Animation and Anime

AICN Anime-Horror Themed Reviews, Including The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vampire Hunter D and Hell Girl

Published at: Jan. 22, 2008, 5:46 a.m. CST by scottgreen

Logo handmade by Bannister Column by Scott Green

Manga Spotlight: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service volumes 2-5 by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki Released by Dark Horse Manga

There's a distinctive, liberal arts educated authorial voice to The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. It's interested in esoteric facts. It's interested in history. It's conscious of the implications of those facts and history. And, it's a bit aggravated about how education failed to open the door to a well paying job. Like a number of Eiji Otsuka's other manga (MPD Psycho, Madara, Leviathan), the marquee attraction is the disturbing spectacle that Otsuka makes of the human body. In this case, work with illustrator Housyu Yamazaki, its human corpses bearing the marks of decay and/or vicious crimes; every volume of the manga can be relied upon to provide plenty of acute unpleasantness. The shocking crimes and the intellectual curiosity do frequently complement each other, but from a horror-junkie perspective, it doesn't always work. There are cases that are more fascinating for the concept that they are trying to work with or their sociological insight, when the manga spends its effort developing and connecting ideas to the detriment of its pacing. It sometimes pursues this path down roads that are too analytical or too convoluted to effectively function as horror. The titular Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service are a quintet of students from a Buddhist university who decide that discovering and aiding corpses might be the solution to their slim job prospects. Generally, it works like this: Ao Sasaki performs the business and IT end of the operation (involving a bit of slightly exaggerated information gathering/hacking). Makoto Numata finds the body with his gift of dowsing for corpses. Keiko Makino will perform the necessary embalming/forensic deductions. Given the Japanese culture's preference for cremation, there isn't that much call for the former. In theory, Yuji Yata can channel an alien intelligence through his sock puppet, but that doesn't generally serve much purpose other than comic relief. Kuro Karatsu is present to perform the necessary rites and sutras, but, he can also act as an itako, speaking to and even raising the dead. In theory, after finding the dead body and servicing the departed soul, generally delivering the corpse to the proper spot, the deceased will return the favor. In practice, it's even less lucrative than it sounds. Since the first volume, a few reoccurring characters have been added to the cast, including Nire, a more profitable, less principled opposite number, and Sasayama, a municipal social welfare officer with some nasty scars and a peg leg, who insists that he's ex-police and not ex-yakuza. And, Reiji Akiba, hero of Housui Yamazaki's J-Horror manga Mail makes and appearance. There's only a loose advancement in the narrative between individual stories, but themes are emerging. With one story filling the entire volume, volume two's plot has been the series' longest so far. The fact that it concerns the background for one of the Kurosagi members might suggest that the series will eventually spend time revealing the background for each of its core personalities. Clues concerning Kuro's connection to the dead keep emerging, and he keeps insistently ignoring them. Presumably that is going to have to come to a head late in the manga. Manga writer Otsuka is almost fifty years old, which makes him slightly younger than the creators who were close to Japan's student protest movements at their height, like Mamoru Oshii or Katsuhiro Otomo. Still, without knowing too much in the way of biographical details, from his manga, one can assume that the counterculture has had some bearing on his personal philosophy. In Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, he writes young and modern exceptionally well. The median age of his core cast is probably 21. They're irreverent in their dealing with others. They aren't ashamed to admit ignorance. Each does their own thing and generally isn't too impressed with what the others are doing. And an amusing casual banter is derived from these qualities. The less fun side to this is that these characters would rather not think too hard about what they will be doing for the rest of their lives; not just because they are irresponsible or procrastinating, but because the options aren't too appealing. That sentiment is affirmed by this work, which often makes them the witness to debt, suicide, shady deals, and even the tragedy of global conflicts. Specific stories address actions like the wars in Iraq and the Rape of Nanking, and Otsuka demonstrates that he understands the modern concern, but uncertainty in an informed, young adult's approach to these issues. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service does take action, to the degree that they are capable of taking action, but they don't necessarily take initiative. There are stories in Kurosagi that are urban, current, and close: coin locker babies, graffiti used to mark targets for murder, and ambient noise that causes death urges. For the most part, the frightening side of these stories is about triggering biological, survival instincts: not having enough, danger lurching around the corners, being a marked target and other visceral, primal nerve centers. And, there are stories that deal with a disquieting proximity to society's graveyard, such as war, capital punishment, and the kind of issues that most people would rather take a broad stand about than deal with the details of or look at straight on. These stories offer harrowing tableaus, such as a riverbed full of adipocerous bodies, turned into soap. But, they provoke more concern than immediate fright. Instead of scares that bother you when you are alone in the dark, these are things that bother you to mentally process. As opposed to more vague, political horror that declares itself a metaphor for a real issue, Kurosagi constructs cases that demonstrate the significance of the issues that it approaches. What makes this effective commentary is what makes it not as direct as the survival instinct stories. The proposition is not as mathematical as "because society allows for capital punishment, a zombie is going to invade you home and consume your brain." Instead, the stories are more about laying out the specific experiences of the Kurosagi team and letting the implications reverberate. An interesting example of how The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service handles this kind of horror is volume four's "If You Should Die". The story opens with Numata recounting the "Daruma Woman" urban legend. A student is backpacking through China, and happens upon a small village. The locals invite the guy to their special tavern, a shack with the sign "Daruma" (a limbless "roly-poly doll", also called dharma dolls because they are modeled after Bodhidharma). He notices that their is a doll-like figure in the middle table of the room, and is shocked to notice that it has chains that are rattling as a woman with amputated limbs attempts to breathe. The woman whispers that she was once a Japanese student like him, and that she wants to go home. The student doesn't know how to react, so he gets as drunk as possible, then gets on a bus out of town. When his conscience compels him to do something about what he saw, the police who investigate his report find that there is no bar on the spot he described. Of course, Kuro and Yuji scoff at this. Yuji's alien puppet piles on, adding that the urban legend as gotten as far as "Alderan-2. Although there she's got twelve stumps, of course." The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service don't literally find a "Daruma Woman", but they do go to meet Keiko at an anatomical exhibit of plastomically preserved bodies: one of those displays that are touring science museums and such of bodies that have been replaced by polymers, in various poses, skinned and/or segmented. This associative chain is then linked to Unit 731, a historical black spot, who were responsible to horrific Mengele-like experiments in China. In its political stories and its less political ones, the manga is full of exposition and connecting ideas. Otsuka has a graceful way of managing both. He's exceptional at introducing credible ignorance into a conversation and creating situations where one person has to explain something to another. Consequently, it comes off naturally. Didactic dialog, especially pegging issues in the political stories to current concerns, is slightly more difficult, and slightly more forced. Comments about nationalistic trends in history books and the prime minister visiting the Yasukini Shrine almost sound like authorial asides, but they do fit into that liberal arts voice of the series. Few things in manga are one size fits all. Even within specific genres, there is a wide range. In horror, there are gothic stories, like some of Kazuo Umezu's Scary Books. Jack-in-the-box shocks for a younger audience like Kanako Inuki's works. Confrontationally grotesque works like the stories by Hideshi Hino. Kurosagi is the perfect manga for fans of the 70's horror classics. Its capacity for horrific images is truly memorable. It's politically inspired. It has a creative newness.

Manga Spotlight: Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D Volume 1 by Saiko Takaki Released by Digital Manga Publishing

Digital Manga Publishing commissioned the work, and novelist Hideyuki Kikuchi selected Saiko Takaki to adapt the Vampire Hunter D novels into manga. For long time anime fans, this adaptation of the first Vampire Hunter D novel is going to be familiar territory. Thanks to frequent broadcasts on Sci-Fi Channel's Saturday Morning Anime back in the late 90's, the 1985 Vampire Hunter D OVA was once one of the more widely seen anime in North America. With a flash of nudity and some graphic violence, the uncut version of the 80 minute feature, directed by Toyoo Ashida (also of Osamu Tezuka's Cleopatra and the animated Fist of the North Star movie) and animated by Ashi Productions (Iria, Blueseed)offered a brand of horror/action that was right at home on Blockbuster's shelves. Given the turn-over in anime fandom, and that the OVA is out of print, it probably isn't as much an issue as it might have once been, but both the anime and the manga generally stay close to the novel, so the differences are frequently minor matters of interpretation. Presumably the same will happen in the third volume, when the manga series reaches the source material for the Yoshiaki Kawajiri directed Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. In Hideyuki Kikuchi's "about the author" flap he comments that "In the whole history of vampires, I think D is the strongest of heroes." That's a weird comment to parse. If he means that D is the most physically imposing, sure, pick D over Count Orlok by knock out in the second round, but that sort of "strength" is an odd measure to be applying to a fictional character. Presumably, Kikuchi wasn't provoking a "Goku could take Superman" discussion. If he's saying that D is the best realized vampire character in fiction, or the best realized vampire HERO, that's a tough position to support. Except, the thing to remember might be that Kikuchi has been an influential genre novelist. In addition to Vampire Hunter D, he's responsible for Demon City Shinjuku, Wicked City, Dark Side Blues and A Wind Named Amnesia. By extension, he's one of the key minds behind the current of grisly horror/action movies that were once synonymous with anime in North America. Commencing the Vampire Hunter D series in 1983, he didn't exactly start eons ago, but it still probably falls a bit on the early side for the whole vampire anti-hero thing. Beyond that, the core concept of an elegant vampire lord as errant gunslinger, traveling a post apocalyptic landscape makes for a rather inspired pulp mash-up. 10,000 years after nuclear war devastated the planet; human society has been preserved as small, feudal communities focused around vampire Nobles. While the vampire aristocracy retained their mastery of science and magic through this turmoil, humanity lost their knowledge of how to combat these super-predators. Stripped of their recourse against their blood-sucking lords, rare protection is offered by D, a handsome young warrior who travels between these enclaves on his robotic horse, ready to hack and slash vampires and their monstrous minions. Takaki's D is essentially the one build by Kikuchi's novels and Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations. He's a tortured soul divided between human and vampire nature. Faithful to Amano's work, he has the trademark porcelain features, flowing, feminine hair, cape, wide brimmed hat, and gunslinger's duster mutated into fantasy, with plates of metal armor and set jewels. With gothic gloom, there's an underlying ambiguity to his motivation and tragic aura to his presence. And in Kikuchi form, there's oddity that add shading to the archetypical personality; namely, a symbiotic creature that eats dirt and spits wind living as a face embedded in one of D's hands. At its core, this volume tells a very old story: the traveling warrior protects the threatened damsel. D rides into town and finds a young woman named Doris Lang who is marked as prey for the local vampire lord, Count Lee. Corrupt town officials enter the fray, so does Lee's daughter, and so does a freak show of mutant warriors, including D's competent almost-opposite number Rei Ginsei. There's a lot going on for a single volume of manga. Perhaps too much. Kikuchi took disparate elements and invented a license for fitting them together. The manga can't deal with the manic density of situating gothic set pieces next to the townspeople grabbing power armor rather than pitchforks. Unlike D himself, most of these elements don't complement each other when they are in close proximity. Cramming in all of the stages of the story, the narrative becomes a string of short encounters, most of which are over as soon as they are established. Similar to the plotting, there is a lot going on in Takaki's illustration, but in this case, it works. If you are just glancing at the manga and not reading it, it looks like an impenetrable overgrowth of wildly arranged lines. The background for still shots employ the kind of varying widthed lines that generally convey motion. Moving scenes scramble with typhoons of radiating lines. Nearly every frame views the action at angles to the characters, which serves to downplay any symmetry. Reading the manga, the style gives Vampire Hunter D personality without becoming distracting. While its not the most attractive scheme for illustrating manga, it retains the key factors in Yoshitaka Amano's illustration, even if it abandons the exact look, and it fits the horror mash-up nature of Vampire Hunter D. D clearly falls into the bishonen camp of guys with pretty features. Several additional characters round out the roster of bishonen in Vampire Hunter D. While this aesthetic is generally directed at a female audience, there is an equally prominent display of T&A. Doris first appears in a heavy cloak, and then sends the garment flying to engage in a naked whip fight. That sets a precedent for the character. Except for a few panels that display a close-up of her face, every time she is seen, the illustration accentuates her bosom and/or rear. In theory, this is a strong female character, but if a reader is predisposed to getting upset about plainly sexualized representations of female characters, Doris is without a doubt one to press that hot button. The key difficulty that the manga runs into is that Vampire Hunter D relies on a concept that isn't as novel as it once was. While Saiko Takaki has an interesting take, she can't re-create the excitement of seeing a vampire anti-hero who would bisect his foes before his pretty features, physics defying prowess and conflicted psyche became the hallmarks of a character type. Nor does she bring the cache of a name like Yoshiaki Kawajiri visiting the property. At a minimum, fans of the larger body of Vampire Hunter D works, particularly Hideyuki Kikuchi's originals will appreciate the faithful adaptation.

Anime Spotlight: Hell Girl Volumes 2-3 Released by FUNimation

Hell Girl is not improved by putting aside wishes that it was Tsutomu Takahashi's Sky High, a darkly effecting look at the chance to rectify personal wrongs at the cost of one's soul. Nor is Hell Girl improved by the new additions to its episodic formula. No longer is the series simply victims visiting the "Hell Link" website, and entering into a contract to banish their tormenter to hell at the cost of infernally consigning themselves at the time of their own death. Now, there is a tabloid photographer/investigative journalist/blackmail artist tracking down the truth behind the Hell Girl urban legend while his young daughter is wracked by visions of Ai Enma, Hell Girl herself. What does improve the show is that it has begun to mix in episodes that depart from the rigid station to station progression: committedly evil villain commences torment of hapless victim; victim initiates contact with Ai Enma and is introduced to the Hell Link bargain; victim attempts to rectify the problem on their own, with the attempt easily deflected by the villain; the victim compounds their misfortune by sealing the deal with Enma; villain is treated to a world melting ironic retort to their crime; villain is put on Ai Enma's boat and ferried to hell; victim reflects on the presumably long life ahead of them, giving a wistful glance at the spot on their chest that now bears hell's brand. As if to confirm the series' flaws, the first episode of the second volume offers up a lethal dose of cruelness and tragedy for the sake of cruelness and tragedy. A house wife, her daughter and her husband move into town from a more provincial section of the country. While settling in, she accidentally spies her neighbor having an affair with a younger man by turning her head at the wrong moment and spotting the act through a window. So, the neighbor ostracizes her from the other local wives. Has her daughter organize the other girls to bully the daughter of the accidental witness. Has her husband lean on the onlooker's husband in the work place. The domestic Job is threatened, and finally, her neighbor has one of her paramours rape the woman, while she takes photos to use as blackmail material. The rumor is intentionally twisted to say that the victim had been having affairs. Returning home from a hospital after a suicide attempt, the victim’s husband reacts to these rumors by beating his wife. The episode is a dark, sorted tale that piles on the justification for hating the villain, then serves them up to eternal punishment. This is something that anime excels at, whether it is a fight or a romance: establishing a desire to see something, drawing it out, then delivering. Hell Girl has a good head for the delivery. With jarring close-ups, disorienting pans, and plainly symbolic imagery, the anime does an admirable job at projecting the mental landscape of a world revolting against a person who used their control to make someone else's life a living hell. Unfortunately, the case for desiring this to happen is far too lop sided to be credible. The relationship between victim and villain leading up to that condemnation offers such a caricature of human relationships that Ai Enma's vengeance just seems to be torching a straw man. In theory, the chilling factor in Hell Girl should be the decision to commit oneself to damnation to avenge a wrong, not the danger of arbitrarily malicious encounters. For this to work, the villains shouldn't be operating with the mindset of Rutger Hauer from The Hitcher. It's too sensational to get worked up about. Psychological suspension of disbelief falls by the wayside when, in each case, the tormenter takes amazing risks to damage another person. Then, credulity is further strained when circumstances and surrounding people conspire to ensure that the damage takes effect. The anime softens the blow by willfully ignoring implications. For example, the suggestion is that, with the problem removed, the woman tormented by her neighbor can go back to a happier life, accepted by her family and community. The fact that her husband beat her is not presented as a lingering concern or indication of a more internal or endemic problem. Nor do these episodes have much to say about the lingering fate of the characters that enter into Ai Enma's bargains. People are more visibly shaken when they fail a test, are laid off a job or get into a fender bender than the people that discover the brand of hell on their chest. Ironically, in most, but not all, of the effective stories, the banishment to hell is either underplayed or absent. Ai Enma's phantasmagorias aren’t so clever that the series can't bear to direct its creative efforts elsewhere. The second volume first broke the predictable formula by introducing a victim character whose grievance was entirely justified in own in her own eyes, but who, objectively, was a bit more compromised. This marked the delayed introduction of the kind of messy, morally complex situation that is expected from an intelligent discourse on vengeance. While not every episode has this sort of more complex character dynamic, the ones that do each find a different strategy for throwing the sucker punch. In the episodes that don't follow the default flow of events, the character's actions and decisions take on significance. If the subject is unrepentant, that position means something, and if they regret their action, that means something too. After the first volume, Hell Girl demonstrated what it is capable of. Presumably, the situation with the photographer/investigator will come to a head when one of his targets for blackmail employs the Hell Link for revenge against him. If the anime has offered a look at the potential ceiling for its flare for torturing people for their crimes and for architecting compellingly ugly moral conflicts, the series isn't going to be as dark and fascinating as Death Note or Boogiepop Phantom. However, the improvements of these volumes have advanced the series from an insubstantial exercise in grinding one formula to a series that can be relied upon to regularly deliver, arresting episodes.

Manga Spotlight: Hell Girl Manga Volume 1 by Miyuki Eto Released by Del Rey

If you appreciate the shoujo aesthetic and appreciate Hell Girl's clockwork vengeance, you'll appreciate how the two are coupled in Miyuzki Eto's Hell Girl manga. This manga was originally published in shoujo anthology Nakayoshi, home of Sailor Moon, Princess Knight, Sugar Sugar Rune, Magic Knight Rayearth and Mamotte! Lollipop, and boasts the hallmarks associated with the genre. Panels focus on emotive faces, which in turn direct attention to proportionally oversized eyes. Floral symbolism is everywhere, worked into the stories, the background and the design. Despite being punctuated by macabre images, its efforts are directed at pushing emotional buttons by broadcasting the damage through the eyes of an innocent, endearing heroine rather than bringing the title in line with the primary standards of horror manga. With little that is gothic or shocking, Eto's work follows the path set by the likes of Yumiko Igarashi (Candy Candy) and not Kazuo Umezu (Drifting Classroom, Scary Book), Kanako Inuki (Presents, School Zone) or even Matsuri Akino (Petshop of Horrors). Consequently, horror manga completists might want to sit this one out, but shoujo manga fans might consider giving it an eye. Unlike the more common process of adapting manga into anime, Miyuki Eto's manga was created as a tie-in to the anime series. The manga's original story is credited to The Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl) Project, and the manga reads like it is based on an outline of the anime series. About half of the first volume's chapter long stories have the same profile as episodes of the anime. They differ in the particulars and usually in the imagery of Ai Enma's entrapment of the villains, but they follow the same motivations and crimes as anime episodes. To a greater degree than the anime, the consumer has to be a willing participant. Even in its simplified form, the number of stages needed to call upon then execute the Hell Link revenge means that, with the brevity of the chapters, there isn't enough room to spend time convincing the reader. When it shows a girl being framed for shoplifting or a veterinarian neglecting his charges, the crimes are largely presented in their abstract form. A reader has to bring in their own understanding and feelings about the wrongdoings, because the manga isn't going to develop the significance to its specific subjects other than through shorthand. Similarly, the victims are a procession of very similar, wide-eyed innocent young girls. If there is one stand out twist to the manga it's that there is a interesting, slightly mischievous look to Ai Enma, but as a secondary work of the Hell Girl title, it is difficult to imagine that Miyuzki Eto will pursue her alternate interpretation too far. Unlike the anime, which closely adherred to a formula for a number of episodes before definitively laying out what it had to offer, it seems probable that the Hell Girl manga will continue as it appears in its first volume. The format and style will likely restrict Eto's original stories from becoming especially in depth. Ultimately, she creates a work that will strictly appeal to fans of shoujo manga who enjoy mildly dark revenge thrillers concerning teenage life.

Second Season of Black Lagoon in Canada

Anime News Network and Zannen, Canada report that Black Lagoon: Second Barrage, the second season of the gunslinger anime, is airing on G4TechTV Canada, Fridays at 8:30 p.m. EST/5:30 p.m. PST with a repeat at 11:30 p.m. EST/8:30pm PST. The first season was released on DVD in North America before Geneon ceased their distribution operations.

Japanese Release of New Eva Movie Scheduled

According to Anime Nation and AV Watch King Records announced that the 2007 Evangelion Shin Gekijouban: Jou (Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone) animated motion picture will be released on Japanese DVD in April. The film will be released in a special edition double disc package on April 25, retailing at 5,985 yen, followed by a single disc standard release on May 21, retailing at 4,935 yen. King Records has formally stated that there are presently no plans for an HD DVD or Blu-ray version of the film.

Manga in Japan

From Anime News Network and ComiPress Pandora Cube, a one shot manga from Yuu Watase (Fushigi Yuugi) will run in this year's eighth issue (on sale on January 23) of Shogakukan's Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine. Unhappy!, the new manga from Tohru Fujisawa (GTO), will start in this year's fifth issue (on sale February 19) of Kadokawa Shoten's Comic Charge magazine. A new shoujo manga from Lovely Complex creator Aya Nakahara titled Nanakorobin will begin in the March issue (2/13) of Shueisha's Bessatsu Margaret A new four-panel manga titled Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to from Hiroyuki, creator of Doujin Work, will begin serialization in the March issue (2/12) of Square Enix's Shonen Gangan. Kaoru Mori's Emma, released in North America by CMX will end in next issue of nterbrain's Monthly Comic Beam magazine. Yuna Kagesaki's Karin aka Chibi Vampire, released in North America by TOKYOPOP, will end in the next issue of Fujimi Shobo's Comic Dragon AGE / Idolmaster Xenoglossia will end in the March issue of Monthly Comp Ace. The same February issue also launched Ontama's new manga about Miku Hachune, the super-deformed version of the Miku Hatsune virtual idol. Gundam side story Advance of Zeta: The Flag of Titans will end in the March issue (on sale January 21) of MediaWorks' Monthly Comic Dengeki Daioh magazine. From Gunota, March issue of V Jump, starts of a Fusion Clashes: Gundam Battle-Rave serialized manga by Masato Ichishiki in cooperation with Bandai's Card Division.

Upcoming From Broccoli

Natsumi Mukai's (+Anima ) Nui! will be released starting 05/28/07 When Kaya runs into trouble one day, it’s not a knight in shining armor, but her stuffed animals that come to her rescue. It may sound crazy, but Kaya isn’t pretending: she loves her stuffed animals so much, they come to life and turn into people! Plushies come in all different shapes and sizes, and so do their hearts—whereas some are nice, there are others who are not so kind. Kaya’s about to discover that the world of plushies isn’t all fun and games, it’s downright dangerous sometimes! Mia Ikumi's Koi Cupid will be released in Spring 2008 Breaking the Rules in the Game of Love! When you're a cupid in training, you gotta play by the rules: No socializing with your targets. Don't consort with the enemy. Practice archery every day. Maybe if someone had told Koi, Ai and Ren, they could stay out of trouble. The girls try to finish their missions by the book, but something always gets in the way. Sometimes it's a super-shy girl, sometimes it's a hyperactive devil, but it's always trouble. Sola by Naoki Hisaya and Chaco Abeno will be released in summer 2008 Yorito is a high school student who likes to take photographs of the sky. A chance meeting introduces him to Matsuri, but she is no ordinary girl—it turns out that she’s actually a 350 year-old Yaka, an immortal being that cannot go out into the light! As such, Matsuri has been forced to live a life of solitude, and Yorito is the first friend she’s ever had. But there is much more to the Yaka than first meets the eye, and a sword-wielding man named Takeshi seems intent on harming Matsuri, but for what reason? Now Thrust into a supernatural battle, will Yorito have the courage to protect their friendship for Matsuri’s sake? MangaCast notes that Broccoli also has Akiyoshi Ohta/Matsuda98's Honoka Level Up! Honoka, a lonely young student, loves to doodle and draw. But her casual love of art is transformed when her uncle hires her to work as a character developer at his new video gaming company. Honoka has no idea how to negotiate the complex corporate world, and as she begins to learn the basics of the video game industry, she finds herself getting caught up in the confusing politics, crushing responsibilities, and difficult developmental aspects of her newfound calling. Overwhelmed by the challenges, Honoka realizes that she’ll have to give it her all if she wants to succeed.

Jinzo Toriumi Passed Away

Tokyograph reports that Jinzo Toriumi, screenwriter for Speed Racer, Gatchaman, and Yatterman has died at age 78.

ADV Cans Club Program

ADV Films has informed members that its Anime Advocates anime club advocates program has been suspended indefinitely. Their statement was: Dear ADVocates Club Reps, Kristen here! As you know, ADV put the Anime ADVocates club program on hiatus last November. Today we are contacting you to announce that the program is officially suspended indefinitely. ADVocates had grown to nearly 3,000 active clubs nationwide—far more than we’d ever imagined—and we are pleased with its success. More than 90% of these clubs started because of ADVocates, and many of them took root in school and public libraries. We’ve always felt that anime offers the best sort of programming, because anime is so effective at bringing people together. ADVocates’ incredible growth these past three years underscores that fact. Unfortunately, Anime ADVocates has simply become too expensive to maintain. We’ve looked at how we might move forward with an attenuated version of the program, but after much consideration we have decided to suspend it altogether. We simply can’t afford the manpower and resources involved with sending free product to so many clubs. We certainly hope that you continue to keep your anime club going. You can still count on ADV for quick turnaround on screening permissions by emailing me at animeclubs@advfilms.com. You may also receive product samples and the like from us from time to time, as resources allow. Thanks for being an ADVocate, and good luck with your club!

New MaraMite Anime

Japanese producers confirmed that the fourth episode of girl's school Maria-sama ga Miteru ("The Virgin Mary is Watching You" or MaraMite for short) drama will be a TV series rather than an OVA.

A Look at PiQ

comics212 looks at the retailer kits for ADV's NewType USA replacement PiQ here According to the kit, the content breakdown will be
  • 20% Anime
  • 20% Gaming
  • 20% U.S. Comics / Japanese Manga
  • 20% Genre Movies / TV / Home Video
  • 10% Toys / Collectibles
  • 5% Gadgets / Hi-Tech Gear
  • 5% Lifestyle (fashion, accessories, events) The pitch says PiQ is “entertainment for the rest of us, squarely addressing the needs of a cutting-edge young male audience,” and they’re estimating a 70/30 split in readership, in favor of male readers.
  • Genius Party and More at Kennedy Center

    The Kennedy Center will present a series of anime screenings with Genius Party Premieres and A Marathon of Anime Premieres from February 15 – February 17, 2008 in the Family Theater. Genius Party Premieres are original works created by Japan's leading artists in the anime field chosen by Director and Genius Party Executive Producer Eiko Tanaka. Genius Party will make its U.S. premiere on February 15, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. Genius Party Beyond will make its world premiere on February 16, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. A Marathon of Anime Premieres on February 17, 2008 consists of three new anime features to be shown separately. This screening marathon includes: 5 Centimeters Per Second (East Coast Premiere) at 11 a.m., The Piano Forest (North American Premiere) at 1:15 p.m., and Appleseed: Ex Machina (East Coast Premiere) at 3:30 p.m. These anime film premieres are part of the Center's two-week long festival, JAPAN! culture + hyperculture. Anime is the face of 21st-century Japan and this event showcases the power and imagination of the art form to audiences' amazement. Eiko Tanaka, President of Studio 4°C and producer of the Genius Party, said, “Human beings need to express themselves. We compiled works filled with strong desire for expression.” Genius Party Premieres feature directors Atsuko Fukushima, Shoji Kawamori, Shinji Kimura, Yoji Fukuyama, Hideki Futamura, Masaaki Yuasa, Shinichiro Watanabe, Mahiro Maeda, Koji Morimoto, Kazuto Nakazawa, Shinya Ohira, and Tatsuyuki Tanaka. Following its showing at the Kennedy Center, the Genius Party Premieres will then tour to major film festivals throughout the world. Directors Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), Koji Morimoto (Magnetic Rose), and Mahiro Maeda (Doomed Megalopolis) along with Studio 4°C's Eiko Tanaka will attend the premiere Tickets for Genius Party are $25. Tickets for Genius Party Beyond are $25. Tickets for A Marathon of Anime Premieres are $15 per film. Tickets may be purchased at the Kennedy Center Box Office or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Those patrons living outside the Washington metropolitan calling area may dial toll-free at (800) 444-1324 or visit our website at www.kennedy-center.org. Via Kaiju Shadedown, Maboroshii Productions looks at why Genius Party has been hard for other film festivals to book. Speaking of DC, Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan and DC Anime Club will be preseting a screening of Lovely Complex The Movie January 24, 2008 at 6:30 pm at the Japan Information and Culture Center Embassy of Japan 1155 21st Street, NW Washington, DC 20036-3308. About Lovely Complex The Movie: Risa is just too tall and too intimidating for the boys at her school to like her. She longs for the attention of a boy. Atsushi is just too short for a girl to be interested in him. Despite the difference in height, the two share everything from their taste in food to their favorite band and become the best of friends. Can they overcome the inches that separate them and become the perfect couple everyone says they will be? Based on the comic book “Lovely Complex” by Aya Nakahara, LoveCom is a story about two friends who slowly come to realize they are perfect for each other, despite a difference in stature. 60Minutes Lovely Complex The Movie will be shown in Japanese with English Subtitles. This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required. RSVP to jiccrsvpwinter08@embjapan.org

    Site Updated For Oshii's Next

    Production I.G's as post an English description of Mamoru Oshii's Sky Crawlers The film is based on a popular five-part novel by a best-seller writer, Mori Hiroshi, who enjoys enthusiastic support from younger generations and has sold over 8 million copies of his works in total. The story unfolds in another 'possible' modern age. The main characters are youngsters called "Kildren", who are destined to live eternally in their adolescence. The Kildren are conscious that every day could be the last, because they fight a "war as entertainment" organized and operated by adults. But as they embrace the reality they are faced with, they live their day-to-day lives to the full. After reading the novel, Director Oshii praised it as "a work that should be made into a movie for young people now." Clothing, food and housing are in abundance in our modern society, and yet we carry an unfulfilled vacuum in our hearts. "It is time to face this new perception to our existence through the Kildren, who live indefinitely in eternal adolescence, and this theme should be dealt with now," claims Oshii earnestly. The author Mori regards his novel, The Sky Crawlers "as the most difficult among all of my works for film adaptation." However, Mori declared himself "surprised and relieved at the same time to know the director was going to be Mamoru Oshii," and gave his immediate consent. Release Date in Japan: Summer 2008 Original Novel: Mori Hiroshi (Chuokoron-Shinsha) Screenplay: Chihiro Ito Director: Mamoru Oshii Character Designer/Key Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio Mechanical Designer: Atsushi Takeuchi Art Director: Kazuo Nagai Music: Kenji Kawai Animation Production: Production I.G Produced by: The Sky Crawlers Production Committee Distributed in Japan by: Warner Entertainment Japan Based on the novel by Mori Hiroshi (published in Japan by Chuokoron-Shinsha) Screenplay: Chihiro Ito Director: Mamoru Oshii Music: Kenji Kawai Sequence Director: Toshihiko Nishikubo Character Designer/Key Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio Mechanical Designer: Atsushi Takeuchi Art Director: Kazuo Nagai Art Settings: Takashi Watabe Color Designer: Kumiko Yusa Visual Effects: Hisashi Ezura CGI Supervisor: Hiroyuki Hayashi Line Producer: Toru Kawaguchi Producer: Tomohiko Ishii Executive Producers: Seiji Okuda, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa Animation Production: Production I.G © MORI Hiroshi / The Sky Crawlers Production Committee

    Versailles at A-Kon

    A-Kon will host the North American debut of the new Visual Kei band Versailles on Friday May 30th in Dallas at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The convention will also host question and answer panels with the band followed by autograph sessions during the weekend of the convention. Versailles is presented in conjunction with Tainted Reality

    DrMaster Publications Announces Magic Lover’s Tower

    DrMaster has announced the publication of Kao Yung's two-volume fantasy love-triangle drama Magic Lover’s Tower. Both volumes will be released together and shipped out on May 2008 at $9.95 each Roxanne, the nerdy class cleanliness rep, is secretly in love with the bad boy of the class, Logan. One day she accidentally releases Baphalen, a magic being who was sealed in a painting by the Heavenly Courts as punishment. Baphalen is the celestial guardian of the incense urn of the Old Man Under the Moon, and possesses the fantastic Magic Lover’s Staff. He decides to use his Magic Lover’s Staff to help Roxanne get her wish of winning Logan’s heart. However, in order for her wish to be fulfilled, Roxanne must participate in a magical game in the realm of the Magic Lover’s Tower. She is given several chances to enter the fantasy world of the Magic Lover’s Tower, where she must get Logan to kiss her and say “I love you.” However, she is only allowed fifteen minutes for each time she enters the fantasy world, and if she fails to complete her tasks within the time limit, Logan will hate her even more than before when she returns to real world! Kao Yung was born in Taiwan, where he grew up and graduated from the National Chengchi University, Department of Law. He is known as “The Godfather of Beauty” because of his elegant works and detailed stories that posses both depth and charm. Many of his works have gained recognition and won awards. In fact, Kao’s works are so renowned that they have been translated and published outside Taiwan, in countries like Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand.

    Manga Ent. Collects Tactics

    Manga Entertainment will be releasing a 5 disc set of Tactics on February 12th for $49.98. In addition, Tactics Volume 5 – containing the five latest episodes of the long-running saga, is available with this new release. SRP is $49.98. For fans who have supported Tactics and already own the first four volumes, Volume 5 will be available as a separate DVD on March 11th (SRP $24.97). The series follows the exploits of anthropologist Kantaro Ichimomiya and “Haruka,” the legendary Demon-Eating Goblin, as they traverse the Japanese countryside, in search of ghostly mysteries and paranormal adventures. The set features
  • Widescreen presentation (1.78:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions
  • All 25 episodes – including five new-to-DVD installments
  • English-dubbed and original Japanese language soundtracks – in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
  • Original Japanese TV commercials
  • Original Japanese merchandise ads
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • Original Music Videos “Embrace the Sun and Moon” and “Premonition Infinity”
  • Viz Lays Out NATPE Showcased Anime

    VIZ Media, LLC will be showasing a host of new anime at the 2008 National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Conference and Exhibition, taking place January 28-31 in Las Vegas, NV. VIZ Media will operate from Suites 7904 and 7906 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the conference will be held. The company will offer several new properties available for license, including NANA, BUSO RENKIN, HUNTER X HUNTER, NAOKI URUSAWA’s MONSTER, HONEY AND CLOVER, BLUE DRAGON as well as series such as DEATH NOTE, NARUTO, BLEACH, and DEKO BOKO FRIENDS, which have already established strong domestic followings. NATPE is a global, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation, development and distribution of televised programming in all forms across all mature as well as emerging media platforms. The NATPE conference develops and nurtures opportunities, both commercial and educational, for the buying, selling and sharing of content and ideas. NANA Author: Ai Yazawa - Broadcast runtime: 30min - 50 Episodes Rating: TV 14 (Anticipated) Synopsis Twenty-year-old Nana Komatsu has endured an unending string of boyfriend problems. Moving to Tokyo, she’s hoping to take control of her life and put her capricious love life behind her. Singer Nana Osaki arrives in Tokyo at the same time, with plans to kick down the doors to Tokyo’s rock ’n’ roll scene. Though from completely different backgrounds, the two Nanas meet and become best friends in a whirlwind world of love, music, fashion, gossip, and all-night parties! (Not available in Europe) BUSO RENKIN Author: Nobuhiro Watsuki - Broadcast runtime: 30 min - 26 Episodes Rating: TV 14 (Anticipated) Synopsis: Alchemist Warrior Tokiko Tsumura comes to Ginsei City and uses herself as bait for the homunculi, artificial life forms that lurk in the darkness to devour unsuspecting humans. Unaware of Tokiko’s intentions, high school student Kazuki Muto tries to save her and is killed in the process. Tokiko restores Kazuki’s life with an alchemic talisman called a "kakugane," and now he fights at Tokiko’s side to save his friends. HUNTER X HUNTER Author: Yoshihiro Togashi - Broadcast runtime: 30 min - 62 Episodes Rating: TV 14 (Anticipated) Synopsis: Being a “Hunter" is a profession. A person who tracks down people, searches for treasure and explores lands of mystery. A person that protects the order of mankind and nature is called a "hunter.” HUNTER X HUNTER depicts the fantastic adventures of Gon, the son of a famous Hunter. Wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, young Gon works hard to learn how to seek treasure and master Nen, a mysterious power. But in order to truly become like his father and a licensed Hunter, Gon must pass the arduous and dangerous Hunter Exam. It is said that only one in hundreds of thousands can pass the test. Now Gon sets out on a dangerous and exciting adventure to become a great Hunter like his father. HUNTER X HUNTER is based on a popular manga comic, (rated T+ for Older Teens) by Yoshihiro Togashi, which is also published domestically by VIZ Media. The HUNTER X HUNTER series has developed a fanatical following in Japan, selling more than 44 million copies, and spawned several original video features and an array of video games and trading cards in addition to the animated series. NAOKI URUSAWA’S MONSTER Author: Naoki Urasawa - Broadcast runtime: 30 min - 75 episodes Rating: TV 14 (Anticipated) Synopsis: Brilliant doctor Kenzo Tenma risks his reputation and promising career to save the life of a critically wounded young boy instead of a politician’s. Nine years later, the child has grown into a serial killer… Can Kenzo stop him? Or will he make another fatal decision? Conspiracies, serial murders, and a scathing depiction of the underbelly of hospital politics are all masterfully woven together in this compelling thriller! HONEY AND CLOVER Author: Chica Umino - Broadcast runtime: 30 min - 38 episodes Rating: TV 14 (Anticipated) Synopsis: Based on the bestselling shôjo manga comic by Chica Umino, HONEY AND CLOVER is a romantic comedy that focuses on five college students and the art school they attend. When talented painter Hagumi Hanamoto enrolls in the program, her presence and unique approach to art affects the entire school and her new friends. The plot thickens as Hagumi becomes embroiled in a complicated love triangle as she struggles to find her artistic voice. HONEY AND CLOVER showcases the journey that everyone must take to transform 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. The English version of the HONEY AND CLOVER manga graphic novel is currently serialized in VIZ Media’s SHOJO BEAT magazine. VIZ Media is also set to publish the title as a self-contained comic in March 2008. BLUE DRAGON Concept based on the Xbox 360 game “BLUE DRAGON”, Character Design by Akira Toriyama- Broadcast runtime: 30 min - 51 episodes Rating: TV Y7FV (Anticipated) Synopsis: BLUE DRAGON features characters designed by Akira Toriyama, the creator of the best-selling DRAGON BALL series of manga (which is published in North America by VIZ Media and featured in SHONEN JUMP Magazine). The anime series is produced by Studio Pierrot, which is well known for its work on NARUTO and BLEACH, also licensed by VIZ Media. The Xbox 360 video game “BLUE DRAGON” was developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of Final Fantasy) has already established itself in Japan as one of Microsoft’s hottest releases in the RPG category. The BLUE DRAGON animated series is a classic adventure story of magical Shadow powers, flying air fortresses, and unbounded heroism. Brought together by fate, Seven Soldiers of Light must awaken the Shadow within themselves in time to overcome a despotic power and bring peace to their land. Their ensuing journey through a rich fantasy world is also an internal journey to awaken the great power within each of them. Journey with them into the world of BLUE DRAGON! DEKO BOKO FRIENDS Author: Momoko Maruyama & Ryotaro Kuwamoto - Broadcast runtime: 30 sec - 234 Episodes Rating: TV Y Synopsis: DEKO BOKO FRIENDS is positioned as an educational and fun animated series for preschoolers and consists of 30-second animated shorts that feature 12 unique characters that help teach children about diversity and tolerance. The characters and messages are heartwarming and positive and have been embraced by parents and children alike.

    Worth Checking Out

    Free, sample episodes of anime on Amazon's Unbox ICV2 talks to FUNimation's Gen Fukunaga about the state of anime here Nakazawa Keiji (Barefoot Gen) interviewed a geek by any other name reports form Dark Horse at Powells Ghibli World on Ghibli on Blu Ray Manga Jesus Via Brik's Haus Anime Blog Revoltech's Star Scream and Rodimus Prime and their Gurren Lagann Production I.G's The Making of XX: Interview with Junichi Fujisaku (4) LA Times talks to TOKYOPOP's Stu Levy aka DJ Milky. Episode 58 of the ANIME TODAY podcast (find it on iTunes), features an interview with Zac Bertschy – executive editor of Anime News Network (AnimeNewsNetwork.com) and managing editor of Protoculture Addicts. In this new interview, Bertschy takes a look back at the successes and surprises of 2007, experiments in packaging and distribution, the differences between what series are popular with Japanese and Western fans, and the issues and challenges facing the North American anime industry in 2008. AniPages Daily on Best of Ottawa 2007 and Animation from father to child From ComiPress Fujiko Fujio (A) Talks about Life at Tokiwa-so Via An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla, Ultraman Exhibition–Operation Roppongi Sky Japanator posts a number of visual mash-ups of anime here Via Comics Worth Reading, TOKYOPOP has launched a prose contest for The Dreaming. From Gunota The Gihren's Greed: Menace Of Axis site opens Via Twitch, photos of the live action Blood: The Last Vampire and, a trailer for Filipino giant robot film Resiklo

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