation is that it throws in a laughable catch phrase ("Believe It!") , it insistent about whether to use the word "kill" or "destroy" for ending someone's life and that it remove the noise bleed sexual excitement visual effect, there's little to get worked up about.
Anime Spotlight: Hare+Guu
Released by An Entertainment
Hare+Guu dominantly consists of repeated variations of the same joke, but, with an energetic absurdity that's comparable to the works of Shinichi Watanabe (aka Nabeshin, director/self inserted character of Excel Saga), the series is often laugh out loud funny.
Hare+Guu is set in a strange jungle. It's tempting to call the place an island, but the dialog might never refer to it as such, nor are there shots of coastline. The inhabitants wear grass skirts and hunt with clubs and spears, but they also have coffee makers and video game systems. The stubby Peanuts or Simpsons-like kids attend a multi-story Japanese/Western style school, but only use one room and hold a one-room-school type lecture. Wild-life is extra-exotic with creatures such as the Pokute, like a mini blemyae, the mythical man with face on its chest, or maybe a biped marshmallow rabbit with the harsh face of Berserk's aligned Behlit and arm/ears.
After a video-game joke that will surely win over gamers and those who have to deal with gamers, an outsider is brought into the jungle community. At least by implication, if not outright statement, this person seems to be from a more familiar culture, but is in fact far more alien. Mom comes home drunk one night, she's a bit of a drinker in the tradition of Evangelion's Misato, bringing an orphan albino girl with red eyes that shiny innocently and a guileless smile. So Hare, the native boy, meets Guu, the... whatever the hell Guu is. She acts politely. The two spending the evening playing board games, and Hare starts considering himself lucky. The next morning he wakes up and find Guu, not exactly as how he remembered her. Now, she has a perpetually furrowed brow, the dark, squinted eyes of a particularly unfriendly cat, and a slow, gravely, blunt voice.
Left to take care of Guu, Hare soon learns that she doesn't think or act like most other people. She doesn't, or at least insists she doesn't understand concepts like what a "tour" is. Then, there's her odd swallowing habit/ability. She later goes on to swallow a classroom full of people, and it will be show that her stomach is actually a surreal dimension with dancing trees, a centipede cat, a young Japanese woman, and a high school boy, but Guu starts by consuming a small, tame bird that brought joy to Hare's life.
This is basically what Hare+Guu appears to be. Guu acting bizarrely. Hare screaming and fretting and generally, loudly, playing the put upon male lead role. The former is consistently amusing, the latter is grating.
Guu is a Gem. She's not just strange, she seems consciously mean, if not evil. With a quiet, sarcastic, squint, sneer, she often seems to be hovering on the line between something between id and wickedness.
Hare's the straight man, and it's his job to point out how odd Guu is, even in his extremely unusual home, and what a nuisance she imposes, but it's pretty evident without him that Guu exists as some sort of personality singularity. His screeching almost hits the point of detracting from the series. Maybe it's because Guu is a deadpan character who often acts with a deadpan demeanor that the creators felt they needed a character in constantly frantic state, but a Peanuts like subdued exasperation may have worked too.
OEL Spotlight: East Coast Rising
by Becky Cloonan
Releaded by TOKYOPOP
Becky Cloonan on a pirate original English language (OEL) manga sold? How can one of the most exciting and unconventional comic artists on the scene turning her hand to a work marketed as OEL in a high spirited adventure not be a real treat? For those unfamiliar with Cloonan's past efforts on Channel Zero: Jennie One, Demo and more recently American Virgin, elements of her style are reminiscent of Paul Pope (who worked at Kodansha in Japan) and Iou Kuroda of Sexy Voice and Robo. In a work like East Coast Rising brings together the energy of pop energy of comics with a modern and informed look. Like a painting with evident brush strokes, in Cloonan's work the ink lines visual convey the energy of creation in the bold style. From a glance, there's a strong creative conviction n the illustration. East Coast Rising specifically is fun pirate adventure, a more American-teen One Piece, that benefits wildly from Cloonan's skill. Especially if you're a little young for Channel Zero and Demo, or you're disinterested in writer Brian Wood's political views, still make it a point to try Cloonan's work through East Coast Rising.
The high concept of East Coast Rising is Water World with a wink and a nod. In the flooded seas of what was the US east coast, young Archer is looking for the map to a location in sunken Queens, " The Tomb of Venti. A hoard of treasure hidden beyond the Gates of Bed-Stuy". The pirate of Jersey open the story by sinking the ship Archer is stowed away on, and swooping in with serpent-turtles to menace him. His fates turn when he's rescued Cannon-Ball Joe, a swash buckler with dreads and the crew of his ship La Revancha
The grudge-match between the wild, but affable crewed of La Revancha, and the more traditionally bellicose pirates of the Hoboken makes for brisk. exciting read. Cloonan's, whose resume seems to dominated by visual side of comic creation scripts a pitch perfect story. Not only does the story fit far better into the TOKYOPOP OEL graphic novel format than most writers' works, seemly flowing from introduction, though building action to the cliffhanger, she tops it with witty, slang filled and natural sounding dialog.
Cloonan recognizes that this sort of concept doesn't sit well with logical thought, so it is dealt with by being half goofy. The danger and emotions are given weight, but it features a lot of young and independent people without much authoritative supervision. Consequently, there are characters like the one named Deathsnake. He's a scraped up badass, but the name comes across as half ironic.
By Keiko Suenobu
To be release by TOKYOPOP April 2006
"Life's hard", and that expression is applicable to the manga too. Cutting/self mutilation is a queasy that could easily fall off the maudlin/after-school-special deep-end. Life handles it surprisingly well. It isn't the type of shoujo to be read as a diversion, but its comes across as genuine and true to the characters rather than just using them as didactic vehicles. Contrary to what the title may indicate it is not pretentious, and because it is histrionics free, it is both credible and readable.
There have been a number of cutters in movies, Secretary for example, but generally the act has been regarded as something to keep out of the glare of a focuses view. Here, it's very present, and rather graphic, complete with slices and beading blood. This has the unfortunate effect of giving the title an "Older Teen (16+)" rating, which is older than the characters depicted. One reason the manga works is that the act is both shocking and matter of fact. The narrative never leers at the characters.
The protagonist acquires a bad case of social shell shock during the exams/transition between middle school and high school, and even though events develop quickly, the manga builds a convincing case for her behavior. Though she is burnt badly by some important relationships, she is also treated rather well as a whole, which allows the manga to look at some of the feedback looks and self fulfilling prophecies. It also serves to keep the issues on a universal level. This character doesn't have a particularly shocking burden to drive her into her problems.
The first volumes packs a lot of negative emotion and cataclysmic social events into a short space. It's not enough to lend doubt to strain credulity when evaluating the depicted events, but enough to look at the "Vol. 1 (of 10)" with a bit of dread. There have been shoujo releases that have been dark, troubled and long, such as Mars, but 10 volumes of Life is a tough prospect.
Suenobu is more of a writer than an illustrator such that reading the manga, some time is needed to adjust to her limitations. Her work doesn't offer much range or consistency in faces. Consequently, when the character have similar hair styles, a number of scenes require multiple reads to parse. Suenobu doesn't change hair color to emphasis moments, but because it happens in manga, there's always doubt.
Manga Spotlight: Kage Tora
by Akira Segami
Released by Del Rey
Kage Tora should appeal to Inu-Yasha fans. Not that the stories resemble each-other, but that the tone resembles Inu-Yasha in that series' lighter moments and Segami offers Takahashi-esque comic timing and willingness to blow holes in the fabric of the mundane with deadpan glibbness.
The series is a comedy of physical exaggeration, in a moment's notice, the lead changes in the ninja accouterments and knocks aside all the furniture in the room to clear the area someone is tripping into. It starts woth a young, modern day ninja hired to train the daughter of a family whose clan is renowned through history for their martial prowess. This girl is physically awkward, so the family went to an outsider hoping ninja-skill will help her find a niche in which she'll excel. Rounding out the gimmick, she's short, cute and cheerful and he falls for her, but because it's his duty to protect train her , he can't get involved with her romantically. Think Sasuke and Chidori of Full Metal Panic, with a female lead who is less willful and a male lead who's less gruff.
The manga is certainly shonen, the ninja, not the girl is the focal character, but it's fluffy, pink shonen. While there are some suggestive moments, such as when the characters get physical training in judo, gags like ninja monkey who sometimes, not terribly convincingly takes the leads place are decidedly cute. There's a cultural edge to the humor, such as when a formal lady whips out a naginata (slashing spear) to kill a cockroach (historically women training with the naginata to defend the home). With no real urgency, comfortable and predictable, easily pegged as sitcom-ish, but fun and agreeable.
Vidcast Tokyo International Anime Fair Coverage
Vid-cast the TokyoAnime Insider (aka Anime for the Lazyman) (podcast like syndication of video rather than audio content) has announced that they will be covering Tokyo International Anime Fair, one of the biggest showcases for anime projects.
Their site is still in beta, and there are some odd ticks, but be sure to check out G-pen.com, an online network that hopes to become a one-stop spot for introducing and providing legal downloads of current and classic Japanese and international Anime.
Hosted by Chi, a Nigerian-American working at an animation studio in Tokyo, Japan, the show is both raw and well constructed. The episodes are dominantly in Japanese, subtitled in a cleverly ironic, almost public access sense.
The hosts make a lot of cogent points. They can be grouped with a intriguing, immerging group of comparative cultural observers who have started to take the pulse of how fandom in North America is evolving, compared to Japanese fandom. It's noteworthy how what they are saying is mirror that others, such as the Patrick Macias in his epic Anime World Order interview have also described.
However, in many case it seems like a discussion for the already informed. Anime fans looking for a thoughtful discussion that will fine tune their understanding of the medium should definitely make a point to view it, but for those looking for information, it a trickier proposition. It assumes some ground knowledge that may, unfortunately, be considered inside baseball to North American fans,, but which native fans would be very familiar with. This includes the some of the company/business arrangements, but also particular phenomena, such as Tsutomu Miyazaki, the killer who is credited by many with giving otaku (fans) a bad name .
Many of the episodes and even clips of the episodes have the foundations of ideas that would make intriguing topics for documentaries. Going to Shuiesha to ask permission to use Pokemon? Sounds good.
Detail on New Stand Alone Complex
Production I.G has revealed in a stock disclosure that the upcoming Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society will be a 100 minute movie released in summer 2006. Anime News Network reports the movie is being produced in Hi-Vision, a format used by Japanese broadcast networks to support wide-screen televisions. The same production team, including main staff, will be carried over from the TV series. It takes place two years after the refugee riot incident. A significantly larger Section 9, with over 20 new officers, investigates terrorist actions related to a wizard-like hacker "Kugutsu Mawashi."
Upcoming Ghibli Projects Info
From Ghibli Movie, Ghibli animated adaptation of beloved poet Kenji Miyazawa's play, adapted by Kazuo Oga, Taneyamagahara no Yoru ("Night of Taneyamagahara") will be released by Buena Vista Japan with Isao Takahata's (Pom Poko) Gauche the Cellist (also a Kenji Miyazawa adaptation) as part of the Ghibli ga Ippai Collection The collection will be released om July 7th. For more information see here.
Fruits Basket Figure Preview
Figures.com has posted images of prototypes for Southern Island's Fruits Basket maquettes here
Anime Game News
The Magic Box has images of Naruto: Narutimate Hero Portable ~ Mugenjo no Maki for the PSP here
Inkworks' 72 card Naruto trading card game will be released on March 29th. Inkworks is giving away free promotional cards on their site.
Patlabor 2 Release
Anime on DVD reports that Bandai Visual (not to be confused with Bandai Entertainment) will be releasing Ghost in the Shell direct Mamuro Oshii's Patlabor 2 on DVD July 11th at $29.98 and $89.98 for the limited edition.
New Konami Anime
AnimeNation reports /a>Konami has announced that they will be unveiling the following co-produced anime at the Tokyo International Anime Fair
Sky Girls: a 30 minute direct to video OAV
Otogi Jushin Akazukin ~ Fairy Musketeers
Midnight Eye Looks at Anime
The latest Japanese media magazine Midnight Eye has a number anime features include
Interview: Eiko Tanaka: She is the mastermind behind the fastest rising name in Japanese animation: Studio 4°C, makers of the mindboggling and masterful Mindgame.
Urusei Yatsura: Only You: From the fertile mind of mangaka Rumiko Takahashi comes this wacky and colourful early effort by the now legendary Mamoru Oshii.
Wicked City: A refreshing reappraisal of one of the decidely adult titles that earned 'Japanimation' its notoriety in the immediate post-Akira days.
Round-Up: Anime Special A sampling of some of the many varied joys of Japanese animation, from Dragon Boys and Belladonnas to no-good Neighbours.
Four Constables Preview
Dr Masters has provided a preview The Four Constable volume 4, a full color wuxia comic by Tony Wong (Weapons of the Gods, Oriental Heroes) and Andy Seto (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Shaolin Soccer), based on the acclaimed novel by Wen Rui-An.
Four of China's supremely skilled assassin/detectives serve only their Master Zhuge Zhen-Wo - The Little Flower, who in turn is head bodyguard and advisor for China's all-powerful Emperor. Yet the Constables' reputation strongly precedes them. Wu Chen - The Emotionless Cripple is a master of weapons and devices. Tie Sho - The Iron Hand possesses incredible chi and can stop the sharpest blades with his bare hands. Zhue-Min - The Life Snatcher is highly skilled in light-foot granting him undaunted legwork and kicks. Lastly Len Hsueh - The Cold Blooded was raised by wolves and has since learned to convert his pain into strength - enabling him to defeat opponents much stronger than himself. Each of them is entrusted by the Emperor with the power to arrest and execute any corrupt officials or lawless criminals within the Chinese Empire.
Vol. #4: With the aide of Emotionless, Iron Hands barely defeats the suicidal Sima. Now the four imperial constables are holding the kung fu fighting sadist captive to lure out the leader of the 13 masked killers. However, the seemingly unstoppable mastermind has since eluded Cold-Blooded, Life-Snatcher and the rest. All clues point to a high-ranking official with traitorous intent. Yet, when this official is found near death---an obvious victim of the 13—suspicions vanish. Still, the incident does point Master Shuge to the truth. Has this revelation come too late? If not, are the Four Constable and their exalted master skilled enough to take down this cunning killer, who lurks in familiar shadows? Also the Four Great Houses of kung fu enter the fray. With whom will they side? Or, might their intentions be more sinister?
ADV Announced Nanaka 6/17 Premiere
The first volume of Nanaka 6/17, entitled The Not-So-Magical Mishap, will be released by ADV on May 23rd.
Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai (Cromartie High School) and jointly produced by GENCO and J.C.Staff (Azumanga Daioh), Nanaka 6/17 is a high school comedy with magical charm. 17 year old Nanaka Kirisato has it all: she's beautiful, she's bright, and she's at the top of her class. But somewhere along the way, Nanaka lost touch with her classmates - including her best friend Nenji - who think she's become an arrogant snob! One day, in the midst of an argument with Nenji, Nanaka falls down a flight of stairs and gets seriously injured. The diagnosis is acute amnesia, and now Nanaka thinks she is six years old - and a magical princess! To add to the fun, she believes that Nenji also made a wish to become an adult. Let the magical misunderstandings commence!
Synopsis: Growing up can be painful. Especially when you fall down a flight of stairs, suffer severe head trauma, and wake up with the mental capacity of a kindergartener. Ouch! Now, 17-year-old Nanaka Kirisato has to grow up all over again. You see, Nanaka thinks she's been through a magical transformation, and she just can't wrap her head around the head trauma. But if she thought fitting in as an unpopular bookworm was hard, subtracting eleven years certainly won't help. Throw in a mullet-headed boy bully, a karate-chopping girl bully, a bullheaded best friend, and a barrage of schoolyard battles, and Nanaka's problems multiply exponentially! It all adds up to mayhem and mass hysteria in the first hysterical volume of Nanaka 6/17.
New York International Children's Film Festival Showing Miyazaki Films
New York International Children's Film Festival is presenting films throughout the entire calendar year. Beginning April 1 & 2 NYICFF will be at the IFC Center the first weekend of every month to show classic children's movies. Screenings will be available for all age groups from tots to teens. Then, in 2007, they will once again present a big city-wide March festival for their 10 year anniversary, while still keeping the year-round programming going.
April 1 & 2 they the NYICFFpresent East Coast theatrical premieres (and exclusive New York screenings) of two films by Hayao Miyazaki in their new English language versions. There will be audience giveaways including DVDs and rare Totoro and Catbus plush sent direct from Studio Ghibli in Japan. Advance tickets are on sale now at www.gkids.com
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind
APR 1 & 2 - 11:30AM
Ages 9 to adult
My Neighbor Totoro
APR 1 & 2 - 11:00AM
Tickets to all screenings are $10.75 adults/$7.00 seniors and children under 12. Tickets purchased online are subject to a MovieTickets.com service fee of $1 per ticket. There is no service fee for tickets purchased at the IFC Center box office.
Anime on TV
Anime News Network reports Adult Swim is expanding four nights a week to begin at 10:30pm EST instead of 11:00.
Zatch Bell is moving to the weekday Miguzi afternoon block at 4:30pm.
G4 is now longer listing their "Anime Unleashed" block on their programming schedule.