Animation and Anime

AICN Anime: Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Clannad, News on the Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist and More...

Published at: March 16, 2009, 10:14 p.m. CST by scottgreen

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Reviews
Anime Spotlight: Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
Anime Spotlight: Clannad
News
Hollywood Adaptations
The Business
New and Upcoming in Japan
Event News
Digital Distribution
Cool Figures News
Anime x Games
On North American TV
Upcoming in North America
Cultural Notes
Worth Checking Out...
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Anime Spotlight: Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Season 1 - Part One Released by FUNimation

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is anime's equivalent of junk food. The colorful packaging promises boldness, if not substance. After sampling a bit, the experience doesn't quite grab you as much as you were expecting, but you keep working through it in some unhealthy parody of Newton's first law of motion. Eventually, the act of consuming it has taken hold, and before you know it, you've finished the package and are looking for more. As someone who's willing to focus on the spectacle and overlook the less laudable aspects of martial arts stories, I found Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple to be less energetic and inspired than what I was hoping for, but still, not without its winning moments. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple starts with the kind of premise that is certain to irk anyone who is tired with or bothered by the conventions of male targeted anime/manga relationship comedies. Kenichi is situated at the bottom rung of the high school social ladder. As the donkey eared instigator Niijima points out, the low regard for Kenichi is exacerbated by the fact that he is a notorious coward. Classmates taunt him. Members of the karate club use him as a live target. Reading a self-help book on the way to school, Kenichi almost bumps into a chesty blonde girl, but the collision is averted when the girl instinctively tosses Kenichi on his head. Picking up some martial arts manuals from among Kenichi's scattered stack of self help books, and spotting a yin-yang pin on his collar, the girl deduces that Kenichi must be a martial artist. So, while everyone else regards Kenichi as a flake and a loser, talented, attractive transfer student Miu Furinji decides that there's something likable about him. Consequently, after Kenichi is beaten up and given the ultimatum of defeating a hulking peer in a match or being exile from the karate club, Miu takes Kenichi to Ryozanpaku Dojo. This unique facility is where Miu resides with six great martial arts masters: her unbeatable grandfather Hayato Furinji, Shio Sakaki - a karate master who looks and fights a bit like Fist of the North Star's Kenshiro, but with a more rowdy disposition, Apachai Hopachai - a Muay Thai kick boxer who is good natured, but understands little Japanese or restraint, Shigure Kosaka - a kunoichi ninja, Kensei Ma - a master of Chinese Kenpo and something of a dirty old man, and philosophical Jujutsu master Akisame Koetsuji. In many respects, this is simply an exaggeration of a familiar formula. Rather than one instructor tasking the hero with frustrating random activities that later prove effective in overcoming challengers, there's six. And, the story churns in the predictable routine. As is to be expected, once one foe is defeated, the victory makes the hero the target for the next, incrementally stronger challenger. Apart from the masters' demonstration of stone smashing, blink of an eye-super moves, the anime attempts to adhere to the general principles of martial arts. Often, this manifests itself with the masters explaining to Kenichi a concept like center of gravity, using the structure of sports karate against one of its practitioners, or the benefits of low kicks against a boxer. Then, these ideas play themselves out in the next fight scene. As such, it is mildly intriguing to follow how skinny Kenichi can execute a game plan against larger, more athletic, more practiced adversaries. Yet, while Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is interested in the martial arts and how the different schools of technique fit together, and while the anime is defined by its fighting tournament structure, the fight scenes themselves are subject to a host of mixed intensions. When use to provide Kenichi with a motivating beating, the fights are quick and defined by their exciting, dynamic motion. Others grind down to stillness in order to capture the particulars of the techniques being employed and more frequently, mug for situation comedy. While the anime will also pay attention to the structure of the fight, clearly conveying who's doing what when, many tussles shift into a mode that is full of close-ups on the characters. In these engagements, focus turns to character reactions, and while there is some attention to making the moves look right, more animation effort goes to character expressiveness than exciting choreography. Coming from the nice guy-cipher school of fight manga heroes, Kenichi is not a character that is particularly intriguing. His bouts of haplessness are neither comedically amusing nor endearing. By the same token, attractive, self sacrificing, friendly Miu is idealized past the point of being likable. The arrangement is exacerbated by the fact that the masters take to Kenichi because of his desire to leap-frog the more accomplished Miu and become the person who protects her. Personally, I prefer my fight manga/anime heroes dark, almost pathological, like Air Master's Maki or Shamo's Ryo (both of which are from anthologies aimed at an older audience than Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple's Shonen Sunday), and don't mind the conceit of a single minded hero, like Baki the Grappler. The naked construction of a nice character with which the viewer (or reader in the case of the manga) is intended to be able to identify, who wins over the cute girl, the martial arts experts and various former rivals/enemies, lays a bland foundation for Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Fortunately, the perspectives of the martial art masters and other secondary characters spice up the proceedings. The show had hit a point where I began to wonder if it was going to offer another case of a protagonist whose parents are conveniently missing; away or deceased, with the hero financially provided for. Soon after this concern reared its head, Kenichi's family made an appearance. While there was a younger sister with an offputtingly creepy, clingy attachment to Kenichi, the personalities of Kenichi's parents was one of the first gags with which the series won me over. Kenichi's father was a very tough looking businessman who took after a certain manga action hero who one would never expect to settle down and raise a family. If his mother was another homage, I didn't catch the reference, but still, she completed the exceedingly normal and a bit scary pairing as one tough house wife. There was a great dynamic where the pair were delighted to see their son grow a spine, but, particularly the father, not too sure about the time spent at the Ryozanpaku Dojo or the bruises acquired there. Several times, the debate reached a point where mom and dad tussle on whether to launch an assault on the dojo. Well defined characters like the masters at the dojo are where the show really shines. Their eccentricities are generally fun (if sometimes a bit stereotypical), and the notion of a clique of elite masters who live together, perfecting their skills, often at the expense of the walls and furniture of their dojo is a winning platform for gags. That's topped by their reaction to Kenichi's tribulations, and by extension, the genre. As Kenichi whines and tries to summon his courage, their knowing acknowledgement that every victory will earn the hero more difficult challenges and their vicarious pleasure at his struggle to become stronger really livens up the anime.

Anime Spotlight: Clannad Collection 1 Released by Sentai Filmworks

Clannad reminds me of a gag in Welcome to the NHK. Stir crazy shut in Tatsuhiro Sato agrees to assist his otaku neighbor Kaoru Yamazaki on building an eroge game. The template for these "visual novels" is a simple, partially interactive narrative. A protagonist with which the player can identified themselves builds relationships with a host of young woman imbued with distinctive personality types. As the audience for and would be makers of these games, Sato and Yamazaki proceed to deconstruct and at the same time wallow in the methods employed by the games to feed the desires of the lonely, isolated male consumer. After stopping by a figures shop in Akihabara and a maid cafe, the pair sit down to brainstorm the romantic interest in their game. The sketch that they arrive at depicts a walleyed, bespectacled girl in a wheel chair, casts one her legs, on arm clutching a teddy bear, the other holding a rattle. The gag is taking a shot at anime, manga, and especially multi-media/interactive fiction games that conflate "pure love", tragedy and impairment. It's an unflattering comparison, that is harsher than my specific criticisms of Clannad, but I still think that you can see the roots of Welcome to the NHK's joke percolating up through Clannad, with its cast of girls with their emotional and or physical afflictions and disabilities. Essentially, Clannad is representative of a strain of anime toward which I'm very ambivalent. On one hand, I have a " to each their own" mindset towards pop media, and I see how if you like visual novel adaptations, Clannad is apt to serve your interests. On the other hand, I do get the sense that this sort of title is crowding anime production and that the proliferation isn't good for the prospects of seeing anime more to my interest, or for the industry. Clannad is a Tatsuya Ishihara directed Kyoto Animation adaptation of a Jun Maeda written, Key developed visual novel, which is a pure lineage of well respected figures in this branch of these geek targeted romances that emphasize tone and drama over sex (the Clannad game did not have erotic content, though the follow-up Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life did.) The title is taken from what Maeda thought was Irish for "family," and, in fact, the plot is packed with familial angst. The focal male character, who'll hold the center of attention for us and a number of female peers is Tomoya Okazaki, who greets us with "I hate this town. It's too full of memories that I'd rather forget." Tomoya's generally considered to be a sullen delinquent. His mother died in an auto accident. He has an antagonistic relationship with his father. As a consequence, he's withdrawn. He's inclined to be someplace other than either school or home, but disinclined to join with an activity that would take him away from those places. Wondering if anything will ever change, and walking up a hill in the midst of the falling cherry blossoms, he trots up to a girl he doesn't know, Nagisa Furukawa, as she mutters that she's very fond of her school, but that everything changes. It turns out that like Tomoya, Nagisa is a third year student at the town's high school, but, due to illness, Nagisa has had to repeat the grade. Unlike other cast members, Nagisa's family is not a cause for grief or concern. She has a gruff, trouble-maker-ish but devoted father, and a lovely, but flakey mother who's busy concocting marginally edible foodstuffs at the family bakery. The dreamy, somewhat child-like Nagisa begins to pull Tomoya out of his antisocial mindset, or at least his self imposed quasi-exile, especially with her scheme to revive the school's drama club. Opening up in this way, he begins to notice other female peers who seem to be suffering in their own way. Specifically, over the course of this 12 episode collation, there's Fuko Ibuki who's accidentally scored up her hands while repeatedly carving star shapes out of blocks of wood, and Yukine Miyazawa, who spends her days obliviously reading and occasionally cutting out passages from the books in the school's library. So, Clannad appears to be digging into, and maybe solving the problems of these other girls while inching along developments in Tomoya and Nagisa's relationship and their problems. The mode of accomplishing this could be fit into a tortured definition of "magical realism." Elements of the supernatural are present, but their role is either as a metaphor or to facilitate the drama rather than to attract the interest of the person following the story. Clannad heavily leverages the kind of character engineered to elicit care and compassion. A main gear driving the story is that Tomoya might be damaged, but he's able to help the troubled girls around him, and in doing so, fix some of his own problems. While some of the interactions might be enabled by supernatural mechanisms, the cogs turn quietly through routine school life, punctuated by martial arts/video games references or childish cuteness, preparing to swell into weepy moments of sorrow or joy. In other words, Clannad is an unambiguously moe anime. These characters are the Hello Kitty of sad girls. Call it a Platonic ideal or over designed within an inch of its life, but everything is focused on what the characters represent. As such, the anime does not really fall onto a spectrum between being infantile or emotionally mature, because the characters are not afflicted with real psychological problem or diseases and they're not supposed to reflect real drama or real concerns. By the same token, the quasi-cherubic bodies of the girls aren't realistic, sexualized or a asexual. Clannad's largely about its characters, and presenting them in such a way as to get an interested consumer to react to the host of weepy young women. Moe can be a rather divisive topic among anime fans. Beyond the gender politics concerns that I often have with the genre, I personally don't find the stories to be engaging. There's an textureless flatness to the illness or mourning or sadness of Clannad's characters, and I'm not move by the focus on emotion without vérité. Yet, I am willing to acknowledge that there are people who enjoy this kind of story, and for the most part, I'm not going to fault them for that. I'd contend that as anime that an adult would watch, a work like Clannad is not much less defensible than some of the genre anime that delight me; over the top mecha revival to name an example. Yet, what's significant about moe is that while it's become the focus for a lot of the older audience anime being produced, it's has an insular appeal. It's anime being made for fan by fans, and there's an argument that had been made, that this focus is one of the factors endangering the international anime industry. I'm inclined to believe that they're aren't many moe anime that appeal to anime viewers disinterested in moe (there are a few, you can make an argument with Hayao Miyazaki's Castle of Cagliostro), but I can also see how Clannad's an example of the genre done well. It's the third Kyoto Animation adaptation of a Key visual novel after Kanon and Air, and the studio does appear to have a knack for this type of work. They lay their own smoothing veneer over the classic formula of abstract characters and realistic backgrounds, then leverage emotive glistening saucer eyes and playing with color saturation they fully commit to the spirit of the work. While I am wary of the "if you like genre X, you'll like title Y" tautology, I think it definitely applies to this case. If you like moe anime, you'll like Clannad.

Hollywood Adaptations

Bloody Digusting reports that the live action adaptation of Korean manhwa horror/western Priest is now scheduled for a August 13, 2010 release. Scott Stewart will direct the film, which once has Gerard Butler and Andrew Douglas attached.
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Via Anime News Network International Herald Tribune reports that Cerenzie-Peters has invested US$20-30 million to launch Cerenzie-Peters Productions, a buisness that will acquire the rights to produce film adaptations of videogames and "Asian manga books." Cerenzie-Peters Productions was founded in 2007 by its namesakes, producers Michael Cerenzie (Deuces Wild, City of Ghosts, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) and Christine Peters (The Out-of-Towners, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). The company has raised over US$200 from Swiss, Japanese, and Indian investor million with plans to finance movies at US$20-30 million each.
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Twitch reports that Chris Nahon's live action adaptation of Blood: the Last Vampire received an R for “strong bloody stylized violence” by the MPAA.

The Business

Asian and Asian American popular culture magazine Giant Robot's Silverlake LA will be closing on March 28th. A sale began on Tuesday, 3/10 with 20% off, and 5% on already marked down items. Publisher and co-editor Eric Nakamura stated on his blog 1) We actually went past three years there. That duration is past what our sublease originally stated, and we decided to move on. 2) I can't say it's a victim to the economic downturn. That's actually unfair to say. It's smaller, there's less merchandise, although it does rotate a lot. It would still be easy to keep it running until the end of time. If all we did was a Giant Robot Silver Lake store, then you'd see us sitting at in that exact shop a year from now. But when an exit strategy presented itself, we decided to take it. So, no it's not only "the economy" in this particular case. Some economists would argue, it wasn't good enough from the get go-over three years ago. Yet we chose to keep it open because we like Silver Lake. 3) This doesn't mean we do not want open another shop in a different location in Silver Lake or elsewhere. If a great space is available, tell me or show me. 4) At the moment, we're working on Giant Robot issue 59 in our fifteenth year, we have our shops running in West LA, SF, and NYC, and gr/eats in West LA.
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Alt Japan collects perspective on the woes of working in the Japanese anime industry Bear in mind that as these blogs are anonymous, there is no way to verify the veracity of the claims. But they are a fascinating counterpoint to the "soft power"/"Japan cool"/"otaku utopia" rhetoric often espoused by foreign journalists.
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Matt Blind lists the top manga sales on ComiPress Rocket Bomber crunches the numbers on North American manga sales
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The Eastern Edge on sales challenges for well regarded works like Vagabond and Naoki Urasawa manga
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Simon Jones and Christopher Butcher capture more Diamond manga distribution woes
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ICV2 reports that figure producer Kidrobot has announced that Rob Felton, formerly of Wizard, has joined the company as Vice President of Marketing. Felton will develop a unified marketing strategy for Kidrobot and develop additional entertainment and multimedia initiatives with Kidrobot majority investor Wildbrain.
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What's the deal with tentacle grape

New and Upcoming in Japan

Previews Crayon Shin-chan the Movie: Roar! Kasukabe Wild Kingdom (the 17th Shinchan movie) Sengoku Basara (Production I.G's adaptation of the Capcom games) Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser trailer Fullmetal Alchemist (a fourth promo is streaming) Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Ragan-hen (Lagann Chapter) the second compilation movie - new footage Baton Kotaku has preview images of Valkyria Chronicles A leaked trailer of the next Evangelion movie Professor Layton anime movie trailer
A multimedia introduction to the season English language anime previews for the upcoming season can be found on Awesome Engine has an eight+ part Hate Fun preview THAT Anime Blog Death by Moé Anime Variety reports that Studio Ghibli is working with Toyota to open a "Ghibli West" studio in Toyota's R&D center in Aichi Prefecture . 20 new hires will begin a two years course in animation, with exposure to robotics and Toyota technologies. The newcomers will make short toons to screen at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka City, Tokyo. Level 5's soccer RPG Inazuma Eleven has been adapted into anime Via Anime News Network Bandai will be commerate the 30th anniversary of Gundam with a "Real G" full sized a 18-meter-tall (59-feet-tall) statue of the original RX-78-2 Gundam robot in Shiokaze Park on Tokyo's artificial Odaiba island, the "Feel G" Gundam Big Expo August 21 to August 23 at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center on Odaiba and the "Soul G" commemorative live concert, but not a new Gundam anime series. The second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 end on March 29th. According to Bandai President and CEO Kazunori Ueno "there are no plans to broadcast [another Gundam] television series in 2009. Sato Fujiwara's comedy manga about a boy who manga grant does not grant 100 wishes from cats, he will turn into cat himself, Nyan Koi!, will be adapted into an anime series. Girl transported to fantasy world series Munto will receive a theatrical finale, running in theatres in Tokyo and Kyoto from 18 to May 1. The film will feature a director's cut of the climactic scenes with new footage. Nippon Animation will be adapting Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod and Olivier Tallec's Rita et Machin picture book series into anime series. Anime Vice reports that the new Evangelion movies have changed the name of pilot Asuka from Asuka Langley Soryuu to Asuka Langley Shikinami Manga Via Anime News Network Jamie Lano, an American artist and columnist who has been living in Japan since 2004, is assisting Takeshi Konomi on his New Prince of Tennis (Shin Tennis no Oji-sama). ANN look at Lano's work here Shogakukan will be publishing a complete collection of works of the late Doraemon co-creator Fujiko F. Fujio, including Doraemon, Obake no Q-Taro, Paaman, ESPer Mami, Kiteretsu Daihyakka, Bakeru-kun, Umi no Oji, and amoung other titles. The wide A5-size volumes will average about 300 to 600 pages each. Releases, which commence in July 2009 will include 33 volumes in the first year. Monthly Shonen Sunday will be featuring new manga by Kekkaishi creator Yellow Tanabe, Blazing Transfer Student creator Kazuhiko Shimamoto, Mitsuru Adachi (Touch, H2, Cross Game) and Harunokuni creator Hiro Nakamichi Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2) and Mitsuru Adachi will collaborate on a new manga called "My Sweet Sunday" in the next issue of Weekly Shonen Sunday on March 18. The 30-page one-shot manga will help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the magazine, which is on March 17. A Shin Mazinger Zero mecha manga series from writer Yoshiaki Tabata and artist Yuki Yogo (Akumetsu, Wolfguy) will launch in the the June issue of Champion RED magazine on April 18. The Shin Mazinger Shogeki! Z-Hen anime series will commence on April 4th. A bit more here The next stop of mecha series Jinki:Extend will be Dragon Age. An announcement will be made in the April issue the magazine. The restarted manga will feature a new heroine named Akao Hiragi. The work was previously published in Enix's Monthly Gangan Wing from 2000 to 2001, Mag Garden's Monthly Comic Blade magazine from 2002 to 2006, and MediaWorks' Comic Dengeki Daioh magazine in 2008. The Comic Dengeki Daioh run of the renamed Jinki -Shinsetsu- manga ended last October. Someday's Dreamers Kumichi Yoshizuki and Kurozuka Takashi Noguchi are launching new manga serializations in the April issue of Shueisha's bimonthly Oh Super Jump seinen magazine on March 17. Yoshizuki's Kimi to Boku no Ashiato ~Time Travel Kasuga Kenkyusho~ (Your and My Footprints: The Time Travel Kasuga Laboratory) will collect short time travel romance stories Noguchi's Sanctuary will adapt Tow Ubukata's (Le Chevalier d'Eon, Pilgrim Jäger, Mardock Scramble) story of the samurai cadre known as the Shinsengumi. Bimonthly "shojo manga magazine for boys" will be ending with its next issue. The anthology carried San-bun no Ichi from Inukami! creator Mari Matsuzawa, Toshihira Arata's Maho Shojo Isuzu-san Full Throttle, and Aki-Eda's Junshin Miracle 100%. Live Action At a Sky Crawlers event, director Mamoru Oshii announced that has two live actions planned that will be made on a low budget one after another, to be released as soon as this fall. Other plans include a live action action-adventure epic of "eroticism and violence" and a new anime film. Canned Dogs report hiring is being done for a new Toki wo kakeru shoujo (Girl Who Leapt Through Time) live action movie, set in the 1974. The anime movie was the most recent in a line of adaptation of a novel, that included a previous movie, a TV series and a TV movie.

Event News

The MIT Harvard Cool Japan Research Project will be presenting the lunchtime lecture and discussion UNCOOL JAPAN: Otaku, Nationalism, and the "Never Be Cool!" Politics of Tsurumi Shunsuke with Prof. Toshiya Ueno of Wako University (Japan) on Tuesday, March 17 12:30 - 2:00 pm. The lecture takes place at MIT, Room 14E-310 Topic: What's wrong with the talk about "soft power" and the narcisstic nationalism of "cool Japan"? What can the resolutely uncool "otaku" (obsessive fans) teach us about popular culture and political protest? What does the life of philosopher Tsurumi Shunsuke tell us about the changing meaning of politics in the postwar period and the new millennium? Come join in a dialogue with one of Japan's leading cultural studies scholars. Prof. Toshiya Ueno of Wako University (Tokyo) and McGill University (Montreal) is the author of many books in Japanese including "Red Metal Suits: Anime as War Zone" (1998) and "Urban Tribal Studies: A Sociology of Party Club Culture" (2005).
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The I-Con convention ( April 3-5, 2009 at Suffolk County Community College Grant Campus in Brentwood New York) at will be hosting four Evangelion-related panels run by V. From the descriptions that I've received Panel 1-"The Evangelion franchise: Past, Present, and Future" - general "Eva franchise as a whole" panel -- this covers the "real world production history" of the entire franchise, starting with the original series, the alternate ending controversy and what DVD sets to buy to get the Diretor’s Cuts (Past), then a comprehensive look at Rebuild of Evangelion (present), and then talking about how Weta Workshop’s efforts at making a life action Eva movie series (future) are actually advancing towards production Panel 2-"Explanation of Evangelion" – For 13 years, “what was Evangelion about?” and “I didn’t understand such and such that happened in Eva” have been the questions that plagued anime fandom. This panel with definitively and comprehensively explain the entire series in under 60 minutes, by actually walking the audience through all of the creator interviews and production notes that explain the plot mechanics and what the show was “about”. If you think this is another look at the Christian symbology in the show, guess again; the Gainax writers have openly said since 2002 that the crosses and such were just fluff they put in to look cool. The series *does* have a meaning. But if it wasn’t about Christian symbology or Kabbalah, and it isn’t meaningless, then what was the series “about”? Here it explained. Panel 3-"the Psychology and Philosophy of Evangelion" - more on the more esoteric "meaning" of the series, which is largely the various psychological flaws/facets of its characters. Proving how Hideaki Anno obviously based Evangelion’s major characters on Abnormal Psychology Disorders (indeed, Anno has openly admitted that he wrote the series, not with a Bible or Kabbalah in hand, but literally using a psychology textbook he borrowed from a friend) 4-"Eva Lied: Why If You Loved Evangelion, You'll Love Elfen Lied" – Segwaying into a panel on Elfen Lied, by comparing it to Evangelion; when the series first filtered to North America, YouTube was flooded with videos that spliced together scenes from Evangelion and the new cult-hit Elfen Lied; instinctively they realized that they were thematically similar. Just as Evangelion was a dark psychological twist on the Giant Robot genre, Elfen Lied was a dark psychological twist on the Harem/Magic Girlfriend genre. Which truly defines us? Nature or Nurture? And if we treat those who are different from us like animals, can we really expect them to become anything But animals? (alternate title rejected for copyright reasons: Elfen Lied: “I know why the caged bird *kills*!”) This panel seeks to answer the common question, “I’ve finished watching Evangelion, what are other shows like Eva that you’d recommend?)
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Noteworthy screenings at HIFF 12th Annual Spring Showcase (APRIL 3-9, 2009) (warning, the site's synposis has mild spoilers for the manga) 20TH CENTURY BOYS (JAPAN) MON. April 6th | 6:30pm TUES. April 7th | 3:00pm 20TH CENTURY BOYS: CHAPTER TWO - THE LAST HOPE (JAPAN) TUES. April 7th | 6:15pm WED. April 8th | 3:00pm EVANGELION 1.0: YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE (JAPAN) SUN. April 5th | 3:00pm
GU-GU THE CAT (JAPAN) SAT. April 4th | 3:15pm THU. April 9th | 8:45pm Overcome with grief when her beloved cat passes on, Asako, a manga artist, finds that she can no longer concentrate on her latest project. Her assistants try their utmost to cheer her up but are ineffective, until a kitten named Gugu comes into their lives. With the help of Gu-gu and her assistants, Asako begins once again to appreciate the simple joys of life and continue her work. GU-GU THE CAT is a heartwarming crowd pleaser especially made for those who understand the inspiration, comfort, strength and love pets give unconditionally. ICHI (JAPAN) FRI. April 3rd | 8:30pm MON. April 6th | 3:15pm After enchanting audiences as a spunky cyborg in CYBORG SHE (2008 LVHIFF), Haruka Ayase is back to win crowds over once again! Ayase is the blind musician Ichi who leads a life of solitude by wandering from town to town. When a village she is in becomes hostage to two opposing clans, Ichi must reveal her deadly sword fighting skills to protect the villagers. Director Fumihiko Sori’s film pays tribute to ZATOICHI, but by making the main character a blind swordswoman instead of a blind swordsman, Sori adds his own intriguing twist to the ever popular franchise. THE SKY CRAWLERS (JAPAN) SUN. April 5th | 6:00pm WED. April 8th | 9:00pm The beautifully drawn anime, SKY CRAWLERS, is a futuristic tale where countries settle their differences with one another through battles in the air rather than participating in full-scale war. The pilots are called “Kildren,” and have been genetically altered to never age. Top-notch Japanese fighter pilot Yuichi Kannami has just been assigned to a new air base. He has only vague memories of his past, and knows only how to fly and fight. However, when he meets Suito Kusanagi, the beautiful girl in command at the base, a disturbing new awareness of the meaninglessness of his life starts creeping into his timeless soul. - TIFF TOKYO SONATA (JAPAN) SAT. April 4th | 6:00pm SUN. April 5th | 12:00pm The story of the quiet unraveling of a family begins when the father, Ryuhei, loses his job unexpectedly. Facing completely unfamiliar circumstances, he decides not to tell his family and begins his lonely sojourn into the world of the secretly unemployed. The film is crafted in a way where you not only observe the crisis and triumphs of what each family member goes through, but experience it as well. Equal parts social commentary and situational comedy, Kurosawa's film also feels like a thriller. With TOKYO SONATA, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has produced one of his most original and accomplished works.
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Seattle's Sakura-Con (April 10-12) announced new guests: Sasaki Nozomu - voice actor known for work in Yu Yu Hakusho (Yusuke Urameshi), Akira (Tetsuo Shima), Monster (Johan Liebert), Samurai X-Trust and Betrayal (Enishi Yukishiro), Death Note (Mellow) Yashitoshi ABe known for work on Serial Experiments Lain, NieA under 7, Texhnolyze and Haibane Renmei. Koichi Ohata is the creator of the classic manga M.D. Geist Hideo Okamoto is a mecha designer known for work on such shows as Transformers, Zoids Myuji musical guest Roland Kelts is the author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S Greg Dean online comic, "Real Life" Sakura-Con is also welcoming back the creators of Penny Arcade, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
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Yuri Monogatari 6 is available for pre-order. Yuri Monogatari (Lily Tales) is an annual collection of lesbian-themed Japanese-style comic Yuri manga stories from the world's only all-Yuri publisher, ALC Publishing. These tales about lesbian life and love by artists and writers from around the world, include popular Japanese Yuri manga artists Rica Takashima, UKOZ, Eriko Tadeno and award-nominated lesbian novelist J.D. Glass. To mark the launch, you can meet the makers of Yuri Monogatari 6 as well as the Yuricon and ALC staff at the Rare Flix store in Secaucus, NJ on April 18th, 2009 at 7 PM. Rica Takashima's comic for "Japion" about being part of "Yuri Mongatari 6"
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Otakon (Baltimore, August 17-19) has announced that voice actress and director Mary Elizabeth McGlynn will be a guest of honor at the event. As an actress, her most famous role is that of Major Motoko Kusanagi in the Ghost In The Shell movies, Innocence and Solid State Society, as well as the television series Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. For her portrayal of the title character in Stand Alone Complex she won the American Anime Award for Best Actress. Some of her other popular roles include Cornelia in Code Geass, Kurenai in Naruto, Julia in Cowboy Bebop, Helba and Bordeaux from the .hack series, Lady Jagura from Wolf's Rain and Caroline from the original Vampire Hunter D film. As a voice director, McGlynn has directed all three Naruto movies, as well as the Naruto series, for which she received the 2008 SPJA Award for Best Director. Among her many other directing credits are the Cowboy Bebop series and the movies Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Wolf’s Rain, and the Appleseed film. She also served as a co-writer for the American adaptation of Metropolis.
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Evan Minto and Scott VonSchilling on KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games The NY Times looks at “Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games,” at the Japan Society Frames Per Second offers a report on "Anime and Contemporary Japanese Society," presented by the Japan Foundation's Toronto branch and the Digital Value Lab at Ryerson University Tim Maughan looks at the British Royal Academy's exhibition of the works of 19th century Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Digital Distribution

Bandai has completed uploading Code Geass on their YouTube Channel and started Mobile Suit Gundam 00
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Kadokawa was will be putting an episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya on their YouTube Channel a week to coinside with the Japanese re-airing of the show. Speaking of Haruhi, NewType's latest coverage
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Copyediting Kadokawa's Haruhi translations
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Sunsoft announced that Leiji Matsumoto's (Captain Harlock, Battleship Yamato) manga Out of Galaxy Koshika will be offered on the Nintendo Wii's Shopping Channel in Japan on April 14th. Though it will only be available it Japan, it will feature both Japanese and English text.
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New FUNimation posts include Dubs Aquarion: ep 19-22 Sasami: eps 13-16 School Rumble Season 2: eps 19-21 Shin Chan: ep 28-36 Subs Romeo X Juliet:  eps 23-24 Shikabane Hime: ep 20 xxxHolic: ep 7-9
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Comics loaded onto the Kindle Is the Kindle a threat to comics?
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MIT Free Culture has launched YouTomb, a site tracks who videos removed from YouTube, including who had the clip removed, and how long the clip has been up

Cool Figures News

DOMO 2" MYSTERY FIGURE DESIGNER TOYS On sale July 15
Domo 2" Mystery Figure Counter Display 15 figures $134.85 Dark Horse is teaming with Toy2R to bring Domo into our Qee program. In this blind-box assortment, figures are sold in counter displays of fifteen. As a bonus we have added a "Build-a-Domo" feature. Each individual box will contain one Domo part (arm, leg, body, etc). You can collect all six parts to create your very own transparent Domo! Each display case will feature enough parts to create two of these figures. Chase figures are also being produced in addition to common figures. There will be a total of sixteen different versions with varied levels of scarcity. TARA MCPHERSON BUTTON PACK
On sale July 15 4 pin-back buttons in polybag with header card $5.99 TIM BURTON On sale July 15
Tim Burton Light-Up Note card set : Heart Twenty 5" x 7" note cards (4 different designs) Light-up box design $17.99 Tim Burton Light-Up Note card set : Voodoo Girl Twenty 5" x 7" note cards (4 different designs) Light-up box design $17.99 TOKIDOKI LATTE DIE-CUT JOURNAL
On sale July 15 6 1/4" x 8 3/4", 80 pages $14.99
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Interesting upcoming Sideshow Collectables releases include 1:8 Scale PVC Figure Chou'un Shiryuu SMC by Happinet from Ikki Tousen, scheduled for 2nd Qtr 2009
Sasaki Kojiro PVC Figure by Square Enix from Vagabond, scheduled for 3rd Qtr 2009
12" Real Action Hero Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion, scheduled for 4th Qtr 2009
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A look at Matchbox Robotech Destructoids A figure of the great horror (and gag) manga creator Kazuo Umezu also on the Umezz front Umezu House fanart Otaku USA presents Saint Seiya: Plastic-Plated Heroes Mecha at Miyazawa Model Exhibition (also here) and mostly bishoujo figures from the event on CollectionDX The incredible bootleg Combination Robot B/O 17-in-1 There’s no getting around it: This robot is grotesque. But it’s not without charm. This is Frankenstein bootleg maximalism at its most psychedelic. Metal plating and questionable aesthetic choices abound. The Super Combination Robot B/O 17-in-1 (hereafter abbreviated SCR) combines parts from the DX Popy Dairugger XV, the DX Popy Golion, G1 Omega Supreme (or the Toybox Mechabot-1, if you prefer), as well as “original” elements (though it’s possible that I just don’t recognize all of the pieces) to knit them together. This toy is impressive in its audacity. The Yamato YF-21 Valkyrie Yamato GNU #019 VF-1A Kakizaki (TV version) Yamato Online Shop Exclusive Metaltech 01 GRENDIZER Getter Robo (Metallic) Revoltech Fist of The North Star No.010 Shu on the Anime CollectionDX side of things, EX Figure Misato Katsuragi and Rei Ayanami Clockwork Machina! visits the offices of figures makers Good Smile Company

Anime x Games

Appliya Inc. has announced the completion of their first Evangelion application series for iPhone and iPod Touch with the addition of Evangelion Calendar and Evangelion Puzzle. Evangelion Puzzle provides an exciting new twist on puzzle apps. This latest entry in Appliya’s Evangelion application series uses imagery taken directly from the Rebuild of Evangelion movies in a challenging puzzle game that will have you occupied for hours! The rules of the game are simple: load up your app and choose an image, difficulty setting, and type of grid. Each puzzle consists of an image that has been broken up into a grid of scattered tiles. Use your touch screen to slide the tiles into the proper place, but there’s only one empty space on the grid so your number of moves will be limited. Be smart and plan your moves carefully! If you’re not quite sure where a piece should go, use the “hint” button to give you a full-view version of the puzzle image in its solved state. Amateurs can choose a 3 x 3 grid on Easy or Normal, but serious puzzle pros will love the challenge of the Hard 5 x 5 grid. When you crank up the difficulty, the time limit for solving the puzzles decreases, so be quick! As you complete puzzles, you’ll unlock new ones that use new scenes from Rebuild of Evangelion. The app also keeps track of your best puzzle completion times, so you can brag to your friends or motivate yourself to do better! Evangelion Calendar brings Evangelion into your daily activities. This app enables you to create a wallpaper calendar that uses special images from the highly popular Evangelion franchise. Choose a scene from our picture gallery, which features characters, sketches, mecha, and vehicles from the anime, then pick the months you want to display on your calendar, and in just a few seconds you’ll have a new Evangelion wallpaper with a quick reference calendar on it! These apps are the result of a joint production effort between Appliya and anime merchandise company BROCCOLI Co., Ltd. The first applications in Appliya’s Evangelion series, Evangelion Clock and Evangelion Picture Stamp, have been very popular with anime fans. In its first few days of availability, Evangelion Clock shot up to #3 on the best-selling list of the Utilities category on the Japanese iTunes App Store.
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Gamasutra looks at the mecha game franchise Virtual On. Sega has confirmed the XBLA port of the game will be available in North America
Screenshots of Fullmetal Alchemist: Prince of the Dawn for Wii. The game, which features an original story, directed by Final Fantasy XIII's Motomu Toriyama) based on the manga's volume 16, is being made to coincide with the news anime. Series creator Hiromu Arakawa is overseeing the game, contributing original characters to the story.
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Anime-style digital collectable card game Alteil has new EX-3 card parks available March 11 To May 13. Each Ex-Pack has five cards, one entirely new with new art, one alternate EX Card with totally new abilities, plus thee of the most sought-after cards from Sets 2 and 3. The set features art by Rei (Aquarian Age, Code Geass manga), Miho Midorikawa (Culdcept Saga, Duel Masters), Yu Hijikata (Valkyrie Profile) amost others.
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Bandai will be releasing the Battle Spirit collectable card game in North America this summer. There are no definitive plans for to release the anime series.
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Kotaku looks at "Elementary School Boy Arcade Shooting Game" Mamoru-kun wa Norowareteshimatta!

On North American TV

News has filtered out that Power Rangers RPM will be the final Power Ranger series. After the series airs on ABC Kids, the omnibus adaptation of sentai shows is due to be cancelled.
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ICV2 reports that Cartoon Network will be integrating live action into its Adult Swim block with The Mighty Boosh. The show, which debuts on March 29th at 1am (ET, PT) features surrealistic sketches by comedians Julien Barratt and Noel Fielding, some some animated sequences. No new episodes of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 will be shown on Cartoon Network's Adult Swimg block for the currently scheduled future. Instead, two episodes will be repeated Saturdays at 1:30. New episodes of Bleach will be shown at 12:30 and 1:00
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Verizon's FiOS TV has has signed a deal with Turner Networks to offer on-demmand contents from channels including Adult Swim, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT, TruTV and Turner Classic Movies.

Upcoming in North America

Aurora Kuriousity notes that Aurora will be releasing Ujin's (Sakura Diaries) Peach! CMX Kuriousity reports that Amazon is listing that CMX will be releasing The Lizard Prince (Tokage Oji) by Asuka Izumi A Tale of an Unknown Country by Natsuna Kawase Oh! My Brother (with!!) by Ken Saito Deka Kyoushi by Tamio Baba Bandai Entertainment via Roberts Anime Corner Store Delays include The Gurren Lagann, Part #3 DVD Bundle w/ Limited Edition Art Box (Eps #19-27) (Bilingual Version) which had been bumped from March 17 to April 7th has been bumped again, and is now scheduled for May 5th. The Ghost Slayers Part #2 DVD Bundle (Eps #11-20) has been rescheduled from April 7th to May 5th. Freedom (Freedom Project) Complete Collection DVD Boxed Set has been moved from April 7th to July 7th. Newly scheduled releases include Kurokami The Animation Part #1 DVD Bundle (Disc #1&2) (Eps #1-8) - June 16th Sword of the Stranger DVD and BLURAY - June 16th Eureka Seven Complete Collection #1 DVD Boxed Set (Anime Legends) (Eps #1-26) - June 16th Dark Horse
EDEN: IT'S AN ENDLESS WORLD! VOLUME 12 Hiroki Endo (W/A) On sale Aug 5 b&w, 224 pages $12.95 TPB, 5" x 7"
GANTZ VOLUME 7 Hiroya Oku (W/A) On sale Aug 26 b&w, 224 pages $12.95 TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 1/16"
OH MY GODDESS! VOLUME 33 Kosuke Fujishima (W/A) On sale Aug 29 b&w, 144 pages $10.95 TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 3/16" Right Stuf Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and Nozomi Entertainment announced that THE IRRESPONSIBLE CAPTAIN TYLOR TV Series Remastered DVD Collection will be released on May 26, 2009. The 5 disc set will retail for $49.99 The new, thinpak-style box set will include the entire 26-episode television series and feature remastered video footage from the Japanese DVD release, as well as “soft” subtitles. This release also marks the first time the series will be available to North American audiences with the original Japanese eye-catches, openings and closings and without digital overlays for signs and other on-screen text. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is based upon a series of novels by Hitoshi Yoshioka and features direction by Koichi Mashimo (Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, Noir, Sorcerer Hunters), with production by Big West (Macross, Macross Frontier), d-rights (El Cazador de la Bruja, Gun X Sword) and Tatsunoko Production (Gatchaman, Casshern Sins). The English dub stars Crispin Freeman as “Captain Justy Ueki Tylor,” Lisa Ortiz as “Azalyn,” Rachael Lillis as “Yuriko Star,” Carol Jacobanis as “Harumi Nakagawa,” David Brimmer as “Lt. Makato Yamamoto” and Veronica Taylor as “Shia Has.” As a service to long-time fans who purchased previous DVD releases of the TV series, Right Stuf will offer a trade-in program, with details to be announced during March 2009. Justy Ueki Tylor had his life all planned out: join the military, get a cushy desk job, and then retire with a big fat pension check. The perfect plan…until he wandered into a hostage situation and somehow managed to save an Admiral! Now Tylor – a man who wouldn’t know what discipline was if it bit him in the backside – has been made Captain of the space cruiser Soyokaze. The crew of this run-down ship is the craziest, rag-tag team of misfits you’re ever likely to see, and they’re not too fond of their complacent new leader. But they better learn to work together, because they’re about to go head to head with the mighty Raalgon Empire. For better or for worse, the Earth’s fate has been placed in the hands of a man who’s either a total idiot – or an absolute genius!
VIZ Media VIZ Media announced that the annual Art Issue of SHOJO BEAT magazine will hit news stands on March 17th. In addition to the next installments of the currently serialized shojo manga series CRIMSON HERO, HONEY AND CLOVER, HONEY HUNT, HARUKA: BEYOND THE STREAM OF TIME, SAND CHRONICLES and VAMPIRE KNIGHT, this special issue will allow readers to explore the latest trends in Japanese kawaii artwork, and evaluate the approaches of top shojo manga creators. “The Fine Art of Kawaii” spotlights five key Japanese artists who have captured the often elusive cutting-edge of cute. " Manga Art Schooled” analyzes the varied and distinctive art styles of five master shojo manga creators including Matsuri Hino (VAMPIRE KNIGHT), Arina Tanemura (The Gentlemen's Alliance †, FULL MOON), and the talented female artists who compose CLAMP (X/1999). “Cooking: Feast for Your Eyes" will offer up 10 easy and creative tips for artistic food plating. The issue also contains an exclusive preview of Rinko Ueda’s TAIL OF THE MOON PREQUEL: THE OTHER HANZO(U), whose story is a prelude to the popular romantic ninja comedy TAIL OF THE MOON.
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VIZ Media announced the upcoming release of a special SHONEN JUMP DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION posterzine, based on the upcoming live-action film from 20th Century Fox starring Justin Chatwin as Goku, Emmy Rossum as Bulma, Jamie Chung as Chi Chi, and Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshi. The posterzie, sheduled to be released on March 31 for $9.99 features 11 full-color posters that fold out to 16” x 22”
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Viz's DVD distributor Warner Home Video lists Death Note Re-Light #1: Visions Of God on 6/16 See through the eyes of a shinigami... Light and L have battled to the bitter end over the Death Note - but what does the story look like from Ryuk's point of view? When rogue shinigami Ryuk deliberately drops his Death Note in the human world out of boredom, he has no idea how far the human who picks it up will take his newfound power. With the Death Note in hand, brilliant high school student Light Yagami vows to rid the world of evil, and when criminals begin dropping dead one by one, genius detective L steps in to track down the elusive killer known as Kira. An epic battle of wits pitting one brilliant mind against another unfolds with the very future of humanity at stake! Ryuk's not bored anymore... Kuriousity notes that Amazon Canada is listing the a release of the novel on which areal combat/AI sci-fi anime Yukikaze is based. According to the entry, the Chohei Kanbayash novel will be releaased on January 19, 2010 According to Fanboy Review, an English dub of the second Bleach movie, Diamond Dust Rebellion is actively being produced. Yen Press September 2009 YOTSUBA&! Volume 6 December 2009 YOTSUBA&! Volume 7 April 2010 YOTSUBA&! Volume 8

Cultural Notes

Good Publicity Riyoko Ikeda, creator of Rose of Versailles, was recorgnized with France's Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur for her contributions in raised awareness of French culture in Japan. The classic shoujo manga followed a young woman raised by her father as a fan to serve the court of Marie Antoinette.
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The Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese recognized Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk, Vagabond) recognized Takehiko Inoue Media Arts prize in the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) Art Encouragement Prizes.
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Three loligoth cultural ambassidors have been named to Japanese cuteness to the world. More on the "cool Japan" face of things here
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On Goop, director Wes Anderson listing his favorite DVDs, and included Neon Genesis Evangelion among the favs Neon Genesis Evangelion This is a Japanese cartoon

Readers Talkback

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  • March 16, 2009, 6:06 a.m. CST

    FMA

    by The Amazing G

    I've been meaning to read the manga of that for years

  • March 16, 2009, 6:36 a.m. CST

    Asuka Shikinami? Why?!

    by ricarleite

    And I DO want those Evangelion underware

  • March 16, 2009, 6:39 a.m. CST

    Clannad

    by kwisatzhaderach

    did an amazing soundtrack to Robin of Sherwood.

  • March 16, 2009, 7:38 a.m. CST

    I think my parents have a few Clannad CDs in the van

    by The Amazing G

  • March 16, 2009, 8:03 a.m. CST

    Pixar's Up rips off the Simpsons

    by Hardboiled Wonderland

    The kid getting dragged across the window is a rip-off of a Simpsons episode, only Homer did it naked. And Tokyo Sonata is very similar to a movie released last year based on a book by a Japanese comedian. But then, Japan has never been shy about taking ideas from others. But geezus, Pixar, using a Simpsons gag so blatantly... tsk tsk.

  • March 16, 2009, 8:34 a.m. CST

    I Love JAM Project

    by Prof_Ender

    Been a huge fan. Saw those guys in concert at Otakon last year. It was like a burning orgasm of HEART AND GUTS!!!

  • March 16, 2009, 9 a.m. CST

    EVANGELION COMPELS YOU!

    by Evangelion217

    THE POWER OF EVANGELION COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF EVANGELION COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF EVANGELION COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF EVANGELION COMPELS YOU!

  • March 16, 2009, 10:28 a.m. CST

    Love this column

    by RealDoubleJ

    It's almost like you want us to die from information overload Scott. I could lose a whole week investigating everything you post up & then the next one will be up!

  • March 16, 2009, 11:05 a.m. CST

    I did a double-take when I read the name "Clannad"

    by seppukudkurosawa

    I thought you were talking about the stunningly beautiful (©) Celtic folk band. They also did the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans, but it's their early, '70s stuff which is the most amazing. Enya was the singer's sister I think, but don't let that put you off.<p> Anime is cool, too, though...

  • March 16, 2009, 12:25 p.m. CST

    Holy fuck this article is TOO much to digest!

    by D.Vader

  • March 16, 2009, 3:03 p.m. CST

    The Spring Season should be good..

    by David Lazarus Long

    just between new FMA and Dragon Ball Kai, I'm excited. Hopefully Shippudden will be back to good stuff before Bleach goes into filler (again! Bastards...) Of course, the next manga arc will also be slow as hell... so I'm thinking it might be full year before Bleach gets really good again (i.e. Ichigo/Ulquiorra fight, whoo!)

  • March 16, 2009, 5:24 p.m. CST

    Agreed, RealDoubleJ

    by Hamtaro Hentai

    The Matrix has Scott Green. I wouldn't have it any other way. <p> Any new Fullmetal Alchemist is good Fullmetal Alchemist. Including the Wii game, but mostly the new anime. Can't wait! <p> And I'm glad I didn't order any Tentacle Grape like I almost did...

  • March 17, 2009, 3:19 a.m. CST

    "If you love Evangelion, you'll love Elfen Lied"

    by Projectedlight

    Oh please. I'm an enormous fan of Eva (really, I LOVE IT) and Elfen Lied is a tremendous piece of shit. Elfen Lied strives SO HARD to be like Eva, with 'darkness' and 'psychological depth', but its all pretense. Elfen Lied is about boring, obvious ideas and its presented in a boring, obvious way; at least at the times when it's not utterly moronic. This show tries SO HARD but falls flat on its face. It fails as a 'deconstruction' since it fulfills the same bullshit wish fulfillment fantasies of the average harem show. In the end, it's stunningly juvenile with its indulgence in over the top (way, way over the top) gore and nudity, and it has not a speck of the intelligence of Eva. If you just want naked girls of varying ages (some prepubescent) being sliced into pieces in close up, or if you think this equals 'maturity' and 'depth', then you'll love it. But that's it. Stay away.

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  • Feb. 7, 2010, 3:48 p.m. CST

    SPAMMER!

    by orcus

Top Talkbacks