Manga Spotlight: Dominion (Fourth Edition) By Shirow Masamune Released by Dark Horse Manga
Written in the mid-80's Dominion could be thought of as Blade Runner as an action comedy, with mini-tanks. Its irreverent view of an urban landscape and its police force as an unholy mess prefigures Verhoeven's vision of Robocop by about a year. Its Newport city is clogged with lethal clouds of bacterial smog, plagued by gangs, especially the portly "bio-being" bandit Buaku, hamstrung by troublemaking civic group and frequently damaged by its trigger-happy police force. If Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine-Interface is Shirow Masamune, bulked up to heavyweight: big, imposing, and no longer limber enough to move with any grace, Dominion is Masamune as a natural welterweight. In Dominion, he takes a simple, approachable sci-fi high concept and builds an attention grabbing world round it: rambunctious personalities, packed design, explosions and speed lines. Masamune is serving an audience that thrills at the spectacle of a city block laid waste by a legged machine that looks like a giant virus, or a tank plowing through allies as it' pursues a pair of motorcycles. The manga is light on the kind of character development or notion of advancement that is prevalent in popular serialized manga, but it more than makes up for that with the boldness of a cult, eminently re-readable action throw-back . Both chronologically, and in prominence, Dominion is Shirow Masamune's third work. He created the tank police action sci-fi after Black Magic M-66 and Appleseed, and it trails Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed in well recognized, well regarded, well remembered anime adaptations. For example, the fact that the Puma Twins (muscular robot cat girls Anna and Umi) have been mothballed in the fandom consciousness is a reminder of the fickle nature of anime/manga popularity. Once, they were the center of fan adoration, now, muscular women don't really fit into otaku culture. Being a Masamune work, Dominion is anchored by a strong female character, but unlike Appleseed's masculine Deunan Knute or Ghost in the Shell's commanding Major, Dominion's Leona Ozaki is decidedly cute. She's almost a separated a birth from Palabor's Noa Izumi, both in looks and in that she is a very Japanese young woman who is also very obsessed with mecha. In this case, the object of Leona's obsession is "Bonaparte," a mini-tank outfitted for urban pursuit. Anime adaptations of Masamune's work, from Oshii's Ghost in the Shell movie onwards, leverage the manga author's high concepts, but often replace his tone. There was a lot of jokiness in Ghost in the Shell. There's even more in Dominion. It's the manga version of a bloody 80's action movie, but it's also ahead of its time in its ironic handling of the rickety tripod formed by right wing law enforcement, liberal busy-bodies and anarchic criminals. Masamune loves his mecha. In anime, when someone is credited with "mecha design" this doesn't just mean robots. In many cases it encompasses everything from guns to cars to toasters. There are various reasons to re-read Dominion, but a chief one it the depth of the mecha design. While this manga is not blanketed with footnotes the way that recent Masamune manga are, his postscript essay on tank history does indicate that he's thought through all of his design, probably to a deeper degree than what is healthy. Every gun and its holster, breathing apparatus, desk top gadget and piece of industrial machinery is evidently something that Masamune thought through. This design is enhanced by Masamune's mind for framing his creations. Chases and rampages are brought to an art in the manga's action sequences. Masamune is an idea man. Invention and design comes first. Then, he likes certain character types and set pieces. Then, he can stage a good, high velocity action sequence. Plot, especially running plot isn't one of his strengths, nor does he seem particularly interested in pursuing a coherent narrative in Dominion. In the first story, he introduces Greenpeace Crosis, a green fairy-looking girl engineered to cure Newport's bacterial smog. After that, her role is basically to walk around naked and ask for sunlight. Like a cartoon-villain, Buaku just seems to get away at the end of each story. Design notes, exposition and off-hand comments suggest that there is more going here than cat and mouse chases, but that the cops, the robbers and the world around them are too dense and too easily distracted to really explore it. While this means that Masamune has excused himself from a architecting a more complex story, the manga does demonstrate that Masamune does do breezy action sci-fi exceptionally well. It's worth noting that the translation by Dana Lewis, Frederik L Shodt and Toren Smith is of a very different character to most current manga translations. Blade of the Immortal being one of the few remaining efforts that adheres to the old Studio Proteus philosophy. Dialog is very colloquial and tied to the personalities speaking the nature of Dominion. It's localized to a degree where its Americanized. The care is evident but it also seems like the translators made decisions and took risk, and it definitely reads differently than the majority of current manga translations.
Anime Spotlight: Blade of the Phantom Master Released by ADV Films
In its North American release, Blade of the Phantom Master benefits from being a low profile property. Because few would approach the work with high expectations, the uneven fantasy action registers as a curiosity and a work of anime that could have been better rather than as a disappointment. In its concept, its stronger elements demonstrate potential, but rarely are these leveraged to the full benefit of the anime. It introduces an intriguing scenario, a fraction of which is presented. The plot is different, and that counts for something, but the bulk of the feature is a familiar ghost story that doesn't complement what makes that scenario distinctive. There is rapid action with gunfire and wushu sword work, but there are also long, wordless sequences of walking or interminable efforts shots of floating through a labyrinth. Anyone who seeks out fantasy anime has undoubtedly stumbled across far worse than Blade of the Phantom master. Unlike a dead end Lord of the Rings copycat or a outright failure, it seems a concept that could have yielded a far more compelling movie if they went someplace else within the same framework, or a spectacle that could have been far more thrilling if they were smarter in the direction. The 90 minute Blade of the Phantom Master - Shin Angyo Onshi movie works like the old OVA series that would present a snap-shot sample of a larger concept, generally from a manga series. The first third shows how the primary cast met. The latter part is a representative, early story. It's not the optimal approach for producing a coherent movie, but it does mean that part of an interesting story gets animated. What's unusual about Blade of the Phantom Master is that it is based on a manga, created by Korean writer and artist In-Wan Youn and Kyung-Il Yang that was serialized in Monthly Sunday Gene-X, home to Black Lagoon, CLAMP's Kobato and the RahXephon manga. Its tone and aesthetic isn't too dissimilar to the fantasy epic Korean manhwa that have been localized North America. Loosely based on the Korean pansori Chunhyangga (source of CLAMP's Legend of Chun Hyang), it's the story of Munsu, the last of the angyo oshi, a secret police/trouble shooting corps for the toppled nation of Jushin. The intriguing/repellent thing about Munsu is that despite the angyo oshi's reputation as an instrument of justice, he's devoid of compassion and sentiment. The first shocking behavior in this regard is that during the course of his introduction, he facilitates the cannibalization of a human body. Moving across a sword and sandals landscape with a firearm and an exacting, archaic sense justice gives the movie an air vaguely simular to King's original Gunslinger novel. Munsu's unwillingness to help people who don't help themselves isn't too troubling. However, when he gives recently imprisoned/brainwashed Sando aka Chun Hyang, a young woman who fights like Heavenly Sword's Nariko, tacit approval to follow him, then orders the girl to keep a silent distance, Munsu crosses the line from anti-hero to heel. The creepiness in that relationship isn't helped by the fact that after being extricated from literal bondage, she continues to wear what just amounts to straps under her cowl. Even Munsu special ability, a angyo oshi amulet that summons a horde of axe-wielding spectral warriors seems like it should be attached to a villain rather than a hero. Munsu emphasizes that impression when he enters into a purchasing agreement with a gun smuggler, then summons his warriors and orders them to punish the criminal by beating the man "half to death." If the movie served as a pilot for a longer work of anime or as an introduction to the manga, which in all likelihood will not be released in North America, the prospect of an aggressively harsh, almost mean-spirited protagonist would integrating. As the focus for a 90 minute, plot driven movie, these unsympathetic traits are a liability. The plot of the later two thirds of the movie is a reasonable showcase for the heroes' martial talents. Munsu gets to level off rounds at his foes like a cold-hearted bad-ass. Sado gets to rush head-first at her targets and launch into mid-air slash and dart acrobatics. Through a combination of quick cuts and digital pans, highlighted by stark coloring, the anime is good with twitchy speed. With sudden swivels and barrages of darting attacks, the anime establishes ferociousness and a sense that these characters are inhumanly fast and deadly. Yet, while aspects of the action animation are impressive it is hindered by choreography that lacks in logic. While the animation speed suggests a headed battle, frequently, that impression will be shattered by pauses to let the viewer catch up. A character will throw an elbow, the opponent will block and though the blow has been stopped, the attacker will continue to push the elbow forward while the defender talks. A character will jump onto a statue, make a slashing motion, and then jump forward. A pursuer will leap onto the same spot and the cut segment of the statue will begin to drop with the perched attacker. Rather than counter attack or continue to run, the first character will watch the second drop and rebound. More importantly, this is not the right story for a snap-shot approach. Having a protagonist whose mission is to maintain a system that no longer exists travel between settlements that have regressed into corrupt fiefdoms is a compelling angle. Especially when that character isn't just world weary, he's actively adopted a sort of objectivist moral code, there is a good reason for wanting to see how plot develops. After receiving some hint of how that journey would be mapped out, the second best option would be to thoroughly deal with a representative facet of the greater trouble, with the burdened hero walking off into an open ended sunset. Unfortunately, the bulk of the movie is concerned with a problem that is at odds with the key political concern introduced in the movie's opening chapter. In a country wracked by cancer, this is a splinter on a remote island. The problem isn't just that this incident looks largely irrelevant, compared to the scope previously invoked, the ghost story-themed incident can't achieve a sense of dread. It's hard to nail a dire atmosphere when you're certain that the heroes aren't going to die, and the restricted size of the landscape invokes insignificance rather than entrapment. Fushigi Yuugi bears some superficial similarities to Blade of the Phantom Master in their modern, fantasy adventure take on traditional stories and in their long, serialized format. Fushigi Yuugi has a similar interlude to this one, but in that case it served as a critical delay for the hurried characters, so, at least in that context, there was some tension. Here, the incident just seems to have provoke Munsu's ire. The concept from Blade of the Phantom Master is an update on a traditional tale and this story also feels like an update on a traditional spooky legend, but that externally recognizable link isn't enough to bridge the pieces when used in the movie. Nor does an extended, empty, walking period help the disconnect. At one point, you could probably blame lack of enthusiasm for something like Blade of the Phantom Master on being a jaded anime fan, but enough live action and video games have encroached on the kind of spectacle that was once the domain of anime that "jaded anime fan" isn't the only problem. While Blade of the Phantom Master is better than mediocre, the conceptual aspects that really set it apart don't have enough of a presence in the movie.
Manga Spotlight: Battle Angel Alita: Last Order Volume 9: Angel's Duty Released by Viz Manga
So, Yukito Kishiro scratched off the illness-expedited ending of Battle Angel Alita and appended the Last Order tournament fighting series, going from an evolving sci-fi narrative that reflected the changes in its subject's life to an artificial structure designed to keep a serialized story running with potentially unending iterative blocks. But that was ok, because Kishiro is a master at the two pillars of fictional fighting tournaments: characters that you're curious to see fight and fights scenes that genuinely satisfy that curiosity. And, like many tournament fighting manga, Last Order has side-tracked down the background of these combatants; volume 9 (yikes, nine volumes, that was the length of the original Battle Angel Alita, and Last Order has no end in sight) is the second of two volumes that pursues one of these side journeys. But, wow, has this one been strange. Vilma Fachiri, aka Caerula Sanguis is an immortal Type-V mutant Cognate (or vampire), and despite the very chesty cover image, looks modeled after one of Leiji Matsumoto's willowy, long blonde, melancholy galaxy wanderers...and she picked up Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sword skills in Hong Kong, and the crucial chapter of her personal history is played out on the frozen wastes of post apocalyptic Earth. Love Hina creator Ken Akamatsu says that writing a fighting tournament for his manga series Negima, he seeded the matches by drawing character names out of a hat, then making a few minor adjustments in the cases where the randomized selection conflicted with planned plotting. Kishiro does Akamatsu one better. Caerula is based on a reader submitted design. It sounds like an Aqua Teen Hunger Force stream of consciousness to talk about a Habsburg vampire, trained in "48 schools and 125 divisions" of kung fu, whose actions in the frozen wastes ensure the survival of humanity and give rise to the strange, stratified world of Battle Angel Alita. Kishiro's imagination is such that he determines how the seemingly random selection of elements should fit together. Ultimately, it all makes sense. With all of these bits and pieces, Kishiro makes a real, compelling character, as if he MacGyvered a guitar out of legos, Lincoln logs and dental floss, then proceeded to use it to play Immigrant Song. Almost any work of sci-fi or fantasy asks its consumer to accept some foundational conceit: there's an alien that can stick a larva down your throat to incubate in your gut, there's an invisible force that can guide a sword or a fighter's attack run. From the first page of the first volume of the original Battle Angel Alita, Kishiro began stacking these conceits with a human brain encased in a discarded, fractured cyborg body. What's preserved Battle Angel Alita and Last Order from being a jittery chain of "and then..." or an incomprehensible scratchpad of thought bytes is that there are always a host of well realized characters involved. The conflict of Vilma/Caerula, dealing with the burden of protecting humanity, even if it means abandoning her fellow vampire uses all of those weird facets that comprise this character. It's Vilma, versus her former lover, whose sense of morality was shaped by the Crusades versus the leader trying to guide humanity from the brink. While this is definitely a fighting manga, that doesn't limit its motivations to "I'll fight you because..." Consequently, the background and the character construction is as much a reason to read the manga as the fighting. True to its adopted fighting manga structure, this conflict is played out in a grand battle. Pretty much the whole volume is one fight, with a bit of a prologue to bridge the story from the previous and a epilogue to skip through decades and see the implications of these events. As always, Kishiro is imaginative. That means inventive attacks, such as all sorts of odd things done employing the flexibility of Chinese swords, but it also means cleverly conceived use of details, such as Vilma attempting to drive a needle into the eye of her foe, only to have deflected back through her finger, pealing off a nail in the process. The absurdity does hit a fever pitch (sword-board surfing over an arc quickly comes to mind in that regard), but it's like swinging a bucket of water from a rope with enough velocity that a loop is completed without spilling the water. The action is captivating in its detailed depiction of moving forms. While the engagement of fighters is always wild, it stays true to its trajectory and never seems to skimp or cheat. Because of that, it can present ideas that are outlandish outside the context of the manga, but which never jar the narrative or cause unintentional humor.
Interviews of Note
A couple of must-read interviews have gone online, GhibliWorld.com has posted an exclusive interview with Pixar storyboard artist Enrico Casarosa. Casarosa speaks about Studio Ghibi, his work at Pixar, his personal projects and more and also shares a look at a work of Ghibli inspired art. Casarosa demonstrates a deep knowledge of Miyazaki's work, immediately mentioning an admiration for Heidi: Girl of the Alps, Future Boy Conan and Lupin III. The site also translates Hayao Miyazaki's interview, in which he talks about his upcoming Ponyo on a Cliff here Publisher's Weekly spoke to Kio Shimoku, creator of fan-favorite geek comedy Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture. It has also been revealed that Del Rey, the North American distributor of the Genshikden manga, will be releasing Keito Koume's spin-off Kujibiki Unbalance. The manga follows the anime/manga popular among Genshiken's characters. Via Blog@Newsarama At Bookslut, Jeff Vandermeer talks with librarian Robin Brenner, author of Understanding Manga and Anime. ICv2 spoke to Dark Horse publisher/CEO Mike Richardson here, here and here Production I.G posted a Q&A with Le Chevalier D'Eon character director Naoyoshi Shiotani here
Red Princess Blues
Every month, LatinoReview.com screens an exclusive short. This time around, it's the animated Red Princess Blues, written about here. The short and a write-up can be seen here
Animated Terminator Anthology in Development
Anime News Network points out that in an interview with TheDeadbolt.com James Middleton, the consulting producer for the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles television series revealed that an anthology Terminator shorts, leading European and Japanese "auteurs" is being developed for 2009. He compared the collection, entitled Termination, to The Animatrix spin-off of the Matrix franchise, but with a "much more international flair." Termination will focus on Judgement Day, the pivotal day in Terminator franchise's multiple storylines when the Skynet defense system would launch nuclear weapons that destroy much of humanity.
Upcoming in Japan
From Anime News Network, Masaaki Yuasa (Cat Soup, Mind Game, Kemonozume) will be directing a Madhouse animated, original science-fiction love story called Kaiba, for broadcast in WOWOW this April. The site for April's new season of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion has posted characters and Nightmare robots pages. The Biglobe online video service has provided free downloads of a wallpaper for personal computers in 1280x1024, 1024x768, and 800x600 sizes. The first season is schedule to air on Cartoon Network. Koji Masunari, writer Hideyuki Kurata, and character designer Masashi Ishihama, the primary team behind Read or Die and Kamichu will be creating The Uchu Show (The Space Show), the tentatively titled epic movie that will open in Japan in 2008. The movie's producers have said that will "surpass Star Wars in its scale." German director Michael Herbig will be producing a live action adaptation of Vicke Viking/Vicky the Viking, based on the 1974 animated show that was popular in both Japan and Germany. A second live action adapation of Shigeru Mizuki's supernatural themed manga Gegege no Kitaro, starring Eiji Wentz has been confirmed. The first movie's director, Katsuhide Motoki, began shooting the second movie on December 11. In addition to Wentz, Yo Oizumi (Nezumi Otoko), Rena Tanaka (Neko Musume), Kanpei Hazama (Konaki Jijii), and Shigeru Muroi (Sunakake Baba) are reprising their respective roles from the first movie, although the first movie's leading actress, Mao Inoue (Mika Miura), is not. Ken Ogata joins the cast as Kitaro's powerful enemy Nurarihyon, as do Shinobu Terajima (Nure Onna), Shiro Sano (Jakotsu-Baba), and Takashi Sasano (Ido-Sennin). Kaiju Shakedown has an interesting response
Anime News Network reports that ADV has informed retailers that the February issue of NewType USA will be the anime periodical's last. The company indicated that a new magazine will be in the works to replace NewType. The company sent readers a message stating We will be launching a new magazine that will be on sale in mid-March. Titled PiQ, the magazine will cover anime, manga, video games and other aspects of pop culture of keen interests to you. All existing subscribers will have their remaining issues fulfilled at a two-to-one ratio, meaning you will get double the number of magazines delivered straight to your doorstep! We hope you stick with us and give the new magazine a shot. We're sure you'll love it! Hirameki International "has decided to bow out of publishing Interactive Visual Novels as of January 2, 2008." Hirameki released interactive prose stories on DVD, including the DVD magazine Anime Play and Ai Yori Aoshi. Not quite going out of business, following the cancellation of the DVD release of MAR, it appears that Viz has pulled the DVD release of Hikaru no Go starting with volume 12. On the Japanese side of the industry, Comipress reports that Kodansha's josei manga magazine Beth will cease publication as of issue 8, on sale 1/8.
Organic Hobby, Inc in conjunction with Happinet will be releasing G.R.O. Skull Man (Color & Silver Version) in February for $165.00 each. The character "Skull Man" is based on a manga series with the same name created by Shotaro Ishinomori which first appeared in Shonen Magazine in 1970 and immediately caused a sensation, selling over 1.5 million copies and later adapted into a TV series known as "Kamen Rider (or Masked Rider)." The hero, orphaned when his parents were murdered, grows up to use his peculiar powers to take his revenge. The original Skull Man was one of manga's first anti-heroes, someone who would sacrifice the lives of innocents in his quest for vengeance. This darkness is what made the Skull Man so magnetic and successful. "G.R.O. Skull Man (Color & Silver Version)" are 10" tall Polyresin statues and comes in a window box with a custom base for display.
Organic Hobby, Inc in conjunction with Happinet will be releasing Rocket Girls "Yukari Morita" in March for $100.00. The character "Yukari Morita" is based on a light novel "Rocket Girls," written by Hosuke Nojiri. It follows the exploits of high-school girl Yukari Morita, who is pressed into service as an astronaut by the Solomon Space Agency when it is unable to build a rocket that can lift the weight of an adult male. Rocket Girls is adapted as a 12-episode anime television series that began airing in February 2007. It was produced with the assistance of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which included astronaut Naoko Yamazaki voicing herself in Episode 7. "Yukari Morita" is a 7" tall PVC figure fully painted and comes in a window box with a custom base for display.. Organic Hobby, Inc in conjunction with CM’s Corporation "HL-98 Hercules 21 (TV & Movie Version) for $58.00. HL-98 Hercules 21" piloted by Tome is based on the famous TV & Movie Anime action series "Patlabor, Mobile Police." "HL-98 Hercules 21 (TV & Movie Version)" are 6" tall PVC/ABS/PC figure and comes with multiple articulation points. Figures.com/Cool Japanese Toys Reviews Kaiyodo's Revoltech BLACK SHIN GETTER and GAIKING [Open Mouth Version] Collection DX looks at the new Transformers Bumblebee, Battle for Autobot City: Ultra Magnus VS. Skywarp also here and here and Megatron Via Blog@Newsarama not anime related, Gaslight Justice League
Kaiju Big Battel Escapes to New York on Feb. 9th
Man-in-suit monster wrestling performance artists Kaiju Big Battel will be holding a live event, entitled "New York Blackout", at Manhattan's Webster Hall on Saturday, February 9th (7PM doors. 8PM show). Wrestling will showcase Kaiju favorites, Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder, Call-Me-Kevin. Uchu Chu the Space Bug, and Dr. Cube plus 45 blocks of crushable cityscape primed for destruction. Tickets are on sale for $20 through Ticketmaster.
Rockers ketchup mania to Play SXSW and Japan Nite Tour 2008
Pop-punk rockers ketchup mania will perform at the SXSW Music Festival in March 2008, followed by a set of shows as part of the Japan Nite lineup. They will finish their USA tour by playing at Sakura-Con 2008 in Seattle, WA. ketchup mania tour dates: 3/14 - SXSW (Japan Nite) - Austin, TX 3/16 - Knitting Factory, New York, NY 3/17 - TT The Bears, Boston, MA 3/18 - Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL 3/19 - TBA, Denver, CO 3/21 - TBA, San Francisco, CA 3/23 - TBA, Los Angeles, CA 3/28-3/30 - Sakura-Con, Seattle, WA
TOKYOPOP Content on V Cast
A TOKYOPOP video channel, featuring manga movies, anime clips and Asian entertainment, is now available to Verizon Wireless' V CAST Video customers. TOKYOPOP on V CAST offers 15 to 20 four- to six-minute videos each week from TOKYOPOP's popular manga entertainment, including manga videos known as imanga, anime clips, and other popular Asian-influenced entertainment. Video from TOKYOPOP on V CAST includes: *Bizenghast (iManga - Manga movie): Based on the original manga by M. Alice LeGrow with music by Divine Madness and Kissing Violet, this is the story of a young girl named Dinah who moves to the forgotten town of Bizenghast, where she uncovers a terrifying collection of lost souls that leads her to the brink of insanity. *Rave Master (Anime): A popular animated series that aired on Cartoon Network directed by Takashi Watanabe (Slayers, Lost Universe). Sixteen-year-old Haru Glory has never left the cozy confines of Garage Island. He likes fishing and eating snow cones on the beach - not exactly the lifestyle of a hero-in-the-making. Meanwhile, in the wider world, the evil society Demon Card is threatening civilization as we know it. When they come to Garage Island, unleash the destructive power of the Dark Bring and start messing with his friends, Haru is forced into action. With the help of a transforming sword and his magical guide Plue, Haru sets out on the most harrowing quest of his young life: to find the five missing Rave Stones - which hold the key to victory over the Dark Bring - and to kick some major Demon Card butt. *PiNMeN (Anime): From Geneon Entertainment, direct from Japan, this cult classic tells the story about aliens from outer space who are awfully credulous at how easy it is to deceive humans. *FMW: Live-Action Reality-Based Sports: Hard-core wrestling straight from Japan; star match-ups of top Japanese wrestlers. Customers with select V CAST-enabled phones can check out V CAST whenever they want for just $3.00 for 24-hour use or by signing up for the $15.00 V CAST VPak monthly subscription, which also includes access to Verizon Wireless' ESPN MVP, Get It Now and Mobile Web 2.0SM services. Customers get unlimited basic video - including TOKYOPOP on V CAST - but application download fees apply for 3D games and premium video. There are no airtime or megabyte charges to download, stream or watch V CAST content with any V CAST subscription. Customers can find TOKYOPOP on V CAST in the Net's Best category on select V CAST-enabled phones.
Q1 Viz Manga Premieres
Viz Media, LLC (Viz Media) has announced the launch of six new manga comic series for the First Quarter of 2008. The new releases are designed for Teen and Older Teen readers and include Sand Chronicles, High School Debut, Honey and Clover and Monkey High, to be published under the popular Shojo Beat imprint, RAL ? GRAD, under the Shonen Jump Advanced imprint, and Switch, to be offered by the Viz Media imprint. Sand Chronicles Rated "T" for Teens MSRP: $8.99 Available Now Twelve-year-old Ann and her divorced mother move from big city Tokyo to her mother's rural hometown, where the menu consists of mystery meat, the village kids are totally uncool, the cute woodland creatures are not destined to be her faithful companions, and there aren't even any bookstores! How will she survive her exile from civilization? When Ann's mother unexpectedly dies, she must grow up fast, relying on the kindness of her new friends-Daigo and aristocratic siblings Fuji and Shika. But after her father reappears and moves her to Tokyo, will Ann be able to maintain a long-distance relationship with Daigo ? And do Fuji and Shika harbor romantic feelings for each other that will rip apart these childhood friendships...? Sand Chronicles was created by Hinako Ashihara and won the 50th Shogakukan Manga Award. The ten-volume series sold more than 5.7 million copies in Japan and also spawned a live-action television series and a feature film, set to be released next year. The series currently appears in Shojo Beat magazine and also has been published in Italian, German and Spanish. High School Debut Rated "T" for Teens MSRP: $8.99 Available Now Can a junior high tomboy turn into a high school sweetheart overnight? When Haruna Nagashima was in junior high, her life consisted of playing softball and reading comics. Now in high school, Haruna decides to put all of her energy towards getting a boyfriend and having the high school romance of a lifetime. She enlists the help of a cute upperclassman named Yoh Komiyama to help her transform into the kind of girl who can catch a guy. Yoh agrees to the challenge with one catch - Haruna had better not fall for him! High School Debut was created by Kazune Kawahara, who drew her first manga series at age 18. Since then, Kawahara has developed a variety of comics for Shueisha's Bessatsu Margaret magazine. High School Debut is also previewed in the December issue of Shojo Beat magazine. RAL ? GRAD Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $7.99 Available Feb. 5, 2008 Renowned manga artist Takeshi Obata, artist of Hikaru no Go and the wildly popular Death Note, introduces a new series of fantasy and action set in medieval times. In the midst of a meaningless war, a child named Ral is born during a bloody battle at the cost of his mother's life. From this baby's shadow comes forth a huge and powerful dragon named Grad, which lays waste to the landscape within minutes. A quick-thinking knight locks the baby in a cage of darkness, where he grows to be a young man, knowing only the kindness of his young female tutor named MIO, but never seeing her face. One day an army attacks and the people of Sphaein are put under siege by horrendous monsters knows as Shadows. With the castle walls collapsing and their doom within sight, the people are persuaded to set Ral free knowing he also has a Shadow within him-the large blue dragon. Released from his black cell, Ral finally meets his beloved teacher face-to-face and discovers there are differences between men and women...differences he deems worth fighting for! RAL ? GRAD artist Takeshi Obata won the 2003 Tezuka Shinsei "New Hope" award and the Shogakukan Manga award for his wildly popular Shonen Jump title Hikaru no Go. RAL?GRAD is his newest series and the latest addition to the Shonen Jump Advanced imprint and will appeal to fans of fantasy RPGs. Monkey High Rated "T" for Teens MSRP: $8.99 Available March 4, 2008 After her politician father is disgraced in a scandal, Haruna Aizawa transfers to a new school where she becomes convinced that school life is like a monkey mountain-all the monkeys form cliques, get into fights, and get back together again. She even meets a boy called Macharu who reminds her of a baby monkey! Will Haruna remain jaded and distance herself from everyone around her, or will Macharu win her over with his monkey magic? Monkey High was created by Shouko Akira, who made her manga debut in 1995 with THE SOLAR SYSTEM IS YOURS, which was serialized in Japan's Deluxe Bessatsu Shojo Comic. Akira is notable for her Betsucomi style art which features rosy cheeks and cute, clean designs. She is also the creator of Times Two, a collection of five romantic short stories that's currently available from Viz Media. Monkey High will be previewed in Shojo Beat magazine in February. Honey and Clover Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $7.99 Available March 4, 2008 Takemoto is a student who lives in a run-down student apartment, where his greatest worries are when he'll next be able to afford to eat meat and whether he'll get to class on time. Along with a crazy cast of five friends, Takemoto sets out to discover life and his true self. Set in a Tokyo art college, Honey and Clover realistically blends comedy and pathos to bring to life a very unique set of individuals. One day, one of the art professors introduces Takemoto to his cousin's daughter, Hagumi Hanamoto, a first-year art student who has come to live with him. Takemoto is immediately smitten and the plot thickens as Hagumi becomes embroiled in a complicated love triangle that also includes Takemoto's friend, Shinobu Morita. Honey and Clover showcases the journey from adolescence into adulthood and the long and challenging road these five young people must navigate to balance the demands of school, work, and love. Chica Umino is the creator of Honey and Clover, which debuted in 2000 and received the Kodansha Manga Award in 2003. The series was extremely successful and was also nominated for the Tezuka Culture Prize and an award from the Japan Media Arts Festival. Over 7.8 million copies of the 10-volume series have been sold in Japan and the series inspired both and anime series and live-action film, set for release by VIZ Pictures in 2008. Chica Umino is also a merchandise designer and created an array of Honey and Clover bags, purses, hats, and clothing available in Japan. There is even a Honey and Clover café in Tokyo. The series has been translated into Dutch, Korean, Chinese, and German and is also serialized in Shojo Beat magazine. Switch Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $9.99 Available March 11, 2008 Kai Eto may look like a squeaky clean kid, but the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division's new investigator hides a violent alter ego and a dangerous past. Together with his stoic partner, Hal Kurabayashi, Kai is assigned to track down and stop the distribution of a dangerous new drug called Dragon Speed. But the hard-boiled syndicate trafficking the drug is almost impossible to infiltrate and combined with street violence and a jurisdiction war with the Meguro Police, poor Kai is in for some very long days at the office. Switch was created by the Naked Ape duo, a collaboration of artist Tonomi Nakamura and writer Otoo Saki. The two women also produced an array of posters, album covers, phone cards and manga series such as BLACK TAR and the futuristic crime thriller Dolls. Switch was originally published by Square Enix, the Japanese company behind Fullmetal Alchemist and FINAL FANTASY, and will appeal to fans of crime dramas such as Miami Vice, CSI, and NCIS. LIBRARY EDITIONS MSRP: $15.99 Available January 2008 In January, the company will also publish new hardcover Library Editions of the first volumes of several popular manga series including Bleach, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha, Naruto and Ranma 1/2. The content of these editions will match their original manga counterparts but now packaged with a rugged hardcover to make the volumes viable for years of library use.
Problems in Latest Round of Bandai DVD Releases
Bandai Entertainment, INC. announced that a number of its January titles were defective as a result of a duplicator's error which created playability issues on some DVD consoles and personal computers. The titles in question are: Gundam Seed Destiny Vol. 12 regular and special editions, Eureka Seven Vol. 11, Flag Vol. 2, and My Otome Vol. 4. The distributor stated "Bandai Entertainment, INC. would like to apologize to its customer base – despite the approval of perfect check discs, the error was made at the manufacturing level and product shipped to stores before the error was discovered." As a result, the titles are being recalled from stores to be replenished with newly replicated DVDs and an exchange program has been instituted for customers who are experiencing difficulties with items already purchased. A special link on the www.bandai-ent.com site will be active beginning 1/17/08. Customers who purchased the above mentioned titles and are experiencing difficulties should click on the link and follow instructions for the replacement program. This link is only for replacement discs of the above listed titles.
Anime Game/Platform News
According to 1Up Bandai Namco has announced it will release Dynasty Warriors: Gundam for the PlayStation 2. The PS2 version will be a port from the PS3 version, with additional scenario featuring Musha Gundam, which was one of the hidden playable characters in the original version of the game. The game also features a brand new mech Musha Gundam Mk-II, designed by mech artist Katoki Hajime. It is not yet confirmed whether it will be a playable character. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam for PS2 is slated for a February 28 release in Japan. Super Robot Taisen will be moving to the Nintendo DS and a movie traditional RPG format with Mugen no Frontier: Super Robot Taisen OG Saga. The player takes the role of bounty hunter Haken Browning, and like the Super Robot Taisen games released in North America, the game will feature original characters and not the rentinue of robot anime favorite found in traditional Super Robot Taisen games. The game will be supervised by producer Takanobu Terada and directed by Namco x Capcom's Soichiro Morizumi. The game is scheduled to be released in Japan this spring. Via Gunota, Gamespot Japan has a story on Gundam 00 DS with many screenshots.
Upcoming From Dark Horse
APPLESEED VOLUME 2: PROMETHEUS UNBOUND 3rd ED. by SHIROW MASAMUNE (W/A) On sale May 21 b&w, 192 pages $14.95 TPB, 8 ¼" x 5 3/4" BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL: BADGER HOLE VOLUME 19 Hiroaki Samura (W/A) On sale June 11 b&w, 168 pages $19.95 TPB, 5 ¾" x 8 ¼" Collects Issues #127 to #131 of Blade of the Immortal. GANTZ VOLUME 1 Hiroya Oku (W/A) On sale June 25 b&w, 224 pages $12.95 TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 1/16" How long will you stay in the game? The last thing Kei and Masaru remember was being struck dead by a subway train while saving the life of a drunken bum. What a waste! And yet somehow they’re still . . . alive? Or semi-alive? Maybe it’s reanimated . . . by some kind of alien orb with a nasty message . . . "Your lives are over. What you do with your new lives is up to me!" And what this orb called "Gantz" intends to do with their lives is make them play games of death, hunting all kinds of odd aliens, along with a bunch of other ordinary citizens who’ve recently met a tragic semi-end. The missions they embark upon are often dangerous. Many die-and die again. This dark and action-packed manga deals with the moral conflicts of violence, teenage sexual confusion and angst, and our fascination with death. MPD PSYCHO: VOL 5 Eiji Otsuka (W) and Sho-u-Tajima (A) On sale June 4 b&w, 192 pages $10.95 TPB, 5" x 7" OH MY GODDESS! VOLUME 9 Kosuke Fujishima (W/A) On sale June 11 b&w, 200 pages $10.95 TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 3/16" Includes four pages of color, Mini-Goddess strips, and a message from creator Kosuke Fujishima. Bonus back section for U.S. edition includes fan letters, art, and notes on this classic series. SAMURAI CHAMPLOO MINI-BUST #2: FUU On sale May 14 5" tall Hand-painted, limited-edition $59.99 WIND NAMED AMNESIA/INVADER SUMMER Hideyuki Kikuchi (W) and Yoshitaka Amano (A) On sale June 25 b&w, 288 pages $12.95 TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 ¼" The Apocalypse didn’t end with a BANG, but with a whimper. Silently, the "amnesia wind" swept away all of mankind’s knowledge. Thousands of years of human civilization vanished overnight as people forgot how to use the tools of modern civilization; who they were-how to speak-everything. Technology decayed as mankind was reduced to an extremely primitive level. Two years after the devastation, a young man explores a nation reduced to barbarism: America. Miraculously re-educated after the cataclysm, a young man is accompanied by a strange woman- somehow spared the obliterating effects of the amnesia wind. Pursued by a relentless killing machine, they search for those responsible for stealing their memories. The novel that inspired the classic anime by Ninja Scroll director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Features one color tip-in and fifteen black-and-white line illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano.
Date Set For Emma Release
Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and Nozomi Entertainment have announced that the EMMA: A VICTORIAN ROMANCE - Season 1 DVD Collection is scheduled for release on June 24, 2008 for $49.99. A historical drama set in late 19th-century London, the series chronicles the love story – and the complications that result – when Emma, an honest and hardworking young maid, and William, an earnest suitor and member of the “gentry” class, fall for each other. Spanning a total of 24 episodes between the two seasons, this anime adaptation of Kaoru Mori’s manga features direction by Tsuneo Kobayashi (The Twelve Kingdoms, Glass Mask OAV, Super GALS!) and scripting by Mamiko Ikeda (Sgt. Frog, Fruits Basket, Princess Tutu). The original manga was honored with an Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival and is available to North American readers via DC Comics’ CMX Manga imprint. As previously announced, EMMA will be released as two “season” box sets with Japanese audio and English-language subtitles: The initial box set release, scheduled for June 24, 2008, will contain the 12-episode first season in its entirety; and The second box set (TBA) will include the 12 episodes of the series’ “Second Act,” plus “Episode 0: Intermission,” a recap/preview that aired prior to the start of the Season 2 telecast in Japan.
Worth Checking Out
Roland Kelts' SOFT POWER, HARD TRUTHS Patrick Macias has listed his forcast's for 2008 in his Japan Times "Otakool" column. Topping "Big in 2008: Gothic Lolitas and Godzilla:" U.S. anime pronounced dead. Also, a teaser for the next Otaku USA Cory Doctorow on manga in Romania Publishers Weekly looks at Seven Seas' publishing collaberating with Tor, as well as their plans for the Afro Samurai manga, Mamizu Arisawa and Mari Matsuzawa's Inukami! and Hiroshi Ishizaki's Here Comes the Black Witch. AnimeNation notes the official homepage for the Noramimi anime television series now hosts a streaming trailer for the series' first episode. Anime News Network looks at the winners of the Japanese Otaku Awards' 2007 winners. It's not specifically anime related, but there's been enough cross-over that it's worth noting that the design for a new Street Fighter IV character,Crimson Viper, has been unveiled. Animation Insider looked at the career of Avatar's Oh Seung-hyun Comics212 has photos of a visit to The Osamu Tezuka Museum more here Still from the Dragon Ball movie filming. An Illustrated Guide of Shonen Jump Series part one, part two part three part four Simon Jones' Icarus Comics state of the union Twitch learns more about Machine Girl What Same Hat!Same Hat!'s Ryan is reading "Thundercats": A Critical Retrospective Police profile otaku Via Japan Probe and What Japan Thinks The animated kappa of Kizakura Sake's commercials