Manga Spotlight: Cowa! By Akira Toriyama To be released by VIZ Media July 1, 2008
While Cowa! is far from meritless, its moment might have passed. In 1997, it was the first of Akira Toriyama's manga to run a complete volume since concluding Dragon Ball (Dragon Ball Z was called Dragon Ball in its Japanese manga run.) When Dragon Ball had heat and the nature of post DBZ Toriyama works were not overly familiar, Cowa! represented a prospect that was quite intriguing. In 2008 even if North American readers haven't had access to many of Toriyama's short, goofy post-Dragon Ball works, they've received a representative sample in Sand Land. Between the diminishment of the name "Akira Toriyama" as Dragon Ball's popularity has at least in part receded, and a prior representative sample on the book shelf, Cowa! is not as attractive as it might have once been. Toyiama's volume length works from his post Dragon Ball period, including Sand Land, Cowa! and Kajika seem to try to recapture the magic of early Dragon Ball, in which a young hero quested through a wondrous world, unbound by the long form tournament structure of serial fight manga. Cowa! in particular grafts Dragon Ball's notion of an odd, fearless young hero with Dr. Slump's premise of a strange community. Its lead Paifu is a cherubic little monster, who is half vampire, half were-koala. The vampire half is the side that usually manifests, with Paifu appearing as a rosy cheeked, shirtless mini Lugosi. Like Goku's transformation in Dragon Ball, when Paifu is confronted with a cross, the little guy turns into a raging, not quite hulking, fanged koala person. The earlier part of the manga is weighed more towards the Dr. Slump side of the formula; with Paifu and his ghost buddy Jose Rodriguez literally farting around. A representative of the shaggy dog jokes consists of Paifu's shapely Morticia Adams mother sending her son to pick up a watermelon, Paifu pocketing the money, stealing a watermelon, giving the stolen water melon to a sad sack human kid, convincing Jose to disguise himself as a melon, until finally, Jose's farting gives away the ruse. The majority of Cowa! is structured around Paifu, Jose, Paifu's "rival" Arpon and renegade Sumo/presumed murderer Maru-Yama's quest across the land to retrieve medicine manufacted by the Witch of Horned-Owl Mountain as a cure for the village's outbreak of Monster Flu. In Toriyama tradition, the journey is punctuated by just about anything that the author and/or the audience might find interesting. Even if the story is structured around a goal, it is paced for chapters in which it can unapologetically indulge in its juvenile fascinations: stopping for beetles, beating on aggressive low lives, helping a Bruce Lee doppelganger. When creators like Naruto's Masashi Kishimoto or One Piece's Eiichiro Oda credit Toriyama as an influence, they are generally referring to the wonder of seeing Dragon Ball's Goku act out the famous Journey to the West epic, fighting dinosaurs one chapter, mummies the next, martial arts assassins and Native Americans in the next. In theory, Cowa!'s sort of short, condensed work should have been perfect for this king of strange adventure. The off beat, but iconic look of Toriyama's monsters and miscreants has a contagiously fun charm. However, Toyimama does not seem to be over his Dragon Ball exhaustion. The ridiculousness is more forced than the natural ease demonstrated in Dr. Slump or the pre-Z part of Dragon Ball, as if he was pressuring himself to recapture his pre-wary youth. The convolutions of these stories do not need to make sense, but they do need proper comedic pacing. Instead, Cowa! latches Dragon Ball-lite action onto meandering jokes. The results might interest the Toriyama faithful, but otherwise, Dr. Slump or maybe the VIZBig re-compilations of Dragon Ball are more satisfying choices.
Anime Spotlight: CLAMP Double Feature RESEVoir CHROoNiCLE Tsubasa: The Movie The Princess in the Bridcage Kindgom xxxHOLiC: The Movie A Midsummer Night's Dream Released by FUNimation
The CLAMP Double Feature pairs a half hour fantasy adventure with an hour of haunted house horror. Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, FLCL, Blood+) uses these as starting points for creating imaginative places that will stand out in the viewer's mind. Princess in a Birdcage Kingdom presents just what the title suggests: a verdant fairytale kingdom contained within a giant cage-mesh dome. The haunted house of A Midsummer Night's Dream is something more traditional: the Winchester Mystery House crossed with the kind of haunted mansion that traps its visitors within, seen in the recent Demon Prince Enma anime OVA, and plenty of other stories. However, the way that the labyrinth of halls and doors twist and turn to reveal startling scenes will leave a distinct impression. While the features are impressive in building the particular look and spirit of the birdcage kingdom and the haunted house, they represent a very animation driven project. Like Production I.G's work on Blood: The Last Vampire, it is evident that the anime's creators had an effect and a concept in mind, but that script had little role other than as a vehicle for presenting those ideas. Disappointingly, though the pair of features were written by Jun'ichi Fujisaku, who has Blood+, as well as key pieces of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Otogi Zoshi on his resume, the narratives of these films zig and zag, only setting the stage for grand finale spectacles. Much of the plot is rudimentary. The actual characters and back stories add little to the effect of the animation. CLAMP is one of the few creator names to appear on the proper title of a North American anime/manga release, and it is significant that the name was added for the release's North American branding. It is also unusual in that it is a group name referring to team of women who create manga, and occasionally do other design work, such as in the recent Code Geass. They started as a twelve member doujinishi (fan comic) team or "circle", before releasing their first professional work, Hindu based fantasy epic RD Veda, in 1990. Since then, the group has coalesced around four principal members, now known as Ageha Ohkawa, Mokona, Tsubaki Nekoi and Satsuki Igarashi. At a given moment in North American anime/manga fandom, there are a handful of recognized creators with extra cache. Given that, for the most part, anime is a pop medium, there is a large degree of turn-over in this list. Some, such as Akira Toriyama or Shirow Masasmune, retain a core audience. Some, such as Rumiko Takashi, fade from consciousness and return with a vengeance as one of their works runs its course and the next picks up. In contrast CLAMP has maintained a hold on North American fans, in the late 90's, before the boom, through the years of explosive growth in the early part of this decade and into the current phase of the market. CLAMP's use of an elegantly accentuated version of the large eyed "anime style", coupled with their approach of taking popular genre conventions and introducing their own twists might explain my CLAMP works command attention. Then, their persistent popularity could be credited to their prolific catalogue of work, and that their work generally leaves fans wanting more. Contributing to the number of series and their tantalizing draw is the fact that CLAMP is notorious about leaving works unfinished, particularly the apocalyptic X/1999. In 2003, CLAMP introduced sibling manga series Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic. The ties between the totality of CLAMP's works served as a key element in both of these works. Additionally, the two stories facilitated each other at key moments. However, because when the two series were adapted into anime TV series, Tsubasa was handled by the Bee Train (Noir, .hack) division of Production I.G and xxxHolic was handled by the parent organization, the direct tie between the two was deemphasized for their anime incarnations. In the case of the Double Feature, both titles were under the umbrella of Production I.G. As such, the two stories contribute to each other in a climactic manner. However, the link in the features is mostly a fun treat for fans. In these interactions, the characters are just following the dictates of their roles. There is nothing uniquely illuminating or dynamically new in the exchanges. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle promotes Card Captor Sakura's deuteragonist Syaoran Li to the primary position. Here, an alternate archaeologist/adventurer version of the character must travel between alternate worlds, with alternate versions of other CLAMP characters in order to cure the enchanted Sakura from his world. He's joined by a Mokona, the stuffed animal rabbit/rice ball mascot introduced in Magic Knights Rayearth, as well as the original personalities of raging ninja Kurogane and composed wizard Fay. In The Princess in a Birdcage Kingdom, Syaoran and company find a version of Tomoyo (Sakura's confidant in Card Captor, Kurogane's liege in Tsubasa) who is the princess of the titular kingdom, and under threat from the schemes of its ruler to release an age of darkness onto the land. At about half an hour without credits, the movie is longer than a typical anime-episode. However, it is hampered less by the restricted time than it is by its failure to take advantage of what it has to work with. There's far too much running and fisticuffs for the short feature to have the feel of a fairytale. Beyond that, it demonstrates little interest in working with the particulars of its cast. For example, Kurogane is confronted with finding this world's Tomoyo captured in a cage. In theory, this should be an excused to get the Tsubasa's resident rage-aholic especially worked up. And the character does acknowledge the situation, but nothing noteworthy results from it. Still, if an anime feature is only going to amount to a spectacle with little emotional or intellectual resonance, it is pleasant to have that spectacle condensed into a half hour form rather than 60 or 90 minutes. What distinguishes the anime from Production I.G is that a premise like The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom seems to inspire them. When the cast is introduced to the world by falling into an irrigation reservoir, the particular way that the water is flowing under a canopy of trees immediately lends the feature its own look. The animators continue to take familiar elements of this type of story, such as hidden rooms or suspended cages, and by paying attention to the design and space, they establishing a thoroughly realized imagined world. Suspension of disbelief is never fully achieved. When Syaoran does the Hobbit trick of floating into the enemy stronghold in a supplies barrel, it's hard not to wonder about the concussions he should have received. Yet, the world does start to exist the way that other imaginary kingdoms like Oz or Wonderland might. When the story starts really throttling logic in its conclusion, with kaiju sized birds spiraling into action and Syaoran jump kicking the giant beasts, imagination has sufficiently taken hold than it seems exhilarating and not intelligence insulting. xxxHOLiC ( as in
addict) is a character piece mixed with a horror anthology. For more on xxHOLiC's premise, read the recent review of volume one of the TV series. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, ghost spotting nebbish Watanuki is spending his summer break fetching saki and cleaning warehouses full of chachkies for the dimensional witch Yuko, when the witch takes a commission to help a young woman regain entrance into her house and at the same time accepts a mysterious invitation. Following up on both, Watanuki, Yuko, and Domeki, a peer with Zen like composure who Watanuki considers to be a rival, travel to a mansion that looks like a Frankenstein's monster of bolted together architectural schemes. In its unnavigable interior, a randomly chosen door opens onto a bare wall when Domeki pulls the knob, but when Watanuki tries it, the trio find themselves in a room full of collectors who are lounging about, discussing their passions. The script deserves some credit for directly discussing the "_holic" theme of CLAMP's story, but at the same time, getting too close to the source has proven to be a dangerous direction for CLAMP adaptation. The famous example is Rintaro's adaptation of X, which had to invent an ending, something that few viewers found satisfying. Here, as soon as the core concept is brought up, it is time for the final confrontation. The action resolves itself without suggesting anything profound about either the principals of xxxHOLiC or the subjects of the movie. If the creators of Midsummer Night's Dream didn't feel the freedom to insert something insightful about xxxHOLiC and didn't conceive anything beyond a premise for their own story, then at least they felt the freedom and poured their creative energies into animating the film. There is a particular look to CLAMP's xxxHOLiC manga, in the way panels are framed by curves of smoke, hair, or background objects such as wind blown curtains that suggests that it was inspired by the Art Nouveau movement. There are elements of that in Production I.G's xxxHOLiC tv series, especially in the opening credits sequence or the way it elongates and curves the figures of its characters. Whether it was the difference in the budget between a TV series and a feature and/or less pressure to normalize the look, director Tsutomu Mizushima commits fully to the aesthetic for Midsummer Night's Dream in a way that he didn't for the series. He presents elastic figures. In the case of Yuko there is elegance in the spindliness. In the case of Watanuki, it is a parody of those appealing lines. The feature opens with Watanuki walking down the street, arms bonelessly swaying as he mutters to himself. Then, the view is distorted by the undulations of inky spirits as the haunts that had been tailing Watanuki catch up with him. It is an amusing, memorable gag as it was presented in the TV series, but reframed the way it is in the movie, there's nothing like it. Studio 4°C rightly has a reputation for bold, experimental anime like Mind Game or TekkonKinkreet. Madhouse has their name in the conversion too, with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Masaaki Yuasa's TV series Kemonozume and Kiba and the Satoshi Kon movies. With works like Dead Leaves, Otogi Zoshi and Midsummers Night's Dream, Production I.G also has to be thought of as one of the key places where anime artists test the boundaries of the form. Midsummer Night's Dream comes to a boil with Yuko deflecting the attacks of the mansion's master, while Watanuki and Domeki dodge the collateral assaults. The main thrust is a fluid, energetic take on traditional fight thrust and dodge/push and pull dynamics, but in the madness, there are more exotic exchanges, such as a sort of giant cotton candy bunny-man chasing Watanuki with a mallet. The maddening shifts of perspective along with a strange, internal logic make for an odd hybrid of CLAMP and Bill Plympton. Much of the journey through the haunted house is fascinating rather than horrific. When Watanuki leaves the group and finds himself scrunching behind stairs and scurrying through crawl spaces in search of a bathroom, it's more about a sort of gangly slapstick than it is creepiness. It's welcome to see architecture that defies common sense that is not inspired by Escher. Still, it is more about appreciating the trick than it is being disconcerted by the effect. Ironically for a movie that does motion animation as well as Midsummer Night's Dream does, the movie is at its most chilling when it presents static images. The incongruity of what is housed in the mansion succeeds in leaving a deep impression. A Midsummer Night's Dream does not entirely function has a horror movie, but when it does direct its intension towards horror, few other anime succeed like it does. The scripts of the CLAMP Double feature seem like an afterthought and that precludes the works from falling into the category of great anime movies. Yet, the animation is sufficiently spectacular and willing to try something different that the Double Feature is worth any anime fan's attention.
Alt Written Guide To Yokai
Matt Alt (Hello, Please! Very Helpful Super Kawaii Characters from Japan, Super #1 Robot, translator of Zero Over Berlin and Togari) has revealed that he and Hiroko Yoda will be writing Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. The book, which will be illustrated by Tatsuya Morino, will be published by Kodansha International in America and Europe this fall, but it's going on sale this JUNE in Japanese bookstores. The book will look at Japan's rich population of mythological creatures, organized in a "datafile" style, with important characteristics like pronunciation, size, locomotion, prevalence, danger level, and habitat.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Theatrical Run
A Geek By Any Other Name, has posted the theatrical run schedule for Bandai's theatrical run of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time:
Los Angeles, ImaginAsian Center, June 13-19, SUBBED. NYC, ImaginAsian Theater, June 13-19, DUBBED. Seattle, Landmark’s Varsity Theater, August 29 - Sept. 4, SUBBED. More dates should be forthcoming.
Go! Comi Announces 07-Ghost
Manga publisher Go! Comi announced today that they will be publishing manga series, 07-Ghost starting next January. Set in a gothic fantasy world, 07-Ghost tells the story of Teito, a former slave who is now pursued by the forces of the Barsburg Empire because of his exceptional ability to use a form of magic called Zaiphon. Teito’s discovery of his true nature and his subsequent quest for revenge involve him in the affairs of the Gods themselves, as he finds himself at the center of the conflict between Verloren, the God of Death, and the mysterious “beings of light” sent by Heaven to oppose him: the Seven Ghosts.
Bandai International Merchandising Plans
Gunota reports that Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun indicates that Bandai will be launching a new initiative to launch a Collectors Division that will market figures to an international, adult audience. The Collectors Division will study international markets, including America, in preparation for the sale of new merchandise in the US beginning in 2009. This year, the Collectors Division will take part at comic book merchandise events with exhibits of Mazinger Z, Gundam, and others to gauge consumer preference.
Anime Blu ray
Anime on DVD notes that TV Shows on DVD has noticed that a number of Canadian retailers are listing 08/26/2008 release of Afro Samurai on Blu-ray from FUNimation. Anime News Network points out that according to Nikkei's IT Plus news site, Bandai Visual will release Freedom and other anime titles on Blu-ray Disc simultaneously throughout the world this fall. The same packaged disc with subtitles in Japanese, English, French, and other languages will be sold in the different countries for about the same price. Bandai Visual USA has already released the first five of the seven Freedom volumes in the United States on a HD DVD/DVD twin format. Former president of Bandai Visual USA, Tatsunori Konno spoke about this approach in his blog here
Worth Checking Out...
Same Hat! Same Hat! hosts more from the Shintaro Kago exhibit opening in Amsterdam. Gainax has launched a site Gurren Lagann movie. A trailer can be seen here Subatomic Brainfreeze talks about reading Go Nagai's classic Devil Man Iwa ni Hana's A word on a 'Oshii Studies' doujinshi in publication since 1984 Broccoli Books has posted a preview of their upcoming rleease of Nui Online extended Otaku USA content. Yokai illustrations by Ge Ge Ge No Kitator's Mizuki Shigeru and ukiyo-e prints of Kintaro folklore