Animation and Anime

AICN Anime: Your New Favorite Giant Robot Show-Gurren Lagann

Published at: Jan. 7, 2008, 5:45 a.m. CST by scottgreen

Logo handmade by Bannister Column by Scott Green

Anime Spotlight: Gurren Lagann Volume 1 to be Released by ADV Films on Feb 26, 2008 Episodes Streamed at The Anime Network

Bear with me, apparently this is going to be long... Neon Genesis Evangelion is still a contentious topic. Its detractors can argue that it's hollow, that it's overrated, that it's pretentious. But, can anyone make a case that the scenes like the bloody birth image of the demonic looking robot ripping its way out of the Direc Sea aren’t stunning visuals? Gurren Lagann takes that potential for striking images that still lingers in giant robot anime and applies it to an exciting, in spirit back to basics, maelstrom. One of the hallmarks of high minded giant robot anime in the last decade or so has been its reliance on mystery. There is no a real twist to Gurren Lagann the way that there is in the opening episodes of Rahxephon and there are no real "Soylent Green is people" revelations the way that there are in Neon Genesis Evangelion, but Gurren Lagann is the kindof story that you don't want spoiled. If you can make it through the series without catching images from later episodes or reading too much about the plot, you'll come to appreciate your self-imposed information blackout. That said, the series starts with a Star Wars (New Hope) open. Curtains part to unveil an epic prologue, with galaxies literally exploding. In updated Leiji Matsumoto fashion, banners furl in space as the captain of a battle ship walks onto his bridge, wearing a cape with the insignia of a flaming, shades wearing skull. One of his officers informs him that all the lights they can see crowding the heavens are enemies ready to stand in opposition. This captain spits back a "damn the torpedoes" style response, and... The anime dissolves to the narrow holes of the diggers. Every day, these anonymous workers burrow with small hand drills hoping to expand their subterranean village and earn a "pig-mole steak" as their reward. Beyond the endless rock and endless work, young, unimpressive Simon has a notion that someday he might find a treasure buried in the rock, and that personal hope drives him to dig further. And, one day he finds a small glowing drill-bit like spiral that pleases him, if no one else. The other dream to which Simon is party is his elder friend/mentor/"brother" Kamina's wish to rebel against the village's slovenly task master as a first step in the ultimate ambition of moving from their enclosed cavern to the surface. Kamina, a bit of a braggart with tribal tattoos and an oversized sword, refuses to listen to the stubborn insistences that humans need to stay where they belong, off the beastman controlled surface. Except in the wake of one of Kamina's rebellions, a beastman's giant minotaur-esque robot gunman brakes through into the village, with the sniper rifle wielding, bikini wearing hottie Yoko in pursuit. In the midst of this battle, Simon manages to dig up his own gunman: a rather unimpressive machine that's pretty much just a person-tall head with arms and legs.
What's really glorious about Gurren Lagann or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann ("Heaven Shattering Gurren Lagann") is that there is nothing to wade through. Unlike the (this review or)Sunrise giant robot anime from Ideon to GaoGaiGar to Gundam, and the anime that have followed in their footsteps like Eureka Seven, there is no slog to get to the good part. While Gurren Lagann's scope leaves an impression, it doesn't feel like an accomplishment to get through it because there aren't 12 or 24 trial episodes to open the anime, then random, later foot dragging. The lesson that the series picks up from the past... the relatively far past of Mazinger Z (if you've watched too much TV and have a good memory, Tranzor Z ) to the relatively recent past of FLCL... is how to create a vicariously thrilling experience. It takes something as old as the hero's journey, it lavishes it with Gunbuster 2/Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi expressive designs, and it lights the rule book on fire. It starts small, then it gets larger, then dwarfs its previous scope, so that it is never possible to know the series' ceiling. Newtonian physics is tossed out. Einsteinian physics is tossed out. It is the axiom of shounen action that there's always a more dangerous adversary coming up next, but nothing has approached that law of fiction the way that Gurren Lagann has. It works with and bests the old standards enough to reignite the passion in long time mecha fans and enough to capture the interest of the disinterested.
This fiery boldness marks a return to form for the animators at Gainax. A poll answered by 2 million Japanese fans selected the following as their favorite anime of 2007 1 - sola a fantasy romance written by Naoki Hisaya of Kanon 2 - Lucky Star - based on a four panel gag strip, following cutely designed, uber-geek girls 3 - Katei Kyoshi Hitman Reborn - a Shounen Jump action comedy 4 - Ookiku Furi Kabutte - based on a seinen baseball manga 5 - Higurashi (When They Cry) - murder mystery with cute girls, based on a series of visual novels 6 - Gintama - a Shounen Jump action comedy 7 - Nanoha StrikerS - cute, military magic girls for an older audience 8 - Nanatsuiro Drops - magic girl, based on an eroge visual novel 9 - Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei - an absurdist, and somewhat literate comedy about a suicidal highschool teacher and his female students (by far this reviewer's favorite of the list) 10 - Hidamari Sketch - based on a seinen four panel manga about cute girls living in an artists' haunt In this list, Hitman Reborn, Ookiku Furi Kabutte and Gintama stand out as the subset that does not, at least to some extent, rely on cute girls, presented for a slightly older, male audience. What this marks is that the geek cult has rallied behind a passion for a certain type of character, and anime production has fallen into step. The proliferation of moe characters and a geek-friendly, cute girl aesthetic look like evidence of an echo chamber between fans and creators. This is relevant to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in that in the current landscape, anime explicitly for anime fans, made by creators who are or were anime fans now tiles the landscape.
Gainax, Gurren Lagann's production studio, was once THE anime studio comprised of passionate fans made good. If you've never seen it before, check out their early work on the animated sequence used to open the Daicon IV sci-fi convention. The creators of Macross (the first part of Robotech) demonstrated an appreciation for the sci-fi anime that had come before them (Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers and Gundam), but for Gainx, enthusiasm was plainly their raison d'être. That passion resulted in the crafted brilliance of Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, which would later be the face of the geek-manufacturing conspiracy in Welcome to the NHK, the titanic sci-fi epic Gunbuster, and, of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Except, by the time 2000 hit, there was no shortage of geek-knowledgeable, geek-baiting anime, and Gainax joined the herd. The studio rang in the new millennium with the robot maid anime Mahoromatic. Since then, they've done magical girl series, Petite Princess Yucie, and manic parody, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. By the time they were putting out mid-quality works like Melody of Oblivion and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World , newly announced titles could no longer be greeted with a rush of excitement just because Gainax's name was attached. And, they were the studio that put the cap stone on fanservice with He Is My Master. In that story of a fabulously wealthy, lecherous teenager and his teenage girl maid-servants, they failed to establish sufficient irony that would safeguard the anime against the question as to whether it was a work of a grossly regressive perspective or a work of calculated pandering. From its opening onward, Gurren Lagann is almost explicitly demanding more than just a second chance. The proclamation "who do you think I am?!? announces that Gurren Lagann and Gainax are going to seize new recognition. These giant robot series have certain operating principles, and the principals are to a large extent interchangeable. Personally, Gurren Lagann's gets crossed with Eureka 7's "do it for yourself." Once you get them straightened out, Gurren Lagann's motto, "believe in me, who believes in you" does hold true for the macro-narrative. Yet, the series doesn't require too much faith, because the speed of the action and the charisma of the characters like Kamina kicks in early. The magnitude and sometimes wackiness proves to be hard evidence of Gainax's zeal. It is convincing, not just to a genre-reluctant or a genre-weary audience, but also anyone who would accept the operating tropes of a boy and his robot challenging the universe. How does one rip moe, the almost fetishisization of youthful innocence, or maids, or the other notions of virtual, idealized female forms, while defending and promoting mecha anime? Well, it's not easy to rationalize, especially considering that if you think about it, the appeal of mecha anime isn't that dissimilar to a child's fascination with fire engines and the like. From am artistic vantage, it doesn't work. Taken from an animation/production standpoint, even Petite Princess Yucie has some marvelous sequences. And, the juvenile power fantasies invoked by giant robots don't exactly reflect a progressive mindset. Yet, while it is unquestionably an escapist pleasure, there is something inherently satisfying about seeing a giant machine destroying things in the name of a lofty ideal. It's mental junk food, but at least it isn't hard drugs. And, maybe when the mecha anime is as creatively frenetic as Gurren Lagann, it's worth the indulgence. The creative staff working on Gurren Lagann wasn't some of the better known names in anime, even among relatively well informed North American fans, but quickly, they establish themselves as artists worth remembering. As a series that spins the conventional in an unconventional direction, Gurren Lagann benefits from a staff that is passionate about the past that informs their work, but who are also passionate about establishing their own interpretation.
The anime was scripted by Kazuki Nakashima, who has an interesting history as a playwright. See this interview for a bit about his stage work. Anime fans may also know of Nakashima from his work on Oh! Edo Rocket, a play performed by the Gekidan Shinkansen theater troupe adapted into a Madhouse anime concerning the bizarre adventures of a firework maker who is asked to build a rocket to the moon under the watchful eyes of the government, which had banned all arts and luxuries, including fireworks. While one can poke holes in the thesis, there is a not entirely unconvincing theory that the progression over the course of Gurren Lagann reflects the evolution of piloted mecha anime from the 70's to the current time frame. Even if the notion is incorrect / incomplete, it's useful because it demonstrates how Gurren Lagann doesn't fall into lock step with one template for how to run a super robot mecha series. Simon is neither Shinji Ikari nor Kouji Kabuto. He starts off a generally dull kid; hard working with an underlying optimism. Unlike some Go Nagai heroes, he has no innate knowledge that his side will be victorious no matter what and unlike other Nagai heroes, he doesn't have the pathological sense of ego to automatically push through overwhelming odds. What he obtains is hard earned and Gurren Lagann does demonstrate an Anno-like eye for depression and overwhelming bleakness. While Gurren Lagann is more of a re-exploration of the genre than it is a character study, Simon is a dynamic personality and an aspect of the anime series' expanding nature is Simon's metamorphosis into an epic hero. It fosters the desire to see this scrub turn into the legend introduced in the first scene of the first episode. Throughout the process, the series makes it a point to accentuate the high spots of the genre. Entering into the cockpit of a robot, the "gattai" or combination of component mecha, the heralding of an upcoming attack, the Gurren Lagann team know that these tropes are exhausted to the point where many are seldom used outside parody, but Gainax still puts enough ingenuity and thrust into each that the excitement is renewed. Of course, there is a metaphysical element to Gurren Lagann, but it's more about keeping the tone energized and the conflict engaging than it is exploring anything close to a relevant concern. Gurren Lagann is about something to the extent that 300 is about something. You can glean an insight from the narrative if you want to, but if that's more than excited zeal, it's an ancillary effect. There are some exercises in politics throughout the series, and the anime is effective in building political dilemmas, but again, this is more in service to the drama than it is in establishing a useful philosophy. To build that tension, the conflict does touch on recognizable, real concerns, but the anime is working off pulp science and pulp ideology. While the conflicts are more sophisticated and engaging than good rebels versus evil empire, Gurren Lagann isn't in the business of lofty intensions beyond presenting good mecha anime. Many of Gurren Lagann's catch phrases could easily be taken as statements directed at the audience, but in the case of "don't take me lightly!", really, it should be saying "enjoy the ride."
Judging the anime by whether Gurren Lagann is a thrilling adventure, if there's a flaw in Nakashima's approach, it's that the heroes fight and fight and fight, then they break through and win. Gurren Lagann is a super robot show where there is not a single ritualized formula or "Blazing Sword" by which enemies are defeated. That's perfect for making the series more dynamic and more involving. The problem is that the anime still waits for the hero or heroes to get charged up to some critical point that allows them to overcome anything (maybe at the cost of some sacrifice). That point is authorially dictated and conforms to the arc of an episode or the arc of the series. At times, it feels like the characters are fighting off the enemies, waiting for an external meta-mechanism. As much as Gurren Lagann insists on crediting its protagonists' fight to the last breathe heroic fervor and know no boundaries attitude in their victories, and as contagious as the series' engagement of that attitude is, the point where the push leads to victory feels like it is set by the script. The anime is almost like a sport in that respect. The team (heroes or adversaries), with the most momentum/points at the end of the allotted time, takes the victory. In that scheme, the script/author plays the role of referee, judge and time keeper. By the same token, it is amusing to think of Simon's allies as almost a rugby team. They're sufficiently crazy and eager to engage in violence. For all the interesting potential and the head-down dedication he displays, Simon belongs to the long tradition of young heroes, ready to initiate their quest into the wider world. That said, Kamina is a rather x-treme Obi-Won. He and Yoko start a precedent for fiercely independent people who volunteer their strength to Simon's cause. At every leg of the journey, there is a tremendous leap of self-assurance that comes as a requisite for fighting with Simon. It's like running for president . Certain endeavors require an almost egomaniacal degree of self confidence; that regardless of the odds or the probability of the outcome, the person entering the ring is convinced that they have a shot. That's the attitude that makes up the cast of Gurren Lagann. This produces a crazy, eager to fight pantheon of legends. As much as the script sets the stage for this bunch of very disparate people, united by, and driven by lofty ideals, for much of the series, for much of the lower tier cast, the anime relies on character designer Atsushi Nishigori. There's almost a 2D video game approach to making the character stand out. Other than Simon, Kamina, Yoko and a few other primary characters, these people don't stand in the middle of the shot, waiting to be captured in full view. Like a platformer or a fighting game with a huge cast (Street Fighter Alpha or King of Fighters), there are a lot of very colorful, very appealing individuals moving around. The Boba Fett mystery effect is in play for a large set of the cast for most of the series, with open credits shots and glimpses at characters such as a hot tinkerer with long blonde hair and an oral fixation or the like.
On the animation side of the equation, Gurren Lagann was Hiroyuki Imaishi's chance to step into the limelight. If you're an anime watcher, Imaishi might not be a name you know, but you probably remember his work. Memorable sequences he contributed to include the paper-cut/manga piece of KareKano/His and Her Circumstances, episode 5 of FLCL, the climax of action lover favorite Lupin III movie Walther P38, the opening of Cromartie High, and parts of the last stretch of episodes in the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series. In super robot anime, there is an opportunity to use design and ritual in the place of elaborate choreography. You have a gargantuan, totemic robot. It's colorful. It looks powerful. It just has to stand and unleash its ritualized super attack. Rocket punch? Getter beam? Blazing sword? Are any of these that far divorced from the chambara standard of the samurai who looks imposing, then ends the battle with one, decisive slash. If you look back for early "real robot" shows that had something approaching genuine constraints, such as limited ammunition or power supply, Gundam or Macross had their conceits and routines, but they also had to suggest some notion of strategy and ability through their choreography. For Gurren Lagann, Imaishi's role is to put personality center stage. The series toes the Shonen Jump formula of weird people, in a weird place, with weird things; think early Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure), or Naruto. The weird "who" of this formula is Gurren Lagann's colorful characters and, as long as they're kept lively, engaged, and natural rather than action-figure stiff, they are doing what Imaishi needs. The weird "what" is the series' mecha, and they are quite weird. From a for the kids, merchandising perspective, a transforming locomotive or a robot with a plane for shoulders and tanks for legs, makes some sense. Gurren Lagann offers up platypus mecha, that are more in line with urban vinyls or graffiti than something from the toy store shelf. These hot-rod mecha, with mid-chest faces or Kustom Kulture flair, seems ill-suited for motion, but Imaishi gets them to fly like bumble bees. While it probably isn't especially easy to figure out how to build an action scene around a walking battleship or fill the charge-up periods of the script, Imaishi makes is look effortless by following the central tenant of mecha anime: make the robot an extension of its pilot.
The characters like to tussle, so in Gurren Lagann, the robots frequently engage each other physically, with a sense of weight and collision established. The characters like to blow things up, and wow does Gurren Lagann have explosions. There are no Gundam puffs of pink and teal smoke here. As far back as the Wings of Honneamise, Gainax has displayed a real skill for explosive bursts. With Gurren Lagann's torrents of dust, flecks of light and stages: white light, then flames, then air blast, then debris, the animators make an art of it. The characters like to let loose, and in turn, the anime demonstrates a capacity for snake-bite quickness. There's something like a knife fight early on in the series, and its fast intricacies are staggering. It's probably an understatement to say that anime has its share of things to be discouraged about. That's true of any medium, but anime is definitely not lacking in things with which to be concerned, either in North America or Japan. One of the acute symptoms is the reaction to episode 4 of Gurren Lagann. Kindof like the rejection of the Hiroyuki Okuno directed seventh episode of Samurai 7, viewers didn't exactly take to Osamu Kobayashi's guest stint on Gurren Lagann episode four (perhaps intended to be a more extensive involvement, or a template for continuing work). Trouble spilled over into the internet, specifically the message board 2Channel. After a harsh condemnation, Takami Akai, who had been with Gainax since their Daicon days, and who created their Princess Maker game series, step down as Gurren Lagann's producer and from Gainax's board. Osamu Kobayashi's name has been attached to a number of anime series that AICN Anime has and will continue to tout as overlooked gems, including Beck, Gad Guard and Paradise Kiss. To say that episode four of Gurren Lagann is a drop and quality is to mistake a change in aesthetics for a break down in production. Everyone has their own tastes and preferences, and maybe Akai got sniffy in his dismissive response, but episode four marks the type of risk taking experimentation that anime needs to remain a vibrant form. Kobayashi takes off the restrictor plate on the animation. Not that it was static and uninteresting before or after, but Kobayashi loosens the bindings on the characters and allows them to be more dynamic. He employs a technique which is like that of manga with concrete background and abstract characters. It's "cartoonishness" equates to a looser definition to the character models. There is more emotiveness and more willingness to relax the idealization. The individuality of the characters and the magnitude of their expressions become amplified. They don't look like they are coming straight off the design sheet in every frame, so they aren't as pretty as some might prefer, but, they are also less generic. The episode isn't without problems. Some of the physical interaction needs work. For example, a punch thrown sends the recipient reeling without ever really seeming to connect. In some of the mecha scenes, especially in ones that don't accentuate movement, there is a plastic wall look to the robots that lacks presence. There is a discernable creative joy in the episode. Most of the criticisms probably come from the issue that the episode doesn't always use the most frames and isn't the smoothest animation, but in how it is conceived and storyboarded, it plainly isn't route or economical. Often the difference is in the effort spent on behalf of small things, like the complex swooning dance as a spider robot activates and leaps out of its holster or the oddly gap toothed teddy bears and misshapen stars that pop up for a split second when a character is hit on the head. And it's in the effects not typically used in anime, such as the Ren and Stimpy popularized gag of hyper detailed close-ups. As a one-off episode that introduces some reoccurring secondary characters, that is not far outside the repertoire of anime situation comedy Kobayashi's working off a pretty bare scripted framework. Imaishi handles speed and wackiness brilliantly. Kobayashi handles a quiet moment of characters lounging on the rocks, talking about their hunger, then bickering over a haunch of meet shaped cloud, and in his expressions and in the thorough designs of the parade of clouds passing through the sky, he makes it an endearing moment. Gurren Lagann's production doesn't look strictly gun-shy after the costly episode four ordeal. The following, subterranean episode is almost all gray toned with an interesting handling of light sources. The effects, the fight choreography and the design aesthetic remain distinctively Gurren Lagann. The majority of watchers will probably disagree, but a fan of adventurous animation could've hoped that the series would've gone off script on expected animation style again. If you're someone who would expect the episode to be re-animated for its DVD release, consider that it's the kind of tinkering by animators like Kobayashi that keeps anime dynamic. Gurren Lagann recalls Gunbuster, a genuine tribute, coupled with a vision that rocketed the work to unexpected heights. We know where Hideaki Anno has gone since Gunbuster: to hell and back with Evangelion and his serious live action works Love & Pop and Shiki-Jitsu, then getting the last laugh by marrying Moyoco Anno (the Hideaki stand-in in Moyoco's Flowers & Bees implied that despite his unkempt shagginess, he's a cool lady's man) and directing the live action Cutie Honey. Gurren Lagann leaves a lingering desire for more. Not more Gurren Lagann specifically, though it might be interesting to see what would happen if they attempted a compilation movie. The provoked desire is for more anime that is thrilled to be working in a popular tradition while experimenting with its boundaries. Hopefully, more of Hiroyuki Imaishi's dynamic animation will be featured prominently an anime. And hopefully Kazuki Nakashima will work directly in the medium again.
The unfortunate irony is that as fun as Gurren Lagann is, it's bound to get stuck in its place. The plot of Gurren Lagann, as well as its production is so concerned with surpassing limitations that one has to rein in their external hopes for the series. While it stands as a immensely satisfying anime, from a marginally pessimistic standpoint, it's hard to believe that it is going to rock the heavens. Gurren Lagann is the next evolution in giant robot anime. Yet, there is more than a preponderance of evidence to suggest that the genre has hit something close to terminal velocity. Especially factoring in that the broad interests of anime fans on both sides of the Pacific is not on mecha, Gurren Lagann is clearly not going to shake anime in general or mecha anime specifically the way that Neon Genesis Evangelion did, or Mobile Suit Gundam, or Getter Robo or Mazinger Z. As distinctive as the anime is, it is not going to provoke copycats or a movement. If it did, because Gurren Lagann is an advancement by degrees, set apart by the specific artists involved, unless a creator explicitly named Gurren Lagann as an influence or the anime copied its exponential growth in the plot's scale, it would be highly debatable to differentiate traits of a post-Gurren Lagann giant robot anime from pre-Gurren Lagann super robot revival shows like Godannar and Gravion. As far as North America is concerned, Gurren Lagann might be a cross over for non-mecha fans, but what audience is going to latch on outside the anime faithful? GaoGaiGar is a colorful, energetic super robot show, invocative of Transformers, that aired on Japanese TV around the time that Evangelion did. Recently, Media Blasters attempted to release the series in North America, and its sales performance was such that the better-regarded second half is in unreleased-limbo and the distributor has publicly sworn off giant robot titles. One would think that if there was a good time to release GaoGaiGar, Media Blasters had it. But, GaoGaiGar's difficulties look like evidence that not even a live action Transformers could bump the needle of giant robot interest. Is there even room for live action Voltron or Robotech movies? The first couple of episodes of Gurren Lagann are streaming online through Anime Network's online service. If the full series was available would it be a killer app for a new model of online anime delivery? The series has the potential to grab some geek attention, but even if it's far easier to acquire, how broadly can it reach in the face of competition from other media. In terms of failing to be the next vanguard, the problem doesn't seem to be that the series isn't another Evangelion. The problem seems to be that Gurren Lagann doesn't have the confluence of conditions that Eva had. Eva was a well produced, longer anime series with depth available at a time when, between Ghost in the Shell in theatres and Sailor Moon on TV, people were both ready for it, and for the most part, had not previously seen anything like it. And, at the time, the then-next-gen video games had a sufficiently slim library of quality releases, that game fandom could support the argument that Wild Arms was as good as or better than Final Fantasy VII. The shape of the current market looks like; at the lower age bracket it is possible to trade off something like Naruto for what ever is next. Looking at older ages, maybe a properly promoted Black Lagoon could have the cross-over appeal to pull interest in from elsewhere, but games seem to be the top draw for time consumption. While gamers seem willing to experiment with unusual games (Portal, Bioshock), in an entirely unscientific survey, even lapsed anime fan-turned gamers seem reluctant to spend time trying out anime. In light of the fact that relatively inexpensive guy manga (seinen) isn't exactly lighting up the sales charts, well handled, digitally distributed anime might curb piracy among anime fans, but there is little to suggest that it will be a road by which something like Gurren Lagann will pull in scores of new or lapsed fans. Maybe a push could take a series with the exuberance of Gurren Lagann and convince the mildly interested outside the core audience that the anime is worth seeking out, but that would take more than a gushing AICN Anime columnist and a few billboards in the anime enthusiast press to accomplish.

Blade of the Immortal Adaptations in the Works?

Unconfirmed claims have been posted on the Japanese MoonPhase stating that bloody samurai manga Blade of the Immortal will be adapted into a live action movie and an anime series. Given the manga's distinctive mix of media (pencil, ink, charcoal), creator Hiroaki Samura previously expressed reluctance to see the series adapted.

Big in Japan

From Anime News Network Japan's top selling manga in 2007 1 One Piece #46 2 NANA #18 3 Nodame Cantabile #17 4 Naruto #37 5 Fullmetal Alchemist #17 6 Hunter X Hunter #24 7 Bleach #28 8 D.Gray-man #10 9 Katekyo Hitman Reborn! #13 10 Gintama #17 The selling animated release DVD's were 1 Tales from Earthsea (Gedo Senki) 2 Ratatouille 3 Shrek 3 Special Edition 4 Leroy & Stitch (sequel of Lilo & Stitch) 5 My Neighbor Totoro 6 Cars 7 Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Special Edition Final Cut: Jiyu no Daisho 8 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion #1 9 The World of GOLDEN EGGS #1 10 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion #2 11 Mobile Suit Gundam DVD-Box 2 (Final Volume) 12 The World of GOLDEN EGGS Season 2 DVD-Box 13 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion #3 14 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Standard Edition 15 The World of GOLDEN EGGS #2 16 The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya #7 Limited Edition 17 Laputa - Castle in the Sky 18 Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea 19 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion #4 20 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion #9 (Final Volume) The top aime movies in box office were 1 Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl: Dialga vs. Palkia vs. Darkrai (movie) 2 Doraemon: Nobita no Shin Makai Daiboken - Shichinin no Mahotsukai 3 Detective Conan: Jolly Roger in the Deep Azure 4 Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone 5 Crayon Shin-chan: Arashi wo Yobu Utau Ketsu dake Bakudan! 6 Naruto Shippuden (movie) 7 One Piece: Episode of Alabaster - Sabaku no Ojou to Kaizoku Tachi 8 Yes! Precure 5: Kagami no Kuni no Miracle Daiboken! 9 Chou Gekijouban Keroro Gunso 2: Shinkai no Princess de Arimasu! 10 Mushiking/Oshare Majo Love and Berry: Shiawase no Mahou

Upcoming in Japan

The site for Gunslinger Girl IL Teatrino, the second season of the anime, has been updated. A trailer for the fourth season of baseball anime Major The second season of CLAMP design military mech series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion will start on Japan TV in April, airing Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Code Geass series will begin its American television run on the Adult Swim channel in the spring of 2008. A traile the anime adapation of Niju-Menso no Musume is online According to Anime News Network, Michiaki Watanabe will be bringing back his music themed fantasy epic Violinist of Hameln after a six year absense. Violinist of Hameln: Shchelkunchik (Nutcracker) starts in the January 18 issue of Square Enix's biweekly Young Gangan magazine. Saki Okuse (Twilight of the Dark Master, Ghost Talker's Daydream, Legend of "Zipangu" BLOOD SUCKER) start a new manga, tentatively titled Doro Neko 9, in the March issue (on sale on January 30) of Gentosha's Monthly Comic Birz magazine. Tunasima Sirou will re-launch mecha manga Jinki: Extend as Jinki: Shinsetsu in the May issue of Dengeki Moeoh.

Figures News

Sideshow Collectibles.com is taking pre-orders for the following: Ikki Tousen Kan-u Unchou (Gothic Version) Est. to ship 1st Qtr 2008 $52.00 PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Sonsaku Hakufu (Black Version) Est. to ship 1st Qtr 2008 $52.00 PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Ryomo Shimei (Cerberus) Est. to ship 1st Qtr 2008 $64.99 PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Ryomo Shimei (Black Version) Est. to ship 1st Qtr 2008 $49.99 PVC Figure
Ikki Tousen Sonsaku Hakufu (Cerberus) Est. to ship 1st Qtr 2008 $59.99 PVC Figure
Fist of the North Star - Rei Real Action Hero Est. to ship 2nd Qtr 2008 $174.99 12", 1:6 scale
Jiang Wu-Yang - WARLORDS Hot Toys & How2Work Movie Masterpiece Series Warlords Collectibles Est. to ship 2nd Qtr 2008 12-inches tall 22 point of articulation painted by J C HONG; sculpted by Yulli
Jiang Wu-Yang (Special Version) - WARLORDS Hot Toys & How2Work Movie Masterpiece Series Warlords Collectibles Est. to ship 2nd Qtr 2008 12-inches tall 22 point of articulation painted by J C HONG; sculpted by Yulli
Zhao Er-Hu - WARLORDS Hot Toys & How2Work Movie Masterpiece Series Warlords Collectibles Est. to ship 2nd Qtr 2008 12-inches tall 22 point of articulation painted by J C HONG; sculpted by Yulli
Organic Hobby, Inc in conjunction with Kaiyodo will be releasing "Revoltech Type-J9 Griffon (Aqua-Unit)" & "Revoltech Black Ox" in North America in February’.08 with a SRP of $22.00 Revoltech Type-J9 Griffon (Aqua-Unit), The ultra sleek black mecha "Type-J9 Griffon [Aqua-Unit]" (or J9 Griffon Labor with optional underwater system backpack) piloted by a 15 year old boy from India "Bud Renard," is based on the famous Anime action series "Patlabor, Mobile Police." The figure is 5-6" tall and has 43 articulation points with 12 joint parts. "Revoltech Type-J9 Griffon [Aqua-Unit or optional underwater system backpack]" comes equipped with interchangeable accessories and parts (1 revolver cannon, 5 optional hands and 1 display base).
Revoltech Black Ox, one of the most destructive forces of terror (also known as Tetsujin's best rival robot) the giant robot, is originated from the manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama published in 1958 which was later made into several anime series, the first in 1963. The figure is 5-6" tall and has 43 articulation points with 12 joint parts. "Revoltech Black Ox" comes equipped with interchangeable accessories and parts (1 Arm inner parts, 1 Regular inner part, 2 set of hands, 1 extra head parts of Tetsujin No.28 and 1 display base).
Figures.com/Cool Japanese Toys reviews Kaiyodo's Revoltech: BROCKEN, Kaiyodo's Revoltech: HELLDIVER and Danboard Collection DX reviews Danboard, Helldiver and Shin Getter 2

Upcoming North American Releases

ADV will be releasing the following titles on February 19th
Moonlight Mile: One Small Step (1 of 3)
Tokyo Majin – Dark Arts: Predestined Power (2 of 6) Also Available With A Limited Edition Collectors Box
Welcome To The N.H.K.: Third Conspiracy (3 of 6) Moonlight Mile Produced by powerhouse studios Klockworx (Chrono Crusade, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu) and Imagica (Divergence Eve, Gravion), Moonlight Mile follows two globe-trotting adventurers as they join the international effort to mine Helium 3, a new energy source discovered on the moon. The gritty early days of space exploration make for engaging visuals and exciting plotlines. Synopsis: For daredevil mountain climbers Goro Saruwatari and Jack “Lostman” Woodbridge, conquering the highest peeks on Earth is just the beginning. When a virtually limitless energy source is discovered on the moon, and the world’s space agencies join forces to launch a mining operation, Goro and Lostman see their next frontier. But can the super powers of the world really share such a valuable resource? As yet another war erupts in the Gulf, and shadowy government agencies vie for underhanded supremacy in this new frontier, our two adventurers must face their own hardships in their struggle to make their dreams of reaching the moon a reality. Who will make it there first? Just how far are they willing to go? What will be waiting for them when they get there? Via Toonzone and Right Stuf CLAMP adaptation XXXHolic will premiere 3/25/08. Upcoming box sets include 2/12 Dragon Ball Movie Box Set (Movies 2-4) - $24.98 3/4 Blue Gender Box Set (Viridian Collection) - $49.98 Peach Girl Box Set - $69.98 3/11 Aquarion Season 1 Box Set 1 - $59.98: a mecha series from Shoji Kawamori (Escaflowne, Macross Plus) that had not be previously released in individual volumes Fullmetal Alchemist Box Set 4 - $49.98 Speed Grapher Box Set (Director's Cut) - $69.98 3/18 Black Cat Box Set - $69.98 Moon Phase Box Set - $69.98 Solty Rei Box Set - $69.98 3/25 Baki the Grappler Box Set 2 - $49.98 ADV will be releasing Makoto Shinkai's (Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days) latest film, Five Centimeters Per Second on March 4th. A thinpak collection of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie will be released on that date for $59.98 . The second season of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie will be getting thinpak collection treatment on 3/4/08. It is priced at $59.98 and runs 370 minutes. Also on March 4th, Sony Pictures will be releasing volume 1 of Blood+ for $24.96 and a 25 episode 1 for $119.96

Sola Manga Coming From Broccoli

Anime News Network reports that Broccoli Books has announced on its fan club mailing list and on its blog that it will be releasing the sola manga by Chaco Abeno in North America. The fantasy romance is scheduled to start in summer 2008.

Domo-kun Ready Nickelodeon Jump

Anime News Network and ICV report Nickelodeon television network will air the Domo series of stop motioned animated shorts in America in the first quarter of 2008. Big Tent Entertainment announced in November that it licensed Dark Horse Comics, Concept One, and other companies to make figures, collectibles, stationery, fashion accessories, fuzzy dice, and more. According to that announcement, "Logotel has developed a junior girls' apparel line which includes t-shirts, fashion tops, fleece, hosiery, and flips flops as well as men's neckwear." Play Along has already released the obligatory plush toys of Domo-kun, and Briefly Stated, Inc. has released "sleepwear and underwear."

Viz Pulls MAR

Anime on DVD reports that according to an update at Right Stuf's retail site, Viz Media has canceled all unreleased volumes of the series shonen fantasy Mar.

Gurren Lagann Dub Cast

Anime on DVD's forum reveils that the English dub cast for Gurren Lagan will be Simon: Josh Grelle Kamina: Brett Weaver Yoko: Tiffany Grant Viral: Vic Mignogna Rossiu: Chris Patton Kinon: Brittney Karbowski Darry: Hilary Haag Kittan: Jason Douglas Kiyal: Kira Vincent-Davis Kiyoh: Monica Rial Boota: Monica Rial

Undertown Gets Syndicated

Undertown, the OEL manga by Jim Pascoe and Jake Myler will be syndicated in newspaper comic pages starting this Sunday, January 6, 2008. The work is distributed as part of TOKYOPOP's rotating selection of manga that has provided to Universal Press Syndicate since 2005. Over 50 papers plan to carry Undertown, including the Los Angeles Time, Denver Post, Vancouver Sun and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Created and written by Jim Pascoe, Undertown is the story of Sama, a boy on the verge of 'tweenhood, who knows that the answer to saving his father lies in a strange world under his bed. Pascoe paired with Jake Myler, whose unusually grand, audacious style complimented Pascoe's dark mindscapes. The two collaborated for 14 months on the coming-of-age fiction fantasy.

More Blizzard Titles From TP

ICV2 reports TOKYOPOP has planned a second manga based on Blizzard's Warcraft fantasy game franchise. Keith R.A. DeCandido will be writing Warcraft: Dragons of Outland, based on World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, planned for a March 2009 release. Later this year Tokyopop is planning to publish its first volume of a manga anthology based on World of Warcraft-creator Blizzard Entertainment's Starcraft franchise (Amazon is currently listing an August 12th, 2008 release date for the Starcraft Anthology).

Viz Launhes New Omnibus Format

VIZ Media announced that they will be releasing a selection of manga in their new VIZBIG Edition omnibus collections. Collections in a larger 5-3/4 x 8-5/8 size (larger than the standard 5 x 7-1/2 manga) with special premium presentations including new cover art. RUROUNI KENSHIN will be the first series to receive the VIZBIG Edition treatment this month, with DRAGON BALL and DRAGON BALL Z set for May release and Takehiko Inoue's VAGABOND will follow in Fall of 2008. These VIZBIG Edition titles have an anticipated initial cover price of $17.99 and will be released quarterly.

Anime Expo News

The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), the overseeing body of Anime Expo announces two new additions to the current Board of Directors. Mr. Bryant Quan, hails with a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Arizona and is currently enrolled in its Eller Executive M.B.A. program, has been a volunteer staffer for Anime Expo since 2005. Mr. Quan¹s background stems from a professional work history in Business Management, Information Systems and Creative Design. "I look forward to working with the organization and sharing my experiences in order to help the organization succeed and prosper" states Mr. Quan. Mr. Hank Wong, a B.S. graduate from the University of California-Berkeley, has been involved with Anime Expo for 11 years and brings with him a rich background of experience and perspective. Previously, he served for several years as a coordinator, manager, and assistant division director within Anime Expo's Programming and Interactive Events Divisions. Quan and Wong join existing SPJA Board of Directors Ross Johnson, Lionel Lum, H. Roderic Onodera, Chairman-elect Mr. Marc Perez and Paul Wilson. Anime Expo 2008 announced that online pre-registration for attendees, industry members and press has opened at www.spja.org A pre-registration special for attendees of $45.00 U.S. for all four (4) fun-filled days and nights of anime/manga goodness will be available till the end of 2007. Online pre-registration accepts American Express, MasterCard and VISA. Attendee Pre-registration for all four (4) days after the 2007 deadline will be $50.00 U.S. Attendees, industry members and press representatives that do not pre-register can also register onsite during the convention held during the 4th of July weekend (July3-6, 2008) at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Anime on NA TV

Anime News Network reports that starting February 6th, the sci-fi channel will augment its Monday might block with an addition two-hour block on Tuesdays. Anime to be shown include Manga Entertainment's Read Or Die OVA, Appleseed (the non-CGI OVA), Kai Doh Maru and the X movie. A schedule can be read here The Anime Network has shuttered its 24/7 linear service. Video on Demand, Sprint Mobile and online content will continue to be delivered. Geneon has confirmed to ANN that despite the listing on Starz Edge, Hellsing Ultimate episode 4 will not be ready to air on February 18th. The OVA will be released in Japan on February 22.

Worth checking out

Anime News Network has posted a video interview with Tekkon Kinkreet director Michael Arias Roland Kelts discussed Arias' work here ADV's trailer for political sci-fi Moonlight Mile can be seen here Via Twitch, the new animated Clone Wars trailer The OC Register looks at Giant Robot the event of its fiftieth issue. Kazuo Umezu's press conference for the live action OROCHI. THROUGH OTAKU EYES / Don't hop to conclusions about manga's scroll 'origins' A geek by any other name has a cheat sheet to the winter anime TV season for Japanese broadcast. ComiPress has posted The Reason I Quit My Job as a Manga Editor Part V as well as Tokunan Seiichiro Incredibly Strange Manga Part 3 Outsider Style and charted Manga Anthology Circulations 2004-2006 The site also connect 2007 Best-Of "Best-Of and Retrospectives" Lists The second of 2007's bi-annual Comiket/Comic Market doujinshi expo resently look place in Japan. Matt Alt weighs in here Heisei Democracy starts their overage here, with figures news from the industry hall here Clockwork Machina! starts theirs here Danny Choo looks at C73 Enterprise and C73 Dakimakura ComiPress rounds up more here Most blog's are doing year end awards or best lists. One of the most amusing is Wakaranai's Anti-Spiral Awards 2007 (spoilers involved) Japanator looks at Mushishi for the Nintendo DS. Speaking of games, Magic Box has Mobile Suit Gundam 00 for the DS and Bandai Namco's Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 Also Ryuga Gotoku Kenzen (Yakuza 3) for the Playstation 3 destroy tokyo has a review of Gundam Battle Chronicle for the PSP scrumptious looks at Nodame Cantabile for the Wii Japanator points out the Naruto: Playstation 3 Project clip Vi Gunota, exotic mecha from the Gihren's Greed: Menace Of Axis Gundam game here Gundam 00 DS Gundam Battle Rave Gundam VS Gundam Fatal Fury Pachinko Jog looks at Reptilia and Kazuo Umezu here comics212 photographs Kyoto Train Station and its Osamu Tezuka tributes here via Kotaku, the American version of the animated Street Fighter II series Photos from the Hong Kong Gundam Expo 2007 Twitch talks to Kaz Kiriya about the live action/cgi Casshen and his upcoming action-fantasy Goemon Anime on DVD's Chris Beveridge spoke on Right Stuf's Anime Today podcast episode 57 about what happened in the field of anime over the course of 2007 Bang Zoom! Entertainment, known for their anime localization work, is streaming a new episode of Anime TV that covers Eureka 7 and Fatal Fury. Mazinger Z jumps into politics (sortof) Via Alt Japan Designer Dharma Let's Anime looks at Shogun Warriors Kurogane’s Anime Blog has moe zerg New Years and birthdays at Ghibli Same Hat! Same Hat! remembers SF tiger Tatiana here

For more commentary see the AICN Anime MySpace.

Readers Talkback

comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Jan. 7, 2008, 5:53 a.m. CST

    That's animazing!

    by tonagan

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 7:07 a.m. CST

    meh

    by ironic_name

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 7:25 a.m. CST

    Such a shame...

    by LordPorkington

    ...that your feeble little 'meh' didn't score you an easy 'First'. All your hard work was wasted. Try again!

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 7:33 a.m. CST

    not really..

    by ironic_name

    check the time, first comment was an hour earlier.<P>and if you feel anything other than 'meh' looking at those awful designs then good luck to you.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 9:14 a.m. CST

    Will someone please..

    by YaKnow

    give me a summary of this post? I fell asleep after the second sentence.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Who the hell do you think I am?!

    by GodMars

    Sugar and spice and all things nice, that is what Gurren Lagann is made of. Its the kinda anime that makes you want to go outside and start screaming the various catch phrases from the series at everyone you come across (and maybe stare down an oncoming car or two). It should be noted that ADV's subs on the streaming episodes are HORRIBLE. They are enough to keep a big fan of the series (like myself) from buying the DVDs. And for those who missed it, The Gurren Brigade made it all the way to Iraq! http://tinyurl.com/2nltpv

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 9:52 a.m. CST

    ginrei724

    by Prof_Ender

    I would love to tell you how wrong you are, but you such an admirable job at that yourself. I'd hate to intrude on a person's job. ^_^

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 9:53 a.m. CST

    re: Subtitles

    by ScottGreen

    I wouldn't be surprised if some of the things that people are objecting to in the translation came from Gainax. For example, the official Japanese site refers to "Team Gurren." On Evangelion, ADV had to argue to refer to Shinji as the "First Child" and not the "First Children"

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Gurren Laggan

    by Prof_Ender

    This was one of the better anime to come out last year. I remember seeing a promo for it and not being thrilled -- the same with the first episode. Then I kept watching. The show is fucking epic...GIANT ROBO epic (and I loved GIANT ROBO). By the end of it, I was shedding manly tears of manliness. Awesome. Just awesome.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 11:25 a.m. CST

    BLACK LAGOON/GENEON

    by DeckardBladeRunner

    Anyword on if BL from Geneon got picked up since GENEON ate it last year? Id love to see vol 4....

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 11:41 a.m. CST

    Black Lagoon

    by ScottGreen

    More DVDs will happen at some point from someone. The series has continued to be localized, but no one has been forthcoming about handling it, or any other Geneon titles.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, noon CST

    prof ender

    by ironic_name

    since i like the idea of giant robo, i may check this out, crap mecha be damned.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 12:07 p.m. CST

    TTGL was the best anime of 2007

    by lex romero

    And currently the best anime of this century, easily in my top 5. The whole thing was fantastistic, the characters, the storyline, teh battles. I loved that they never let the story slow too much, there was always something going on to progress the plot. Epic stuff.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 1:22 p.m. CST

    And why the dub?

    by GodMars

    Money wasted, and the cast is laughable.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Fight the Power!

    by Johnno

    Tengen was epic balls to the wall fun! And even manages to choke your heart a little here and there... the ending is one to remember! Watching that series really makes you feel good afterwards! It's almost magical!

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 2:02 p.m. CST

    Yes!

    by veritasses

    A Leiji Matsumoto homage! Now, if I only had more time to watch and read all this stuff...

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 2:19 p.m. CST

    Thanks for the BL update..

    by Scopedog

    Thanks much for the update on BLACK LAGOON. Loved the first "season", but got really worried about seeing anything else when the Geneon mess started. Hopefully, someone will pick up this great title. GL I would very much want to see, not the least of which is that Gainax knows how to do damned good stuff. Anyone who says otherwise...frankly, you don't know what the f&#k you're talking about...

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 6:34 p.m. CST

    if you like dvd 1...

    by v1cious

    wait till the next half gurren Lagann is honestly the best anime of 2007, and the best mecha series to be made in years. it's that good.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 7:07 p.m. CST

    Did That EVANGELION Redux Come Out Yet?

    by LaserPants

    Kinda curious about that one.

  • Jan. 7, 2008, 7:14 p.m. CST

    re: Evangelion Redux

    by ScottGreen

    The first of the Rebuild of Evangelion movies came out in Japan in September. The second should be out in 08. No indication of when they're US bound

  • Jan. 8, 2008, 11:41 a.m. CST

    I'm surprised Evangelion Redux is taking this long

    by Johnno

    To be localized I mean... you'd think either Manga or ADV would be jumping aboard this... most likely ADV will get it seeing as how they're trying for the live action movie and all with close ties to Gainax, but you'd tihnk they'd have announced it. Here's a guaranteed day one purchase DVD for many fans, perhaps that could also be the reason they're dragging their as, but if it's due to quality concerns and they're trying to make it good then at least tell me something! My guess is that we'll hear it once the DVD is out in Japan... and subsequently fansubbed and distributed...

  • Jan. 8, 2008, 3:08 p.m. CST

    Terminator 'Animatrix' project!

    by Johnno

    Like the Matrix, and soon 'The Dark Knight', the Terminator series is also getting it's own collection of animated shorts, only this time it's not all Japanese, but includes European animation as well! http://tinyurl.com/2xlk7h