Movie News

Anime AICN - Ninja Who Don't Wear Orange

Published at: Aug. 22, 2006, 8:44 p.m. CST


Logo handmade by Bannister
Column by Scott Green


Reviews
Anime Preview: Paradise Kiss
Manga Preview: Line
Anime Preview: Jinki:Extend
Manga Spotlight: Phoenix, Nostalgia
Anime Spotlight: Prefectural Earth Defense Force
Anime Spotlight: Negima
Anime Spotlight: Basilisk Volume 1
Quick Cut… Basilisk Volume 2 (Manga)
Quick Cut… Wrath of the Ninja Collectors Series Edition
Quick Cut… What's Michael, Planet of the Cats
News
Highlander Anime Release Plans
First Episode of New Production I.G Work Online
Vertical Picks Up Classic Shoujo
AnimEigo Announces Yawara License
Le Guin Talks Goro Miyazaki's Earthsea
Miyazaki's Next Film
Gundam Creator to Attend US Screening
Fullmetal Alchemist Movie at ImaginAsian Theater
Paprika At New York Film Festival
Limited Robotech Theatrical Run
New Shirow Editions, Upcoming Dark Horse Releases
Interviews
Commentary of Note
Live Action Adaptations
Upcoming in Japan
Merchandise News
Shin-Chan on Cartoon Network
Anime on American TV
Anime Podcast Wins Awards
Slayers Novels Plans
Prominent Voice Actor Passes Away
TANK S.W.A.T. 01 Translated, For Whom?
Basilisk Site Opens
Bang Zoom! Announces Voice Actor Boot Camp
Illumitoon Acquires AM Driver
Upcoming DrMaster Releases
Late Fall FUNimations Collections and Premieres
Toonami Jetstream Success
Toei Animation Online
Fruits Basket Tops Manga Sales
FLCL Collection Plans
Giant Robo News
Comiket Views
New VOTOMS
New Hayashibara Roles
Ninja Nonsense 3 and Boogiepop Thinpack Scheduled
DMP Talks Otakon Announcements
Cosplying Space Tourism on Hold
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sonic X on DVD
Manga Entertainment Founder at Navarre
King of All Bots Videos
Kaiju Projects of Note
Animated Hellboy on Cartoon Network
El Superbeasto Animated
New Captain Scarlet Series on DVD
Signoff

Anime Preview: Paradise Kiss

To be released by Geneon Entertainment

Ai Yazawa's ability to combine circumstance with style to create visually arresting stories with characters that can be empathized with has made her most recent work Nana one of the most popular shoujo titles in Japan. Director Osamu Kobayashi along with character designer/opening director Nobuteru Yuki and an end credit animation from Hiroyuki Imaishi (accompanying Franz Ferdinand's Do You Want To), embrace Yazawa's framework and use it to construct the kind of experience that makes anime worth watching. Paradise Kiss picking up where Osamu Kobayashi left off, when he gave the rock anime the concrete vibrancy of a graffiti adorned wall: refined animation featuring characters with a directly more refined look.

Director and sometimes voice actor Kobayashi, who is no new comer to the field having directed 80's classic Kimagure Orange Road adjusts the metaphors of anime for the new digital character of the medium. He hits a brilliant juggling routine in which tone, emotion, and due to the content of the series, detailed, tangible articles are balanced. Stylized face shots, detailed, realist shots of clothing or objects and fanciful cartoonishness all go into the mix.

Kobayashi uses the versatility to establish the flexibility of the moment. His cuts are timed enough to be overt. He synchronizes the changes with the pace of the character's and viewers thoughts. Both the composition of the shot and matter within the show are flexible as he balanced relaxed simplicity and imposed detail. It isn't just that characters will slip into a super deformed rendering or that design will be simplified to conserve effort, but that he works Yuki's design, shifting emphasis to the emotive face, the figure and attire of the character, a playful peg-doll like stylized version, or a form set against a more detailed context shot.

Viewing anime as a source of new visual experiences, it is gratifying to see a work with the sense of freedom and individuality of Paradise Kiss. Both attractive and serving to update the nomenclature of anime, it's a title worthy of high prioritization in the slate of upcoming releases. While maybe not quite Studio 4°C experimental (yet), Madhouse Studios has been moving in a direction where they have become the producers of some of the most interesting projects in anime.

Approaching romance and highschool to college transitions in a manner that does not adhere to the more contrived aspects of shoujo conventions, the plot manages to be both pertinent and ironically, maybe a bit too non-flashy. Yukari Hayasaha is a typical third year high school student (a senior by US comparisons) with the typical pressures from her mother to prepare for college as the defacto next stage in life. Arashi Nagase, a punk with bleached hair and safety pins adorned his face picks her Yukari out of a crowded street and decides her figure would make her the perfect model for his studio's project, being readied for display at the Yazawa School of Design's fashion show. The meeting and Yukari's introduces to crew at Arashi's studio, and that serves change her perspective in two ways. Seeing the passion that these people have for creating fashion causes her to further question her own dispassionate rote preparation for college. And she meets George, a handsome, flashy peer who moves her into the direction of mature relationships.

Though the characters are visually captivating, both in the cases of the extreme fashion students and in the straight, but refined featured protagonist, the quality and disposition of their relationships aren't strictly compelling. Not that the portrayal is poor, but that it frequently doesn't pass the overheard conversation test. If these characters where next to you and you were overhearing their conversation, would you listen? Maybe, probably, this answer would differ for viewers in the same stage of like. But then again, it boarders on too slice-of-life. The pre-college cloudiness is too concrete in its presentation, neither escapist nor edifying. The passion that the characters have for their endeavors is contagious, but the story walks the line between universal (at least for people in certain economic backgrounds) and tired/tiresome.

Hearing about these character's concerns hasn't formed an emotional bond. Juxtaposition of straightness and presentation, both in the attire of the characters and in the animation, the straightness of the story seems to lack inspired insight. Compared to works like His and Her Circumstances and to a far less extent due to its fantastic element Fruits Baskets, there seems to a gap where some psychological profundity or at least appearance thereof might go. (perhaps apropos of little, both these visually involved series with notable directors were cases where the manga creators wasn't satisfied with the direction and presentation of the anime).

Manga Preview: Line

To be Released by ADV Manga in October

Written in 2001, Line was created in a cultural moment where the intersection of technology and teen suicide was becoming apparent. The following year Usamaru Furuya would write Jisatsu Circle/Suicide Circle, which Sion Sono would adapt into a live action movie. The years following that would see adult and teen internet suicide pacts gaining the attention of psychiatric groups then international media. Yuo Kotegawa, best known in to English audiences for demonstrating his adeptness in construction teen thrillers with his combination of Hitchcock, conspiracy and manga convention in Anne Freaks, explored the idea in Line. The single volume manga executes a tight concept thriller utilizing the constructs of modern teen life: a teenage girl finds a cell phone and before she can return it to the police, sinister messages start coming in, instructing her where the find the locations of people about to commit suicide. Kotegawa attempts to mix relevance with adrenaline, and ultimately, as the pace becomes more frantic, the balance is lost. Either the gravity of the topic weighed the story too strongly or the manga was build with didactic intensions, but the metaphor of people holding on to each other, preventing each other from falling is far too obvious not to be read as "MESSAGE".

As in Anne Freaks, Kotegawa is strong in his introduction of situation and characters. Not entirely connected to the cell phone plot, six pages are used to paint a complex picture of the protagonists' school life without leveraging unneeded stereotypes or over accentuated cruelty. The picture is more one of judgmentalness and biting inconsiderateness. The heroine is taken to task by classmates for expressing herself in details like how she has her nails done, so she turns around and protects and massages her social image not to show off. Her friend is more withdrawn in social contexts, but feels more free to express herself in individual endeavors. Though brief, the section of the manga effectively introduces the social gap which the rest of the manga works to bridge.

Suicide on subway tracks and from root tops provides dramatic stages. Adding the element of running between locations prompted by a mysterious voice and Kotegawa is able to establish strong cinematic momentum.
As lives are saved, obviousness begins crowding out the more compelling nuances even as the volume of the action attempts to build suspense. At this point the message becomes the most striking characteristic and the spiritual resolution not only trumps the plot resolution, but makes it an afterthought.

Anime Preview Jinki:Extend

Based on Episodes 1-3
To be released by ADV Films September 5th

Despite the complex web of relationships, time shifting, and unique setting (Venezuela), director Masahiko Murata (MazinKaiser) seems to be having fun with mecha anime on a meta level. An episode opens with a character with his head turned, talking to the viewer and explaining the situation as he walks. The angle shifts and reveals he's talking to another character, but this way in which the anime addresses in the viewer is prominent throughout. It's not that the series is a parody, it's played rather straight, but that it's consciously over conscious of the medium and genre. While the work is oblique about many plot and character particulars, it seems to want to buddy with the view and share a joke. With an opening scene that is one hell of a giant giant robot battling around Tokyo Tower, and episode opening animation scores, repopulates and reappropriates the choreography of the original Gundam's opening (and an ending that does the same for the Go Nagi mecha works), Jinki:Extend looks to be reaching out for a secret handshake.

Despite being produced in 2005, and featuring robots that convey a nice sense of scale and mechanism the characters have the flat look of early digital animation. Muted colors, and generic half fanciful design give the characters a non-distinct appearance. This flatness serves to create distance, toning down the impression of their personality and making them more in the way of ciphers. Drama is present, but mitigated by the series' presentation.

Jinki:Extend is a 13 episode series. Given its construction, in order for it to be successful, it can't just briefly explore a concept. After it has ingratiated itself into the good will of the mecha fan, it has to deliver a punch line. Since the quality and presence of a solid conclusion can't be spoken to 3 episodes into the series, what can be said is that it features a nicely clever opening scene and episodes are peppered with scenes that have fun with the size and mechanism of large robots. Whether these offer enough to satisfy a given mech fan or anime an is general is a viewer to viewer gamble, but suffice to say, there's risk.

Manga Spotlight Phoenix: Nostalgia
By Osamu Tezuka

Released by Viz Media

In Phoenix, Osamu Tezuka made a concerted effort to capture and explore the patterns of humanity. Being an astute observer of the species' nature, a humanist with eyes towards the high and low points, and an absolute luminary in the manga medium, the results were boundary pushing classics. Each of the 12 major works served to move forward from pre-history and backwards from the end of human life on Earth in telling stand alone stories that explored aspects of the universal factors present regardless of time and circumstance. At the same time, he seemed inspired by other media to bend light and perception into new forms during the course of his stories.

The sci-fi entries in the series have been more challenging than the historic epics. Tezuka leveraged the fluidity of possibility to bend the story and take the works in radically unexpected directions.
Nostalgia is a profoundly convoluted work, to the extent that Tezuka's theme appears to be that in aiming towards a goal or dream, some qualities may endure, such as love and determination, but the cascading elements shaping both future results and past memories are so complex as to be incomprehensible.

The path Nostalgia takes is part Judeo-Christian bible and part Star Trek. It's phases resemble the gambit from Genesis to Revelations and the societies built and planets visited seem to come from the original 'Trek. The foundation starts with Romy and George, who in a storm of idealism and concern use the proceeds from a theft to purchase an uninhabited planet from a literally weaselly real-estate broker. Having been taken in a potentially lethal scam not only are their dreams of building a island for humanity shattered, but their chances of survival becomes slim. After impregnating Romy, George dies in a robot assisted effort to provide for his family. Determined to go on, Romy leaves baby Cain in the care of the robot Shiva and retreats into a cryogenic sleep until Cain has matured.

The cases where Tezuka breaks form in his illustration of this installment are few. Landscape in geological extremes are painstakingly rendered, but there is little in the panel and shading experimentation of other sci-fi chapters. The exception is Romy's recollection of Earth which shifts a number of times, starting with a weeping sphere of nature, spinning into an almost Disney-like forest scene, then a romantic postcard silhouette and finally into a print-like sea-shore landscape. While this scene is of Romy's respective and memory, the straight format of the rest of the presentation maintains the air of a biblical chronicle.

Beyond the biblical parallels, Tezuka invokes the idea of modern Israel in Nostalgia. As with his approach to the topic in Adolf, he seems deeply sympathetic with the desire, but a bit ambivalent about the realities. The returnees to Earth from the space diaspora are given an understandable longing, but it is presented as an unsustainable movement. Tezuka doesn't approach the topic too politically, but he does raise the contentious issue as a point of thought.

It's an interest work from a meta-Phoenix bookkeeping standpoint. For one thing, the Phoenix itself narratives parts and is an active participant. Many elements seen in chronologically later, but previously released chapters of Phoenix are present, with accompanying foreshadowing/flashbacks. Saruta does not appear, but there is a pilot named Makimura who is surely in a different life than the pilot Makimura a century later in "Universe". A "Chihiro" robot previously/later seen in Resurrection and the strange shape shifting objects of desire known as moopies from "Future" almost make an appearances. Not that any f these needs to be accounted for by the reader, but such is the nature of the complexly interconnected universe and a complexly interconnection work of fiction.

While the Phoenix works easily stand on their own, Karma, volume four of Viz's release is probably the best introduction to Tezuka's intensions and abilities. Nostogia is beautiful and moving piece, but the nature of its progression is alienating by design. The turns and actions seem precisely constructed to create distance and cause the reader to be taken aback.
It's a rare, it not unique work that balances the scale on a macro and micro level, in which cities and species rise and fall, caused, though not directed by, the love and reactions of a single woman.

Anime Spotlight: Prefectural Earth Defense Force

Released by ADV Films

ADV's release of Perfectual Earth Defense Force appears to have been a bit of an experiment in handling the release of older titles. The company produced a DVD with subtitles, but without the generally standard English audio dub, and made it available only on their site and a select few online retailers. The lack of promotion and seeming unwillingness to make the title available to interested retailers would have been odd parameters if the release was meant to gage consumer reaction to an experiment, but the net result is that if you're interested in the title, the your greatest chance of obtaining a copy is through ADV themselves.

An early direct to video adaptation of a longer manga, the 50 minute, 3 episode work adapts three non-contiguous chapters in the battle between the municipally funded wannabe heroes of the Prefectural Earth Defense Force, two guys in a girl who used to compose their school's lacking baseball team along an Indian ex-patriot unwillingly turned into a missile launching cyborg against the Telephone Pole Gang. Exposition is a strikingly low priority in the anime, so the exact nature of the Telephone Pole Gang is far from obvious. They are lead by young man in a kimono with some sort of crown, their chief field operatives are a highschool aged, pink haired girl who seems to be daughter of Godzilla kaiju, and a large balding guy with replacable cyborg eyes. There are also squads of goons with masks reading "Faceless Minion" and some mad scientists involved too.

The premise and look resembles non-Japanese parodies of anime: informed high-school students, androids, plenty of missiles, bright colored hair, city destroying biped reptiles. But, the difference is the cultural granularity. Minute references to Japanese pop and every day life are packed into the series. This is a benefit to the series. The holistic approach to the environment lends it a humanity more detached parodies lack. But, working off the concepts of another culture 20 years ago, the quantity of lost jokes quickly stacks up.

The work also illustrates how well cell animation handle slapstick humor. The fluidity of a mad dash, where the world seems caught up in the motion may have been short-handed by Matrix effects, but the verve in a work like this one has not been recreated. The joy of seeing the characters run and missiles fly provides plenty of justification for watching this older title.

Bonus features on the DVD include translation notes, which capture a number of the non-obvious cultural elements, and a commentary track by Matt Greenfield, David Williams and Janice Williams. These are people who were instrumental in the formation of ADV and therefore anime in North America. Unfortunately, the commentary is not terribly entertaining and only marginally informative. While Greenfield either had the memory or notes to talk encyclopedically about the title, David Williams talks a few points that will be familiar to those who follow what he ways during convention panels and online posts, and Janice Williams only interjects a few comments. Worthwhile points are made about the context of the film and trends in animation, particularly comparing the cell animation of the 80's and 90's to the digital animation of today, but for the most part there is a sense of filling space. Comments about the difficulty gathering material and the pre-commercial anime industry days of following only with a script, if you were lucky enough to have one have already been made in other venues and could have used some refreshing and relevance, and especially anecdotes. While a personal perspective might have been that talk interesting, generalities sound like groaning. Given that the commentary was a chance to get the perspective of figures instrumental in the industry on title created before the industry took shape, it was a disappointment.

Anime Spotlight: Negima
Volume 1 Magic 101 - The Basics of Magic

Released by FUNimation

In the realm of the subjective, there's room for people to enjoy Negima, but much of that depends of predisposition. Creator Ken Akamatsu's previous work Love Hina was so enjoyed by fans of both sexes, that despite being originally published in Weekly Shonen Magazine, and featuring a 20 year wanna-be student/girl's residence manager who wins the affection of a number of focusedly idealized girls that there was a debate whether the series was a female audience shoujo work.

These fans will enjoy Negima's Love Hina meets Harry Potter premise in which a young Welsh wizard with an advanced degree becomes the English instructor to a class of 31 Japanese school girls. There is a system of wizardry in which Negi must kind a human partner to aid him in his endeavors, and if at some point it turns out that this personal is revealed not to be Asuna, a hot headed girl who Negi perpetually, accidentally embarrasses by spiriting away undergarments and magically ballooning up her bust size, then it would be time to hunt down the pod person who replaced Akamatsu.

To get a sense of the series, look not further than the opening animation. A swarm of diversely designed young woman playing beach volleyball, then a split screen of each of the 31 of then leading over to kiss Negi. Though fans of the original manga have suggested that the series evolves into a format less like Love Hina, its starts off very much like an inflated version the earlier work.
Given that the classroom is full of oddities from a robot girl to a Chinese martial artist, in a CLAMP-like super school (30,000 students ranging from elementary to college), the series is almost shockingly played like a fairly straight situation comedy. There are parodies are that this brazen. As one might expect, there is plenty of half-naughty humor in which bad touching is met with violent reactions. Few episodes are wasted before putting the girls in a spa-like communal bath/pool for a breast size competition.
The characters doubtlessly have backgrounds intended to be interesting, but the interactions and behavior is all obvious. The contrived nature robs the interaction of the human dimension it needs. comedy needs a human dimension

FUNimation packs 6 episodes on the disc, and the last of these does introduce a bit of the action element of the series. Getting the characters moving in dynamics positions the series for some slapstick, some of which is rather amusing, and seems to be more appropriate the sexually charged humor.

More than Love Hina, Negima doesn't sell itself as a guilty pleasure so much as rely on the inherit characteristics of its construction. There's an apparent acceptance that Akamatsu fans will enjoy it, and detractors and those with unfavorable dispositions will not. XEBEC's animation of the series isn't nearly as eye catching as Love Hina's. Love Hina's digital effects and attention drawing color scenes are missing. The character models and backgrounds are also generally uninteresting. There's little that is wonder-invoking. Magic and such is kindof non-magical.

In the English dub, the role of Negi is performed by Greg Ayres. After being floored by the pronounced high pitched Pip voice, it is possible to get acclimated to the performance, but the first time the character opens his mouth, its quite the upercut blow.

Anime Spotlight: Basilisk Volume 1

Released by FUNimation

There are four version of the ninja deathmatch Basilisk that will eventually be available for English language audiences. Popular samurai/ninja novelist Futaro Yamada's original novel "Basilisk Koga Ninpo Cho" or Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls will be released by Del Rey in December. FUNimation will be releasing the live action movie Shinobi Heart Under Blade movie adaptation of this work. Del Rey is also releasing the manga adaptation of the novel. FUNimation is also releasing the anime adaptation of the manga. (Trivia: Futaro Yamada also wrote Makai Tensho, the fictionalization of Amakusa Shiro's Christian revolt, featuring Jubei Yagyu, adapted into a number of live action movies, mainly the '81 feature from Kinji Fukasaku starring Sonny Chiba and the Ninja Resurrection anime).

In the waining days of his life, shogunate founder Ieyasu Tokugawa gathers his martial advisors Munenori Yagyu and Hanzo Hattohori and engineers a lethal competition between 10 members from each of the rival Kouga and Iga ninja clans. Previously the death feud between the two had been suspended due to a forced truce. The only members not itching to resume hostilities are the two lover/heirs of the clans.

In contrast to the manga's rushing freak show engine of death, the anime takes some time to work with the characters and circumstances. It expands on the leadership generation's aborted love story and how that met its end during the unification campaigns of Oda Nobunaga (see Yotoden, reviewed below for another take on this time period and similar circumstances). Similarly more time is spent with the characters. Rotund ninja Udono Jousuke gets plenty more screen time to display his fractionally humorous vulgarity, and limbless, snakelike Jimushi Jubei receives a distended chase scene.

Despite the too doomed doomed love story, there are secondary relationships between members of clans that are effective in humanizing the characters. There are some chilling moments of concern and frustration hints that the series could evolve into something that is emotionally compelling.

Yet, more time with these characters isn't strictly a good thing. The concept for Basilisk is build for spectacle not characterization. Unusual people killing each other in unusual ways. Not only are the deaths inevitable, bloodlust for the action, not empathy for the doomed lovers is the fostered reaction.
Given the function of their existence, there is no room to convince the clans not to kill each other. Consequently, the interests of the viewer is opposed to the interest of protagonists. There's no expectation on the part of the viewer that the conflict is avoidable, so drama fostering that illusion is counter productive. It's difficult to have too much faith in a good tragety when the anime's script was from the screen writer of infamous adult anime Bible Black, so... (to be fair is working on the script for Production I.G's Le Chevalier D'Eon, so maybe Yasuyuki Muto will demonstrate what he's capable of).

So far Gonzo's animation has kept up with the concept. The solid purples of the color scheme and night sky illuminated battle scenes set the right tone for the flamboyant confrontations. The operative principle appears to be 'good-enough': the motion and effects to convey the interactions strange combatants are handled in a way that will hold the interest of digital animation fed anime action fan. While there are some noteworthy ideas for the modes of dispatching ninja-death in what is seen, the implementation isn't going to be what anyone is talking about. The animation features noticeable reliance on static elements and panning. It is obvious about its caution in using complex forms and instances of fluid motion tend to look a bid detached. When it comes time for basic movement, they tend to be imprecise. A character drawing a sword is depicted without regard for how a shoulder might works.
More obvious effects fare a bit better. Scenes of glowing purple butterflies, flying tendrils of hair, or slicing wires are as good as they need to be, but not better, the the short cuts are very apparent.

A noteworthy feature of the anime is that while it has stuck close to what was presented in the manga, and that so far it has been has bloody, it has eschewed nudity. Where a character fights topless in the manga, there isn't a bare chest in the anime.

Quick Cut… Format: Manga
Basilisk
Volume 2
By Masaki Segawa

Released by Del Rey

If there was any doubt that Basilisk was a the digital age incarnation of exploitation cinema, volume 2 eliminates it. It's sanitized of much, if not all, of the relevant political edge, but the leap from a platform of established historical position into a storm of slaughter and sex has the hallmarks of 70's exploitation. While the look o bold look of digital inking and graphical application aided blurs and effects looks slightly clean, the bloodbath remains unrelenting and the sexual quotient is increasing. The majority of the volume in composed of two parallel ruses. One of these involves a woman stripped and tied up. This might smack a bit of ,misogyny, except the works treats all of its characters as meat. Though, idealism and the inability to be consciously helpful on the part of the female side of its central Romeo and Juliet tale doesn't exactly mark the work as a beacon on sexual enlightenment.

The mobilization of forces and gruesome demonstration of new ninja abilities in this volume builds the macho charge to punch-your-neighbor levels. When Gennosuke-Romeo goes stoic and unleashes his ability on attackers, ugly deaths really start stacking up. The volume demonstrates that the blitz pace of the manga serves the story well. Where as the in the first volume, the unattached progression seemed like it may have been slighting the drama, this volume shows that with bad people doing bad things to each other, hit the badness as soon and as hard as possible. To paraphrase Kenshiro, these guys are already dead.

Quick Cut…
Format: Anime
Wrath of the Ninja Collectors Series Edition

Released by CPM

Yotoden is a not unenjoyable niche anime. Appreciation for the anime version of quasi-historical fantasy chambara ninja/samurai stories and late 80's cell animation are both prerequisites as while the title utilizes those features well, it isn't about to win converts to their appreciation. The OVA era work was more an in exercise design and animation than anything intended to be a classic: three ninja from different clans united their legendary swords to defeat Oda Nobunaga as he annihilates ninja villages and Buddhist shrines in his quest to remove threats to his effects to unify Japan. It's not the first work extend Nobunaga's use of unconventional strategies and ruthless policies into an associating with the demonic supernatural. The idea of ninja versus the supernatural is presented as almost assumed reality.

CPM's new DVD package features two versions. A "movie" which cuts straight to the action and removes much of Nobunaga's onscreen time and the original three episode OAV which features more of the political context. Even the extended version features some odd transitions and rushed introductions and developments. There seems to have been manga based on the OVA, but unlike many releases of its day, it wasn't based on manga itself.

The highlight of the work is design. The Cirque du Soleil outfits worn by many of these ninja make Naruto's orange jumpsuit look subtle. The three principle ninja receive radical wardrobe make-overs at least once an episode. Least one think less of these characters' toughness, the two males demonstrate both stubble growth and asceticism and the female is completely nonplussed by the concerns that she is foregoer her femininity for her mission. While this trio receives impressively embroidered birds on their tunics, elegant sky kimonos and theatrical masks, their encounters are an odd and mix of genre types. Nobunaga and his retinue are marked by anime interpret versions of period dress. Other members of the cast spin off in their own aesthetic directions. The orchestrating Buddhist priest aiding the heroes has a Monkey Punch impish look, with the antagonist group of ninja as the metal and primary colors appearance of sci-fi anime villains.

Though not to the degree of the Yoshiaki Kawajiri/Madhouse works, the work does offer up a bit of gore. The middle in particular successfully pursues some disturbing visuals with a demonic ninja grafting itself onto the back of a woman, and some popping cranium explosions.

Quick Cut…
Format: Manga
What's Michael
Planet of the Cats
By Makoto Kobayashi

Released by Dark Horse

What's Michael is a wonderful title whose release commenced before the manga explosion, and though notice was largely eclipsed with the advent of the $10 graphic novel format, Dark Horse saw it through to its conclusion. To answer the title question, Michael's a cat. Sometimes he's a regular tabby in the human world, sometimes he's an anthropomorphic personality in a cat's world. Sometimes he's the star and sometimes he's a bit player.

The manga operates on conceptual flexibility. Kobayashi affords himself the opportunity to run with whatever strikes his inspiration, almost like the strip version of sketch comedy. The work's warm irreverence is less juvenile than Toriyama's Dr Slump and less pop than Azuma's works. Kobayashi's cartooning lends his work an amusing on site troupe of feline and human faces. The expressions and gestures are enough that the manga almost would not need dialog for most of its gags to work.

After 9 charming short works of about six pages each, the volume gives What's Michael a literal send-off in the 50 page epic "Planet of the Cats", which of course features the human actors of what's Michael landing on the planet ruled by talking versions of the cat actors. This parting shot is a good natured jibe against human nature. Vanity and superficiality are in the cross hairs, but the tone if far too sweet and goofy to make the story a diatribe.

Like most sketch comedy, any arbitrary installment is sufficiently entertaining on its own. In his own way, Makoto Kobayashi is using as medium as effectively as any of the greats. While What's Michael doesn't situate itself in the popular trends, or the obvious book shelf manga works, it is still a work that's immensely enjoyable and demonstrative of the effectiveness of its medium in the way that any classic comedy might.

Highlander Anime Release Plans

Sci-Fi reports that the Highlander: Vengeance anime movie, from Ninja Scroll director Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Studio Madhouse has been picked up for distribution by Anchor Bay. A release in planned for 2007.

First Episode of New Production I.G Work Online

Anime Nation points out that the first episode of Production IG's (Ghost in the Shell) upcoming historical fantasy action/horror anime series Chevalier is now available for free online viewing. The DRM encoded streaming episode is available from six different hosts: @nifty, Biglobe, Goo, Hit Pops, Flet's, and OCN.

Vertical Picks Up Classic Shoujo

Vertical has indicated that they will be releasing Keiko Takemiya's classic sci-fi schoujo To Terra, also known as Terra e in February 2006. To see information about Keiko Takemiya's role in the formation of shoujo manga see Matt Thorn's comments here and here.

AnimEigo Announces Yawara License

AnimEigo has announced that anime distributor has licensed Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. The message on the site reads "Expect the first box set in early 2007; though we don't guarantee this timeline."

Yawara is a 124 adaptation of Naoki Urasawa (Monster, Master Keaton) manga about a high school girl raised by her grandfather to participate in the Olympic judo competition.

Le Guin Talks Goro Miyazaki's Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin has commented on the Goro Miyazaki direct Legend of Earth Sea film on her site here. She mentions that Sci-Fi channel holds the rights to the Earth until 2009.

Miyazaki's Next Film

Nausicaa.net reports the Ghibli's production diary includes a number of clues about Hayao Miyazaki's next film. Location scouting was done at mountains and cafes around Kobe. Staff seems to include Yoshifumi Kondo, Norobu Yoshida and Takeshi Inamura.

Gundam Creator to Attend US Screening

Gunota and Anime Focus report Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino will be present at the US premiere of the Zeta Gundam: A New Translation compilation movie. Tomino will participate in a panel discussion on anime's socio-economic impact alongside Gainax co-founder Hiroaki Inoue, associate professor of anthropology Laura Miller, and assistant professor of Japanese cinema Michael Raine on October 6th at 3 pm
- The Zeta movies will be shown back-to-back on October 7th with Tomino giving an introduction before each film and a Q&A session after each as well

Fullmetal Alchemist Movie at ImaginAsian Theater

New York's ImaginAsian Theatre will screen the FUNimation release of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie on August 24th.

FUNimation's screening list is online here.

Paprika At New York Film Festival

Kaiju Shakedown reports this year's New York Film Festival (Sept. 29 - Oct. 14) will screen Satoshi Kon's latest work Paprika.

Limited Robotech Theatrical Run

Anime News Network reports Robotech.com lists that Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles will receive a limited theatrical release on October 20 prior to the November 21st DVD release.

New Shirow Editions, Upcoming Dark Horse Releases

Appleseed Hypernotes
Written and art by Shirow Masamune
World War Three is over, but for nomad soldier Deunan Knute and her cyborg lover, Briareos, the greatest challenge lies ahead, not in the abandoned cities and DMZs of a post-war battlefield, but on the streets of a new "utopia." Shirow Masamune's visionary Appleseed is widely regarded not only as one of the linchpin works of graphic fiction, but one of the most influential science-fiction stories in recent memory, culminating in the astonishing 2005 animated adaptation. Appleseed Hypernotes, never before collected in America, features an over 80-plus-page Appleseed tale, plus reams of detailed information and art of the characters, machines, and weapons of Appleseed, presented in a non-Westernized, right-to-left reading format, as originally published in Japan. Contains Appleseed stories from Super Manga Blast! #25-39.
160 pages, black and white, $14.95, in stores on Nov. 4.

BERSERK VOLUME 15
Written and art by Kentaro Miura.
From his days as a young mercenary to his time as captain of the Band of the Hawks' Raiders, Guts' life has been defined by his ability to fight and his will to win. Now cursed with the Brand of Sacrifice and with his companions dead, his lover's mind destroyed, and his one-time commander and friend reborn as a malevolent demon lord, it seems that more than ever Guts must rely upon his instinct to survive. But Hell has many faces, and when what appears to be an innocent country village proves to be a den of tragic secrets, the horror of a fairy tale perverted by pain and hate may prove to be more than Guts can handle!
Created by Kentaro Miura, Berserk is a streaking manga fireball, an epic riot of galvanic action, grotesque horror, and grim humor with an army of fanatic loyalists ready to convert unbelievers or drive them screaming into the wilderness. Speak, hands, for me!
240 pages, black and white, $13.95, in stores on Jan. 24.

Blade Of The Immortal #119
Written and art by Hiroaki Samura.
"The Sparrow Net," part 2 of 4.
32 pages, $2.99, in stores on Nov. 8.

Blade Of The Immortal Volume 16: Shortcut
Written and art by Hiroaki Samura.
200 pages, black and white, $16.95, in stores on Dec. 20.

Dominion 4Th Edition
Written and art by Shirow Masamune.
Welcome to the future, where the norms are vast bio-constructed cities, air toxic enough to force citizens to wear oxygen masks, and crime so severe that the cops drive tanks! When a mysterious winged girl with the power to cleanse the poisoned air is kidnapped by the villainous Buaku, police mini-tank commander Leona Ozaki, her tank Bonaparte, and her lovesick partner Al must confront the arch-criminal and his catgirl molls before Buaku's master plan kicks into gear. Buaku has more than money on his mind, and the future fate of humanity hangs in the balance!
Produced by international comics superstar Shirow Masamune, creator of Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, Dominion is an ecological-dystopian-police procedural adventure/comedy as only Shirow can create! This new edition is published for the first time in America in right-to-left reading format, as originally published in Japan.
224 pages, black and white, $15.95, in stores on Jan. 14.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Volume 2
Written by Eiji Ohtsuka, art by Housui Yamazaki, cover by Bunpeil Yorifuji.
The Corpse Delivery Service has helped the dead who wanted justice from the living. Now, think about how many living people would like to take vengeance on the dead. What if it were possible? When Sasaki realizes that the latest corpse in their office is the man who murdered her parents years ago, the Kurosagi crew learns of a far darker business than their own, in this intensely disturbing one-volume story.
224 pages, black and white, $10.95, in stores on Jan. 24.

Museum Of Terror Volume 3: The Long Hair In The Attic
Written and art by Junji Ito.
Museum of Terror volumes one and two introduced readers to the horrific, beautiful creature Tomie . . . the woman no man could resist. Now Junji Ito, creator and curator of this horrible museum, brings a new type of exhibit to thrill and chill your senses! Chiemi Amano is a beautiful girl with long, flowing hair. She arrives home with a freshly broken heart only to learn that mice have infested the space above her room. As if things couldn't get worse, one of them becomes entangled in her long locks over the course of the night! That's the last straw -- she grew her hair out for her ex-boyfriend in the first place, and it's caused her nothing but trouble! But when Eri, her little sister, goes for the scissors . . . Chiemi's hair has other ideas.
344 pages, black and white, $13.95, in stores on Jan 24.

Interviews

Time interviews Fruits Basket creator Natsuki Takaya here

The Star Bullitin speaks with School Rumble's Jin Kobayashi

PublishersWeekly talks to manwha illustrator Jae-Hwan Kim about his work on TOKYOPOP's WarCraft: The Sunwell Trilogy here

Newsarama interviews George Alexopoulos whose Go with Grace was recently releasd by TOKYOPOP here

ICV2 has spoken to DC CEO Paul Levitz, and the conversation touches on CMX here and here

Commentary of Note

Dark Horse talks manwha here.

Heisei Democracy looks at cosplay events in Japan here

New blog Manga Junkie is already a must read.

Love Manga weighs in on TOKYOPOP's new site here. Tania Del Rio comments here

AniPages Daily looks at Kemonozume, an interesting TV project from the director of Mind Game here

"Chapter 4: Raccoon revolutionaries or tanuki samurai?" of Oliver Coombes's Pom Poko thesis is online here

An interesting introduction to figurines here

Translation Dojo looks at evolution of manga in North America from 1987 through 2002 here.

A collection of comments about pay in manga and North American comics here

A "Cliff's Notes" version of Patrick Macias' upcoming HE JAPANESE SCHOOLGIRL INFERNO can be read here

Live Action Adaptations

Ikimashou reports Nodame Cantabile, a musical school drama, will be adapted into a nine episode live action drama for Fuji TV (in addition to an anime series). The original manga was released domestically by Del Rey.

From Anime News Service

A second season of the live action adaptation of shoujo Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) starring Mao Inoue and Matsumoto Jun will be back in January 2007.

Teppan Shoujo Akane, a new cooking competition drama based on the manga by Aoki Tateo and Ariga Hitoshi will commence on October 15h.

Rumiko Takahashi's (Inu-Yasha) relationship comedy Maison Ikkuku, about a young man who failed his college examine who falls in love with the young window managing his apartment tenement, is being adapted into a new TV drama to air next spring. The official site can be seen here

Pata's Irresponsible Pictures has a rundown here

In non-telivsion news, the second theatrical movie based on Ai Yazawa's Nana be opened December 9th with a number of cast changes.. Yui Ichikawa will be replacing Aoi Miyazaki in the role of Komatsu Nana. Mika Nakashima will retain her role as Oosaki Nana but Ren will be played by Nobuo Kyou who replaces Ryuhei Matsuda The movie opens. Scheduling conflicts were officially credited as the cause for the cast changes.

Upcoming in Japan

Twitch points out that a preview Freedom Project is now online at the official site in Low Meduim and High . The first part will be released October 27th.

A preview for Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex : Solid State Society is online here

A website for Studio 4C's anthology Genius Party is online here.

From Ikimashou
A trailer for Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, the sci-fi to feature CLAMP design is online here and here

Yaoi novel Okane ga Nai will be adapted into an anime, the site is online here.

Ikimashou has the trailer for GONZO's 20 minute Mecha-Musume based OVA, Strike Witches here

From Anime News Service
An anime based on the Tokyo Majin Gakuen will be appearing on Japanese TV this wintwe Staff includes: original story by Imai Shuhou (Youto Chinkonka - Tokyo Requiem), Director Ishidaira Shinji (Ichi The Killer Animated, Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie), Series Composition and Script by Saizo Nemoto (Getbackers), Character Designs by Nakai Jun (Samurai Champloo), Music by Takayuki Negishi (Card Captor Sakura).

A second season of Victorian Romance Emma, the manga of which is being released by CMX, is in the works. The season will adapt the "Chapter of Molders" section the manga.

The site for upcoming anime Bartender at www.bartender-tv.com/

Trailers of the anime adaptation of Hirosi Masumura's classic manga Atagoal wa Neko no Mori are onine in low and high resolutions.

Sunrise will be adapting singing game Idol Master into an anime

TBS Anime Festa unveiled a new incarnation of the Di Gi Charat franchise. Winter Garden will feature a sentimental love story rather than the wacky comedy of other incarnation with the characters Dejiko and Puchiko 10 years older than their previous depiections. The staff and staff are mostly returning franchise contributors.

Rozen Maiden will be continued with a new special, titled Orbelture, to be broadcast on Japanese TV this winter. The manga, about a teen shut-in and the living dolls that come into his life, has been released by TOKYOPOP. Two seasons of anime have previously been adapted. Ikimashou says the special will be a side story starring Suigintou.

From Anime Nation
Aniple will be releasing a direct to video OVA of the mecha game series Armored Core entitled Fort Tower Song. See here

First of the North Star prequel Souten no Ken (Fist of the Blue Sky) will be adapated into an anime series.

The official site for the D.Gray-man adaptation of the Shonen Jump titles is online at here. The series commences October 3rd. Cast includes Allen: Sanae Kobayashi, Lenalee: Shizuka Ito, Yu Kanda: Sakurai Takahiro, The Earl of Millennium: Takiguchi Junpei, Komui: Konishi Katsuyuki, Reever: Okiayu Ryotaro, Cross Touchi Hiroki.

A trailer for Eien No Hou (Laws of Eternity), in online here. The movie was funded by Kofuku no Kagaku Institute for Research in Human Happiness who previously producd Hermes: Ai wa Kaze no Gotoku and Ougon no Hou.

Trailers for Pretty Cure Splash Star: Tick-Tock Kiki Ippai! and Digimon Savers: Kyukyoku Power! Beast Mode Hatsudou are online here and here

Anime News Network reports the upcoming season of the Negima: Haru anime will be an original story rather than a direct adaption of Ken Akamatsu's manga. The first volume will be released October 25th.

Merchandise News

Yamato USA has announced the opening of pre-orders for the latest in Yamato's most popular line of Story! Image! Figure! EX: IKKITOUSEN (a.k.a. Battle Vixens) collectible figures – Sonsaku Hakufu (Sitting). Sculpted by Japan's ZENKO, packaged in collector style window box, the 1/7th scale PVC statue will be released early Fall.

Figures.com has Organic Hobby's Solty Rei PVC statue here. The 5.5" statue is scheduled for October.

Ojamajo Doremi figure 5 1/2" PVC Statue Ojamajo Doremi, can be seen here

Game News

Anime News Service reports Gainax & Broccoli have announced "Meitantei Evangelion," (Great Detective Evangelion), a mystery alternate version of the Evangelion cast.

An Oh! My Goddess Playstation 2 games is in the works from Marvelous Interactive for a Japanese release this winter.

The Magic Box has screenshots of Naruto: Konoha Spirits here.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, the Playstation 2 adaptation of the first phase of the Jojo's manga, will be released on October 26th in Japan. Screenshots can be seen here

The 3D brawling Rurouni Kenshin: Enjou Kyoto Rinne for the Playstation 2, to be released September 14th in Japan, can be seen here

One Piece Unlimited Adventure for the Nintendo Wii is unveiled here

New screenshots Namco Bandai's Gundam Battle Royale for the PSP are online here

The Magic Box reports Sega will be working a new Initial D arcade game.

Dragon Ball Z Sparkling NEO (Budokai Tenkaichi) can be seen here

According to Active Anime, Sega's Appleseed EX will be released September 28th in Japan. The game also contains elements which connect it to the new film "Ex Machina," by John Woo Productions, scheduled for 2007.

Bleach DVD Scheduled

Viz will be releasing the first four episodes of Bleach on DVD on November 29th. The release will feature both English and Japanese audio.

Shin-Chan on Cartoon Network

Anime News Network reports Crayon Shin-chan, a comedy about a precociously foul kindergarten boy, credited my Japanese parenting organization for introducing rudeness to a generation of children, will be broadcast for a test run during the Cartoon Network Adult Swim block August 21-24 & 28-31. The series will be distributed in North America by FUNimation, whose official site has recently gone online at shinchanshow.com

Comic creator Evin Dorkin commented on the localization here.

AniPages Daily has always has insight on the animations here

Anime on American TV

From Anime News Network

Adult Swim will broadcast Inuyasha movie 4 at 11 PM on December 23rd.

After September 1st, Toon Disney's Sunday Jetix schedule will be
9:00pm Digimon
9:30pm Beyblade
10:00pm Shinzo
10:30pm Daigunder
11:00pm Mon Colle Knights
1:30am Digimon (Repeat of 9:00pm)
2:00am Beyblade (Repeat of 9:30pm)
2:30am Shinzo (Repeat of 10:00pm)
3:00am Daigunder (Repeat of 10:30pm)
3:30am Mon Colle Knights (Repeat of 11:00pm)

Anime Podcast Wins Awards

Anime Puse has won the award in at Cultural/Arts category voting at Podcast Awards.com. The show's host Ichigo was interviewed for this column here.

Slayers Novels Plans

Anime on DVD reports that TOKYOPOP will be making volumes 8 and 9 of the Slayers novel series available exclusively on their web site. The company

Readers Talkback

comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:06 p.m. CST

    FIRST...

    by Elmore Rigby

    Poop article to be first on :(

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:16 p.m. CST

    wow!

    by tompbeast

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:23 p.m. CST

    looks like...

    by tompbeast

    the same long list of weird japanese stuff and little cute girl dolls as last time!?

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:29 p.m. CST

    re: looks like...

    by ScottGreen

    Shoot. They're too astute around here. I thought I could get one past the readers.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:34 p.m. CST

    Like getting first in this column...

    by Son of Batman

    is anything to crow about. And Scott, I think you mean "reader," not readers.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 10:13 p.m. CST

    Any bastard posters with zero interest....

    by Johnno

    Should stay the hell out of here! Frankly, Scott Green does a heck of a job here that you could only wish were given the same attention to in other sections of AICN.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 10:17 p.m. CST

    Now getting down to it...

    by Johnno

    COnsider me now interested in Paradise Kiss. Think I've seen the manga for it often, but wasn't too interested in the artwork style... the animation designs for the characters look excellently appealing! Also Chevalier looks pretty freakin awesome! Can't wait to check out the new Stand Alone Complex movie. Will this be the last SAC project?

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 10:51 p.m. CST

    We need a Trollkiller!

    by GermanCity

    Ignore the morons. This is a great column. Without it, I would've missed The Pillows in Seattle this summer. Keep up the good work Green, and don't let the bastards drag you down.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 11 p.m. CST

    Im not an Anime fan...but

    by Drworm2002

    I agree with Johnno...I wish some of the others put the work into this website that Green does.

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 12:41 a.m. CST

    ...

    by blackthought

    scott...what did you study in college? just wondering...

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 2:05 a.m. CST

    Keep up the good work Scott...

    by Kampbell-Kid

    Your columns are great!

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 6:56 a.m. CST

    Re: Solid State Society Last GITS?

    by ScottGreen

    Product I.G mentioned at Anime Expo that Solid State Society is not intended to be their last Ghost in the Shell work.

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 6:56 a.m. CST

    re: blackthought

    by ScottGreen

    Computer Science

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 9:24 a.m. CST

    re: Worst Reviews EVER

    by ScottGreen

    It's fair that you don't find the reviews useful, but there are plenty of buy/don't buy evaluations of anime and manga online. These are certainly good to have, but I'd rather make an effort to understand the works.

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 12:12 p.m. CST

    The Xebec negima tv series is awful, but

    by crayotic

    the OVA by shaft looks pretty darn good.. fingers crossed for their tv version of it. Oh, and the manga is pretty damn good too, even though Del Rey completely fucked up the beginning volumes and the later ones are riddled with bad puns and outdated collequisms

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 12:49 p.m. CST

    new blade of the immortal trade

    by fried samurai

    Finally..December cant get here soon enough :)

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 2:30 p.m. CST

    re: Worst Reviews Ever

    by veritasses

    I for one, like Scott's "analysis vs review" approach. Like he mentions, there are plenty of sites and people that'll rate manga according to some subjective or arbitrary "rating system." And with the long delay from the original release date in Japan vs when the rest of the world gets stuff, most works get weeded out between the good and bad rather quickly, not to mention that most importers/translators won't even bother with the more obscure or really low grade works. In my opinion though, the world of anime/manga is somewhat unique among all other forms of entertainment which is deserving of the kind of analysis and hard work Scott puts in. At one level, anime/manga can certainly be enjoyed at a superficial level as with any form of entertainment. But it's also something that can be appreciated on several different deeper levels. Obviously, anime is something that can be appreciated as an art form. There's a story, and a representation of that story and usually a reason why and how that story is shown in that particular way. The medium is sort of similar to Jazz or Classical music in a way in that you can enjoy that style of music just by listening to it. But if you bother to learn the mechanics and the "art" behind all the notes and the interpretation by the performing artist, you begin to see the whole beauty of the architectural structure of the work that makes musical mediums like Jazz and Classical remarkable. For example, if you take Beethoven's 9th Symphony and you have someone who understands music theory break it down into it's parts and describe how and why the symphony was put together beginning with the smallest detail of the work, you begin to see the genius in Beethoven and you begin to understand why it's considered around the world as one of the greatest musical works of all time and why it's endured as a popular piece for so long. It