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Anime AICN - Anime Boston Report


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Column by Scott Green

Judging by the throngs of people on Saturday (the official convention attendance was 9,354) Anime Boston continued to grow in its fourth year, the second in which it was held at the Hynes Convention Center. Especially with the Big Apple Anime Fest out of the picture there's little competition, but Anime Boston has certainly cemented itself as the powerhouse anime convention of the North East.

Giving more evidence that anime fandom and the industry don't move in lock step, regardless of the difficulties that the distributors are having with the industry, fans are still flocking to anime and manga. And the industry has seemed to settle into its post boom struggle. If the operative mindset of 2004 was co-production with Japanese animators, and 2005 was eying the down-turn, in 2006 its' strategies for keeping a head above water. While FUNimation has extended their presence at the convention through the years, Manga Video, Geneon (who was a sponsor), Broccoli (another sponsor), Bandai, AN Entertainment and Anime Crash, had little or no presence this year, as opposed to visible presences in previous years. Central Park Media planned to be at the convention, but their story is in this week's news.

Though the North American anime industry had noticeably less to say, through serendipity or genius Anime Boston brought over two Japanese guests with lengthy careers, who offered a fascinating perspective on the production of anime. East coast conventions have some difficulty attracting Japanese guest, and the extra plan trip from the west coast it probably partially responsible. This year, what the guests brought to the experience was not just fulfillment of some sort of expectation that a top anime convention should have Japanese guests. Having two outgoing, funny speakers with wide perspectives of the medium was fascinating for fans of all levels of anime knowledge.

Going in, there was some difficulty figuring out who Shuzilow.HA aka Shujirou Hamakawa was. (He's the character designer and chief animation director for Solty Rei) .Granted there are a select few anime directors and character designers fans know (Voice actor knowledge tends to be more extensive). However as someone who as worked in anime for several decades and still contributes to some of the most cutting edge works, he more than made up for his lack of name recognition with his actual contribution to the field and what he had to offer as speaker.

Sumi Shimamoto was a more of known name as someone who voiced some of the great roles in anime in Miyazaki classics and beyond. Possibly one of the world's cutest 50 year olds, her career starting with roles like Clarice in Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaa, continued to include Maison Ikkoku's Kyoko, the mother in My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke's Toki and Giant Robo's Gin Rei and is still going in works like Avenger and Solty Rei.

Fans of English language voice talents had the chance to see Greg Ayres (Son Goku of Saiyuki), Steve Blum (Spike of Cowboy Bebop), Richard Epcar (Batou of Ghost in the Shell), Clarine Harp (a number of FUNimation titles), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Matoko of Stand Alone Complex), Vic Mignogna (Ed of Full Metal Alchemist), Carrie Savage (a host of Geneon titles), Kari Wahlgren (Haruko of FLCL), Michael Sinterniklaas (Leonardo of TMNT, also voice director of Giant Robo) as well as voice directors Chris Bevins (FUNimation), Tom Wayland (CPM, 4Kids) and David Williams (ADV) and localization producer Jonathan Klien (New Generation Pictures, Inc,)

Not being a fandom fan, the fandom events at the convention are not being covered in detail in this report. The requisite anime music video competition showcasing anime scenes cut to popular music, and the masquerade, showing cosplay (dressing up as anime characters) were present. As was Anime Boston's "Whose Line is it Anime", showing improv from English language voice actors. To comment briefly on anime music videos, there's so much available software to aid the editing of music videos, creativity is getting difficult to spot. If you have some talent and don't cut a popular action anime to a popular heavy beat song, it's probably going to be good. In panels and video rooms the convention showcased a number of fan parodies, which are a bit more difficult to find online and a bit more unusual and interesting than some of the anime music videos. To comment briefly on the cosplay, yes, of course their was plenty of Naruto. The popularity of Bleach has turned out to be a bit of a blessing, especially visual simplicity and formality of the black and white shinigami/death god uniforms. There was also a person dressed as a post mutilation Evangelion 02, which was a bit disturbing.

In the screening rooms, there were some welcome classics in addition to the expected (Final Fantasy: Advent Children). Arcadia of My Youth is a perfect anime to watch late one night at a convention, as Leiji Matsumoto mines the melodramatic origin of Captain Harlock for over two fours. Along those lines, Anime World Order favorite Odin was shown, no idea if Mike Toole was present for this, and he didn't seem to have a panel this year, at least not a bad anime panel, but he was at the convention with a Tiger Mask mask.

Then there was Kaiju Big Battel. A cheap description of Kaiju would be to call them the Gwar of professional wrestling. Though there isn't much competition, it's geek performance art at its finest as monsters and madmen settle their differences in the wrestling ring. The event was a deviation from the expected anime convention formula and presented fans a rare and exciting opportunity. Who knows when or where the next chance to see Kaiju live will be, so the fans at Anime Boston were really treated to the rewards of some outside the box thinking.

2006 is shaping up as year with a notable memorable convention season. Anime Boston was eclectic, and while from a purely anime and manga standpoint you can't compare Kaiju to CLAMP, the convention was a memorable and unique experience of which attendees will continue to be pleased to have been a part of in the years to come.

And here's the annual sign-in convention gripe Previous years there was a ping pong match trying to find where to pick up a press badge. Registration would tell you to go to info , who would tell you to go to con-ops, who would tell you yo go to the press liaison, who tell you to go to info con-ops. This year several asked people answer confidently, and multiple crowd management people said to go to registration. First problem, registration was a mess. There was a Byzantine cattle herding system that snaked through the facilities. The crowd had no idea what was going on, and the security volunteers was responding questions answers with yelled commands. In fact, through the event, security tended to deal with a lot of ambiguity about the lack of clearly demarked paths by being strict and abrasive. And the line had a nice habit of not moving, as if were leading into presidential voting polls AND flue shots. Which gets to cause of the line problem, there was a rather severe bottleneck in the process thanks to print in demand, plastic sealed badges. Presumably there was an economic reason for this, but it head to a rather bad first experience that even the convention staff was commenting on.

Of course, registration turned out NOT to be where to pick up a press pass. So while the convention organized had a fascinating and different offering of guests and events, it's attendee organization, while far from disastrous, wasn't exactly smooth.

Shuzilow.HA

Shuzilow.HA or Shujirou Hamakawa has been involved with anime for years, working from classics like Votoms and Black Magic M-66 to recent work for studio Gonzo such as Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, Kiddy Grade, and Witchblade.

The work he was most eager to talk about was Solty Rei ( the name being a play on sun ray), a project on which he was character designer, casting director and production director. The series ran 24 episodes in Japan from October 2005 to April 2006. The DVD release will be 26 episodes. Though no company has officially announced the rights to the series, in December 2005 FUNimation sent fan translators Shinsen-Subs a notice saying "We own or control various exclusive copyrights and trademarks related to the animated motion pictures, including but not limited to, the series known as "Speed Grapher," "Trinity Blood," "FullMetal Alchemist," "Dragon Ball," "Solty Rei" a.k.a. "Origin," "Detective Conan" a.k.a. "Case Closed," and "Tsubasa"." All of which except Solty Rei FUNimation officially acknowledges as licenses.

The series follows a human who as lost his family and a robot girl who has lost her memory. It's arc reveal who she was and how she arrived in her current circumstances.

Working on the series concept, he envisioned a world with a stark divide between the rich and the poor and an associated divide between the people that are 100% human and people with mechanized body parts. In this setting, the mechanization is cheap, allowing the rich to purchase body parts from the poor, who replace them with artificial parts.

He felt in each episode that he was trying to fit 40 minutes of material into a 20 minute run time, but he was happy with how the series came out, saying that production was smooth and little was lost from planning to production Showing plenty pride and passion in the series, he stressed that the series offers subtle clues throughout that can be appreciated when the whole series has been seen, and he feels that it was a rewarding work for the viewer.

Despite this serial nature, and dark elements of the plot, it was envisioned with situation comedies in mind, Family Ties in particular. (In the context it didn't seem to be, but this could have been a joke. In a separate interview he said he grew up wanting to be a comedian).

Developing Solty Rei, he wanted to look at what had been done along with what and what he wanted to do and find the intersection of his interesting and what had not been over exposed.

With a great personal attachment to the work he brought in creators he collaborated with in the past to contribute, especially to the mechanical design, resulting in work from the likes of Kenichi Sonoda (Bubblegum Crisis, Gunsmith Cats), Range Murata (Last Exile) and Hajime Satou (Big O)

Eight year ago, the Solty Rei concept was originally intended to be a game, but at the time limitations in what could be expressed with technology caused the idea to be shelfws. Now, with the anime complete and game technology advanced the game is back on track and being produced.

Shuzilow.HA worked on game design in the past and notes that now games and anime have merged. He finds that they start at a common place and the creator explores where story takes them, and which medium lends itself more to the projects. A difference between working in anime and games is that animation has become a well defined process, with steps that everyone involved knows. Game creation is constantly changing, and far more dynamic.

An element of character design work that Solty Rei showcased was the need for range and flexibility. In fact, because Solty Rei afforded him the opporunity to stretch his range, Shuzilow.HA called it one of his favorite projects. Thinking through the story, Shuzilow.HA found the need to create both gritty and cute characters. Solty Rei's opening was shown, and the sequence did juxtipose a sort of neo-noir scratchy style and a grizzled tough with a girl whose green hair looks like modern sculpture, who shows off nicely arm blocking a spider-tank.

Though he is able to adapt to the requirements of a project, he admitted that he tries to steer away from design work that he's not good at. Character designers receive a high volume of feedback. Female characters in particular receive a lot of response during the creative process as people want them to reflect their own tastes. He joked that no one comments on the design for older men

In general, character designers both need to develop their own style and be able to adapt it to the needs of a project. to be successful.

Asked about the pressures of growing international on anime creation, Shuzilow.HA mentioned that the topic is brought up in planning, but that it really doesn't have a discernable effect on the creative process in series that are not co-productions. In Solty Rei, he made how the series he wanted to, and he it also wanted seen by an international audience.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo's unique texture mapped look was a reaction to the proliferation of 3d elements in anime. The animators where looking to see what the technology could lend to backgrounds and composition, so less time was spent on what he described as simpler characters. He stated no particular influence was at work in the look's design, though a mention of Klint in the question received some reaction.

In the transition from hand draw animation cells to digital, Shuzilow.HA finds himself more comfortable with cell techniques, being that it is what he came up with. His mindset is a bit oldschool and he finds that when 2D and 3D elements are combine he can tell at a glance and that it looks a bit odd to him.

Shuzilow.HA worked on several 80's American co-productions including Transformers and Thundercats. A difference between the American animation procedure, including these works, and the Japanese procedure is that American productions record the voice work first, and dialog may include ad-libbing. Animation then needs to be matched to the voice recording rather than the other way around.

Witchblade, which has recently commenced on Japanese TV took its story queues from the publisher of the English comic series, Top Cow. The new Gonzo anime is set in future in order to have continuity with the comtemporary set comic, the dictate being that there is only one Witchblade at a given time. The advantage this provided was that the anime series could tell its own, original story.

Gonzo's willingness to take on the original story for Witchblade was presented as an example of what distinquishes the young studio. Shuzilow.HA suggests other studios would have insisted on doing a more direct adaptation of the comic. Because of its recent formation, Gonzo is less set in their ways and less restricted in the type of projects they pursue. Given the trends in animation, their ability to transition to new technologies and lack of allegence to one in particular feeds this flexibility.

Looking foward, Shuzilow.HA has 2 or 3 more personal, original projects in mind. In these original projects, whether he wears multiple hats as he did in Solty Rei depends on how the projects evolve. As a freelancer attached to Gonzo and with the several year development cycle of these projects his exact involvement depends on how his work loads developes as the production progresses.

His next project is one of the dream adapatations he had hoped to work on, but he could not announce it now.

Shuzilow.HA said that his career has been long and a bit unconventional in all the roles he has held. He came into direction late in career and notes that the director is a challenging position in that it picks up the work that falls through the cracks.

American animation that he has enjoyed recently include Atomic Betty and The Incredibles. He enjoys warm family dramas and joked that he wished he thought up the concept for the Incredibles.

Sumi Shimamoto

Sumi Shimamoto's resume is one of the real monuments in voice acting. She begun her career with lead roles in Hayao Miyazaki's earliest feature directorial work sand has continued t play significant roles through the development of modern anime.

As she came up in the field, voice actors of Shimamoto's generation were from theatrical backgrounds, hers being stage theatre. Specifically, her stage work was part of troop that mostly performed contemporary original works. In her stage career, she was asked by the cultural ministry to perform in China for three weeks in a Japanese production . She was asked to audition for a role in the adapation of the stage based shoujo Glass Mask, but the producers decided to go with new comers.

During her time as a voice actor, the profession evolved into a specialized field. Voice actor dedicated school have opened, and popular voice actors have been able to make a living just doing voice roles.

Commenting on fans, she said Japanese interest in voice actors boomed in 80's, and got to the point where fans would wait outside studios. As the years have passed, this interest has stabilized, and fans no longer make the effort to cross paths with the actors.

Asked about idol singers and other non-actors being given voice roles in recent years, Shimamoto said that there is a tradeoff. These non-actors are indivually not as good at performing. They don't have the foundations. However, they offer a unique take on their roles. She commented that voice actors trained in the schools tend to sound simular and have similar emotive abilities

Shimamoto's voice work has also included dubbing live action movies into Japanese, including Princess Leia in the original Star Wars.
Dubbing live action is more precise and limiting than animation. The actor has a running feed of the original dialog to listen to while performing to aid matching the lip movements. This strictive the preformance to a degree where animation allows one to put more of one's own twist and be more creative.

In terms of dubbing cell animation versus digital animation, the major difference is that there is less work to rewind the video feed when repeating takes. Back with 8mm or 16mm, they had to hand rewind the film and in one memorable example, the film caught fire.

Voice work for games is marked by a difficulty in knowing the character of the role and the story, but there is less movement to match.

Shimamoto sees her own personality as cute, and certainly seemed superlatively cute in the interviews. She said that because they match her own personality she finds cute characters the easiest to perform. The mother in Detective Conan/Case Closed being an example of this. Ironically she dubbed the Sharon Stone role in Basic Instinct into Japanese, providing a sample of the huskier voice used during the discussion, and hopes she will be called to reprise the in Basic Instinct 2.

In Japan she is most frequently associated with her Miyazaki roles, though with more networks on TV she's surprised that younger fans know some of her older works. A Little Princess Sara from the World Masterpiece Theatre omnibus was mentioned as one of these older roles people are being re-acquainted with .

Shimamoto joked that when she first worked with Hayao Miyazaki on Castle of Cagliostro, his hair was jet black. As she worked with him again and again, his hair went salt-and-pepper, then grey, and now white. She speculates that this is from his hard work as much as it is from his age.

She was able to see the pre-Studio Ghibli work on Nausicaa being animated, specifically the hieroglyphics oponeing. With great enthiasm, Miyazaki showed her how they animated the movie's herd of ohmn insects. Rather than animate each sell, the animators constructed puppets with strings to move the segments.

Shimamoto wanted the title role in the ecological epic Nausicaa from when she first read it. Recording was done over three days starting with the character at her cutest and most vulnerable, with scenes and the fungal forest . For this, she had to talk into a cup, held onto her face with rubber bands to get the gas-mask distortion of for her voice, but it was over over excitment in her spirited perfomance that had Miyazaki telling her to try and sound more matural. She then procedured to perform a different aspect of the character on each day.

My Neighbor Totoro was the first mother role she performed when she was a mother herself. Though the characters where older than her child, it holds a special emotional resonance. As a family person, she mentioned the concern of falling birth rates and asked if it is the same in America.

Shimamoto's opinions on Princess Mononoke were more ambivalent. Seeing it, she was uneasy about how it was different from most Miyazaki movies, and wondered if the creator/director was entering into a new phase. There was no flying unlike most of his movies, and felt that it closed in a abrupt manner, with no real ending. She was happier to see Spirited Away develop into what she considered a return to form.

Shimamoto noted that the difficulty in working with Miyazaki is his abundance of ideas which are not explicit in the script. He has a detailed concept of how the works he constructs functional and at times, the actors find it difficult to know what to capture. For example, in Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka, the young chief to be, is called "big brother" by the children of the village. It is not uncommon for children to refer to older familiar young adults as big brother, and the actors indicated this in their intonation. Miyazaki had to correct them, saying that in the culture of this village a person of Ashitaka's station is called "big brother" by people of all ages. In this case, it is an official title.

She is playing the reoccurring role of Shokupan-man (a play on the name of a Wonder-bread like white bread) Soreike! Anpanman, a popular children's anime running since the late 80's about a sweet roll-super hero. She hopes Anpanman is able to continue as long as one of her favorite anime work Sazae-san. One of the longest running anime series, Sazae-san adapts a comic strip about the life of a fairly typical Japanese woman. One of the most universally known anime/manga in Japan, it is a work anime fans should try to be familiar with, even if the subject matter of the work itself doesn't explicitly interest them. Shimamoto spoke fondly of the series and said with pride that she starred in a live action tv series from the Sazae-San's creators older sister. Sazae-san and Anpanman are key members in a level of anime that is enormously significant in Japanese culture, but which does not receive much exposure internationally.

Shimamoto said that she likes cutes anime like Sazae-San, Pokemon and Hamtaro, but also commented she wished there was more more mature anime for older auidences.

While by no strech a gaming enthisist, Shimamoto does spending some time as a Playstation 2 rpg player. She enjoys the Final Fantasy series and she has already completed 12. She commented that she was not good at the online one

Both guest response to questions about American fans with amusement about how much the cosplayers look like the characters they are portraying.

Kaiju Big Battel

With the exception of those who are present at a given convention, keeping track of the guests and events at a given convention is not the easiest task, but in all probability, it will go down as a mark of distinction that Anime Boston 2006 hosted a Kaiju Big Battel.

"Kaiju" is an umbrella term for a host of classic Japanese special effects movies ranging from growing super-hero Ultraman to mechanized sci-fi Super Atragon but most recognizably the man-in-suit giant monster ones.

Kaiju Big Battel employs a host of these beasties in a rare and brilliant excursive in geek performance art. As an idea, Kaiju is so bizarro it can't help but intrigue fans of the offbeat and instantly dumbfound everyone else. You'll find more mute acceptance introducing the appeal of "Godzilla suit wrestling" than you will Japanese animation, as if there's instant recognition that the absurdity of this alien act is something you'll either enjoy or don't.

There are kaiju DVDs for sale, a third one has been announced, but seeing a Kaiju event in person is a real opportunity not to miss. Both seeing the full match story-lines and seeing these creations, scale down from their imagined full size, but still quite with an aura and in some cases actual, larger than life, in person is a heady experience. Even though the the buildings are recognizable, seeing the sandcastle like destruction of Boston's landmark Prudential tower in path of the carnage stoked with a stream of comparably smaller replacement models is evokes something more along the than lines of the NES game Rampage than any sort of reality.

You need to go through a bit of an associative chain to get from anime to Kaiju, the most direct being fans of anime may also be fans of kaiju cinema being that its another visually distinctive Japanese export that touches on some of the same genres. Yet the cross-over isn't just genre. One of the appeals of anime has always been that it offered something not found is other media or in other schools of animation. Whether it was the Argo purposefully advancing through space in Star Blazers, the clowns and delinquents tearing through the streets of Neo Tokyo in Akira or Ed and Greed engaged in a deadly dance in Full Metal Alchemist, many an anime fan was hooked by the unique spectacles it had it offer. Same can be said of Kaiju Big Battel

At this event, a classic Toho style turtle creature out-massed, but ultimately lost to his helmet masked, game-pad armed sentai opponent; tragedy struck a tag team match between demon monkeys and South American revolutionary plantains and Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle engaged Dr. Cube in a title bout.

Tailoring the tone of the event, arch-heel Dr Cube cut a number of viciously amusing promo ripping anime fans to the amusement of many. The icing was a match pitting a honey bee against a sea urchin in a modified casket match using exceedingly well designed box of faux-pocky Mocky (pocky is the chocolate coated cookie stick Japanese junk food anime fans have adopted as a favorite, unavailable for purchase at Anime Boston due to venue concessions monopolies,)

The exact nature of the "Some One Must Die!" set-up was surprise, but Kaiju followed through with an echo event ending that was predictable in that ritual way of pro-wrestling. It's the sort of all or nothing twists and swerves that makes wrestling story telling so amusing, an which would make Kaiju a real thrill if it had the opportunity for a regular serial format.

Seeing the event live, rather than just highlights, you get full experience of wrestling storytelling, not just the serpentine soap opera story-lines of factional truculent relationships forming, breaking and reconfiguring, but within a match. If you've seen any professional wrestling, you should be somewhat familiar. Hulk Hugan gets beat down by the villain, and when he has had enough, he surges and finishes the foe with a leg drop. Done well, and Kaiju does it well, this is can be more complex and interesting. Smaller opponents chip away at larger ones. Waves of foes enter the ring and are repelled. Combatants are injured and overcome. Rather than isolated spots, there's a progression and flow, something that event action anime sometimes forgets to incorporate.

In interviews the creators of Kaiju have said that they used the wrestling ring as a convenient format and familiar metaphor to stage their stories rather than an homage to a form of entertainment that they were fans of. However, in some ways Kaiju in the logical next stage in the evolution of professional wrestling. Not only does everyone know that professional wrestling is predetermined, the wrestling fan that doesn't know this is by far the exception, there's now mixed martial arts promotions like UFC that offers both the larger than life personalities of professional wrestling and real competition.
If you take the cartoonishness past the heights of standard pro-wrestling, no one's intelligence is insulted. If you're going to be ridiculous, why short change yourself. Go atomic with the spectacle.

As physical performers, the kaiju are more than sufficiently athletic. The target is not exactly to recapture professional wrestling, and as such the scale does not mirror how more strictly wrestling events would be considered. They are not doing reality based chain wrestling and they are not doing some of the acrobatics you'll see elsewhere, but there is certainly plenty of the "there's no way I could do that" in the movement. While in some of the kaiju suits a cart wheel is a jaw dropping feat, the matches featured the full of array of power-bombs, walking the top rope, and what looked to have been a standing moonsault.

While the thrill of a Kaiju event captures the childish glee of seeing a big mouthed villain punched in the face and seeing something painstakingly crafted stomped on, at the same time the artistic origins are evident. Filing into the event, the towering details of the model Prudential tower could be seen, and while you had to think "wow, something is going to get its head thrown through that," you also had to admire the high craft.

There's a strange and probably unintended parallel to professional wrestling here. If your a fan of professional wrestling, and think about it, you have to come to terms with the fact that what the wrestlers are doing to their bodies is far from healthy, and by cheering them on you are encouraging them to destroy themselves. In Kaiju, it is explicit part of the contract. Here's something could be thought of as beautiful in some bizarro way, it's going to destroy or be destroyed.

Maybe more than even a rock concert, merchandise is a key feature of Kaiju, and even in this they embrace the ephemeralness of the experience. There iid artistic backbone to the product and that results in something like Takashi Murakami's superflat movement, or maybe like Wonder Showzen, a parody that's purely entertaining, but at the same time has an almost contradictory elegance. If you watch Kaiju's videos, particularly their commercials you'll see something that both jabs at commerciality and is unabashedly commercial. Love the art, buy the t-shirt. It specializes in skewed icons, featuring designs to make corporate brand managers sweat in jealously, such as the cube and crossbones. And the commercials stage the products in the same underground, ephemeral light. The posters don't get framed, they get stuck post boards, the stickers are to pasted on an anonymous wall where it can randomly be seen.

Is there a meaning beyond the thought "giant monsters kick ass, though maybe not as much as cans of chicken soup"? Probably not. Regardless, Kaiju Big Battel aesthetic lighting, and an event not to be missed. Anime Boston goers were definitely fortunate. Moral being, if Kaiju Big Battel comes to your area, make plans.

ADV

There haven't been many ADV announcements in the last year, but the company asserts that they have been secretly busy. The message between the lines is that their strategy in anime and manga involves waiting for the industry to settle and for the volume of releases to thin.

ADV likewise asserts that the anime market is not down. That the reality is that is the DVD distribution method, particularly in chain stores is broken for the amount of releases. They expect more shelf space competition with the introduction of HD DVD and Blue Ray, as major releases are carried in three formats. Legal downloads is seen as a work around to the problem. Phone downloads already offered. Going forward, cost will be based on resolution with a range between Ipod and HD.

An issue that will effect what anime is available of the next generation format is that animation studios are aligning with particular technologies. This has the potential to restrict certain anime properties to either Blue Ray or HD.

ADV has nothing to say about manga except mentioning new releases of Anne Freaks and Angelic Days. No words of encouragement were given waiting for delayed releases.

After canceling a showing on first day due to legal stumbling block, ADV was able to unveil their latest anime license on the second, Jinki:Extend, the manga of which was released with their Mag Garden titles.

ADV screened the first episode of the series.
The series is noted for its recast version of the original Gundam opening, which doesn't actually appear on this episode (find it on YouTube), but this would play into how the series seems to be working. Based on this episode, it looks like a very dead pan meta joke about giant robot anime. There are very few laugh moments on in the episode, but the way in which firmly adherrs to conventions one moment and bends them back the next exhibits a very dry humor, as if pinching genre fans and testing to see what they will react to.

The episode offers some dizzying time jumps in its narrative. It opens with a tenant of not just giant robot stories, but anime in general. Tokyo Tower is blown up. Well rendered, rather large scale 3D model giant robots do their thing battling out. Their young girl pilots, especially compared to the detailed robots, are a bit bland looking, or maybe abstractly simple and empty.

The series cuts to a young girl building model robots and entering in a competition on her absent grandfather's name. Maybe a sexist assumption, but a young girl engaged in a patently male, geek male at that activity seems one of these tweaks. Then the grandmother who cares for her passes away. Beside this unusual hobby, she is a formal and traditional girl who carries around her grandmother's memorial tablet. The show cuts again and she's kidnapped by a hulking crossdresser, played straight like many possibly humorous moments. She's put into a truck with all her possessions and dumped in a giant warehouse. She escapes, only to fall into the ditch made by a robot's foot print, and with glee she looks up and discovers real mecha.

After wondering whether the heavy armed robot is used for war, except for Patlabor when aren't they, she escapes pursuers by hiding the mech. After building such as advanced machine, and launching it against mysterious attackers, the people who kidnappedthe girl manage to completely foul up in their engagement with the enemies. There are a few laugh out loud moments with some base humor, but most of the time you get the sense that the series is subtly trying to get a rise out of you.

ADV is running a new print on demand merchandise service at Printfection.com. Series images available to be printed on t-shirts, tote bags, and other merchandise include:

AzuManga Daioh
BubbleGum Crisis: Tokyo 2040
Chrono Crusade
Cromartie High School
GANTZ
Godannar
Kaleido Star
Mezzo
Saiyuki: Requiem
Samurai Gun

Printfection.com is offering a limited time sale of $5 off all purchases of $20 or more

The Evangelion 10th anniversary collection will package the platinum release of the series with an exclusive jacket that features the Gainax 10th anniversary Eva logo on the front and a black on black Eva 01 face on the back.

Some older series, specifically asked and mention Lost Universe and Gasaraki are unlikely to be released in thin pack collections.

They are looking at Elfin Lied "missing episode" direct to video oav, but it was not available when they first licensed the series so they're now not sure how to handle the release of the single episode.

ADV has run into the limitations of what can air on TV. They did a proof of concept edit of Gantz, which ended up far too short

Makoto Shinkai (Voice of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in our Early Days) is working on a new project, and was said to be a "hot talent" in Japan.

The company didn't discount a release of the new Nurse Witch Komugi-Chan Magikarte Z oav.

Because ADV's release of shonen epic Saint Seiya is tied to DiC's localized Knights of the Zodiac version, which has lapsed, ADV cannot release any more of the series.

Anime Network is speaking to Direct TV about the linear version of network, but the carrier is currently featuring pay per view offerings. Bandwidth is currently an issue, but may not be in the near future. Disk Network is in a similar situation. ADV still considers Anime Network in its embryonic stages and says it is further along than where the company had planned it be at this stage.

The extra are planned out for Macross release. These extras and the music are subject to the mercy of licensing issues. Similarly, prestige packaging like the one used for Five Star Stories are expensive due to designer royalties. In some cases selling stand alone sets are not available because in some licenses they fall under the umbrella of merchandising rights.

A reissue of the Battle Angel Alita anime is subject to James Cameron holding rights.

Bubblegum Crisis 2041, the follow-up to the late 90's remake of the 80's cyber-punk action is still on the table, but the participants are busy, so it is being kept in and the bank and it probably will not happen until a hit is needed.

Media Blasters

Media Blaster's John Sirabella dropped a few bombshells in his typical, understated manner. The first being that the company has licensed Takashi Miike's live action Zebraman, a sentai super-hero comedy and family film from the director best known for his shocking horror. For exciting anime news, Media Blasters will be co-producing a new Kite, tentatively scheduled for 2007. The 45 minute feature will be a child assassin story parallel to the original violent tragedy, in which Sawa, the protagonist of the original Kite, makes an appearance. The live action Hollywood adaptation was mentioned, and said to be moving ahead slowly. Also of note, "Kite" was pronounced like the flying cloth rather than a romanji phonetic reading. Other announcements are expected to be ready for the Anime Expo convention.

Voltron is seen as this year's big title for the company in the way Ah My GoDess and Zim were. Voltron and the original Go Lion with be released separately (due to content differences), then vehicle Voltron with its original Dairugger XV. The crossover movie is also licensed, but not the 3D animated Voltron.

Gaogaigar, the neo-classic (1997) mecha series will be released with about 5 episodes in its first volume, and will likely have a deluxe, series box version available. Gaogairgar is being used to gage public interest in similar mecha series. For example Go Nagai's Mazinger Z was inspired "might not be a bad show." Gaogaigar is a work that is liked internally within Media Blasters and the people involved in adapting it recognize fan expectations. Gaogaigar is seen as a title with potential for TV, though in general Media Blasters views TV deals as a haphazard long-shot.

Their release of the magical relationship comedy Ah! My Goddess is selling as well as expected, and has made it into Wallmart. Media Blaster is looking at the second season of the series, which is currently airing on Japanese TV.

On the manga distribution, they will be releasing more Level C, Crimson Blade and Aiken.

The creation of more Invade Zim is very unlikely, especially not with Jhonen Vasquez.

9:00 Woman episode 3 is not likely due to legal issues.

On other distribution formats, they are in particular looking for more telephone downloads for sale.

Media Blasters recently marked its 10th year in the industry. It's release output includes about 200 SKUs a year, and they are involved in a few movie productions.

TOKYOPOP

TOKYOPOP started their panel promoting their prose novel lines. The first was existing anime based titles, including .hack and Gundam Seed on which they commented is more has a high angst quotient in line with anime rather than manga, Gavitation and Love Hina. Devil May Cry 1 and two novel adapations will be released. A manga adaptation of third Devil May Cry has already been released.

Their new Pop Fiction novel line are not necessarily tied to manga, but work as stand alone stories. These novels include Scrapped Princess and Kino no Tabi (Kino's Journey). Titles that don't originate in japan include Magic Moon from Germany, and Witchs' Forest, based on RPG Fortune Quest. The theme for the anime-related prose was described as "Life's Imperfections", for example, the tag line for Kino no Tabi is the "the world is not beautiful, therefore it is beautiful." TOKYOPOP hopes to globalizing novel the way they have for manga.

"Manga Readers" chapter books for children include Gross Adventures and Agent Boo. Gross Adventures was promoted with fart noise producing pens. Apparently the books like feature kids who power inventions with body gas.

VALSA library award winning titles have included:
Dramacon
Kamapai
Fruits Basket
Off Beat

Adventure comedy Van Von Hunter will be syndicated with new material when Peach Fuzz completes its news paper run.

On released titles called singing manga Dragon Voice was referred to out as the best title no one is reading.

Upcoming licensed mang include:
Strawberry Marshmallow
Trinity Blood: called a female oriented Vampire Hunter D
My Hime: taking Bandai's lead on the title translation (the original Mai Hime captures additional puns in the title
Welcome to NHK: a comedy about one of Japan's named social disorders forgotten here about people who do nothing after high school
Genjuno No Seiza from the creator of Petshop of Horrors
Satisfaction Guaranteed
Peach Girl Sae's Story
Platinum Garden
Elemental Gelade
Bus Gamer: a one volume for the creator of saiyuki
Grenadier fan service action called trigun with a female lead
Otogi Zoshi
Voice Of A Distant Star
Petite Cosette

The manwha industry collapsed many creator have moved on to video games leaving series unfinished. New or upcoming titles include Queens: a cross dressing work
Angel Cup

Global Manga
TOKYOPOP presented the case for "World Manga" as the label for manga created outside Japan. "Original Manga", which did not really seem to be used, was passed over because manga for Japan is also "original" "Original English Language" or OEL was passed over because the works might not necessarily be originally in English, a German work was sited.

The creator of the upcoming My Cat Loki was present. The title follows an animal love who takes in a stray cat, and because of his psychological attachment with the animal begins begins the cat with physically human features.

Boys Of Summer by Chuck Austen and Hiroki Otsuka. Both have done pornographic works, and this work's sexuality content issues gotten it pulled from a number of retailers.

TOKYOPOP confirmed that they no longer have the lisense for the manga version of Spiral.

No repackaging of anime is planned with the FUNimation distribution of the titles, but they would not confirm or deny that they'd be bringing over more anime.

They would not confirm or deny animation adaptation of their properties. They mentioned the live action adaptation of Priest, saying that Viggo Mortensen is attached to the project. They would not confirm of deny that TOKYOPOP is involved in the Priest movie.

The awaited volume 15 of horror Western Priest is expected for an October release.

The panel was run by Jonathan Chen, the editor of Chibi Vampire, who answered that the book's comment was backward (a left to right cover with right to left pages). A re-issue is will soon be shipped to retailers.

The company is looking for interns, see their form for details.

FUNimation

FUNimation formally confirmed the worst kept secret in North American anime distribution, that they had licensed the anime version of shonen rock story Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. The reason for the lag was the complex legal clearance for all the songs, product mentions and trademarks within the work.
Directors Chris Bevins and Taliesin Jaffe (ROD TV and Hellsing) are currently working on the adaptation and have already gone through the first round of casting for the English language dub. Mike McFarland (Fullmetal Alchemist the movie and Trinity Blood) is also on the project as music director. Among the challenges in the adaptation are the instances in which characters speak a mix of Japanese and English. Bevins mentioned that there are some thoughts on how to handle this, but did not give specifics. The series features a notable amount of English language swearing and currently, FUNimation plans for the series is to keep the strong language and themes.

On the topic of music rights, FUNimation was unfortunately unable to secure the Duran Duran song "Girls on film", used for the opening of the upcoming series Speed Grapher.

FUNimation showcased some of their upcoming special edition packaging, available with the first volumes of new series. Basilisk will be released in a wood box, similar to the one Media Blasters used for Samurai Deeper Kyo.

Negima will be released in a thick school box like package with vinyl stickers. Each volume of Negima will be available in an alternate, addition with a mini-figure.

Anime on DVD has images of the box sets here

FUNimation has been awarded Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid by Kadokawa Pictures USA. Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid is the third season in this popular anime series and FUNimation has scheduled October 3, 2006 as the street date for the first DVD.

Though ADV released the first two Full Metal Panic works, because most of the English dub cast already works with FUNimation, the company believes that they will be able to re-constructs the same cast for Second Raid.

FUNimation showcased their FuniGirls online community at their company's panel, and in its own panel. The brand will be used for online content and possibly for merchandise, but not as a distinct label for anime releases.

FUNimation's titles from studio Gonzo, Basilisk, Desert Punk, Speed Grapher and Trinity Blood will be promoted with Babe Blades, Blood and Beauty campaign.



With the aid of Transworld, FUNimation has upgraded their convention booths so they they can now sell their own releases, some of which will be available shortly before street dates.

With the theatrical cuts releases of the early episodes of Basilisk and Trinity Blood, FUNimation Films is ramping up for a larger release of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie: Conqueror of Shambala. The movie should be available in movie theatres in most major cities. After that, the next feature will be the live action Shinobi. FUNimation has received the go ahead from parent company Navarre to keep in eye out for live action works that would appeal to the company's audiences.

The company is not currently able to talk about the Full Metal Alchemist OAV shorts, but said that the North American release of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie would be similar to the Japanese packaging, including a translate and adapted booklet.

An announcement concerning Dragon Ball Z release packaging, hinted to be cheaper and more shelf friendly, should be coming out soon.

The paper cranes gather to encourage the production of a second season of Fruits Basket have recently been mailed.

The Kodocha Babbit box 2 case will feature an exclusive plush of the series babbit mascot and a DVD of exclusive sketches.

Detective Conan is currently more on a 6-episode release, every six week schedule.

FUNimation has a 5-10 year plans for their TV network, but at this time continue to work with other stations, like Cartoon Network and IFC to carry their anime.

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles

More than a year ago, a distribution announcement for the Robotech sequel, produced by Harmony Gold and animated by Dr Master was emimant. Since then, matters have taken two steps back and one step foward. Production has completed, the movie/pilot has screened at Cannes, and distrobition negiations are again "extremely positive."

In 2005 Harmony Gold was approached by a distributor and after four months of negioations, they had a contract in hand. They were going to announce the distributor at 2005's San Diego Comic-Con, but the deal fell through when Harmony Gold noted several clauses of the contract, particularly that there was no guantee that the feature would be distributed during its five year length.

Following the screening at Cannes, Harmony Gold has announce that the new feature-length animated film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles has been accepted at the following film festivals in North America:

NEW YORK KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL
August 25-31, 2006
KoreanFilmFestival.org

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles will be screened at the world famous ImaginAsian theatre in the Big Apple as part of the New York Korean Film Festival. This event is sponsored by the Korea Society and is the largest Korean Film Festival in the United States.

INTERNATIONAL HORROR & SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL
October 13-15, 2006
HorrorScifi.com

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles will be screened on Saturday, October 14 and Sunday, October 15 2006 at the International Horror & Science Fiction Film Festival in Phoenix, AZ. This event is sponsored by the Phoenix Film Festival and is dedicated to the promotion of Horror and Science Fiction filmmaking worldwide.

Much of the mecha designs is based on the Mospeada phase of Robotech, both due to legal concerns and becease the new phase follows the Mospeada chapter of Robotech.

Harmony Gold is looking to showcase Shadow Chronicles at more festivals, which will be announced at here

Toynami has a prototype of a Beta fighter that would connect to the previously released Alpha. The figure is quite larged, so if released, if could retail for $200 or more.

Toynami has recently release a 1/100 scale, transforming VF1 figure.

Harmony Gold re-iterated that legal contentions between Tatsunoko and Big West are preventing the release of the Macross: Do You Remember Love movie.

Plans for a collection of the Shadow Chronicles prequel comic are waiting at DC for the anime distribution to be finalized.




Images above Copyright 2006 Harmony Gold USA

Readers Talkback
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  • June 5, 2006, 11:34 p.m. CST

    First!!!

    by VFXpert

    Unless of course I'm second.... Okay - now I'm gonna read this long m-fkr!

  • June 6, 2006, 12:18 a.m. CST

    Fuck you First! Macross the Movie needs to be released!

    by JarJar25

    Macross, Do you remember love is a fantastic film, but I fear once it gets release, it will get chewed up by the likes of this site and others, just because not too many people will be able to relate to it. It is already past it 20 year anniversary, so the time to have put it out should have been two years ago. Oh well, I have a great Chinese copy with excellent subtitles, but I would love to get an a copy put out by ADV or someone else with extras and the like. The animation is still good. Ahh, to go back to 1984, during the summer in Japan. Macross and Nausicaa, better than most crap today.

  • June 6, 2006, 12:46 a.m. CST

    Firts is for people with no lives!

    by casinoskunk

    Third is where it's at!

  • June 6, 2006, 8:37 a.m. CST

    How about Graphic Novels

    by DigitalDong

    I like that title and it goes for anything, even flipped manga that's been painsakenly translated. But yeah if I run into a German manga I could see OEL being odd. But I like OEL cause it sounds like OVA, or is it OAV? Anyways Graphic Novel sounds way cooler than World Manga.

  • June 6, 2006, 10:16 a.m. CST

    Registration problems

    by Shigeru

    It wasn't that bad. I was there on Sat and it took me a little over an hour to get through the line which is shorter than it was last year. I thought it was pretty straightforward but then again I didn't have to get a press pass (tho I don't really feel bad cause that means you got in free). Overall it was great.

  • June 7, 2006, 2:24 p.m. CST

    The Blu-Ray/HD-DVD debacle will be interesting...

    by Johnno

    I believe the format with the most anime distribution will definately win... and honestly I tihnk they could even fit more episodes on there if they re-release older anime even in hi-def... I'd definately pick up Akira, GITS Innocence dubbed, and and other films on blu-ray, since I'm kinda set on owning a PS3... Also I need to see the new Robotech! Damn It's like reliving my childhood!

  • June 15, 2006, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Shinsen Subs

    by Agent sith

    These guys do an awesome job at fan subbing the yet- to- arrive-to-the united states anime series. of course Funi is pissed,not only for copyright infrigment,but for also doing a better jobat it than Gen's company. i saw Basilisk,Trinity blood and speedgrapher almost a year ago and i highly reccommend all three when it finally arrives on DVD. although removing the duran duran theme song from speedgrapher is a big no-no,that song was the icing on the cake.