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Spotlight: Electric Ant
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Anime Spotlight: Darker than BLACK
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Live Action Bubblegum Crisis in Development
Upcoming in Japan
Ponyo Spring Release?
Fan Translators Stop Naruto
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Spotlight: Electric Ant #1: Your First Kiss

If you're not reading Same Hat! for their "weekly manga commentary, featuring horror, gag & erotic-grotesque nonsense," rectify that as soon as you're done with this column! I can't see how anyone who is an AICN follower hasn't added the blog to their RSS reader. If you even half agree with Harry Knowles weekly DVD picks, "ero guro nansensu" manga should be on keen interest. Same Hat!'s Ryan Sands and Evan Hayden have now launched the print zine Electric Ant. Named as a tribute to Philip K Dick and Suehiro Maruo, the first issue features an interview with the man who literally wrote the book on manga, Frederik Schodt, comics strips, NIN Libs, a collection of illustrations that reinterpret or recontextualize a host of "Dark Lords" of popular media (you'll never look at Shredder the same way again) and an annotated photographic tour of Beijing's Dongyue Temple. Over the summer, I was looking into what's been said about the concept of heta-uma or "good-bad" manga for a piece on Tokyo Zombie (localized by Sands and Hayden). What I came up was the discussion of Teruhiko Yumura aka "King Terry" in Frederik L. Schodt's Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. "I wanted to draw the picture I wanted in the space provided, rather than tell a story. I started drawing whatever I wanted in each panel, and because I can't draw the same face twice, the character faces all changed." The result was manga with a weird mix of primitivism, energy and dada-ist storylines - a comic where the art, the text and the entire concept fused together in a good-bad style... At first glance Terry's cartoons appear to be bad art, but on close inspection, they are also good. Hence, they are heta-uma or bad-good. Terry believes that everyone starts as a "bad" artist and tries to become good. But simply becoming "good" is not enough. Artists who try too hard to become "good" emphasize technique over soul, and the life goes out of their drawings; their spirit fails to live up to their technique. Since reading that, I've been struck with the notion that North America's ongoing conversation on manga still has a long way to go before catching up with Schodt. For decades, Schodt's 1983 "Manga! Manga!" was the reference source on the subject. In the mid 90's, I remember reading a novel, I think it was one of the Nancy A. Collins' Sonja Blue pieces, that pulled a description of sexual content in manga straight from a panel reprinted in Manga! Manga! A few years ago, when Archie (the red headed guy from Riverdale) did a report on manga in his comic, it read a lot like how Manga! Manga! described the medium. Schodt's follow-up Dreamland Japan predated the North American manga boom, but it still features breadth and sophistication that's rarely been matched. Set aside for a moment that few North American manga fans have heard of the Avant-garde anthology Garo or even looked at a panel of Doraemon manga. In 1996 Schodt was asking "Do Manga Have a Future?" Now, the trends that Schodt was calling attention to have gotten to the point where commentators are pondering if the west has again fallen in love with another dying Japanese art. I don't want to apply a tacky label like "gem" or "invaluable" to Sands' interview with Schodt, so, plainly put, if the topic of manga interests you, acquire a copy of Electric Ant. To do the geek thing and start delineating the field... There's the consumer approach to manga and related pop media. This follows the intended purpose and tracks what's hot. What's the new release? Should you buy it? There is the academic approach. If you look at what's been said about writings of authors like Susan J. Napier, you'll catch a layperson reaction to the effect that this approach is given to over-interpretation. Then, there are the people who try to analyze and explain. In this category, there are experts who can authoritatively speak to the subject, then, there are bloggers, podcasters, librarians, AICN columnists and so on who try to offer informed supposition. From within its DIY framework, Electric Ant offers authoritative insight into the field of manga. Schodt is Schodt. If you don't expect him to be illuminating, you've probably never read/heard him before. But, it has to be said that Sands conducted a brilliantly informed and constructed interview. It starts with the cascading circumstances that made Schodt a manga guru, before looking at the process by which North America adopted its manga reading habits , as well as the current landscape of the medium. Rather than inside baseball, the conversation offers a savvy, human look into the field. A good example is when the talk turns to manga luminaries, particularly Schodt's late friend Osamu Tezuka, and a keen subject of Sands' interest, Kazuo Umezu. Both of these giants have cultivated cartoonish personas, as much about an image as a real figure; Tezuka in the black beret, Umezu in his striped shirt. The interview succeeds in painting a more fleshed out picture of how they worked and what they aspired to. Throughout the rest of the zine, whether pop culture or personal subjects are handled grotesquely or irreverently, it's done so in a clever, natural manner. For example, the photo tour offers a look at a 700 year old Daoist temple's catalogue of the tortures of hell, coupled with snide comparisons to Warhammer 40K, Castlevania and Klaus Nomi. I couldn't help but think how often rapid stream of bombardments of irreverence falls short. In this case, both the subject and commentary hit dead on. In addition to smart geekery with QR codes and such, massive credit to producing appearances by the antagonists from Jem and the Holograms and Go-bots. Shouldn't that be reason enough to seek out a copy? Electric Ant can be purchased online and at these physical locations.

Anime Spotlight: Darker than BLACK Volume 1 Released by FUNimation

There's anime that inspires gripes and nothing else. Then, there is anime that inspires gripes because, while good, it's hampered by problems. Volume one of Darker than BLACK kept me thinking throughout, but in addition to considering the plot and action, I was thinking about how the engaging anime series could have been something outstanding. Darker than BLACK opens with Japanese police officers chasing a business attire clad blonde man as he tries to escape via roof top. The blonde man approaches this comic book feat with more desperation than great certainty or aptitude. However, once cornered, his eyes glow red, and he sends one of his pursuers into the air before detaching from the ground himself. The other, still grounded officer mutters "damn, he's a contractor" as he loses the levitating form. The blonde lands in a joint rattling stumble, then, after catching his breath proceeds to hold and snap one of his own fingers, then another. A voice comments "that's the price of your contract, is it? pretty rough." The blonde looks around, and observing a strange shimmer in a bucket of water notes "An observer spirit... a doll!" He then runs headfirst into a man in black overcoat and white mask who systematically employs a set of guide wires and the stubbed hilt of his knife to brutally interrogate Mr. Blonde.
It's Mamet meets X-Men, played with notes of Cowboy Bebop. While not exactly naturalistic, the jargon and mid-action introduction to super-powered spy-versus-spy is purposefully bewildering. Gradually Darker Than Black begins introducing concepts and tools with which to interpret what's going on, but even then, any notion of the reason behind the characters' actions remain supposition. The masked agent of that initial fight BK201 aka the Black Reaper aka Hei, or in his Chinese exchange student cover persona Li Shengshun is clearly a duplicitous protagonist. Hei/Li as a "contractor" serves as both the inside man and the agent on the ground for a team that includes Yin, an emotionless "Doll" with the power of clairvoyance via water, handler Huang, and talking cat Mao (the anime does a fair job of not scuttling its serious tone with the cat). In the anime's early, two episode stories, Li becomes involved with people in desperate situations. Often, these marks are sympathetic. And, though Li works to help these people, often, his objective does not fall into line with their best interests. There is an impulse to side with Li because he's our window into the story, but there is no cause for certainty that Hei is working on the side of the angels, or that, beyond his evident weariness, he has any compunctions against the underhanded tactics or repercussions of his work. It's not until the final moment of the volume's last episode that any sense of motivation is offered. Even then, it's a promise of plot developments to come rather than a Rosetta Stone to the character's actions.
It's one thing to have a character wear a mask as a defense mechanism. Some of the most beloved anime characters adopted personas that they felt best aided them in interfacing with the world: Himura Kenshin, Vash the Stampede, arguably Spike and Faye from Cowboy Bebop. These cases are double benefits to the anime. The mask identity is often a fun engine to exciting escapades. If the reason for adapting the mask is credible, the true personality gives the character depth. For a 26 episode serialized anime story (25 televised episodes and one direct to video OVA), having a protagonist literally adopt masks as a professional course of action is a tricky proposition. There is an expression / accusation that has been applied to two faced politicians who really lack a first face to begin with, to the effect "there is no 'there' there." In a case like Darker than BLACK's early episodes, it is impossible to know what, if any, "there" is there. Darker than BLACK is layered with falsehood. False personalities inhabit false locations. It's a scheme where event the talented and competent are at a loss. CIA, MI6, ,multi-national corporations and other elite organizations are struggling to keep up with the situation on the ground. This smart, vicious spy warfare is intriguing, but also alienating. At least based on what the anime has shown in its first five episodes, not only are the subjects morally compromised, but their drama can't be trusted. Darker than BLACK was animated by Bones, the studio who produced legions of impressed anime fans with Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka SeveN. Furthermore, the series features music by lauded composer Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Wolf's Rain). This sets lofty expectations for the anime. If the same anime came out of Bee Train (the people behind Noir and Batman Gotham Knight: Field Test), the results presented in Darker Than BLACK would be quite impressive. However, this is contending with expectations terraced on the house that produced the complex cinematic choreography of Sword of the Stranger and opened the door to thousands of fan music videos pulling animation from Fullmetal Alchemist's Ed versus Greed fight. Darker than BLACK director Tensai Okamura is probably best known for his work on Wolf's Rain, but also worth knowing for his contributions to Cowboy Bebop (the western scene), and in the zany version of a Katsuhiro Otomo apocalypse Stink Bomb short from Memories, Medabots and the second Naruto movie. Previously, this column commented on Okamura in the context of the unfortunately overlooked Project Blue Earth SOS (volume 1 and volume 2 and 3) . In that case, it seemed as if Okamura did not want to intrude on the homage to ray gun and saucer sci-fi. The magnitude and spirit of War of the Worlds and ID4 was there, but Okamura didn't put his own impression on the spectacle. Bones does not produce gaudy anime, though the new Soul Eater has a cartooned hyper-expressiveness and Ouran High School Host Club has its share of shoujo visual hyperbole. Yet, if you look at Spike versus Vincent's fight in Knockin on Heaven's door, there's a slow ratcheting of the tension as Spike ascends to the battleground, then it grabs its breath as the pair pump bullets into each other, before they start clawing, with Spike dancing like Bruce Lee and Vincent roasting Spike's ribs with vicious hooks. Comparably extravagant ferocity can be found across a host of Bones' productions from Fullmetal Alchemist to the sentimental sci-fi Kurau Phantom Memory. In contrast, Darker than BLACK seeks out simple effectiveness.
During the first episode, Li shows up to the row apartments where he'll rent a place amoung other ex-pats and transients. A crotchety, elderly woman opens the door to Li, and can't figure out why he's arrived. Then it dawns on her that Li must be at her doorstep to fix her TV, so she judo tosses him into her apartment. This is a joke character, presented to add some color with her misanthropic harangue. Yet, rather than some noticeable slapstick sequence, she just grabs him by the wrist and gives him a toss. It's not sloppy or poorly imagined. It's just quick and matter of fact. The same fundamentals of not leering or making a spectacle of the action apply to both the anime's fight sequences and its horrific moments. Darker than BLACK is prepared to graphically capture the gruesome consequences of the contractor spy-play. For a beat, the anime will show what happens when matter exchange teleportation is applied to only part of the human body or the effect of out of control pyrokinetics. Like his brutally efficient subjects, Okamura is never interested in making a show of his work. Depending on your prurient interest, you may want an eyeful of Darker Than BLACK's super-agents beating down and brutalizing each other, but the anime will only yield a necessary glance. I can credit Okamura's matter of fact style as a considered decision. To my mind, more problematic than the brusque handling of the animation is character design that steps back from the distinguishing features of the series to cast Darker than BLACK as a very standard anime. The work of original character designer Yuji Iwahara (King of Thorn) and character design by Takahiro Komori, who I find to be an interesting animator, but whose character design (Scrapped Princess, Angelic Layer) hasn't excited me in the past, succeeds in the minutia. The tired lines under Li's eyes, a set of glasses or a particular barrette give personality to the characters. Unfortunately, in their whole forms, far too many characters simply look their type. It's not just the mundane school girls and disheveled workers who look too familiar, it's the more exotic ones two. The toughs, agents and flamboyant personalities all look like ones you've seen before (with the possible exception of the veteran handler Huang, who has an interesting way of looking like a middle age man wearing what he'd think to be appropriate dress). This might be treading into "you're too jaded territory," but I've seen anime do blonde English agents in white suits before. At this point, it feels like the modulated, anime thing to do rather than the product of insightful or attractive design.
I get the sense that the production went with notions of how anime characters are supposed to look more often than the logic of the character and their circumstance. The silver haired, emotionless "doll" Lin goes into the field in a loligoth gown ensemble. The purple and black offset by the silver hair looks fine, if not entirely outstanding in the field of anime, but if the character is in fact emotionless, why wear such a specific outfit and what is the functional reason for wearing an outfit that, in reality, would stand out in a crowd? Similarly, another character goes into battle in a tight fur lined fuchsia coat that would seem to draw attention and restrictive movement. Rather than offer clues to how the characters think (as opposed to some of the above mentioned small details, which do seem well considered), the design settles for characters who look like their anime roles. And, perhaps it over-settles, as the design is seldom substantially effected by circumstances. If someone has been out and dragged through the streets, the animation will throw a few dirt smudges on them. Again, the problem facing the design is a function of high expectations. It's not ugly or badly done. Just, as compared to memorably expressive anime, Darker than BLACK has a tendency to look very "anime." Like the animation, Kanno's music is often unintrusive. If you listen for it, it is as diverse and interesting as ever, but apart from when you notice some guitar or jazz rising up, you do have to listen for it. If you expect it to be full bore the way it is in her earlier prominent works, you might come away disappointed. Serialized anime needs a hook. In it's original vehicle, it needs to get a television viewer to continue to make time for tune broadcast. On DVD, it really needs to work to get the purchaser to continue buying the discs. I'm a bit ambivalent about Darker than BLACK's hook. I would have liked to have seen the snapping, kick to the head "wow" of the first episode of Cowboy Bebop, but absent that, Darker than BLACK's battle of wits and lethal powers is enough to make the anime intriguing. However, five episodes in, given that I'm not dazzled by the presentation, there's a nagging feeling that I should have more to work off in considering what I've seen.

Digital Distribution News

The Shonen Jump Super Anime Tour short from Dragon Ball, Tegami Bachi, and One Piece: Romance Dawn can be preview online through January 31st.
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Comic book publishing studio eigoMANGA announced a a partnership with online media distributor Crunchyroll. eigoMANGA will provide their newest publications "Rumble Pak" and "Sakura Pakk" to Crunchyroll's online community. "Rumble Pak" and "Sakura Pakk" are Original English-language (OEL) manga anthology series published by eigoMANGA that showcases original manga stories created by artists from around the world. "Rumble Pak" comics are geared for male comic book readers while "Sakura Pakk" is catered for female readers.
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Viz's Naruto site now features a trailer for the upcoming stream of Naruto Shippuden

Live Action Bubblegum Crisis in Development

Anime News Network reports that the 1987-1991 sci-fi action OVA Bubblegum Crisis is being developed into a live action film by Singapore's Cubix International PTE Ltd. Cubix has stated the film, planned with a budget of several billion yen (several tens of millions of dollars), is intended for an international release in 2011. The studios plan to work with former ARTMIC staffers Shinji Aramaki (screenplay and mechanical design) and Kenichi Sonoda (character design) to maintain a connection with the world concepts of the original series. Pre-production images can be seen on Singaporean media company Axxis' site (In the linked page, select "Axxis Lineup," then select "Upcoming Titles," and finally select ">>next.") In May that Axxis announced "four live-action/computer-generated feature films valued at over US$135 million" at the Cannes Film Festival . The May 20 press release itself described Bubblegum Crisis as "a film based on the same-name original anime series from Japan about 4 young female mercenaries fighting for justice." The original creators/licensor Anime International Company (AIC) also plans to produce a new animated Bubblegum Crisis. Upcoming in Japan

Upcoming in Japan

Via AnimeNation The site for Madhouse' adaptation of Tetsuro Kasahara’s RideBack has gone online.
Via Anime News Network Macross character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto will be returning to the franchise as the illustrator of a new manga entitled The Super Dimension Fortress Macross the First. The manga, focusing on the character Lynn Minmay will debut in the Macross Ace magazine on January 26, 2009. The magazine will also feature Hiroyuki Yoshino's story Macross Frontier: Secret Visions and a new gag manga. A flash animated adaptation of avant-garde gag story creator Man-gataro's Journey to the West spoof Chinyuki will be released on DVD. The adaptation of Jigoku Koshien (Hell Baseball Tournament or Battlefield Baseball), will ship on February 13. Yo nimo Kimyo na Man-gataro (Extremely Bizarre Man-gataro), will follow in the spring. Chinyuki will come out in the summer. Makoto Kobayashi (What's Michael?, Club 9) will adapt Shin Hasegawa's period yakuza adventure play Seki no Yatappe into a manga series. A trailer for sci-fi light novel adaptation Chrome Shelled Regios is streaming online

FUNimation Sends Out Notable C & D's

The buzz on the internet is that FUNimation has sent out cease and desist notices to digital distributors of fan translated copies of Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone a geek by any other name points to a specific instance. Nyoron Fansubs is one group who've said "Dear Staff, We can confirm that FUNimation Entertainment has obtained an agreement authorizing FUNimation to act on behalf of NTV to prevent infringement on specific titles. The authorization agreement for NTV is for: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone-alt: Evangelion: Rebuild of Evangelion Though these series have not been licensed to a local distributor in North America, it is important to note that the rights owned by Japanese producers are still applicable, and enforceable, worldwide. One behalf of NTV, please drop Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone-alt: Evangelion: Rebuild of Evangelion and remove all torrents from torrent tracker sites and your irc channel, direct download sites and other places use to distribute the fansub. Here is the DMCA notification for Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone-alt: Evangelion: Rebuild of Evangelion. November 21, 2008 http://www.nyoronfansubs.org RE: Copyright Infringement In compliance with relevant federal copyright law, I submit the following: I hereby certify, under penalty of perjury, that the following information is accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief. I am an employee of FUNimation Entertainment. I am authorized to act on behalf FUNimation Entertainment ("FUNimation") with respect to the matters discussed herein. NTV Inc. ("NTV") has authorized FUNimation to take enforcement actions on behalf of NTV for the purpose of stopping copyright infringement. NTV owns and controls various exclusive copyrights and trademarks related to the animated motion pictures known as Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone-alt: Evangelion: Rebuild of Evangelion collectively referred to as the "Properties". Among the exclusive rights of NTV in the Properties are the rights for production and distribution of home videos, DVDs, and other home video formats and devices. Our investigations reveal that the above referenced site is being used for the unauthorized copying and distribution (downloading, uploading, file serving/swapping, streaming, stream embedding, torrent seeding, torrent tracking, torrent linking, other linking, link aggregating or any similar activities) of digital files embodying the Properties. The use of the Properties in this manner is NOT authorized by NTV and is a violation of NTV intellectual property rights, including its rights under the Copyright Act. Infringing materials can be accessed via the torrents posted at the following URLs: http://www.nyoronfansubs.org/ FUNimation Entertainment hereby demands that you expeditiously disable all access to said infringing materials. If you should require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me by email at Legal2@funimation.com. The physical and mailing address of FUNimation Entertainment is 1200 Lakeside Pkwy, Bldg 1, Flower Mound, TX, 75028. Please contact me immediately if this notification is not in substantial compliance with the requirements of the DMCA, or if some other problem arises with respect to our request. I would also request notification of your compliance with our request. Sincerely, Lance Heiskell FUNimation Entertainment" FUNimation has not announced that they licensed or entered a distribution agreement concerning Evangelion 1.0 Pink Paygun.com points out that Rumbel Fansubs received cease and desists notifications on their distribution of fan translations of Hitman Reborn!, Soul Eater and D. Gray-Man. While FUNimation has licensed D. Gray Man for distribution in 2009, no North American company has announced they have licensed the anime rights to shonen anime Hitman Reborn! or Soul Eater. Tadashi comments on receiving a similar notice. Other notices have been sent out for Spice + Wolf, Mushi-Uta, and My Bride is a Mermaid!

Ponyo Spring Release?

ICV2 notes that there is evident that Disney may release Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on a Cliff By the Sea theatrically in North America in first quarter 2008. The article sites that Amazon.com is listing Viz Media’s The Art of Ponyo on a Cliff By the Sea for release on March 3rd, and AAA Anime has the release of the first volume of the Ponyo on a Cliff By the Sea Film Comic set for early April. 2005 when Miyazaki’s previous movie, Howl’s Moving Castle, debuted in theaters on June 10th, Viz Media released The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle on the 5th of July and The Howl’s Moving Castle Film Comic in August. In 2002 when Miyazaki’s Spirited Away premiered in theaters on September 20th, Viz Media released The Art of Spirited Away in October.
Nausicaa.net reports Fandango.com has a listing for Ponyo with a release date of July 19, 2009 (a Sunday).

Fan Translators Stop Naruto

Long time fan translators of ninja action hit Dattebayo has reacted to the news that Crunchyroll announced a new strategic initiative with Tv Tokyo Corporation, Shueisha Inc. and Pierrot Co., Ltd. that will see episodes of episodes of the Naruto Shippuden, Gintama, Shugo Chara!, and Skip Beat! series, as well as a lineup of other "simulcast" on www.crunchyroll.com immediately following their broadcast in Japan, starting January 8, 2009 by stopping their unlicensed distribution of the title. If we continued to sub Naruto, it would be a direct affront to Viz, a company that, for the most part, has been pretty amazing to us as fans. Sure, you can say that their dub sucks, or whatever other axe you have to grind, but never once did they ask us to stop subbing Naruto or Bleach, something that is well within their rights and power to do. We have episodes that have gotten almost a million downloads. We've had episodes that have gotten more downloads in their their first 24 hours than they had viewers when they showed on Cartoon Network. I've often asked people I know in the anime industry why they think Viz never asked us to stop, and they say, "Well, Viz isn't really into the whole C&D thing, they just don't do that." That may be true to some extent, but I've always liked to think it was because we had a silent symbiotic relationship. We only did things that helped the popularity of their shows, and they turned a blind eye to us. But like any symbiosis, you have to know when its time to move on. That time has come. Viz and Crunchyroll have gotten their acts together and are trying something new, with one of the most popular shows in anime today. I, and the rest of the staff, know that if we continue to subtitle it, they will have to ask us to stop. That's something they probably don't want to have to do, because it will most likely make all of you very mad at them. That's something they really don't deserve. Dattebayo says that they will continue to translate Bleach. Their full statement can be read here animenews.biz interviewed translator Interactii

Upcoming North American Releases

Viz Fourth quarter Viz manga releases include new series BLANK SLATE, NORA: The Last Chronicle of Devildom, SOLANIN, CAPTIVE HEARTS, GABA KAWA, WE WERE THERE and St. ? Dragon Girl. From Viz's descriptions SOLANIN Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $17.99 US / $21.00 CAN Available Now
College graduates struggle to cope with the real world and music offers refuge in this modern manga with an American indie comic attitude. Meiko Inoue is a recent college grad working in a job that she hates and having issues with her freeloading boyfriend. Straddling the line between her years as a student and the rest of her life, Meiko struggles with the feeling that she's just not cut out to be a part of the real world. SOLANIN was written and illustrated by award-winning creator Inio Asano and was originally published as a two-volume series but will be released by VIZ Media in a striking omnibus edition that includes six color pages. This touchingly realistic story was brought to life through Inio Asano’s distinctive art style and excellent writing. SOLANIN is part of VIZ Media’s Signature line, an imprint featuring manga for the experienced comic reader who seeks sophisticated stories with exceptional art. NORA: The Last Chronicle of Devildom Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $7.99 US / $9.50 CAN Available Now
Nora, an unruly demon, has defied his Dark Liege one too many times. For the sake of his "education," Nora is sent to live among mortals and enters a bond of servitude with cool-as-ice star student Kazuma Makkari. But this relationship is destined to become a match made in Hell. Kazuma now must learn the ways of the underworld while Nora discovers more about the "real world" than he ever thought possible. When the seal for Nora's form is released he becomes Cerberus, the vicious dog of disaster. But Nora can only use magic when Kazuma grants him permission, and he doesn't grant it easily. The Dark Liege wants the pair to team up and crack down on renegade demon factions in the human world, but first they must find a way to get along. NORA: The Last Chronicle of Devildom is Kazunari Kakei's first manga series and originally debuted in Japan’s Monthly Shonen Jump magazine. Blending the conceptual appeal of supernatural cliffhangers like DEATH NOTE with the aesthetic design elements of manga series like FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST, the series will appeal to fans of character-based, supernatural genre franchises like Hellblazer and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Japan, the popularity of NORA: The Last Chronicle of Devildom eventually spawned a second series called SUREBREC: NORA the 2nd, which also premiered in Monthly Shonen Jump. BLANK SLATE Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $8.99 US / $10.50 CAN Available Now
BLANK SLATE is an edgy new shojo manga series by Aya Kanno that heightens the level of drama with plenty of social and political intrigue. Zen's memory has been wiped, and he can't remember if he's a killer or hero, and a lot of people want to keep it that way. Zen's unearthly charm attracts a veritable rogues' gallery of mysterious and shady characters, each with their own agenda. A bounty hunter becomes obsessed enough to become Zen’s new partner, while the daughter of a prominent General treats him like some sort of guru. But when Zen meets a mysterious doctor who may know him from the past, he learns that the real secret of his lost memory is definitely more sinister than saintly. Creator Aya Kanno first came to the attention of North American fans with her manga, SOUL RESCUE, and her latest series, OTOMEN, is currently serialized in Japan's popular BetsuHana magazine and is set to be published by VIZ Media in early 2009. WE WERE THERE Rated "T+" for Older Teens MSRP: $8.99 US / $10.50 CAN Available Now
WE WERE THERE is a best-selling shojo manga by Yuki Obata that depicts the life of a high school freshman named Nanami Takahashi as she falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it's first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died tragically the year before. Nanami begins high school with big hopes of making new friends. But as her crush on Yano intensifies, she soon learns that he may have too many secrets for her to handle. WE WERE THERE was a smash hit in Japan, with volume one being reprinted an amazing 22 times in only three years, and the manga was also developed into a popular animated series. Creator Yuki Obata won the Shogakukan Shinjin Comics Taisho Kasaku Award in 1998 for her debut, RAINDROPS, and she went on to win the prestigious 50th Shogakukan Manga Award for WE WERE THERE. CAPTIVE HEARTS Rated "T" for Teens MSRP: $8.99 US / $10.50 CAN Available Now
CAPTIVE HEARTS is one of the major manga releases by Matsuri Hino that first established her as one of the top creators in the shojo genre. Carefree Megumi Kuroishi was living a life of luxury until the day a girl named Suzuka Kogami walked into his life. All of a sudden, Megumi finds himself kneeling at Suzuka's feet and prostrating himself like a servant! What Megumi doesn't initially know is that his family is cursed to follow the orders of the Kogami family. Can anything be done about Megumi's captive state or is he doomed to see Suzuka as his master forever? Matsuri Hino burst onto the manga scene with her first title WHEN THIS DREAM IS OVER, which was published in Japan’s monthly shojo manga magazine LaLa DX. She has gone on to gain international acclaim for her subsequent works like MERU PURI and the gothic-tinged VAMPIRE KNIGHT (both published domestically) and her ornate and eye-catching visual style has greatly impacted the manga scene both in Japan and North America as more fans discover her unique stories. St. ? Dragon Girl Rated "T" for Teens MSRP: $8.99 US / $10.50 CAN Available December 2
Momoka Sendou, nicknamed "Dragon Girl," and Ryuga Kou are childhood friends. Momoka is a skilled martial artist while Ryuga is a Chinese magic master who banishes demons. The action heightens when a demon serpent king that appears only once every hundred years to select a bride abducts Momoka's friend, Shunran. Will Momoka and Ryuga be able to defeat this powerful entity before Shunran is lost forever? In order to increase his power, Ryuga calls on the spirit of a dragon to possess him, but the spirit enters Momoka instead. Now the two must unite forces and fight the demon together in this exciting fantasy shojo adventure from Natsumi Matsumoto. St. ? Dragon Girl was a popular hit in Japan that also spawned a sequel, St. ? Dragon Girl Miracle. GABA KAWA Rated "T" for Teens MSRP: $8.99 US / $10.50 CAN December 2
Gaba Kawa is a new supernatural shojo story from Rie Takada, who also created the popular Happy Hustle High and Punch! (both available from VIZ Media). GABA KAWA introduces readers to Rara, a young and spunky female demon who is only supposed to cause mischief in the mortal world and draw humans to the dark path. She's not supposed to help mortals and definitely not supposed to fall in love with them! But that's just what happens when Rara enters high school, where a hot guy named Retsu Aku calls her "Gaba Kawa," referring to someone who is so persistent, it’s cute. But while demons gain power by causing mischief, the opposite is also true - if Rara uses any of her powers to help mortals, she'll immediately lose that very power. And if she loses enough power, she'll disappear! What's a "Gaba Kawa" demon to do? Readers will delight in the funny and romantic answer. Creator Rie Takada has captivated millions with her innovative shojo series PUNCH! and HAPPY HUSTLE HIGH, which have sold more than 80K copies in North America combined. Her whimsical artistic style, called chibi (meaning short person" or "small child"), is an exaggerated style of manga illustration that’s currently the rage in Japan and is characterized by hyper-cute and often very petite characters bursting with bubbly personalities. The style also lends to a fun degree of comedy and zaniness that further typifies the chibi genre. GABA KAWA was also serialized in VIZ Media’s SHOJO BEAT magazine.
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Anime on DVD's forum and AnimeNation note that Available June 2, 2009: Rasetsu (Rasetsu no Hana), by Chika Shiomi
Tail of the Moon Prequel: The Other Hanzo (Tsuki no Toiki, Natsu no Yume), by Rinko Ueda
Available June 9, 2009: Detroit Metal City, by Kiminori Wakasugi
Available June 16, 2009: Children of the Sea (Kaiju no Kodomo), by Daisuke Igarashi
Available July 7, 2009: Kimi ni Todoke, by Karuho Shiina
Choco Mimi, by Konami Sonoda
Available August 4, 2009: Black Bird, by Kanoko Sakurakoji
Available August 18, 2009: Ooku: The Inner Chamber, by Fumi Yoshinaga

Hollywood Adaptation Updates

The official site for the Imagi Astro Boy movie is online at www.astroboy-themovie.com/ DragonBall concept art has hit the net on IESB

Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight In January On TheCW4Kids

The tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Dragon Knight will be running on The CW4Kids starting on January 3rd. A speak preview will air on the network Saturday, December 13th At 9:30AM. KAMEN RIDER is a sci-fi franchise created by renowned Japanese manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori that originated in 1971, and subsequently adapted into an iconic live-action kids television series by Toei Company, Ltd. Over the years, the popularity of the franchise has grown and the original series has spawned a number of successful television and theatrical sequels. Still going strong after 37 years, Kamen Rider has a steller history of 18 series, 892 episodes, 10 TV Specials, 28 theatrical releases, and 11 straight to DVD releases. Produced in Hollywood, KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT will make its U.S. debut with an exciting and attractive American Cast, fast-paced action sequences and stunning CGI special effects - all in high-def. The story follows the heroic adventures of teenager Kit Taylor, who discovers a mysterious deck of Advent Cards that grant him the power to transform into an ancient armored warrior called a Kamen Rider. He joins Kamen Rider comrade Wing Knight to battle the renegade warlord General Xaviax and his army in both the real world and an alternate reality called Ventara, or Mirror World. KAMEN RIDER is a production of Adness Entertainment. An extensive line of KAMEN RIDER toys from global leader Bandai America will debut at retail in June 2009.

Cool Figures News

Figures importers might need to content with stricter testing. According to animenews.biz and Robert’s Anime Corner Store that US Consumer Product Safety Commission has begun enforcing stricter regulations regarding the import of children's toys and figures manufactured outside of the US. All toys coming into the US intended for children aged 14 and under will now come under strict customs inspection.
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Muttput has revealed the Molly Extra Spicy Twilight Figure (Oban Star Racer) Ask and ye shall receive. Extra Spicy has returned! Waaaay back in the early days of Muttpop we released Extra Spicy Tequila and history was made. Now, with Molly Extra Spicy Twilight we have revisited the "Extra Spicy" spray tone style and upped the ante with a super slick pink on blue color combination. This unique colorway was inspired by our favorite Kaiju, twilight evenings (not vampires), and the Transformer formerly known as Bluestreak. Solicitation for Molly Extra Spicy Twilight has just reached cooler Designer Toy stores worldwide... so it's due time to remind them that this gorgeous figurine deserves a home.
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Super7 x Gorilla Biscuits will be available at Super7 on December 2nd, 2008
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New Sideshow Collectables pre-orders include Senhime - Sengoku Rance The 1:8 12" PVC figure by Alter will be released in 2nd quarter 2009 for $99.99. It can be pre-ordered here
Eve Sakakibara - Infinite Fantasia The 10" PVC Figure by Enterbrain will be released in 2nd quarter 2009 for US $109.99 It can be pre-ordered here
Riku Static Arts - Kingdom Hearts II The 11.75" H PVC Figure by Square Enix retails for $129.99 It can be pre-ordered here
Sephiroth Static Arts - Final Fantasy VII The 14.4"PVC Figure by Square Enix will be released in 2nd quarter 2009 for US $149.99 It can be pre-ordered here
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Via Super Punch Scarecrow's Muraida "Midnight Snack" colorway-vinyl figure will be available at the Esc-Toy eBay Shop on Black Friday starting 12 am EST for $49.99.
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Revoltech's blog offers looks at Street Fighter Guile Ah! My Goddess bust Black Overman = Xan
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Super Punch has pictures of the Coraline figures
Tomy/Takara Reveals First Images of Disney Transformers High Dream's Metaltech Grendizer Singapore Bakuc custom Gundam Toypunks Vol 2: Obitsu Factory And The Vinyl Process USB Gundam
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Ugly Blog looks at Victory Mars, and other used robots Alt Japan points out where to see custom Chogokin figures
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In other merch news Right Stuf, Inc. and Nozomi Entertainment announced their third original design in the Nozomi line of casual wear – the NINJA CROSSING T-shirt – for Spring 2009. This new T-shirt design is printed on a “regular fit” garment that is constructed from 6.1 oz., 100% pre-shrunk cotton. (Sizing information included below.) 1. Ninja Crossing T-Shirt – Black Pre-Book: 2/24/2009 Street Date: 3/24/2009 MSRP: $17.99 (XXL $19.99) Available in sizes S-XXL Regular fit; 6.1 ounce, 100% pre-shrunk cotton - Small: Catalog #: 5536S - Medium: Catalog #: 5536M - Large: Catalog #: 5536L - XL: Catalog #: 5536X - XXL: Catalog #: 5536XX © 2009 Nozomi Entertainment. Two new t-shirts – featuring character artwork from the anime series ARIA will also be release Spring 2009. These new T-shirt designs are printed on “regular fit” garments that are constructed from 6.1 oz., 100% pre-shrunk cotton. (Sizing information included below.) 1. ARIA T-Shirt - Akari at the Beach – White Pre-Book: 2/24/2009 Street Date: 3/24/2009 MSRP: $17.99 (XXL $19.99) Available in sizes S-XXL Regular fit; 6.1 ounce, 100% pre-shrunk cotton - Small: Catalog #: 5538S - Medium: Catalog #: 5538M - Large: Catalog #: 5538L - XL: Catalog #: 5538X - XXL: Catalog #: 5538XX ARIA The ANIMATION © 2005 Kozue Amano / MAG Garden - ARIA Company. Produced under license by Nozomi Entertainment. © 2009 Nozomi Entertainment. 2. ARIA T-Shirt - President Aria – White Pre-Book: 2/24/2009 Street Date: 3/24/2009 MSRP: $17.99 (XXL $19.99) Available in sizes S-XXL Regular fit; 6.1 ounce, 100% pre-shrunk cotton - Small: Catalog #: 5537S - Medium: Catalog #: 5537M - Large: Catalog #: 5537L - XL: Catalog #: 5537X - XXL: Catalog #: 5537XX ARIA The ANIMATION © 2005 Kozue Amano / MAG Garden - ARIA Company. Produced under license by Nozomi Entertainment. © 2009 Nozomi Entertainment.

Event News

Giant Robot's San Francisco location is running a Black Friday sale
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Super7 will also be running a sale This Thanksgiving weekend, we at Super7 want to show how thankful we are for the enthusiasm and support of our fans and customers, and are having a Black Friday Sale just for you! Look for amazing deals on all your favorite monsters, fighters, neo-kaiju, and more! Domestic shipping is free Wednesday night through Sunday, so now is the time to have your monsters hitch a ride!
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Washington DC's DC Anime Club will host a Marathon of Anime Films based upon the Manga (Japanese Comics) works by Dr.Osamu Tezuka on December 6, 2008 from 2pm-5pm at the Martin Luthur King, Jr Memorial Library in 901 G St NW Washington, DC 20001in Room A10. During the Marathon such anime as Phoenix , Kimba the White Lion and Black Jack and or course Tetsuwan Atom best known to American audience as Astro Boy will be shown.
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Giant Robot is will host the third annual Uglydoll convention at GRNY, starting with opening at 12:00 noon on Saturday, December 6. In 2001, Sun-Min Kim turned a drawing on the bottom of letters from David Horvath into a hand-sewn doll. It was Wage, the first Uglydoll ever. After David brought the piece to the newly opened Giant Robot store, it evolved into a toy with a rabid following - selling out at shops around the world, appearing in movies, creating spin-offs, spawning bootlegs, and inspiring a new wave of stuffed plushes. This year's art show offerings will include original paintings by Sun-Min, black-and-white drawings by David, and print-and-drawing sets from Uglycon Tokyo. Also available for purchase will be rare toys such as test samples from past lines, signed prototypes, and "test shots" of kaiju figures. In the tradition of the first two Uglycons, there will be costume contest in which fans are asked to dress up as their favorite Uglydoll. Winners chosen by David and Sun-Min will receive a bounty of prizes. And there will be even more, including a sneak peek at a never-before-seen Uglydoll for 2009. The first two Uglycons caused an online buzz and attracted fans from around the country and overseas. We expect the New York occasion to be even bigger. To facilitate demand and eliminate uncomfortable lineups, raffle tickets for making purchases will be handed out beginning at 12:00 noon. Starting at 3:00, these tickets will be drawn to determine the order of sales.
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Vintage Japanese Anime will be running January 3rd at Indianapolis Museum of Art In the early 1960s, American television was flooded with Japanese pop manga (comics) and animation. Characters like Astro Boy and Gigantor captured the imagination of American audiences and dramatically impacted graphic design and visual arts in the U.S. The influence of this early manga / anime is visible in today's visual culture, from the films of the Wachowski Brothers to Pokemon. View rare clips from post-war manga from the collection of collector Fred Ladd, who helped introduce Japanese animation to the U.S.

Cultural Notes

MTV's Splash Page blog spoke to comic writer/novelist Neil Gaiman about the prosecution of anga collector Christopher Handley. According to the conversation, Handley's collection is largely yaoi rather than lolicon. "They found his manga, and found some objectionable panels," Gaiman said. "He’s been arrested for having some drawings of rude things in manga. I’m sorry, but if you went through my comic collection, you could arrest me if you’re going to start doing that. It’s just wrong." "There is explicit sex in yaoi comics," Handley’s lawyer Eric Chase told MTV. "And the men are drawn in a very androgynous style, which has the effect of making them look really young. There’s a real taboo in Japan about showing pubic hair, so they’re all drawn without it, which also makes them look young. So what concerned the authorities were the depictions of children in explicit sexual situations that they believed to be obscene. But there are no actual children. It was all very crude images from a comic book." Top 60 popular Japanese words/phrases of 2008 Morikawa Kaichiro on the future of Akihabara "I was born in a generation when people didn't go to the moon," Morikawa said. "For me, the future is a thing of the past. ... Those without future put those hopes and dreams into science fiction anime, which then became just anime." ... From both architectural and social stances, he criticized the Redevelopment Zone of Akihabara as "a place like any other in the world" in contrast to Chuo-dori and "Japanese subculture, which is always in contrast to the mainstream culture adopted from foreign nations." Matt Alt condenses Nikkei Shimbun's "Kuuru Jyapan no Yuuutsu" ("The Melancholy of Cool Japan"

The Business

Robert of Robert's Anime Corner Store has spoken about Broccoli Books shutting down, as well as assessments of the future of ADV Films and Bandai Entertainment ADV Films is currently the weakest studio in the R1 industry having been virtually decimated over the past year by business mis-steps. I think the folks running ADV really thought that the Anime gravy train was going to run non-stop coast to coast, and had gotten aboard for the long ride not knowing the trip would require stops and lay-overs at all major destinations in between. Because ADV has so much business exposure to the failing mass market retailers, I'm currently putting ADV's survival at only about 50/50 into next year, and the only reason I'm commenting on this is that a lot of people are e-mailing in asking us about it. I am currently recommending that you fill in any ADV titles you want in your collection before the end of this year, and I would also recommend that you try to purchase any ADV titles complete and be wary of committing money to promised future releases. I'm just trying to give it to you straight, which no one else seems willing to do these days. I am also a little concerned about Bandai. While I have no information that they are in any way having financial problems, they did inform us this week that they will be shutting down their warehouse for 10 days between Nov 24th and Dec 3rd - right in the middle of the Christmas season.
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Publishers Weekly has reported on the Broccoli closing and UDON's expansion into children manga
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AWN has posted a feature looking at animation in Africa, both from the perspectives of audience and productions.
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Cartoon Brew opened up a conversation about Bolt falling behind Twilight in the box office figures.

Anime (and animation) on TV

Gundam OO has begin running on Sci-fi's Ani-Monday, with two episodes running at 11:00PM
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Gurren Lagann will run on Canada's Super Channel 2 w starting December 8th. The anime programming block will also feature Now and Then, Here and There and Descendants of Darkness
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Newsarama reports that with the exit of the 4Kids block in January, Fox will be ending its Saturday morn
Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:23 a.m. CST

    A few things to catch up on.

    by Shan

    Glad to see the Punisher relaunch has taken for starters. Definitely a lot of interesting stuff on the market I hadn't heard of as well.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:30 a.m. CST

    BubbleGum Crisis could be awesome

    by CharyouTree

    I'd prefer a Dirty Pair or Dominion Tank Police live action though gimme some mecha

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Weird

    by Shan

    Just noticed that my earlier post disappeared into the ether. I'd written that it was a good article (as always from AICN Comics) and then went to say that I'd read the article before posting. However, instead of writing "before", I wrote that other word people might write to signify that they got the earliest post (which I wasn't trying to do). I wonder if the board is now set to autodelete posts with that word anywhere in the post if it's the earliest post ...

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Oh scratch that above post.

    by Shan

    I'm an idiot. I didn't see that an AICN anime post just got added above the AICN comics post not long after I posted on that one so I thought my post got wiped when I came back to what I thought was the same talkback. That'll teach me to post on night shift.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST

    Evangelion

    by HorrorFan81

    Screw those guys! Bring it to the States, and maybe we'll have no reason to rely on Fan-subs. Asses.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Funny, I don't see Eva 1.0 on my local theater!

    by ricarleite

    So why the cease and desist? Really, what's the point? You're not gonna lose any money with it - Radiohead and "Elite Squad" have proved digital copies do not harm the final outcome of box office.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5:38 p.m. CST

    So by Ponyo being released in first quarter 2008 you meant...

    by phantom_of_teh_paradise

    ...2009 I'm assuming.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:08 p.m. CST

    Darker Than Black

    by The Amazing G

    I watched that once, it's very good, but the premise defiantly takes some wrapping your head around

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:21 p.m. CST

    that new Dragonball anime

    by the milf lover

    with Vegeta's younger brother, is set 2 years after the MajinBuu story, but wasnt GT set many years after that as well? Either they are inserting it between Z and GT, or from what I got from that link, it's actually the new continuity replacing GT? Anyone got more info?

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 10:19 a.m. CST

    About Naruto

    by SilentP

    anyone know if it'll be free on crunchyroll once they're all caught up, or are they gonna start charging for new episodes?

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 9:32 p.m. CST

    the level of info here is laughable, disconcerting, amazing

    by pipergates

    there's sure some serius anime librarian/geekness/compulsiveness going on here! dedication! fanaticalization! anim-ation.

  • Nov. 29, 2008, 10:18 a.m. CST

    I gotta agree: Bubble Crisis could be awesome!

    by Mindtrip

    Or awful, if they cut corners and try to sell it on the name instead of the content. After Iron Man and The Dark Knight, I want it to feel real, not on the level of Power Rangers...